Recently, when AAA membership topped 60 million, one in four American homes became covered by this helpful roadside assistance program. Its membership is so vast that the term AAA has become a household name; say it, and everyone instantly knows what you’re talking about.
Just because it’s popular doesn’t make it necessary. As many Americans are tightening their belts due to the COVID economy, you might be starting to wonder if a AAA membership is worth the fee. Let’s take a deep dive into what AAA membership had to offer and weigh the pros and cons of membership.
Benefits Offered By AAA Membership
Before joining, many people don’t know that AAA operates as a non-profit corporation made up of a federation of regional auto clubs. Together, this federation covers the whole US. It was launched in 1902 and has been helping stranded motorists for almost 120 years.
The price can change a bit based on where you live, so when we present the costs for each benefit tier, you will see a range instead of a single price. There are three tiers of membership; classic (basic), plus, and premier. There is a one-time sign-up cost, and the primary member will pay the full dues. Additional family members will be charged lower fees. All the family fees will be charged annually as one payment.
Classic / Basic Membership Benefits
All the well-known AAA features are available in the classic membership tier, but some of them are limited. This tier costs between $38 and $74, with each additional member being $25-$48.
- 24/7 Roadside Assistance – The star of the show, roadside assistance is just a phone call away with AAA. You are limited to 4 calls per year on the classic (basic) plan but can pay per call after that if you need to. You could get a jump start, flat tire replacement, minor repairs, and more. The service is transferable when needed. For example, if you’re going someplace with a friend and your friend is driving, you can use your AAA benefits on their car since you are there with them. You can also use your AAA roadside service benefit if you are stranded while riding your bicycle.
- Car Lockout Service – You will get $75 off this service; if the service costs less than $75, then you pay nothing.
- Towing – If the car is too disabled to drive safely, a tow truck will be called out at no cost. This can save you around $100 a pop if you ever need to use it.
- Rental Cars For Towed Vehicles – You can get a discount on a rental car after your car is towed.
- Fuel Delivery – If you like to live dangerously close to the “E” on your dashboard, you might find yourself in need of a fuel delivery service now and then. You’ll pay for the gas but not for the delivery.
- Extrication – This service is useful if you’ve run your car off the road and a more heavily equipt two truck is needed to get you out of a tough spot.
- Bicycle Service – As mentioned above, you can get minor repairs or tow for your bicycle. Great for people that bike to work.
- Travel Store Discounts – Get 10% off of AAA travel store items.
- Basic Travel Insurance – If you travel a lot, then you might find this extra travel insurance useful.
- Discount On CARFAX Reports – Get 20% off CARFAX that detail a used car’s ownership and service. Nice to have if you’ll be buying a used car soon.
Plus Membership Benefits
If your family needs a little more assistance than what’s offered in the classic membership, you’re in luck. The plus membership, which costs between $60 and $124 for the primary members and $34 to $80 per each additional member, offers a bit more.
In addition to everything listed in the basic plan, you’ll get these additional benefits and savings:
- Plus Towing – You’ll get towed longer distances if needed (basic is limited to 3 miles).
- Plus Locksmithing – Your service will allow up to a $125 bill.
- Double the amount of travel insurance.
- Free passport photos.
- Fuel delivery that includes free gas.
- Heavy-duty extraction for bad accidents.
- RV Endorsement – this basically adds your RV to the coverage.
- Your travel store discount is increased to 15%
Premier Membership Benefits
The premier membership is the top level and has the best benefits. It will cost between $77 and $164 for the primary member and $45 to $109 for each additional family member. You get everything included with the plus membership but also many increased benefits.
- Free Battery Replacement – One free battery per year.
- Premier Roadside Assistance – You’ll get 5 calls per year complimentary.
- Premier Towing – Towing benefits increased to 200 miles.
- Complimentary Rental Car Booking And One Free Day
- Home Lockout Service – Once per year, get $100 benefits towards a home lockout in addition to your car lockout benefit.
- Free CARFAX report.
- Triple Travel Benefits
- 20% Off In The Travel Store
There’s still more! No matter what tier membership you choose, all AAAA members get access to the following universal benefits.
- Travel Agency Service: You’ll get a variety of reduced-cost travel insurance benefits. This is great if you travel a lot or have several family members that travel.
- International Driving Permits: If you’ll be driving while traveling, this discounted service will be worthwhile for you.
- Hertz Partnership: AAA partners with Hertz and passes on savings to their members. You’ll get Hertz Gold benefits even if you aren’t a Hertz Gold member.
- Merchant Discounts: Many people say the whole cost of AAAA membership can be recouped if you use your merchant discounts often enough. They have discount arrangements with many stores, including Sprint and Best Buy.
- Free Domestic Travel Materials: AAA can give you maps, local guides, and trip planners, all for free.
- Access To Insurance Products: Some AAA clubs offer insurance from affiliate providers for home, life, and excess liability. You’ll have to check with your local insurance companies to see who has the better deal on these services.
- Branch Services: Your local branch might have even more benefits such as a free notary service or financial planning.
Cons Of The AAA Membership
Like any membership, the benefits are only worth the money if you use them. The membership will not be valuable if you have infrequent use of the discounts and add-on services AAA provides or if you have a newer car that is unlikely to break down.
Another downside is that if you only do the basic, or cheapest, membership tier, the perks and discounts aren’t as good, and you might not find yourself taking advantage of them enough to make up for the cost.
Finally, the cost of service varies around the US, so if you live in an area where it is more expensive, the benefits might not outweigh the costs as quickly. You might be able to find comparable services at a lower price offered by traditional auto insurance companies.
Pros Of The AAA Membership
If you do find yourself in need of roadside assistance more often, or you fully intend on taking advantage of all the cool discounts and perks you get as a AAA member, then, for you, the cost will be minimal compared to the benefits you will receive.
Knowing that you have 24/7 roadside assistance in your back pocket will give you peace of mind when you or a loved one from your family, such as a teen driver, is on the road. If a flat tire has ever stranded you in the middle of nowhere at night, then you know how scary it can be.
Having AAA can also reduce the cost of owning an older car because you’ll not only get roadside assistance with emergency towing but discounts on auto repair. They also don’t pay close attention to what car is being serviced. Officially they have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy so that members can use their AAA perks to help out friends.
If you host a dinner party and a guest gets locked out of their car, you can use your AAA to help get them out of that jam.
The Final Word; Is AAA Worth The Cost?
As a trusted provider of roadside assistance and tons of cost-saving perks, people that are already members of AAA will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the costs. And with one in four American households jumping on board, they must be doing something right.
Only people that don’t drive very much and rarely travel will be able to find fault with a membership.
For many people, even if they don’t always use the benefits each year, knowing they have something in their corner in case of emergency is priceless.