Car Insurance

What Is The Best AAA Membership

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 16 minute read

Even if you own a new or used car, you’ve probably had your share of car problems, such as unexpected breakdowns, unexplained noises, persistent mechanical defects, accidents caused by unsafe road conditions, or human error. These problems are inconvenient, costly, and may even put your safety in jeopardy.

To help millions of American drivers who face the reality of car breakdowns, the American Automobile Association (AAA) provides free roadside assistance and towing services.

In addition, AAA members receive discounts on auto insurance, travel arrangements, and identity theft insurance. However, are these benefits worth the annual AAA membership fee?

Why should I be concerned about AAA?

Auto clubs from across the United States from the AAA, a non-profit federation that serves the country as a whole.

AAA membership costs can range from free to expensive. Depending on your level of membership and location, annual dues start at $50 and go up to $200. However, if you drive a lot, it might be a good idea to invest in a car.

The AAA’s Clubs & Organizational Structure

AAA is a non-profit federation comprised of more than 40 regional clubs, all of which own a portion of the organization.

Numerous physical locations can be found all over the areas that are serviced by most AAA clubs. Maps and travel literature, as well as passports and international driving permits, can be purchased at these locations.

Auto repair shops and towing companies that have been approved by AAA to perform roadside assistance calls and other automotive services perform these services.

Enter your zip code into the AAA club finder tool to learn where your local AAA club is located and how close it is to your residence or place of business.

Tiers of AAA Membership and Their Perks (Membership Levels)

Classic also known as Basic, Plus, and Premier are the three primary AAA membership levels. Plus and Premier memberships can be supplemented with RV coverage.

AAA membership fees are typically renewed each year. One primary member who pays higher dues and multiple associate members are common in warehouse clubs like Costco.

There are two pricing tiers; Classic and Premier, with annual fees ranging widely between the two. While AAA Minneapolis Classic members pay $79 a year and $28 for each associate member, members of AAA Carolinas Classic pay $59 a year and $30 per associate member.

The cost of membership is also subject to change, and most clubs only guarantee dues for the first year after joining the organization. 

A one-time fee may be imposed by some clubs in order to sign up for membership, which is typically less expensive than the annual fee. First-year rates for AAA Minneapolis include a $15 sign-up fee, for example.

The benefits and Services of AAA membership are universally available.

These services and perks are included in all AAA membership levels. Some AAA clubs, on the other hand, may offer additional benefits. If you want to know what your local club can and can’t do for you, check out its website or call the hotline.

Replacement of the battery

Your AAA roadside assistance allowance will not be affected if you agree to pay the full cost of the battery replacement.

Services of Travel Agents

Free or reduced-cost AAA travel agency services include customized trip planning, admission discounts at popular attractions, travel booking air, hotel, and rail, tour and cruise planning, and booking, as well as group travel arrangements. Certain travel booking services may charge a fee for their services.

Permits for international driving

At special member pricing, AAA offices can issue international driving permits; the discount varies from location to location but is typically around $20 per permit. AAA can issue permits while you wait if you have two passport-sized photos and a valid driver’s license.

Discounts on Hertz Rental Cars

Hertz offers special discounts to AAA members on car rentals. A few percentages points off or more than 20% off depends on where you go and what kind of car you drive.

Membership in Hertz’s Gold Plus Program

If you belong to AAA, you get a free year of Hertz Gold Plus, which typically costs $60 per year Gold Plus members enjoy expedited check-in, the ability to change their vehicle selection on the spot, and a host of other advantages. 

Hertz Gold Plus Reward Bonus points worth $675 are available to AAA Plus members for free. One hundred thousand points are given to AAA Premier members free of charge.

Discounts from the Merchant

Members of AAA are entitled to discounts and special offers from thousands of participating merchants, including the UPS Store and Best Buy, which are both well-known national brands. Merchant and product-specific discounts can get as high as 50% off the full retail price.

If you’re a AAA member, you’ll typically need to present your card in person or enter the number into the online checkout portal to get a discount.

AAA members who travel domestically receive a free set of AAA travel materials.

Membership in AAA provides free access to a wealth of domestic travel resources, including road maps, guides, and planners. 

Plus and Premier members receive free international travel guides for Europe and other regions, while Classic members save half off the cover price. You can purchase them at a AAA branch or online.

To put it another way, insurance products

AAA-affiliated insurers Auto Club Inter-Insurance Exchange, Auto Club Family Insurance Company, and AAA Life Insurance Company are among the insurers that some AAA clubs offer insurance products. 

Customers can choose from a variety of coverage options such as life insurance, house, renter’s, auto, and umbrella liability policies.

Despite AAA’s claims that its insurance products are less expensive than those from other providers, there are many variables and it is impossible to speak generally about the depth of any potential discounts.

Discounts on AAA-Approved Auto Repair

You can get 10% off parts and labor charges at AAA-approved auto repair providers, which display the AAA logo in their shop windows, for AAA members. The maximum reimbursement is $50 per repair.

Some auto repair shops don’t apply the discount automatically. You must request it verbally and show your current-year AAA member card in order to receive it. Additionally, any repairs made by auto repair shops approved by AAA must be warrantied for a period of two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Detection of Identity Theft

There is no charge for this service for AAA members. This includes daily Experian credit report tracking, e-mail notifications of suspicious activity, and fraud resolution assistance in the event of identity theft.

Assistance with Travel Arrangements & Emergencies

While on the road, Premier members have access to personal travel concierges. In addition to weather forecasts, reservations including golf tee times and restaurant reservations, car rentals, and entertainment ticketing, concierge services are available.

AAA’s emergency travel assistance services are also available to Premier members, including the replacement of prescriptions, translation, replacement of lost tickets and documents, cash transfers, medical transportation, and arrangements for medical appointments.

Benefits of AAA Membership based on the membership level you hold

AAA members enjoy additional privileges and benefits. All three membership tiers have access to some, while others are only available to Plus and/or Premium members.

1. Standard Membership

First-time AAA members may join as either Classic or Basic members, depending on their local AAA club. Despite the fact that Classic services and perks differ somewhat from club to club, these basic advantages are usually included.

Roadside assistance is available at all times.

Among the many services offered by AAA, the most well-known is 24-hour roadside assistance. In the course of a typical year, Classic members are entitled to at least four free roadside assistance calls. Members are responsible for the full cost of any calls they make beyond the four allowed per year.

There are a variety of services offered by roadside assistance providers jump-starts, complimentary battery testing, tire replacement if a usable spare is available, and minor mechanical repairs can be performed on the spot during roadside assistance calls.

For those AAA members who don’t own a car, roadside assistance services can be transferred to their vehicles. If your friend’s car breaks down while you’re in it, you can use your AAA benefit to get it fixed at no cost to your friend.

Pedal-powered bicycles are also eligible for roadside assistance as opposed to electric bikes. Repairs and towing within a 5-mile radius are included in the policy. It’s a convenient benefit for both commuters and weekend warriors who regularly pedal to work.

Towing

As long as the responder’s facility is within 25 miles of where the member’s car is currently parked, AAA will cover the cost of towing the vehicle back. In many cases, this benefit is worth more than $100 a time. The longer the two, the more money you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket.

The Towed Members’ Car Rentals

Towed cars are eligible for rental car discounts for the duration of any required repairs for members who have had their cars towed as part of a free service call limit of four per year.

Only Hertz rentals are eligible for this 20% discount, which can be applied to the rental price. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership is also included at no additional cost to members.

Lockout Services for Automobiles

A discount is available to members who have been unable to get into their vehicles due to a misplaced or stolen set of keys. Classic members typically receive a $50 discount, but this varies from club to club. There is no charge if the total bill is less than the discount amount.

Delivery of Fuel

Free fuel delivery is available to members who have run out of fuel, as long as they pay the full retail price of the gas delivered.

Insurance for a trip

A trip interruption benefit of up to $500 per person and a travel accident benefit of up to $100,000 per person are included in the basic travel insurance for Classic members. Clubs can set their own coverage limits.

Extrication

In the event that a member’s vehicle gets stuck in the mud, snow, sand, or another difficult-to-navigate terrain, they are entitled to winching and extrication services from one normally equipped service vehicle. An automobile-dragging tow truck is most often the culprit.

Due to snow or flooding, the benefit does not apply to cars parked on public or private property.

Carfax Reports at a Reduced Price

Carfax reports, which detail a vehicle’s ownership, accident, and repair history, can be ordered online at a 20% discount for Classic members. Each Carfax report is worth $8 because a single report costs $40.

Reimbursement of Legal Fees

Members who plead not guilty to certain eligible motor vehicle charges, such as reckless driving or criminal negligence, may, at AAA’s sole discretion, be reimbursed for their legal fees.

For serious offenses, the total benefit for Classic members can range from $500 to $1,000 divided between trial and appeal expenses. Less serious offenses have lower reimbursement limits.

Travel Retailer Promotions

AAA Travel Store offers members discounts ranging from 10% to 15% off regular prices depending on the club.

2. Membership with additional benefits

All of the Classic membership perks are available to Plus members, as well as the following additional perks. Some are just more generous versions of the Classic benefits. Others are brand-new advantages you get access to.

Added to that, towing

Up to 100 miles of driving per service call is provided free of charge for Plus members towing to the auto repair facility of their choice. That’s a lot more flexible than the Classic benefit, which only allows towing to providers within 3 miles.

In addition to that, Locksmithing is available.

Plus members get discounts of up to $150 on locksmith services depending on the club.

As well as Travel Protection

Travel insurance coverages that vary by the club are also included in the membership. Most Plus policies cover up to $1,000 per family, $250 per person for lost luggage, and $200,000 for travel-related accidents.

Passport photos are included for free.

Every year, two complimentary passport photo sets are given to Plus members.

Bicycle Repair Service Plus

For Plus members, complimentary bicycle towing is available up to 100 miles, compared to the 5 miles available to Classic members.

Deliveries of Free Gas for Customers

Fuel delivery is included free of charge for members of the Plus plan, as is enough fuel to get them to a nearby gas station. Several gallons of water may be required in remote areas.

Extrication by Means of a Heavy Duty Vehicle

Two normally equipped service vehicles with winches and other extrication equipment are included as an added benefit for Plus members. This can be useful for vehicles that are particularly heavy or have gotten themselves seriously tangled in the mud.

Affirmation by RV

It costs an additional $30 to $50 per year to become an “RV member,” which is technically known as “RV endorsement.” As a result of the RV endorsement, AAA is now able to provide assistance for RVs, motorcycles, and boat trailers on the road.

In addition to Legal Fees,

AAA Plus members typically receive $1,000 to $2,000 in legal fee reimbursement for serious offenses like vehicular manslaughter.

3. Affiliation with the Crown

The following additional benefits are available to Premier members. Benefits offered only to Premier members include some that aren’t available to lower tiers, as well as some that are more generous in nature.

Free Battery Replacements

One free battery replacement per year is provided to Premier members. Depending on the battery type, that could be worth $100 or even more.

Assistance from the best in the business

Depending on the club, premier members are entitled to at least five free roadside assistance calls per year.

The best towing service in town

Towing to a repair shop of the customer’s choice is complimentary for Premier members, who can drive up to 200 miles on one service call per year and 100 miles on the rest of their service calls.

A1 Lock & Key Services

Depending on the club, the locksmithing discount for Premier members can be worth up to $200.

Booking a complimentary rental car is included in the package.

AAA agents provide free rental car assistance to Premier members whose vehicles break down, as well as a free day of Hertz rental car time. There is a discount for additional days of car rental 20 percent to 25 percent off.

Lockout Service for the Home

In addition to car and vehicle lockouts, AAA Premier members can apply their locksmithing discount to home lockouts.

Free Carfax History Report

In addition to receiving a complimentary Carfax report once a year, Premier members receive a 40% discount on any additional reports they purchase.

Comprehensive Travel Protection from AXA Insurance

Travel insurance benefits for Premier members are more generous than for Basic and Plus members. Trip interruption insurance typically costs more than $1,000 per person, while the maximum coverage for a single-person accident is $200,000 in most cases.

Discounts at the Best Travel Retailers

Members of the AAA Travel Store Plus program receive additional savings generally 20 percent off.

Compensation for Legal Fees

Legal fees for serious offenses are typically reimbursed at a rate of $2,000 to $4,000 for Premier members.

Identity Theft Reimbursement Services from a Reputable Source

In addition to the identity theft protection benefits available to Classic and Plus members, Experian offers identity theft insurance for Premier members up to a maximum of $10,000.

Automobile Insurance Alternatives vs. AAA Membership

Roadside assistance, towing, fuel delivery, extrication, and other driver assistance services are frequently provided free of charge or at a reduced cost by auto insurance companies. In some cases, these may be more cost-effective than AAA’s roadside assistance services.

As a representative of the major auto insurance companies, Allstate’s roadside assistance options are a good starting point for comparison. Nationwide, Geico, Progressive, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual are among the other insurance companies that offer driver assistance programs.

There are a number of Allstate Motor Club membership options that are open to the general public, not just policyholders.

  • The Roadside Advantage Program. Up to $100 in complimentary roadside assistance services (lockouts, gas delivery, jump starts, and towing) for up to three incidents per year are included in the Roadside Advantage plan, which costs $7 per month or $79 if purchased for the first year. AAA Classic’s driver benefits are comparable to Roadside Advantage’s.
  • The Roadside Elite Plan. Up to $250 in complimentary roadside assistance for up to five incidents per year is included in the Roadside Elite plan (which costs $12 per month or $149 for a full year), as well as unlimited towing for RVs, complimentary trip interruption coverage, and free Carfax reports. Compared to AAA Plus membership, Roadside Elite’s driver benefits are nearly identical.
  • Pay-Per-Use. Even if you don’t have an Allstate policy, you can still use Pay-per-use formerly known as Good Hands Rescue. Local providers usually at or below the prevailing rates in a region set the fees for basic roadside assistance and towing services, such as lockouts, gas deliveries, jump starts, tire changes, and towing. Customers pay as they go. Pay-per-use is not an option for AAA.
  • Add-On for implementing policy. Only Allstate policyholders have access to this feature. Towing to a nearby auto repair shop is also included in the 24/7 roadside assistance services, which include jump starts, gas delivery, and flat tire replacement. There is a minimum annual cost of $25 for Allstate’s policy add-ons per vehicle, but this can vary depending on various factors, such as the policyholder’s driving record, location, and whether or not the vehicle is already covered by another Allstate policy. Allstate’s most cost-effective option for older vehicle owners who are worried about being stranded or having to abandon their vehicles on the side of the road may be a better deal than any AAA plan.

Driver assistance services offered by Allstate compare favorably to those offered by AAA in terms of direct value to drivers and travelers. 

Those who do not have a roadside assistance membership may be able to save money by using the pay-per-use model. When it comes to reducing the cost and inconvenience of vehicle breakdowns, the Allstate policy add-on is of great value.

Allstate, on the other hand, lacks AAA’s extensive non-travel partner network. AAA is a better option for drivers who are able to take advantage of member discounts at national retailers like Best Buy and the UPS Store on a regular basis.

Advantages of a AAA Membership

It’s clear that AAA membership has a number of advantages for both car owners and drivers. Like in-house service packages offered by car insurance companies, some of these benefits are unavailable to competitors.

  1. Quick Reaction to a Wide Range of Emergencies. Roadside assistance from AAA is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. AAA will respond to your distress call and dispatch in-network assistance in a timely manner, whether you’re on a rural highway in the middle of the night or an urban freeway in the middle of rush hour
  2. Older car owners can save a lot of money by using this method. Towing a car out of a jam can set you back well over $100 in some cases. Because of this, the Classic membership usually pays for itself with just one free tow per year for those with older vehicles that are more prone to breakdowns. Other low-cost or free options include locksmithing, car rentals, jump-starts, and battery swaps. There is a chance that AAA can lower the overall cost, but not completely eliminate it.
  3. This product is universally applicable to a wide range of vehicles. It is AAA’s policy not to ask or tell if a vehicle is serviced by a non-member. Customers are not asked if they own the vehicle they are bringing in for service if they don’t make it clear that it isn’t theirs.
  4. Includes Travel Perks and Store Discounts That Could Be Valuable. Travel interruption and cancellation insurance, as well as global emergency assistance, are all available to AAA Premier members. Thousands of businesses around the world offer members free or low-cost travel agency services and discounts, some of which are as much as 50% off the list price. Members who frequently travel or spend a lot of money at partner merchants will likely find that the membership fee is more than offset by the benefits they receive.
  5. AAA’s own insurance products are available. AAA provides its own insurance policies for auto, home, life, and excess liability. However, generalizing about the extent of any possible discounts is difficult, AAA says these policies are cheaper for members than comparable products offered by competing insurers.
  6. Has a Reputable Network of Auto Repair Service Providers on Hand. A trusted network of auto repair facilities provides AAA members with a 10% discount (up to $50 for jobs over $500) on repairs. For essential or recommended auto repairs, this is a significant discount. Those who use AAA-approved service providers can rest easy knowing that their work is covered for two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The Disadvantages of AAA Membership

It’s true that AAA membership has its drawbacks. Infrequent drivers, those with newer cars, and those who don’t get to use AAA’s services very often will all want to keep an eye on the annual membership fee.

  1. For infrequent users, it is not cost-effective. At any price point, AAA membership isn’t worth it if your car is in excellent condition and you don’t take advantage of value-added services like travel booking or insurance coverage or merchant discounts, or home lockout assistance. While you could make a case for maintaining AAA membership solely for the discounts offered by participating merchants, doing so requires some work on a regular basis. In the end, if you don’t spend a lot of money at AAA-affiliated merchants, the discounts don’t mean much to you.
  2. The Benefits of a Traditional Membership Aren’t Quite as Generous. In addition to four free roadside assistance calls per year, AAA Classic members receive a slew of less generous benefits. Car lockouts can cost as little as $50 per visit, which isn’t enough to handle long or complicated calls. Additionally, it does not include a free battery replacement, which can be worth $100 or more. There may be a higher cost for Classic members who use the responder’s facility for repairs if they are towed.
  3. Local Clubs Charge Different Fees. Members of AAA clubs are able to set their own fees. As a result, prices vary widely from one region to the next. The only way to know exactly how much you’ll have to pay each year is to visit the website of your local club because there is no rhyme or reason for the price variations, and prices aren’t necessarily linked to local living costs.
  4. It’s possible that comparable services from different insurance companies are more cost-effective. Roadside assistance and value-added services can be more expensive with some car insurance companies. It costs $79 or more to join the Allstate Motor Club for the first year, but it offers many more benefits, both free and discounted, than those offered by AAA.

Bottom Line

In addition to providing 24-hour emergency roadside assistance, AAA is a valuable resource in many other ways. In addition to a wide range of free or discounted benefits, members can take advantage of a variety of discounts on automotive services, travel products, and in-house insurance coverage.

However, the benefits and services are only worthwhile if you make use of them. AAA memberships are held by many people solely for the benefit of roadside assistance, and they rarely or never use the organization’s other services. 

A cost-effective strategy for those who have unreliable vehicles. It isn’t if you have a well-maintained vehicle. Make sure you’ll get your money’s worth before agreeing to pay $50 or more a year for a new club membership.

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