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.
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:
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.
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:
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!
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?