A few days ago, I received a letter in the mail from AAA asking me if I want to renew my membership. I only spend $40 a year on it, but I’m not sure if its really worth it to keep it. In the 7 years that I’ve been a member, I’ve only had to call them twice. Here’s a recap of those instances:
It was a week before my wedding, and I was driving home from work, intending to stop by a vendor to make a payment. I had just merged on to the highway when my engine just shut down. I was stranded on the side of the highway. I called AAA and they had a local mechanic shop send a tow truck to tow my car at no cost. However, the cost to later fix my car was absolutely not free or cheap, but that’s another story. The second time that I had to call AAA was when I was leaving work and noticed that I had a flat tire. I considered changing the flat myself, but I
am not handy at all was in my suit and tie and didn’t want to mess it up. Anyways, a tow truck came and he told me there was no need to put on the spare. He inflated the tire and patched the leak and I was on my way. All in about 15 minutes and $10. It turned out better that I didn’t attempt to change the tire because a $10 patch job was all that was needed.
Many people swear by AAA. It has been around a long time and has a great reputation. My father used to have it too, though I’m not sure he ever had to use it. However, with more options today and alternatives today, is it really worth it. The cost of AAA for the basic plan is $52, plus a one-time $10 membership fee (the fee is waived if you opt for automatic renewal). My sister is an associate member on the account, and addition members are an extra $28. So we split the total costs and pay $40 each per year.
Many people who drive older or less reliable cars want the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. For basic membership, they will tow up your vehicle up to 3 miles, make minor repairs, jump start your battery, replace a flat tire with your spare, deliver fuel, and lock out service. It kind of boggles my mind that people run out of fuel, but I’m a paranoid person. I don’t even like it when the fuel gauge indicates that I have less than a quarter tank left. The main purpose of AAA is to provide roadside, but my auto insurance company, Geico provides a similar service for a fraction of the cost: $6.70 per 6 months. So basically, $13.40 for Geico’s roadside service versus AAA’s $40. I have no experience with Geico’s roadside service though so I cannot vouch for its responsiveness.
One of the secondary benefits of being a AAA member is that it provides discounts at various attractions. Here in NYC, you can save 40% off movie tickets, 20% off Bronx Zoo tickets, 15% off Madame Tussauds and Cirque du Soleil, among other attractions. I’ve gone to various attractions inside and outside of New York where they offer a AAA discount where I’ve saved a couple of bucks. But still, I’m not sure that those few times make it worth the money.
Another discount that AAA provides is at various stores. There’s 10% off at the Gap Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Payless, among others. Also, at the Tanger Outlets in New York, you can receive a free coupon book. I did use this benefit a few years ago and with one of the coupons in the book, my wife and I bought Adidas sneakers (on the clearance rack) for a total of $35 (Hers were like $16 and mine were $19). I don’t think I’ve gotten a better deal on sneakers before. You can buy the coupon book for $5 though, and we really don’t go to the outlets much so I’m not sure that’s worth it.
When booking a hotel, you often have an option to choose the AAA rate which sometimes gives you a better deal. The last time I used my AAA card to get a discount at a hotel, my wife and I hadn’t made prior arrangements and just found a hotel along our way. I asked about the AAA discount and it saved me $20. That’s not bad, but for the most part, we usually plan our hotel stays and you might be able to find better deals using Hotwire or Priceline. There are also Hertz coupons that they send me once in awhile, but I’ve never used them. Same with the other travel services they provide.
There are other miscellaneous benefits that AAA provides, but the last one I’ll mention are the DMV services. I’m sure many would gladly skip a trip to the DMV and renew their registration at a AAA office, so this might be a good benefit. However, how often do would you take advantage of this benefit. Plus, you can do many things online now as well without going to the dreaded DMV.
So is renewing my AAA membership worth it?