What you get with AAA
AAA has different membership levels that vary by state. Right now I have the Texas “Classic" plan, but there is also the "Premier"and the "Plus" memberships. The differences between these plans for Texas are below:
- Classic: $52/year, car/truck only, free towing up to 7 miles (first 4 tows), battery/jump start/fuel/flat tire service, and locksmith (up to $60).
- Plus: $82/year, car/truck/RV/motorcycle, free towing up to 100 miles (first 4 tows), battery/jump start/fuel/flat tire service, and locksmith (up to $100).
- Premier: $105/year, car/truck/RV/motorcycle, free towing up to 100 miles (first 4 tows), battery/jump start/fuel/flat tire service, and locksmith (up to $150).
In addition to these services, AAA offers a host of discounts and perks (free notary, trip planning and their own magazine for free).
Alternative motor clubs
There are several motor club alternatives to AAA—here’s a price comparison between AAA and their biggest motor club competitors.
- AARP: For AARP members only (over 50 years old, $16 per year). Plan pricing ranges from $39 – $94 (first year only). Total annual dues (AARP membership + roadside assistance enrollment) can range from $55 – $110.
- The Better World Club: Plan pricing ranges from $57.95 – $92.95 (will match AAA pricing for a brand new membership; pricing stays constant regardless of state).
- Allstate Motor Club: Plan pricing ranges from $52 – $108/year (pricing can vary by state).
- BP Roadside Assistance: Billing is per month (not per year). $1 for the first month, $6.50 – $9.99 per month thereafter ($78 – $120/year).
5 Options for roadside assistance
Today, you have many ways to obtain roadside assistance. Interestingly, this service is often treated as a membership "perk" offered free or for a discount when you opt in for other non-related memberships or services.
- Motor clubs
- Insurance carriers
- Credit card companies
- New car warranties
- Cell phone plans
Choosing roadside assistance
The challenge with selecting the best roadside assistance plan for your needs doesn't end with the sheer number of options. When deciding on a plan, make sure you ask about and are aware of each of these factors:
- Whether the plan is tied to you or the vehicle: Some plans through insurance policies are tied to the specific vehicle. Motor clubs may be tied to the member. Plans through cell phone carriers may be tied to whoever has the phone when the incident occurs. Motor clubs may cover more than one vehicle owned by the member. New car warranties may cover only one vehicle owned by the member.
- Whether the plan covers all vehicle types you use: The specific plan may depend on what types of vehicles are covered. Check to make sure all of the vehicles you drive are covered (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, RVs, and any other specialty motorized vehicles).
- How the plan interacts with your insurance company: Vehicle insurance may view your use of the plan for services such as towing as a reason to increase your premiums. Plans through motor clubs and cell carriers typically do not report your usage to your insurance carrier.
- How the plan treats family and dependents: Some plans (motor clubs, insurance carriers) can expand to cover additional drivers. Other plans (new car warranty, cell carrier) typically cover only one vehicle or driver.
- How the plan delivers services: Some plans are more comprehensive than others (example: some basic plans cover tows of 5-7 miles only, while upgraded memberships in the same plans cover 100+ miles per tow). As well, some plans may restrict the range of reasons services cover (for instance, you can get a tow if your battery dies "of natural causes," but not if your battery dies as a result of a flood or fire).
What I decided and why
After reviewing all of my options, I decided to continue with my basic AAA membership. Yes, I may be paying more than I absolutely have to pay for these services, but you can't put a price on personal safety. Here are a few of my reasons for continuing my AAA membership. I hope they can help you decide on your best option as well!
- I have always received excellent service—I have never had a bad experience.
- I like the other perks AAA offers (trip planning, free notary, etc.)
- The plan follows me regardless of which vehicle needs service.
- The plan gives me everything I need (from towing to jumpstarting to locksmith).
- The plan is price competitive with other motor clubs.
- I get a discount with my insurance carrier for being a AAA member.
- I don't worry about service restrictions for a plan tied to a vehicle or a cell phone user.
- I don't have to worry about finding myself suddenly stranded if my warranty expires, if I cancel the credit card that gives me roadside assistance, or out of fear of my insurance premium going up.