Is AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance Worth It?

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Shondell of Call Me What You Want, Even Cheap. She blogs about her recent car loan and mortgage pay off and a whole bunch more. Check out her blog right here.

What happens if your car suddenly breaks down or you accidentally lock yourself out of your car on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere? Well if you have AAA, you can call them immediately!

Established in 1902, the American Automobile Association, popularly known by its acronym AAA (pronounced ‘triple A’) is a federation of motor clubs throughout the USA and Canada. It is a not-for-profit organization that works for the benefit of its members and provides services like roadside assistance and auto insurance.

In order to access the services offered by AAA, you have to become a paid member. The association has three levels of membership: Classic, Plus and Premier. As of January 2013, annual membership fees are $69 for Classic, $114 for Plus and $137 for Premier.


AAA membership benefits:

A Classic membership gives you access to basic services that include the following:

  • 24/7 Roadside Assistance (RSA) that includes towing, battery jump start, AAA battery replacement, flat tire change, emergency fuel delivery, minor mechanical first aid, extricating/winching services and vehicle lockout assistance.
  • Free AAA maps, TripTik® routing maps and TourBook® guides.
  • Discounts on auto and homeowners insurance.
  • Access to discounts at over 150,000 retail locations around the world.
  • Travel planning services from AAA Travel with exclusive savings and member benefits, which include airline tickets, tours and cruises, hotel and motel reservations, passport photo service, international driving permits, group travel and escorted and independent tours.

In addition to the basic services, the services provided by a Plus membership include the following:

  • Towing of up to 100 driving miles
  • Free emergency fuel (Classic members have to pay for the fuel)
  • Increased vehicle locksmith coverage

In addition to Classic and Plus services, the services provided by a Premier membership include the following:

  • Towing of up to 200 driving miles
  • A complementary rental car for one day
  • Home lockout services
  • Trip Interruption Coverage (when you are travelling more than 100 miles from home). If your trip is delayed by an accident, car theft, mechanical breakdown, inclement weather or illness, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 to cover out-of-pocket expenses, including meals and accommodations.
  • Vehicle Return Coverage (when you are travelling more than 100 miles from home). If an injury or illness prevents you from completing your trip, then you can be reimbursed up to $500 to help you get your car back home.
  • 24/7 global emergency assistance and personalized concierge services when travelling more than 100 miles from home.
  • Travel accident insurance of up to $300,000 when purchasing airline, bus, train or cruise tickets through AAA Travel.
  • Vehicle Inspection Program Rebate. You will receive a rebate of $45 off the current price of your next vehicle inspection program service.

The advantages of a AAA membership cannot be exaggerated, especially if you find yourself stranded with a broken down or locked car on a lonely stretch of a road. You will also appreciate the discounts on auto insurance, hotels, restaurants and thousands of retail outlets that AAA memberships give you access to.


AAA membership drawbacks:

Despite all the services that you will get access to as a paid member, AAA membership does not come without its drawbacks. Here are some of the disadvantages of joining AAA:

  • Not cost-effective for homebodies: If you rarely travel far from home, then a AAA membership may not be cost-effective for you as the membership fees are too high for services that you will probably never use. A majority of members sign up only for roadside assistance (RSA) which they hardly ever need to use.
  • Services provided by third party contractors: Many of the services offered by AAA are provided by third party contractors, which can cause logistic problems and may even compromise quality. For example, concierge services are administered by Allianz Global Assistance Services Company and Travel Interruption Coverage are underwritten by BCS Insurance Company.
  • Complicity in questionable acts: On several occasions in the past, AAA has been known to work against the interest of its general members. For example, AAA has supported measures to curtail the freedom of motorists, such as the imposition of the federal 55 mph speed limit, installation of red light cameras and increase in federal gas tax. Thus, by becoming a member, you will be supporting these acts.


AAA vs. auto insurance

AAA membership is not an auto insurance policy and shouldn’t be viewed as such. One of the main reasons to become an AAA member is the emergency roadside assistance, called AAA Accident Assistance. Once you call for assistance, your car will be towed to the nearest repair shop listed in the company’s preferred provider list. The service staff will also call one of your family members, complete a vehicle claim and arrange a rental car for you while your vehicle is being repaired.

In the event that your car is totaled in an accident, AAA does not provide towing and repair as your auto insurance policy is expected to provide those services. However, AAA has an auto insurance (discounted for members) that pays you the cash value of the vehicle based upon its year, make, mileage and condition. The insurance also pays off your car loan if you have purchased the GAP insurance with the policy.

Many auto insurances also provide emergency roadside assistance, but they may require you to pay a higher premium for their service. They may also not have the network to provide assistance throughout North America and in other parts of the world. But perhaps the biggest advantage of AAA membership is that you can claim roadside assistance even if you are travelling in someone else’s car and not in your own car.

Considering all the advantages of AAA membership vastly outweigh the disadvantages. No wonder the association has over 51 million active members who regularly use its services. If you are a frequent long distance driver, then you should definitely consider becoming a member. Even if you never use any of the services, the ‘peace of mind’ you will get from knowing that help is just a phone call away makes it worth every penny you will pay.

How about you all? Do you have AAA or another form of roadside assistance? If so, how often do you find yourself using the service?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo by Jeremy Stockwell


  1. AAA pays for itself in one vacation of car rental for us. As an unmarried couple, we have to pay about $15/day to add a 2nd driver. However, many companies such as Hertz will add a 2nd driver free if the car is booked under AAA rates and the 2nd driver is an AAA member.

    Otherwise, my insurance provides towing reimbursement up to $100/incident for $9/6 months which is cheaper than AAA

  2. I’ve never had AAA but my girlfriend does. We traveled overseas last winter and when we came back, my car (which was left at her house where I live) was dead. She called AAA as they cover anyone at the address. They jumped my car for free. It was great.

    I’ve recently found a few malls around me that offer coupon books to AAA members. Most stores in the mall participate and you get around 20% off your purchase. A great bonus if you were planning on doing some shopping.
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  3. Emily @ evolvingPF says:

    We had AAA for a couple years and never used any of its perks, so we canceled it. It was nice to have that peace of mind if we broke down somewhere, but it never happened. We fly more than drive long-distance so it didn’t really fit our lifestyle.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted…Unexpected Expenses Ate Up Our Rent SavingsMy Profile

  4. Toni Sinclair says:

    I just purchased AAA for our cross country move (Houston to Seattle). Better safe than sorry. 🙂 It was nice to get a 20% discount with Penski one way truck rental!!

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