Is AAA Membership Worth the Expense in 2021?

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Is AAA Membership Worth

An Annual Dilemma – Is AAA Membership Worth Taking a Spin in 2021?

I’ve had a hot and cold relationship with AAA membership.  After a year with GasBuddy Premium membership, I started AAA membership again.  In past years, I’ve joined and never actually used the service.  I’ve probably held AAA membership for 15 years or so, with a few years off here and there.  I can only remember one time I actually needed it.  I do know it got me out of a jam that one time, though.  However, I also remember all of the junk mail that I received thanks to AAA – I could fill up a storage locker with all the offers for insurance, additional memberships, etc.  But is AAA Membership worth it, though?  Let’s step through AAA membership benefits so that you can make a more informed decision.

Roadside Assistance

Let’s start out with AAA’s bread and butter – roadside assistance.  Services and rates have been tweaked over the years, but AAA still provides the same basic services I’ve always known them for.  These include:  towing, emergency fuel, vehicle lockout help, battery service/jump start, and flat tire assistance.  While everyone’s needs vary, I’m perfectly happy with the base level “Classic” membership.  The major differences between Classic and the next level, AAA Plus, are towing mileage (5 vs. 100)  and a bit more coverage for emergency fuel and vehicle lockout service.

As many of you know, AAA service and costs vary by region; check with the AAA in your respective locale for specific rates and coverage.  For what it’s worth, I paid just over $50 (after a few discounts) for one year of Classic membership for me and my wife.  Here’s a look at the major roadside assistance benefits:

Is AAA Membership Worth

AAA Discounts and Rewards

Paying members get access to AAA Discounts and Rewards, primarily obtained online.  Here are a few examples of what AAA offers:

Movie Theater Discounts:  A variety of theater chains are available.  AMC ticket discounts range from 30-40% off; concessions vouchers are available at 25-30% off.

Theme Park Discounts:  Again, a variety of parks participate.  Naturally, I wanted to determine how much savings exist for Disney World Tickets.  Long story short, AAA tickets were $2 cheaper daily in comparison to direct Disney World prices for our upcoming trip.

Restaurants:  Members can save at different restaurants throughout the US.  I predominantly saw savings of 10% at restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, Saltgrass Steakhouse, and Dave & Buster’s.

Sporting Events, Broadway Shows, Concerts:  AAA claims members can save “up to 40%” on certain events.

You can also book airfare, hotels, cruises, and many other travel-related activities using your AAA membership on their site.  I particularly enjoy AAA hotel rates which have historically saved several bucks a night; you can also book these rates directly on hotel websites.  More importantly, I’ve historically enjoyed the cancellation flexibility of AAA rates.

Driver Resources

It seems that AAA providing members endless printed maps in person at offices has evolved.  International maps and AAA Europe Travel Book are still available for free.  However, many online resources exist for drivers.  AAA has an extensive library of road trip plans which you can print from home.  Here’s an idea of what they have available:

Is AAA Membership Worth

Drivers also have access to the AAA mobile app for on-the-go access.  Not to be forgotten, members are entitled to view driver education materials, car reviews, and car buying services.  Finally, an actual trip to the AAA office to check out your local options is probably worth the effort.

My Overall Take

Looking back, I’ve never truly maximized my AAA membership.  I haven’t made an effort to take advantage of various benefits like restaurant discounts or maps.  Of course, I always told myself that I would get around to doing so but never did.  I ultimately liked the peace of mind provided by simply having the roadside assistance benefits if and when I needed them.

As far as roadside assistance, can one do better?  Depending on your situation, maybe.  GasBuddy Premium membership provides similar roadside assistance services and gas savings, albeit at a higher price (now $9.99 monthly).  I effectively had roadside assistance and net fuel savings of $27 over the course of the year with GasBuddy Premium, rather than paying $54 for a AAA membership at the time.  Again, Gas Buddy membership prices have gone up since I was a member, so crunch the numbers to see if it would work better for your situation than AAA.  Roadside assistance services with GasBuddy only applied to me; I wasn’t able to add my wife as a member.  Also, for those of you who are only interested in specific auto-related benefits, you may already have access to those via your auto insurance.   Check to be sure!

Is AAA Membership Worth

Overall, I’m happy to pay a bit over $50 annually for AAA membership for the security blanket of having the roadside assistance benefits if I need them.  I’ll have to stay on top of my membership to ensure it doesn’t renew at an exorbitant rate next year, however.  In my experience, AAA promotional rates are repeatable by simply canceling your membership and signing up again.  If you are interested in joining, we would appreciate you using the MtM link here.

Is AAA Membership Worth It?  Conclusion

We’ve spent more time road tripping since the arrival of our two little ones several years ago.  The pandemic has thrown a wrench into certain plans, but we are in our cars plenty, nonetheless.  My wife and I each having a AAA card with us is a comforting feeling.  As the service has changed, and in some cases, devalued, over the years, AAA still provides the same basic services we may need in a pinch.  Consider your own situation and determine if AAA is worth the few extra bucks annually.  While one can get more out of membership with a bit more effort, even the basic roadside assistance benefits can make it a worthy expense.  Are you a AAA fan, or do you find it not worth the hassle?  What value has AAA provided you over the years?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence. An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their travel goals, Disney-related and otherwise.

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24 COMMENTS

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24 COMMENTS

  1. The AAA rate at most hotels is usually about a $10 discount, plus sometimes you get a free breakfast on certain specials that are run during the year. So that alone more than pays for my membership. Smaller things like free passport photos and being able to renew my license (in Mass) at AAA offices rather than waiting at the DMV is huge

  2. I had been a AAA member on and off for several years, and once some 20 years ago used their tow service. Other than that one tow, the only other benefit I used was their great maps. Here in Arizona the local AAA club sold variable gift cards up to $500, with fee-free sales once or twice a year. That was great and helped me justify the membership expense. However, that ended two or three years ago when the northern California club bought out the Arizona club (they already had Nevada and Utah). and stopped selling gift cards altogether. When that happened, there was no point for me to renew membership as I used their services so little.

    AAA Arizona, are you listening?

    • JT Arizona,

      Thanks for bringing up the gift card angle. I’ve been unable to obtain those deals locally. Regardless, that deal seems more hit/miss lately.

  3. Have been an AAA member for 5 years now and every time the renewal date comes I hesitate, but it has ended up being worth it. 2 lock-outs, 2 flat-tire services, a battery replacement, and a 20-mile tow to my mechanic (in Jan 2020, before COVID hit) spread out over 5 years, in addition to the hotel discounts, have justified renewal for me year-after-year. Just of note, during COVID, they do not allow you to ride in the cab for a tow per my conversation with a CSR since social distancing is not possible. So, they will tow the car for you, but you will have to find alternate means of transportation (e.g., taxi, Uber, etc.).

  4. Don’t most auto manufacturers provide roadside assistance? I know Nissan offers it for the first 3 years of car ownership. Also, many of the tire companies provide some roadside assistance too. I know that Continental does.

    • Jack,

      If so, I think it’s highly dependent on one’s own situation/case by case basis. As I said regarding insurance, I agree it’s definitely worth checking out the coverage one may already have.

  5. State Farm offers road assistance rider for under $5 every 6 months maybe less per policy/vehicle. Pays as reimbursement for whatever it costs to get towed or jumped etc.

  6. I’m so happy to see a post about AAA so I can dissuade everyone from drinking the poison. As a teenager, my parents had AAA, which got us kids out of a lot of jams, so many years later, as an adult, I decided to take plunge and go for the premium AAA+ membership. They left me stranded for many hours on IH44 in Oklahoma early on, but I figured it was a fluke and continued my membership. I used them a few more times through the years with “ok” results. Then came the “straw”. You know the straw that broke the camels back. My 83 year old mom had a 1984 Dodge ES600 with only 30K miles on it. I took it in for some basic maintenance and a tune up. Afterwards, I stopped by to get mom and go for a test drive. The top was down and it was 107 degrees in the Texas summer sun. Five miles out, the car died, off on a side road near IH35. “No problem!” I thought as I whipped out my cell phone and call AAA to the rescue! Not so fast. 8 calls, 8 different reps and 3 1/2 hours in the baking heat with the top down my mom badly bitten by fire ants as she went to find shade on the roadside, the driver finally arrived. We had been deprioritized due to a wreck in the freeway which needed a tow truck. San Antonio, TX is the 8th largest city in the nation. Apparently, the only AAA authorized tow truck was badly needed elsewhere leaving us near having a heat stroke with no water and miles to the nearest shelter or services. Upon finally returning home, I began making phone calls, emails, Twitter campaigning, trying to get some compensation or even an apology. Neither was ever forthcoming from anyone at AAA. It was all a illusion of safety, service and caring. A mirage of mindfulness and understanding. This is a completely true story with much documentation. My advice? Go ahead and join AAA if you want to feel protected, but not if you want to be protected.

    • I’m sorry this happened to you and your family. Your story is something to weigh in addition to all of the other AAA datapoints (positive or negative) others share and experience first-hand.

  7. We’ve been members for over 30 years. AAA offers some of the best rates available for auto, home, renters, umbrella insurance and more. Including our four children to our membership as they started driving gave everyone an added safety net and they used the tow and breakdown services for their older vehicles. Local AAA offices provide many additional services such as International Driver Permits, DMV services, etc. And, as others have mentioned, the AAA hotel rates and added flexibility for traveling worldwide makes membership a no brained every year.

    • Steve,

      Thanks for sharing, especially the insurance angle. I don’t have any experience there and haven’t been willing to explore those options. Regardless, it’s great to know rates are competitive.

    • Pam,

      It’s probably best to simply check your local offer(s) based on zip code on the site. In the past, I’ve unlocked a cheaper price or a free card for a family member when I opt in for auto-renewal (which I cancel later in the year before the second year kicks in). Also, I’ve noticed similar discounted offers via snail mail (in ValuPak, I believe). YMMV, of course.

  8. I travel 100+ nights a year and all at Marriott properties. The saving each year more than pays for the AAA membership. I’ll happily keep the membership.

    Another benefit I’ve used quite a few times over the year is their battery service. There cost isn’t inflated and it cost me no extra for delivery and install. Anyone with a newer vehicle can appreciate someone knowledgeable installing a battery. My current vehicle has the battery tucked away in the truck and underneath things I just don’t want to mess with.

    • 2808 Heavy,

      You bring up a great point regarding battery service. If anything, this service may be appreciating in value with how much tougher battery replacement has become in newer cars…

  9. AAA membership just saved me over 10% (over $150) on my bill for repairing my car at a local chain this week which was a pleasant surprise. Between something like that as well as needing AAA itself at least once a year, I’ll keep being a member.

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