Whether you drive a brand-new or a used automobile, you’ve definitely dealt with the usual assortment of issues, such as sudden failures, mysterious sounds, lingering mechanical flaws, and accidents due to either hazardous road conditions or driver mistake. These problems are annoying, expensive, and perhaps dangerous to your health and safety.
For more than a century, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has offered crucial help — including free roadside assistance and towing — for millions of American drivers for whom automotive difficulty is all too real.
Along with these discounts on things like car insurance and hotel stays, AAA also provides members with access to travel services and security against identity theft. But do these perks warrant the yearly expense of AAA membership?
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) is a nationwide network of local car clubs that works to help motorists in need for free.
The price range of AAA memberships is rather broad. Membership fees can go as high as $200 annually, but start at around $50 per year. However, it might be a good purchase if you drive frequently.
The AAA Organizational Structure and Clubs
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) is a nonprofit federation owned by its more than 40 member clubs.
In order to better serve their customers, most AAA clubs have various sites. You may buy passports, foreign driver’s licenses, and travel guides, as well as other travel necessities, from these stores.
Contractors, often car shops and towing firms, are part of AAA’s approved contractor network, which handles all roadside assistance calls and other automotive services. Simply type in your zip code to be directed to the AAA club with the nearest location to your house or place of business.
AAA Membership Levels and Benefits (Membership Levels)
AAA offers a “Classic” (or “Basic”), “Plus,” and “Premier” membership level. As an additional benefit, RV protection is available to those with the Plus or Premier plans.
Annual dues are what AAA usually charges its members for. AAA memberships for families consist of a principal member (who pays the most) and additional members who pay a reduced rate.
Membership fees can vary widely from club to club, with the Classic tier being the most affordable and the Premier tier being the most expensive. Primary AAA Members in Minneapolis Classic pay $79 annually plus $28 for each additional family member, while Primary Members in the Carolinas Classic pay $59 annually plus $30 for each additional family member.
Most clubs only guarantee the first year’s membership fee and even that might go up or down depending on the economy. There are certain clubs that charge a yearly membership fee in addition to a one-time joining fee. For example, AAA Minneapolis includes a $15 joining charge in the base annual cost.
AAA Membership Benefits by Membership Level
Additional privileges and advantages are provided to AAA members. While certain features are accessible to all three categories of users, some are exclusive to Plus or Premium subscribers.
- Classic Membership
Depending on the specific club, the first level of AAA membership is called either “Classic” or “Basic.” Classic memberships often contain these staple advantages, however specifics may vary each club.
- Support for breakdowns is available at all hours. One of AAA’s most prominent perks is emergency roadside assistance. When you join the Classic plan, you’ll get at least four free calls to roadside assistance every year. More than four calls per year are the responsibility of the member and will cost $50 or more.
- Responders to requests for roadside help offer a variety of services, including jump starts (using mobile battery jump start equipment), free battery testing, flat tire replacement (with a suitable spare tire), and minor mechanical repairs.
- The AAA member’s roadside assistance plan covers any car, not just the one they own. If you’re a member of AAA and you’re a passenger in a friend’s car and it breaks down, your buddy won’t be responsible for any costs associated with your assistance.
- Pedal-powered bikes are also eligible for roadside support services (as opposed to electric bikes). Towing and delivery service (repair shop) is covered up to 5 miles from your location. Both regular bike commuters and casual bikers can benefit from this feature.
- Towing. If a member’s vehicle becomes inoperable or unsafe to drive, AAA will pay to have it towed to the responder’s garage or a garage of the member’s choosing within 25 miles of where the vehicle is currently located.
- Towing expenses are not standardized, but on average, this per-use advantage might be worth over $100. In order to have longer toes, you’ll have to pay more.
The Towed Members’ Car Rental Pool. Discounted rental car rates are available to members who have their vehicles towed as part of a free service call (up to four per year).
Only Hertz rentals qualify for this perk, which typically saves you 20% off the regular rate. A Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership is included at no further cost to members.
- Help with Opening Locks on Cars. If a member loses or has their car keys stolen, they can get a discount on locksmith services if they become locked out of their vehicle. Depending on the club, Classic members may receive a $50 discount. The reduction will be applied to the entire bill, and the difference will be free of charge.
- Supply of Fuel. If a member runs out of gas and needs gasoline supplied, the gas station will provide it for free as long as the member pays the full retail amount.
- Assuring Safe Travels Through Adequate Coverage. Both trip interruption coverage (up to $500 per party) and travel accident coverage (usually $100,000 per party) are included for free for all Classic members. Clubs’ insurance policies might include varying levels of protection.
- Extrication. If a member’s car becomes stuck in the mud, snow, sand, or any other type of difficult-to-navigate terrain, the service provider is obligated to send out one of their “typically equipped” service vehicles to help them out. A typical tow truck has a powerful winch that may be used to haul a vehicle.
Vehicles temporarily immobilized by snow or water are not eligible for the incentive.
- Car History Reports at a Discount. When ordering a Carfax report (which provides information on the previous owners, accidents, and repairs of a used vehicle) online, Classic members receive a discount of 20%. In comparison to the average price of $40 for a single Carfax report, this discount is worth $8.
- Money Back for Lawyers’ Fees. When members plead not guilty to certain motor vehicle crimes including reckless driving or criminal negligence, AAA may pay for their legal representation.
For serious offenses, the overall reward (split between trial and appeal fees) for Classic members varies from $500 to $1,000. For less severe violations, reimbursement caps are set lower.
- Save Money at Travel Shops. The AAA Travel Store offers its members discounts, often between 10 and 15 percent (depending on the club).
- Plus Membership
In addition to the privileges afforded to members of the Classic tier, those who upgrade to Plus status get the following perks. Some of these benefits are essentially expanded versions of the Classic ones. Some of them are additional perks you never had before.
- Moreover, Towing Services. Members also receive up to 100 miles of free towing to the repair shop of their choosing with each service call. The Classic advantage only enables towing to nonresponding providers within 3 miles, thus this gives you a lot more freedom of choice.
Additionally, Lock-Tech. Locksmith services are often discounted by Plus members by $100 to $150. (depending on the club).
- In addition to a Travel Insurance Policy. Members of Plus receive the same three types of coverage found in most travel insurance policies, but with greater limits that might vary by club. Plus typically provides between $500 and $1,000 in coverage for a whole family, $250 in lost luggage coverage per person, and $200,000 in coverage per person in the event of a travel accident.
- Free Portraits for Travel Documents. Two passport photo sets each year are provided free of charge to Plus members.
- Extra Bike Service. In comparison to the standard 5 miles for Classic members, Plus members get 100 miles of free bicycle towing.
- Gasoline delivery service at no charge. Members of Plus receive free gasoline delivery, enough to bring them to the next gas station. That can add up to many gallons in remote regions.
- Powerful Rescue Operations. Two fully stocked service cars, including winches and other extrication equipment, are provided to Plus members as an additional bonus. The heavier the car or the deeper in the mud they have gotten, the more help they may need.
- Acceptance of RVs. An RV endorsement, or “RV membership” as it is more formally known, can be added to a Plus membership for an annual fee of $30 to $50. When you add an RV endorsement to your AAA membership, you may take use of their roadside assistance, towing, and other services for your recreational vehicle, motorbike, or boat trailer.
- Along with Legal Costs Covered. For extreme charges like vehicular murder, AAA will pay legal fees for Plus members at a rate of between $1,000 and $2,000.
- Premier Membership
In addition to the privileges afforded to Plus members, Premier members also enjoy the following perks. Some are exclusive to Premier, while others are only more generous iterations of perks offered at lesser levels.
- New batteries are provided at no cost. Each year, Premier members are entitled to one complimentary battery replacement. Depending on the battery, that may be worth a hundred dollars or more.
- The Best Emergency Road Service Around. There are a variety of clubs out there, but in general Premier members should expect at least five free calls each year to roadside help.
- Best Towing in Town. All the way to the repair shop of your choosing, Premier members enjoy up to 200 miles of free towing every year.
- The Best Lock and Key Service Depending on the club, the locksmithing discount for Premier Members might be as much as $200.
- Booking a rental car is free of charge. If a AAA Premier member’s vehicle breaks down, the company will pay for one day of their Hertz rental and provide them with free booking help. Subsequent days of automobile rental are cheaper (by 20% to 25% off).
- Help With Lockouts in the Home. The 10% discount on locksmith services for AAA Premier members is not limited to auto lockouts; it also applies to residential lockouts.
- Receive a free Carfax history report. Every year, Premier members may receive one free Carfax report, and they also receive a 40% discount (equivalent to around $16 off every report) on any extra reports they may need to acquire.
- First-Class Travel Protection. Premier members have access to slightly more comprehensive travel insurance than their Basic and Plus tier counterparts. Typically, trip cancellation insurance will pay out more than $1,000 per person, while travel accident insurance will pay out more than $200,000.
- Save Money at the World’s Best Travel Store. AAA members receive additional savings at the Travel Store, often 20% off.
- Advantages for Paying Your Lawyer’s Bills. Premier members can receive refunds of up to $4,000 for legal fees in extreme cases.
- Premium Insurance against Identity Theft. Along with the identity theft protection offered to Classic and Plus members, Premier members now receive up to $10,000 in identity theft insurance from Experian.
In addition to being a reliable source of free, 24/7 roadside help, AAA is a comprehensive service that offers a wide range of other benefits. A wide variety of member perks, such as reduced prices on car services, exclusive access to vacation deals, and reduced premiums for private health insurance, are available at no cost to those who join.
However, the benefits and services provided are useless unless they are actually utilized. While keeping their AAA membership for the sake of roadside assistance is a common practice, few members really take advantage of the organization’s other services.
Cost-effectiveness aside, that’s a great plan for people who have automobiles that always break down. Members with good transportation options don’t have to. Make sure you’ll receive your money’s worth before committing to yet another club membership that costs $50 or more annually.