Is AAA Worth It for You?

For many drivers, AAA membership can be a polarizing topic. Some drivers swear by it. Others believe that it's a frivolous expense. When you're deciding whether to sign up for AAA, you should first look at all of AAA's benefits and decide which ones you might use.

AAA is best known for its roadside assistance. It provides members with a number of services, such as towing, fuel delivery and route recommendations. The cost of AAA membership varies on a region-by-region basis, and there are many levels of membership that carry different price tags. In Minnesota and Iowa, for example, Basic membership costs $59.95 annually, while Plus membership and Premier RV membership cost $101.95 and $151.95, respectively. Regardless of where you live or what level of membership you might want, a potential member will want to know whether investing in AAA membership is worth it.

Teenagers and parents of teenagers often turn to AAA because of its roadside assistance benefits. AAA's roadside assistance program can be especially beneficial for teenagers, considering that a 2011 study showed that two-thirds of teenagers don't know how to jump-start their battery or change a tire. As well as directly helping inexperienced drivers, AAA membership also provides parents with an extra sense of security and peace of mind. In Minnesota and Iowa, if a parent signs up for AAA membership, he or she can designate a child under the age of 17 as an associate member for $12.50 per year. Similar deals exist in other states as well.

Age, of course, is only one factor to consider when deciding whether to enroll in AAA. Your location plays a strong role in your potential use of AAA. Drivers frequently turn to AAA for jump-starts, particularly in regions where frigid temperatures wreak havoc on batteries. Drivers who spend much of their time on rural country roads without many service stations will also find the roadside assistance program very valuable. These drivers, however, might want to opt for one of the pricier membership packages, since cars will only be towed within 5 miles of where they broke down for Basic members, versus 100 miles for Plus and Premier members. Towing costs depend on where your car breaks down and where you need to be towed if you aren't enrolled in AAA or any other type of insurance. Pep Boys, for example, offers a towing service for $49.99 for the first 20 miles.

If you're a driver who is prone to absentmindedness, AAA's emergency lockout service may serve as an especially compelling reason to secure AAA membership. Keep in mind, though, that your membership level will make a difference here as well: As a Basic member, if your keys are lost or broken, or an AAA contractor simply can't get inside your car, AAA will reimburse you up to $50 for a locksmith to make a new key, versus $100 for Plus and Premier RV members. In comparison, America's Locksmith Services' fees for lockout services start at $35, while making a new key would cost around $89.

Regardless of the level of your membership, there are AAA features that everyone can benefit from. Many businesses, including restaurants, museums, and fitness centers, provide AAA members with discounts of up to 30%, thus presenting members with ways to save money even if their cars are in perfect working order. Additionally, AAA helps its members save time by allowing them to renew their driver's licenses, replace lost plates, and take care of other title and registration needs at their local AAA headquarters instead of at the local department of motor vehicles, infamous for long lines and wait times.

Before enrolling in AAA membership, you'd want to be confident that you'd use the available services. Inexperienced drivers, and particularly teenagers, will want to consider getting AAA, as will people who often travel on rural roads that lack service stations. If you live in a densely populated area and think you might need a tow job in the future, the Basic membership package, which tows vehicles anywhere within a 5-mile radius of where your car broke down, might be the best fit.

Before you sign up for AAA, however, check with your insurance company and credit card company. Most insurance companies offer roadside assistance packages, so you should compare prices and benefits. Some credit card companies also offer roadside assistance benefits. AAA has been around since 1902, but it is not your only option.

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