AAA Membership: Is It Worth the Cost?

AAA membership includes more than roadside assistance, but prices vary. Check out your local club to decide if its service offerings make AAA worth the cost.

Lacie GloverSeptember 14, 2020

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AAA introduced roadside assistance to its members over 100 years ago and today remains the best-known name for helping stranded motorists.

But AAA membership offers many other services as well. Technically a “federation of motor clubs,” AAA provides discounts, travel services, including vacation planning, and assistance with financial products for its members.

“Beyond this, AAA is an advocate for the safety of the driving public, conducting research in areas that impact traffic safety and the future of mobility,” says AAA spokesperson Ellen Edmonds.

Depending on where you live and the level of coverage you choose, AAA membership costs range from about $40 to $165 per person, per year. To decide if AAA is worth the price for you, consider the costs and benefits of membership and possible alternatives.

AAA membership costs and benefits

As a federation of automotive clubs, each territory’s AAA unit offers similar perks in its three membership tiers, but costs vary around the country. The tiers are based on the level and breadth of roadside assistance services available to members, and additional members must live in the same household.

Bear in mind these are just the most common benefits, and in some areas limits on towing and lockout services are more generous. Additionally, some AAA clubs offer identity theft insurance, driving lessons and car-buying services, among other perks.

AAA membership discounts

The discounts that come with an AAA membership are widely varied. A sampling:

  • 10% off at all AAA-approved auto body and repair shops.

  • 10% off oil changes.

  • Free AAA membership renewal, plus $5 or 10% off your monthly cell phone bill and 25% off various accessories, for new Sprint cellular customers.

  • Discounted prescriptions and vision care.

  • Up to 35% off electronics from select companies.

  • 20% or more off car and moving truck rentals.

  • Discounts at amusement parks, museums and other entertainment.

  • Discounted movie tickets, dining and flower delivery services.

AAA auto insurance

Membership is often required to purchase AAA insurance, but discounts for being a member often cover the fees.

Many AAA clubs have their own insurance company arm offering home, renters, life and auto insurance, but not all. In some regions, the club acts as an insurance agent, connecting customers to partner insurers, rather than its own company. In that case, you’d still get the insurance discounts associated with membership.

Rates for AAA auto insurance depend on where you live, your driving history and other personal factors, as with any company. However, AAA’s insurance agents will look over any of your policies and provide advice as part of the membership.

A few AAA insurance companies are large enough to be ranked in NerdWallet’s Best Car Insurance Companies. Here are their details.

More about AAA

AAA’s federation includes 27 regional clubs throughout the United States and eight in Canada. If you move from one territory to another, AAA makes the transition seamless. All you have to do is call the number on the back of your membership card, says Edmonds.

AAA also certifies auto repair shops that meet its standards for equipment, customer satisfaction and technician expertise, among others. Members get 10% off repairs, up to $50, at these locations, and most repairs are guaranteed for two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Roadside assistance alternatives

If all you want is no-frills roadside assistance coverage, AAA’s discounts and other benefits may be overkill. You could get coverage instead from a variety of companies, including:

  • Your auto insurer, often for less than $20 per year. However, your insurer might consider using the coverage as a claim and raise your rates at your next renewal.

  • Your credit card company. Premium travel rewards cards often include it free, whereas other cards offer pay-per-use roadside assistance.

  • Your cell phone company, usually for $3 - $5 per month.

  • The maker of your car, if it’s still under warranty. If it isn’t, some carmakers still let you use the service for a fee.

Coverage and subscriptions give some peace of mind, but it could make more sense to pay for roadside assistance only when you need it.

Your auto insurer likely has a phone number and in-app button you can use to summon help if you’re stranded. Other apps that serve up roadside assistance at any time without a membership — or worry of an insurance claim — include Urgent.ly and Honk.

So, is AAA worth it?

Because you can get roadside assistance from many companies, consider AAA’s full offerings before deciding on membership. The benefits, discounts and costs associated with each tier vary by territory, so spend some time checking out your local club.

You may find that another service meets your needs well enough, or you might find that the discounts alone make AAA worth it for your family. If that’s the case, be sure to get an insurance quote, too, to find out if you can save even more money by switching insurers.