AAA Emergency Road Service Subscription Worth It?

AAA membership is a nonprofit driving club that is a subscription service and largely identified with its key benefit of emergency roadside assistance for drivers in the event that you had problems while traveling in your car. Its a very popular service with currently 51million members in the US & Canada.

My wife has always had AAA membership and has felt it was an important subscription to have incase she had a problem while driving. As you may know I have a strong dislike for subscriptions; they often result in a poor value despite their initial appeal based on optimistic usage assumptions. I think AAA membership for roadside assistance is expensive - but is it?

AAA Membership Costs
I suspect AAA membership costs vary pretty widely as each club may have a different rate. On top of that its clear that AAA utilizes a variety of marketing gimicks to attract/retain customers. Just look at these two direct mailings my wife received from AAA Carolinas in the last couple of months:

Its the exact same offer at two different price points. I have also seen a direct mailing previously that offered a heavily discounted rate for renewing an expired membership. So what can we tell from all this? The cost of AAA membership varies - sometimes significantly.

How Much Roadside Assistance Do You Use?
There are a lot of variables that would likely defined how much you use a roadside assistance service including the reliability/age of your car, the # of miles you drive, your experience as a driver, how handy you are (would you change your own tire or wait for help?), and where you do most of your driving. However as a data point AAA NY recently published stats that indicated they have nearly 880,000 AA memberships and in 2010 had 515,455 roadside assistance calls. That would roughly suggest that each member on average has a roadside assistance call every 20 months or 1.7 years. How do you think you compare to the average AAA member?

Non Subscription Alternatives
I recently found that not only does Allstate have a competing service, but there is also an Allstate pay-per-use roadside assistance offering that allows you to only pay for roadside service you actually use. Cost for the roadside assistance services covered in the AAA plan are $50-$75 per use in the Allstate plan.

Is it Worth it?
If a service call is worth $50-$75 and your average usage of a roadside assistance service is once every ~20 months or so then an annual subscription would be worth ~$30-$45/year.

I believe my wife and I would be below average users of roadside assistance. I recall us having a need/benefit to use the service 3 times in the last 7 years (keep in mind though were were on assignment in China for 1yr of that). For now I plan to keep the Allstate Service phone # in our cars in case we need it and see how it goes.

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Comments (13)

I've had AAA roadside since forever, and while I know I haven't gotten the benefits back out of it in terms of towing or roadside assistance, the times that we have plus knowing that my wife has an option if she finds herself broken down makes it worth it to me. Just knowing that there's one number to call for help when you're probably frantic is a good thing.

Plus, we get lots of discounts by using our AAA card so when you factor that in, it's probably much closer to even.

I'm kinda on the fence on this one! Before GPSs I loved AAA for the free maps! Now, I'm not so sure. I've used AAA for a replacement battery once. That's about it.

If you an undependable car, I guess it makes a lot of sense. Again, though I have AAA, I don't use it much.

We canceled AAA after getting road assistance service from our auto insurance (Ameriprise).

I had AAA for years, until I discovered that the Amex Gold Card, which I already had, includes a similar benefit (including a universal 1-800 number). If anyone is interested in the details, just search for American Express Roadside Assistance Anywhere. I have used it several times and found it to be as good as the AAA benefit.

My wife and I had AAA for a long time when we first got married... we also had 15 to 20 year old vehicles. We made use of it several times. Once an overzealous Ohio trooper wanted to jail me for speeding, or $1000 cash bond. AAA apparently has (or had) coverage for that.

Once we broke down in the mountains, a long way from anywhere. AAA let us upgrade over the phone to cover the longer and much higher tow bill.

Once I used them to change a flat tire so I wouldn't have to bother with it in the ice.

We quit renewing when we got newer vehicles with warranties, but have been considering subscribing again as our new vehicles aren't so new anymore, but we'll be keeping them as long as they run.

I tend to think that the value or lack of it will not only vary from person to person but may change individually from time to time.

Like Charlie, I felt it was pretty much a necessity when both my wife and I were driving vehicles that were near the end of their useful lives. Once we got more reliable vehicles we didn't use it much and it ceased to be worth the annual subscription even when factoring in AAA discounts - which I have to admit we didn't take advantage of all that often.

Now that we one of our vehicles is 10 years old and is nearing 100,000 miles, I'm considering re-starting the subscription.

Good article. For me, living in a wintry climate and not being very handy and also having an older car, I really value the AAA membership. Via AAA, I've gotten a replacement battery, had tires fixed (including on a business trip), and was able to give a AAA card for a speeding violation (as described by Charlie).
However looks like there may be some alternatives out there. Food for thought!

My parents and I have all had AAA for years and years and we've used it MANY times. When I was in college, I used it at least twice to tow my car 80-100 miles back to my parents' house to have my dad help me fix it.

Memberships, much like warranties are usually a waste of money. Look at it backwards, if most people used up benefits in excess of what they paid for the memberships or warranties, then those companies are out of business. I guess I can see if you have an older car, but even then I have had older cars and never broken down on the side of the road before. Maybe I am lucky, but there is something to be said for purchasing reliable used cars. Always have a spare tire and know how to use it, save your membership fees and especially expensive warranties.

AAA is no longer necessary - most car insurance companies include roadside assistance in the policy. As do many credit cards.

I just reviewed our AAA after reading this and found out my USAA car insurance offered the same service minus extras. I essentially saved our family $200 a year super-duper AAA.
Check your was well worth it BUT
make sure you tell and teach your partner to change also.

I paid $49 for a subscription to AAA because I was told they would come out anytime your car is stuck, etc. Last winter, we had a heavy snowstorm & I got stuck trying to back out of my driveway to go to work. My car was literally hanging over a mountain! I called AAA, and they refused to come because they said our area was in an emergency situation, and since I was at home & safe, they would not come. Well--I had to go to work, and I had to pay someone else $75 to come and pull me out. So, that was wasted money I paid for AAA that I could have used to pay the tow truck. I don't think AAA is completely honest. I don't remember any details about not coming out if called during an emergency situation. I would think that would be when people would need them most. Needless to say, I have never joined again.

It is time for our annual renewal, and I suggested to my husband that we should call AAA roadside service to see if we can get a discount on our renewal fee as a thank you for 48 years of blind loyality although , we only used the service a hand full of t ime during the 48 years. Apparently, to AAA loyality dosn't mean a thing. all we could get was Thank you. My husband and I, realizing that our loyality is un-appriciate decided to shop around and found another equally comparative service for $ 15. less with a tow range of 150 miles..

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