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Updated June 15, 2022
Picture this: You’re out driving and the check engine light comes on. Or you hear a weird noise and think, “Maybe I should pull over and get this checked out?” You may have tried to start your car and found the battery dead. These are all scenarios where having roadside assistance can be a lifesaver.
And when it comes to roadside assistance programs, the most famous is the AAA membership. AAA members drive with the peace of mind of knowing if they get stuck on the side of the road, they’ll have backup. But it isn’t free. So let’s see if a AAA membership is worth your money. And to save on auto insurance, compare free quotes to see what fits your needs and budget.
Whether you get it from AAA, your car insurance, or somewhere else, roadside assistance is a must-have.
If you have an old car and use the membership discounts, a AAA membership is usually worth it.
Auto insurance companies have roadside assistance programs, but you won’t get AAA’s world-class towing or other perks.
Why Roadside Assistance Is a Great Idea
Is a AAA membership worth the cost?
The services a AAA membership offers, including their iconic roadside assistance offering and other perks, make the relatively affordable membership worth the cost.
AAA is the best-known brand for roadside assistance, but auto insurance companies and even credit card and cell phone companies have roadside assistance available for nominal monthly fees. It’s hard to overstate how important this can be if you get yourself in a jam. Towing services can cost a fortune out of pocket, especially if you’re far from home.
And whenever you’re driving, many small things can go wrong and cause you to need roadside assistance services. Here are just a few scenarios where they can help. It only takes one of these per year to pay back the membership costs for most roadside assistance programs.
You get a flat tire.
Your car gets stuck in mud or snow.
You lock your keys in your car.
Your car has a dead battery and won’t start.
You run out of gas.
Your car displays alarming behavior, noises, or maintenance/emergency lights and can’t be driven without professional attention.
These things happen to drivers all the time. A membership with a roadside assistance program can save you money on emergency services and help you access them a lot faster and more safely than you would from the side of the highway.
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What is AAA?
AAA is the American Automobile Association, an organization created in 1902 to promote car travel when taking road trips was in its infancy. These auto clubs formed in 40 states and regions, and they all administer their own membership programs. AAA benefits vary slightly depending on the auto club you’re a part of. Let’s talk about what a AAA membership is for.
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What AAA Membership Gets You
As a member of the AAA club, you’re part of something bigger than roadside assistance services. But let’s start with that bundle of member benefits, then explore the various other deals and discounts that you qualify for when you join AAA. Options for RVs and motorcycles are available, too.
Roadside Assistance Services
AAA has been helping drivers with all kinds of roadside problems for over a century. They’ve seen it all, and if you’re looking for timely, professional, comprehensive roadside assistance services, AAA is the gold standard. They offer these services to their members for free, regardless of membership tier.
Towing: When you need a tow to a garage, or anywhere else you want your car parked while you can’t drive it, AAA will send you a truck on the same day. Depending on your membership tier, you’ll be limited in how far they’ll take your car. Everyone gets four tows per year.
Tire changes: Is a flat tire your worst nightmare? If you have a spare tire and want some help changing a tire on the side of the road, AAA will help.
Battery service: It’s not a good feeling when you turn your ignition and your car won’t start. And if you forgot your jumper cables or can’t find anyone to help jump-start it, it can be a real issue. AAA will come out ASAP, diagnose your battery, and jump-start you if necessary. Battery replacement is also part of AAA service.
Lock-out service: As a AAA member, if you lock your keys in your car, you just call, and they send a locksmith service pronto. Depending on your membership tier, you’ll be covered up to $50, $100, or $150.
Free fuel delivery: If you run out of gas too far from a gas station to get your own fuel, AAA has your back. AAA Classic members have to pay for the gas, but Plus and Premier members get it for free. Either way, you’ll have it brought to you so you can get on your way.
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Other Membership Benefits
Interestingly, roadside assistance is only the beginning of the benefits that AAA memberships bring. AAA club members also get access to a whole slate of perks and AAA discounts that sometimes only partially relate to car travel. These vary depending on your location and which membership tier you choose. They include:
AAA discounts: These are variable but can save members money on hotels, gas, theme parks, shopping, and a lot more. If you’re motivated to take advantage of these, they can really add up for serious shoppers.
Travel information and maps: Avid travel planners can get excited about AAA’s free maps and mobile app to help road trips go smoothly (available to AAA members). AAA travel resources are a flagship service from the organization’s early days.
Legal fee reimbursement: If you plead not guilty in a case related to auto travel, AAA has small reimbursement sums available to members.
Transportation reimbursement: If you’re stranded at a repair shop or elsewhere from a tow service and need to get to a hotel or back home, you can rent a car and AAA will reimburse you up to a certain limit.
Discounts at vetted repair shops: AAA has a network of approved repair shops where members can earn a 10% discount up to $50.
Identity theft insurance: For upper membership tiers, AAA members can access identity theft monitoring and insurance that can really come in handy in a crisis.
Passport photos: Traveling abroad and getting passport shots taken? AAA will pick up the tab if you’re a Premier or Plus member.
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AAA Membership Tiers and Pricing
AAA memberships vary by location and are split into three membership tiers. In general, a primary member pays an annual fee, and family members are charged a lower fee in addition.
Classic: $38–$90 per year
The AAA Classic membership has the bare-bones roadside assistance service you look for from AAA. The caveat is that you’ll have to pay for gas if you need fuel delivery, and you’re usually only entitled to a less-than-10-mile tow back to your destination (it goes up to seven miles, but some states limit you to three).
Plus: $60–$140 per year
The AAA Plus membership earns you free fuel delivery alongside more generous reimbursement potential for travel disruption and legal fees as well as locksmith services. You’ll also get tow service of up to 100 miles if you need it, which could help you get home or to your repair shop of choice instead of the one nearest to wherever you break down.
Premier: $120–$170 per year
The AAA Premier membership entitles you to the full suite of AAA benefits and services, including up to 200 miles of towing and free fuel delivery with gas included. (Plus members get the latter, too.) For the extra money, it’s sometimes best to take full advantage of the perks the membership has to offer, and with a Premier membership, you won’t miss out.
AAA Car Insurance
AAA is also an auto insurance company. You’ll have to become a AAA member to join, but the member discounts on an auto insurance policy tend to pay for it. You should absolutely consider AAA when you’re looking for auto insurance companies. RV, home, renters, and other insurance products are also available.
Roadside Assistance from Your Insurance Policy
Many car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on to a typical car insurance policy. This can be as cheap as $10 per year, but make sure you find out everything you can about the service. Sometimes, you can only access roadside assistance by making a claim, which isn’t too useful if you have a dead battery and need a jump start.
You can read more about all the roadside assistance programs out there, from insurance companies to credit cards and other auto clubs. Even cell phone service companies and carmakers themselves have roadside service programs.
Deciding Whether AAA Is Right for You
If you’re considering a AAA membership, ask yourself:
Will I use the AAA discounts and deals? The annual membership fee is substantial compared to some programs that only offer roadside assistance. But if you see yourself using the membership benefits on rental cars, travel, auto repair, and other opportunities to save money, the membership will likely pay for itself over the year.
Is my car likely to need roadside assistance once a year? If you are a frequent commuter or tend to plan long road trips for vacation, AAA may be a good option. If your car is aging and not the most reliable, you should strongly consider a AAA membership. Alternatively, if you drive infrequently and have a new car, you might not be able to justify the cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
“Triple-A” is the American Automobile Association, a network of motor clubs that started in the early days of American car travel. Membership primarily provides roadside assistance services like towing, fuel delivery, a battery jump start, help with a flat tire, and other services. But the auto club also provides insurance coverage and many other perks.
It depends on where you live and what membership tier you choose. Your membership level affects your towing distance and the limits on some of your benefits. Along with standard roadside assistance services, AAA members save money on cruises, rental cars, and hotels, along with extras like passport photos and identity theft protection.
This depends on whether your car is prone to breakdowns, which would make roadside assistance services highly useful. Towing can be really handy, but if you have a super-reliable car, drive infrequently, or aren’t likely to make the most of the AAA membership perks and discounts, you might not find the price worth it. But the peace of mind alone can be worth it.
You might be thinking that all those perks and deals sound nice, but you don’t see yourself needing all that extra stuff. If this is your situation, you might not make back the AAA membership fee in savings. Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance services at a reasonable price, so check those out and see what the benefits are.
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Data scientists at Insurify analyzed over 40 million auto insurance rates across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how their car insurance premiums are priced by companies.