If you have ever been running on fumes as you stressfully search for a gas station, you might be wondering, should I have gotten a AAA membership? Having your car stall out on the highway because of a technical issue or a flat tire can be a frightening prospect that makes you shudder even thinking about it. It can be an incredibly hopeless feeling to be stranded on the side of the road and have no idea where help is going to come from. But the question still remains, is a AAA membership worth it?
AAA has been offering roadside assistance to members for over 100 years. However, how many of those members actually took advantage of the benefits? While getting stranded on the road is a very real possibility, it happens to a very small percentage of drivers on the road at any given time.
However, there is something to be said for having the peace of mind that if something were to go wrong, you are covered. Paying for AAA is getting a new kind of insurance. While some may think each insurance bill that gets paid is money wasted, others appreciate the coverage being provided.
What Is AAA?
AAA is a nonprofit collection of regional clubs that serve auto owners across the United States. Canada similarly has an organization called the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). When it began in 1902, the idea was to create an infrastructure on the road that could provide refueling and assistance in the early days of automobiles. AAA started offering more materials to its members as the years went on, including safety tips, driver education, traffic safety research, and roadmaps.
As the decades went on, AAA roadmaps became essential tools for cross-country travelers. And while AAA has never wavered from its original mission of assisting drivers to safely and efficiently get from one place to the next, many of its original benefits, such as roadmaps, are no longer necessary.
We can all agree that having available roadside assistance is a benefit to any driver on the road. But at what cost does that benefit start to become unnecessary?
How Much Does AAA Cost?
The price you will pay for AAA depends on where you live. There are three tiers of AAA membership: classic, plus, and premier. Membership starts as low as $53 in Detroit, Michigan and ranges as high as $89 in Richmond and Philadelphia. Most major cities are priced between $54 and $59 for the classic membership. Plus membership starts as low as $88 and ranges as high as $137.50, while premier starts at $113 and tops out at $169.
So what do you get for these annual fees?
The classic tier gives you the following:
- Four tows up to five miles each
- Emergency starting
- Battery service
- Flat tire service
- Fuel delivery (but you pay for the fuel)
- Vehicle locksmith service up to $50
- Passport photos for a small fee
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership, along with 675 points and one free day after your first rental
- Extrication if you drive off the road
- Discounted CARFAX reports by 20%
- Basic traveler’s insurance covering $100 per person or $500 for a family
- Travel accident coverage up to $100,000
- Bicycle service, including bike repair and towing up to five miles
Stepping it up to AAA Plus, you get everything in basic membership along with a few new benefits. Here are the key differences:
- Your four free tows can now go up to 100 miles each
- When you get fuel delivery, your fuel is free
- Locksmith service is now up to $100 from $50
- You get two free sets of passport photos per year
- Double the coverage on traveler’s insurance
- Bicycle towing up to 100 miles
- Heavy-duty extrication with twice the power for heavier vehicles are those extremely stuck
- RV membership available at $30 more per year, which extends roadside assistance to boat trailers, RVs, and motorcycles
Here are the key differences for the cream of the crop AAA Premier service:
- Your four free tows now include one up to 200 miles and three up to 100 miles
- Locksmith service is now up to $150 from $100
- Unlimited passport photos
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership, a bonus of 1,100 points, and two free weekend days after your first rental
- Complimentary rental car booking
- Home lockout service up to $100 per year
- Complementary CARFAX report
- Complimentary battery replacement of one per year
- Premier traveler’s insurance with triple the coverage from basic
Should I Get a AAA Membership?
If you plan on taking passport photos every year, then absolutely. But if you aren’t worried about getting locked out of your car or running out of gas on the highway, you might be better off without one. AAA does offer a wide variety of advantages that go much further than what they offered decades ago. It’s awful to get locked out of your home or car, and knowing that you have immediate backup in these cases of emergency can be a huge relief.
Bottom Line on AAA Membership
Many cars and car insurers these days offer their own kind of roadside assistance. So, of course, you do not need a AAA membership if a similar product is already available to you. Some may continue to pay for their AAA membership every year out of pure habit. If you are considering AAA, you need to first need to consider the alternatives.
The bottom line on AAA membership is how much value do you place on peace of mind? If you will live a much more stress-free life by knowing that certain emergencies have clear solutions at the ready, you will likely benefit from paying the $50 to $150 membership fees each year. But if you are one that hates giving away a cent and would rather take care of your own issues, you are likely better off not giving AAA your annual donation.