Should I Renew My AAA Membership?

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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.

Roadside assistance
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.

AAA discounts

Attractions
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.

Shopping
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.

Travel
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.

DMV Services
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?

51 thoughts on “Should I Renew My AAA Membership?

  1. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    I used to have AAA, but when I switched my auto insurance to Liberty Mutual, I received roadside assistance for $9/year. I have used it twice with no problems whatsoever, and I don’t miss the AAA discounts a bit (you can often find other discounts that are comparable). I think several of the auto insurance providers offer this type of service at a cheaper price, so it’s worth asking about.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Restaurant savings: 11 ways to dine out and saveMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, Geico has roadside assistance for pretty cheap too. The AAA discounts are nice but I don’t think I use that all that much.

      Reply
  2. Kay@Green Money Stream

    It’s definitely a personal decision. I look at it like another form of insurance. You can’t expect to get your premium back (the $40) but it’s something that if and when you need it you might be sorry for not having it. I have had to use mine a couple of times and feel that it’s worth it. Also, my husband travels for work and often he is not around. So I like to have it so that I won’t be stranded with my son and have no one to call. The discounts are nice too!

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s true but there are alternative roadside assistance programs. AAA is a trusted reputable brand though. And, yea it’s nice to get some of those discounts.

      Reply
  3. Income Surfer

    It’s certainly a personal decision Andrew, but I just renewed ours. While it is astronomically more expensive than it used to be (and I pay several times the $40 you mentioned), our membership more than pays for itself. First off, we end up staying at a lot of hotels….each of which takes about $10 off per night. Second of all, the insurance services of our branch pay for the membership. Seriously, every year I make a few call about renewing our auto insurance and AAA (writing for some other company) always beats the others. Last year the policy I had through AAA was $200 cheaper annually than the next best quote I got. Finally, you mentioned roadside assistance. While not as valuable as it used to be, I appreciate the idea that my wife and son can get the car towed back to the house at no charge. It’s insurance you hope to never use…..like Kay said.

    All that said, if I didn’t stay in hotels and lived in a rental house…..I wouldn’t be a member.
    -Bryan
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Really? Do you have the premium plan or is it just more expensive in different regions of the country? I might get a quote for the insurance but usually Geico is tough to beat price wise. And you’re right, it’s like insurance…you hope not to use it.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Great point May, I heard about that too. I’ll have to check with my credit card company.

      Reply
  4. Kate @ Money Propeller

    My aunt told me that she just renewed her AAA membership since she loves their services, especially the discount that she get every time she goes shopping. She is currently a New York Real Estate Agent plus she is able to get 40% off movie tickets.
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  5. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I think AAA is absolutely worth it. I am in the BP motor club instead of AAA (basically the same thing), but I don’t pay for it. My Dad purchased a family plan years ago and just keeps renewing it. My wife isn’t covered under it, but our warranty on our car has roadside assistance. I think the peace of mind is totally worth it, though, and I would hate to screw up my dress clothes so I will probably have to call even if I get a flat tire (or I might not be handy either….).
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…How to Make Money Entering GiveawaysMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      If the warranty on your car also has roadside assistance, than you already have peace of mind, no? Do you use the AAA discounts? And yea, I’ve helped to change a tire once but really didn’t want to deal with it. I was in a parking lot but I wouldn’t want to change a tire on the highway or something!

      Reply
  6. debt debs

    We have it just for the roadside assistance alone and my father just purchased it again because he says his car is getting old (it’s not). I think it’s because sometimes he may not close the door or trunk properly and a light is on and he drains his battery. 😉
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I have a crazy story about my battery draining where I had to climb into the trunk to unlock the door. My key did not work (it was a used car) and apparently the doors had been replaced but not the keys. My key only worked for the ignition.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      What other perks does their credit card have? They send it to me but I usually just throw it away.

      Reply
  7. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog

    I think it can be worth it for the peace of mind. It’s great to know you can call them even if you never actually do. It’s a security thing. Also, the discounts help to offset the actual cost of the membership.

    I will also say that there may be a time that one use pays for all these years of the membership. Personally, I have had this happen. My wife’s car broke down 2 hours from home and we had to have the car towed back to our house. It would have cost over $400 for the tow, but AAA did it for free. That was only a couple years after I signed up for it, so I still haven’t even spent $400 on the membership.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, if it wasn’t for the discounts helping to offset the cost, I’d replace it with a different roadside assistance plan. I commute a good distance for work so I like having it.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’ve never used their DMV services…and I don’t remember the last time I went to the DMV either.

      Reply
  8. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance

    I haven’t had it in about 3 years. When we bought our car, the warranty came with roadside assistance so there was no need. It expired, and to be honest, there have only been a couple of situations where it would have come in handy (dead battery because I forgot to turn the light off, and flat tire). But we have two cars, so neither of those were much of an inconvenience. I’ve thought about renewing, but we didn’t use the discounts enough or the service enough to make it worthwhile. Plus… I’ve waited several hours for AAA to come to the car. I’m glad they eventually got there, though. Definitely depends on how much you drive, your cars, and your comfort with going without.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I drive a far distance for work so I would feel more comfortable having roadside assistance, but the ones offered by other companies seem cheaper.

      Reply
  9. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    I go through this debate every time I get the AAA letter in the mail. We have been living without it for a few years, and our finances are fine. The biggest reason why I kept it was for the roadside assistance; however, we already have that included with our car insurance, and usually you are only able to use one type of discount when booking a hotel or something like that and we have gotten better deals by using Priceline or a corporate code vs. the AAA code.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I can add it to my car insurance for a low cost so I might look into it. And while the AAA code is good for hotels, I can often find good deals online that are comparable.

      Reply
  10. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    Hm, that’s a tough one. I’ve often wondered about getting an AAA membership myself. In our current situation, I don’t think the extra perks would be of much use to us. We don’t travel very often, and we’re trying to keep our shopping to a minimum. I also have the roadside assistance from Geico, and one of my boyfriend’s coworker’s lives in our apartment complex, so if his car ever breaks down, he at least has a ride. Plus, I’m working from home, and still have my car as backup. You do have a long commute, though – maybe it’s worth looking into how Geico’s program compares?
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I think I’ll look into Geico which is a lot cheaper. I get excited when I get to use my car for discounts here and there, but I’m not sure I’ve used it that much.

      Reply
  11. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    We used to have AAA for many years, but didn’t renew this last year, mostly b/c if you let it lapse and then need to renew, only a phone call is needed. Also, I was made b/c the renewal slip they sent out said if I didn’t renew by such and such a date that they were going to charge me more. GRRRR!! I felt like I was dealing with the mafia!
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      What? I didn’t know that. That’s kind of messed up that they would charge you more if you didn’t renew by a set date. It’s not like older members get a discounted rate.

      Reply
  12. femmefrugality

    I’ve totally renewed my registration at the AAA office and never been a member. And my roadside assistance through insurance rows up to 18 miles, though I don’t have GEICO. I’d look primarily at the discounts… Do you use therm enough to justify the premium? The answer may be yes!
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Ahh, I guess you can get that benefit without being a member! I’ll have to look into all the discounts that they provide and then decide.

      Reply
  13. Naomi @ Rising Net Worth

    Come to think of it, I think I have about 3 months until my membership expires. I have this overwhelming fear of being stranded on the interstate with a ridiculous blown out tire situation. It’s just nice to know there’s a card in my wallet that I can use to instantaneously “send out angels to my rescue”. Plus, these days [where I live] I feel like people are so busy getting to where they have to go that no one would bother or have the time to help me in my time of need (i.e. jumping a car). I think AAA has become my security blanket on the highway similar to my seatbelt!

    Reply
  14. Charles@gettingarichlife.com

    I used to have aaa when I had a personal vehicle until the insurance company added it for 10 total for 6 months. Not worth it in my mind
    My company vehicle is taken care of, I drive a traverse no way am I changing that tire

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Not sure you have to be a member to take advantage of the DMV thing. The savings and discounts are useful though…not sure it’s worth it. We’ll see.

      Reply
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  17. Rick

    Has anyone checked out Motor Club Of America? They provide Unlimited Roadside Assitance serives no matter how many times you call. Up to 100 miles of towing included per each incident. Average wait time about 20 minutes. Excellent service with a follow up call to verify their affiliates are maintaining a good service standard. Their best seller plan covers Unlimited 100 miles towing, tire change, battery boost, locksmith, Free Attorney for moving violation, fuel delivery and much more for $19.95 only!
    http://mcanetworks.com
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    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Is that $19.95 a month because I just don’t see it being worth it for me at that price point? It might be for someone who’s car constantly breaks down (or constantly gets moving violations) but I think there are more affordable alternatives.

      Reply
  18. Christina

    It’s great to hear that there are so many benefits to having a membership. Your readers probably appreciate the news about the discount book, DMV services, and all of your other informative tips.

    Reply
  19. Paula Harold

    I know this is an old post, but it is still highly relevant even 3 years later! I’ve worked for AAA for over 15 years and I can tell you that it is absolutely worth the annual membership fee in savings ! If you live in Texas please contact me at harold.paula@aaa-texas.com or 210-403-5078 and I can waive the enrollment fee and even add a second member for free for the first year! We even offer monthly membership fees now so you can get covered for just $5 a month! Once you are are AAA member you are eligible for the car/home/renters/boat/umbrellla and life insurance! The savings on your insurance alone will more than pay for your membership for many years to come! Call or email me and I can help you save even more!
    Even if you’re not in Texas, shoot me an email with what state you are in and I can see who I know in your area that can help you!
    AAA doesn’t just take care of your car, we take care of the people inside it! Stay blessed!!

    Reply

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