open highway

AAA Review: Is AAA Worth It in 2024?

When I turned 16 years old and got my driver’s license, one of the gifts my father gave me was a AAA (American Automobile Association) membership. In 2013, following a short lapse in membership, my wife and I decided that our road-tripping ways would make having AAA a smart idea. However, with other automotive assistance options available these days, is AAA still worth the cost?

If you’re considering a AAA membership for yourself, let’s take a look at the costs, some of the benefits, and a few of my personal experiences with the auto club.

AAA Review
AAA: An Affordable Price for Peace of Mind
4
Annual Cost
Varies by area (around $65)
Plan options
Classic, Plus, Premier
Member discounts
Hotel bookings, theme park tickets, dining, and more
AAA offers roadside assistance that can really come in handy for flat tires, jump starts, lockouts, and more. While pricing can vary by region, the cost of about $65 per year is affordable. Plus, membership entitles customers to a variety of discounts, from hotel rooms to dining and beyond. However, since the service relies on a network of independent companies, customer experience can vary along with wait times for service. And, the company has a habit of sending lots of junk mail for their other offerings. Still, for greater peace of mind, I believe a AAA membership is ultimately worth it.
Pros
  • Offers nationwide roadside assistance (as well as in Canada)
  • Affordable pricing
  • Discounts on hotel booking and more
Cons
  • Low caps on certain services for Classic tier
  • Experience may vary
  • Sends lots of junk mail

AAA Costs and Benefits

AAA card

How much does AAA cost?

Here’s the thing: putting an exact cost on AAA can be difficult due to its structure. AAA as a whole is made up of 42 clubs in various states and regions, with each maintaining its own pricing and benefits. That said, a “Classic” membership tends to run about $60 per year (give or take a few dollars). You can compare plans and pricing for your area by visiting the main AAA site and entering your zip code. 

For the record, my membership in Missouri is currently $66 a year.

The good news is that, regardless of what state you register your membership in, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits across the country. After all, what good would a service that emphasizes hitting the open road be if it was limited to just your area? However, I will say that the whole “different regions” thing can be annoying when attempting to navigate the AAA site(s) or app — especially in states like California that seem to be even further separated.

Adding family members

If you have others in your household that you’d like to add to your AAA membership, you can do so at a discount. Again, these additional costs can vary but, in our case, it was about half price to add a second person. Also, as I alluded to, the only individuals eligible to be added to your membership are those who reside in your household.

T-Mobile/Sprint offer

In the summer of 2022, telecom T-Mobile announced a new partnership with AAA. As a result of this, T-Mobile customers can currently get one year of AAA for free. Even better, this even applies to those (like me) who are already AAA members.

To take advantage of this deal, you can start on the T-Mobile AAA site. There, you’ll need to enter your T-Mobile or Sprint phone number. After answering a few questions to confirm your eligibility, you’ll be provided with a coupon code to be redeemed with AAA.

For me, the process of applying this coupon to my account was pretty easy and I received a letter in the mail soon after confirming that my promo would be applied on my next renewal date. 

Speaking of renewals, when you opt-into this offer, your membership will renew at full price by default. Therefore, if you don’t want to pay at the end of your free year, you’ll need to make sure to disable the auto-renew function. 

If you’re a T-Mobile or Sprint customer, I really don’t see any reason not to take advantage of this deal. Just be sure to keep on top of your account if you don’t intend to renew after the fact.

What Services Does AAA Offer?

road assistance warning triangle and car in the background

Roadside assistance

As someone who knows practically nothing about cars and can’t even change a tire, the main reason I keep my AAA membership active is for the roadside assistance they offer. This includes the aforementioned tire changes, “minor mechanical first aid,” and fuel delivery services (upper-tier plans cover the cost of fuel while the Classic includes free delivery but charges the member for the fuel itself). 

Additionally, if you find yourself locked out of your vehicle or stuck with a dead battery, AAA can help there as well — although locksmith services are capped at a certain dollar amount depending on your service tier.

What’s really nice about AAA is that your membership is assigned to you, not your vehicle. Therefore, regardless of whether you’re in a rental car, joining a friend on a road trip, or driving your own car to work, you can call the service for help.

Towing

In the event that your car is unable to be easily fixed on the side of the road, AAA also covers towing services. However the amount of free towing you’ll receive is perhaps the biggest difference between the membership tiers. 

While the Classic tier only allows for tows of just a few miles (or back to the service provider at whatever distance), the AAA Plus tier increases this range to 100 miles and the AAA Premier tier includes one tow up to 200 miles and subsequent tows of up to 100 miles.

This is actually one aspect of AAA I (thankfully) haven’t had to utilize. Therefore, I can’t really speak to whether the upgraded membership is worth it. However, it’s certainly worth considering if you foresee towing needs in your future.

Rental cars

Another AAA service I’ve never had to use involves rental cars. Once again, these benefits depend on your membership tier. For Classic members, they’ll be able to get reduced rates on rental car needs while Premier members are entitled to a complimentary one-day, mid-size rental.

Discounts

If you’ve ever visited a motel or tried to book a room directly through a hotel’s site, there’s a strong chance you’ve seen the AAA logo or heard a reference to a AAA member discount. While AAA hotel rates may be one of the most popular discounts available to members, the savings hardly stop there. In fact, one of my favorite (since-discontinued) discounts was at Earl of Sandwich. Some other still-active discounts include theme park tickets, restaurants, retailers, and more.

Personally, I recently took advantage of AAA rates while staying at the Hotel Vandivort here in Springfield, Missouri. These rates were up to $25 less than the going price. In other words, you could easily cover your annual membership fee with the discounts if you’re diligent about taking advantage of them.

Branch services

When I was a kid, I actually remember going to the AAA branch to pick up travel maps for our family road trip destinations, buying traveler’s checks, and more. Funny enough, both of those services seem pretty obsolete these days, but there are still benefits to be found at some AAA branch locations. 

For example, when I lived in California, I found that the location in Orange Country offered the state-required emissions test at a fairly competitive price. Beyond that, it seems some AAA branches still offer travel planning assistance, notary services, and more. So while it’s been a minute since I’ve headed into one of these brick-and-mortar branches, perhaps it’s time to take another look.

DMV services

Speaking of branch services, some AAA locations can also perform some services typically reserved for your local DMV. This may include driver’s license renewals, vehicle registrations, and more. Of course, the services offered will vary by state and branch location.

In my case, I actually used this service back when I first moved to California. I went to a AAA branch in Orange County in the hopes of getting my California plates. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have all of the items I needed  (hey, I was 23 at the time — give me a break) so I wasn’t able to complete the process. However, the AAA rep did provide me with a detailed list of everything I would need so that I had better luck the next time around. Even better, rather than wait in a long line at the actual DMV only to be turned away, I waited only a couple of minutes at the AAA. Plus, I was able to complete California’s required smog test at that same location.

Given this experience, if you live in an area where these services are offered, you may be able to save time by taking advantage of these offerings.

Other AAA Considerations

tire jack

Some of my AAA experiences

One of my favorite AAA stories actually hardly involves me as I wasn’t with my vehicle at the time. Back in my movie theatre manager days, I made the mistake of leaving something quite important in the trunk of my car: a print of a film that was set to open that Friday. Inconveniently, while the theatre and my car were in Arizona, I was on vacation in California at the time. 

Thankfully, after calling AAA and inquiring about what could be done, they let me know that they’d be able to allow a trusted party to access my vehicle. The only catch was the person meeting the locksmith also needed to be a AAA member. Well, lucky for us, one of the other managers also held a membership and was able to rescue the print just in time for the film’s opening. Sidenote: I was not very popular in the projection booth when I returned from vacation.

Of course, not all of my tales are as unique. Really, most just involve getting flat tires — such as when we blew a tire on our way home from Florida and needed to place a call. Having AAA was also quite helpful when my wife accidentally left the keys to our car on the front seat after already locking the door. 

In each of these cases, we paid nothing out of pocket and were able to go on our merry ways. That said, while I haven’t personally tipped (oops), apparently that’s something I should be doing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Response times

The service providers that respond to AAA calls are certainly helpful but, believe it or not, they’re not able to teleport and can only be in one place at a time. Because of these human restrictions, there may be times when your roadside assistance can take a while to arrive. Obviously the length of your wait can depend on several factors but a wait of an hour or two seems in line with my experience.

I will say that AAA and its service providers do a decent job of keeping you updated on ETAs, although I would recommend requesting the phone number of the provider when you first place your service call. That way you can contact them directly if there are any updates or if they’ve missed their arrival window (it happens).

Roadside assistance alternatives

Just because AAA is perhaps the most widely known provider of roadside assistance, there’s a chance you may actually have access to other services through various means. For example, your auto insurance may include roadside help as part of your coverage or a subscription to in-car service may also include such benefits. 

Even select credit cards and wireless phone providers may offer some sort of support. Heck, once we were in the process of calling AAA for a flat tire when a Georgia Department of Transportation truck pulled up and took care of it for free.

Ultimately, it may be worth looking into what types of options you already have before deciding to join AAA. Similarly, if you do end up with a AAA membership, double-check your insurance policy, cell phone bill, and more to see if you might be paying for services you’ll no longer need. In either case, make sure to compare the benefits and restrictions of each option as not all roadside services are created equal.

Annoyances

Lastly, one thing I want to mention is that AAA can be pretty annoying in a couple of ways. First, it feels like I’m getting mail from them every week. From car insurance solicitations to upgrade offers, I get at least a couple of items a month that end up going straight in the trash. 

Also, there seem to be a few different AAA apps, making it hard to know which you’re supposed to use. In fact, when I launch one, it asks for my zip code and then launches another! 

Ultimately, while these examples are frustrating, they’re not the end of the world (although the mail thing is remarkably wasteful). Both also suggest to me that AAA is a bit behind the times and could use some modernization. Still, on the whole, it’s not enough to turn me off from their service.

Common complaints

Lastly, while I’ve personally only had positive experiences with AAA, comments I’ve seen on my YouTube video and articles in the past would suggest this isn’t the case for everyone. Oftentimes, these comments involve long waits, refusal of service for one reason or another, or other such issues. 

As I said, I can’t speak to any of these experiences — but I can pose a guess that some of these issues stem from how AAA’s network works. This is to say that, instead of sending out their own crews, they work with independent companies. And while these companies are surely vetted, some may be easier to work with than others. Plus, I’m sure there are situations where exceptions or failures do arise. When they do, it has to be frustrating, which is why people understandably want to shout about it. 

Of course, given the number of AAA customers, I have to believe these negative instances aren’t very common. Still, they are worth noting as they do exist.

Final Thoughts on AAA

AAA Emergency Services logo

Despite there being other options for roadside assistance, my personal experiences with AAA since I was 16 have made them a must-have for me. While I certainly haven’t taken advantage of every benefit or discount I’m entitled to, I can say that the many road trips my wife and I take are slightly less stressful knowing that AAA will be able to help us out if we need them (and we have). 

Because of that, I see retaining a AAA membership as paying for peace of mind — and that has definitely been worth the $80 a year we spend. Plus, as a T-Mobile customer, I now have a free year of the service banked when our renewal date comes up. So, if that also applies to you, making use of that deal could be a great way to try out AAA without needing to spend anything.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Founder ~ Moneyat30
Kyle is a freelance writer - including being the head writer for Fioney.com. He also serves as editorial director for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com. In 2015, Kyle and his wife Bekah moved from Los Angeles to Springfield MO in pursuit of greater financial freedom. Together, the pair enjoy travel, coffee, and spending time with their dog Rigby. Additionally, as of 2023, they become first-time homeowners.

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