More Than Just Roadside Assistance: Is AAA Worth It?

Libby Kane
Posted

Our grandma is a stickler for safety (and a bit of a worrywart), so she’s been on our case to join the

American Automobile Association (AAA) for a while now. AAA is an automobile club that provides roadside assistance, plus discounts and perks at lots of other places. But, we want to know: Is it really worth it? What if we don’t have a car?

Who You Gonna Call?

AAA (“Triple A”) is pretty much the Ghost Busters of roadside maintenance. For $48 per year—and a $10 initial registration fee—membership provides discounts on towing, battery, lockout, fuel delivery, and flat tire services. This seems a little like an extraneous membership…until we’re stranded by an auto malfunction, mid-road trip, on a deserted highway. Benefits include three free tows per year (which, incidentally, could save you about $270). But, we hope you don’t need to use them.

There Are Benefits Even If You Don’t Have A Car. Enough To Justify The Cost?

A membership also provides lots of helpful discounts at hotels, attractions, and certain stores.

Here are a few:

-          Hotel stays at places like the Hyatt, Marriot, and Hilton.
-          Stores such as LensCrafters, Payless, and the UPS store.
-          Websites such as Sears.com, Target.com, and Kohls.com.
-          Theater, including The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Blue Man Group.

(Here’s a full list of AAA discounts.)

Doing The Math: Is AAA Worth It?

If you have a car, a membership is absolutely worth it. With one free tow and one free maintenance inspection (together valued at about $111), it’s easy to make back the $48 fee—and it covers you in case of emergency.

But, is the membership worthwhile without a car? We’ve made a chart to figure out how much a person might save over the course of a year with an AAA card, not counting car-related expenses.

Check it out:

The Moral Of The Story: Depends What You Do, How Often

If the above chart sounds like you, then the AAA card is definitely worth your money. The discount at most establishments is about 10%, which is considerable but not overwhelming. Do you go to amusement parks? Take the train? Dine out? See live shows? If so, this card could potentially lead to pretty substantial savings each year.

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  • Liz

    I own a AAA card and only used it for getting coupon books at outlet malls (Tanger Outlets, Woodbury Commons). I had no clue about all the other deals. Might actually go see inception now!

    • Joanna_d

      If you go to your AAA site, [each state has their own AAA website], it should link you through to online retailers along with the discounts that AAA offers. Also, for auto repair, you can pull up a list of AAA auto shops who have been verified by AAA themselves to be trustworthy.

  • http://www.totalcandor.com/blog Michael B. Rubin

    “If you have a car, a membership is absolutely worth it. With one free tow and one free maintenance inspection (together valued at about $111), it’s easy to make back the $48 fee—and it covers you in case of emergency.”

    Not quite. Most auto insurers provide the same thing for a lot less than $48 (I pay $10 a year). As far as the discounts, many other sources are available elsewhere (think coupon books, alternative memberships, email coupons, and soda cans.)

    • Keysburg

      Yes. Learnvest articles are usually pretty good at comparing different options, and I would have expected this article to compare the options avaliable from different insurance agents as well.

      • http://twitter.com/amkade Allison Kade

        Hi Michael & Keysburg,

        That's a great point–our articles can only be SO long, but that's a great idea for another, future article! In this, we were hoping to demonstrate whether or not AAA is worthwhile on its own, but we can certainly turn our attention to various auto insurance options in the future as well. Thanks for writing in!

        Best,
        Allison Kade
        Editor

  • LK

    For those of you with opinions about such things, note that AAA is a pro-car organization that lobbies against mass transit/anti-global warming efforts. The “green” alternative is the Better World Club (BWC), which has a completely equivalent roadside assistance program for cars (and had the first such program for bicyclists, too) and also offers many member discounts on all sorts of hotels, travel agencies, auto rentals, flowers, and other products. Highly recommended. http://www.betterworldclub.com/home.cfm

    • http://twitter.com/amkade Allison Kade

      Thanks for the suggestion, LK! That sounds like a great, green alternative!

  • Jelle

    Another alternative to AAA is Allstate. I didn't know about Allstate's roadside assistance plan until a few months ago, but compared to AAA, it has more membership choices, is less expensive, and has a lot more options regarding the extra perks for shopping/dining/whatever discounts. Also recommended: http://www.allstatemotorclub.com/

    • frank

      I have to disagree with you Jelle. Allstate roadside only assists you in your car, not any car you’re in. That is only ONE reason AAA is more superior. Savings are much better, and actually AAA is cheaper. AND recognized internationally.

  • http://www.timingbeltreplacement.co.uk/ timingbeltreplacement.co.uk

    I like the idea of receiving discounts on other things like hotels etc!

  • Akrieg15

    One thing that is awesome about aaa is their DMV services like in California. If you need to go in to renew your car, no need for an appointment and no need to wait hours at the DMV. Just pop in and they can take of it for you. Time saved for me is well worth the cost of having it.

  • Joanna_D

    AAA membership fees varies from state to state but each state will honor your membership benefits. In addition, the benefits vary from state to state as well. The membership pretty much pays for itself with the first tow; most tow companies will charge an average of $75 just to hook your vehicle up to the tow truck and that is not part of the mileage they will charge from that point to the destination. In addition, AAA offers various levels of memberships depending upon the equipment you wish to cover such as a car/pickup truck/van, trailers [snowmobile/utility], motorcycles, and/or RVs [recreational vehicles]. The membership is not tied to one vehicle; the membership follows the member regardless of who vehicle he/she is in. …. I love AAA. :)  

    • Joanna_d

      “The membership is not tied to one vehicle; the membership follows the member regardless of “whose” vehicle he/she is in. …. I love AAA. :)  

  • Marley Haller

    I believe AAA covers you no matter what car you are in.  So if you are in a rental car or driving a friend’s car, you are covered.  Insurance companies have different policies about roadside assistance, but I believe that on most policies you are covered for a specific car.  So if you have to rent cars often, AAA is great!  You also get discounts on daily rates at a lot of car rental agencies!