If you're like us, you're always looking for ways to save on expenses. While you have to spend money for a AAA membership and its protections, you might be surprised by all of the benefits available and how it could save you money in the end.
Can the savings from a AAA membership cover the cost of joining?
AAA memberships can save snowbirds money in numerous ways. Not only do you get roadside protection, but you also save with AAA travel services, exclusive discounts, deals, and rewards.
AAA still provides TripTiks, TourBooks, and maps to those who prefer them. But tech-savvy snowbirds use the AAA Mobile app for directions and finding discounts on hotels, restaurants, gas prices, local attractions, and more.
AAA also saves snowbirds money on cell phone services, car insurance, and rentals, going to the movies, picking up prescriptions, and more.
You may already have other types of roadside benefits available to you. But read on to learn more about why you might want a Triple-A membership in addition to other roadside assistance options.
The American Automobile Association (AAA)
The American Automobile Association (also known as AAA or Triple-A) is over 115 years old.
More than a thousand members of nine different motor clubs united in 1902 to focus on public safety and discuss ways to get more cars on the road while improving road conditions.
While transportation and infrastructure safety are still important issues, a major focus of AAA now is raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
AAA is also actively involved in legislation regarding and educating consumers on airline safety practices, sustainability, and environmental impact issues.
There are over 40 motor clubs in the United States and Canada and AAA and CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) membership is approaching 60 million people. Several Triple-A clubs also provide insurance products, such as auto, life, home, and renters policies through their own or an affiliated insurance company.
What Does a AAA Membership Include?
Most snowbirds buy AAA memberships for roadside assistance protection. And it surprises some people that you’re covered whether you're in your own car or a passenger in a different vehicle!
When you have a flat tire, need battery service, run out of fuel, get locked out of your car, or need towing service to a repair shop you can call AAA for help.
Depending on the membership level you choose, some services will have full coverage, and others reduced pricing with an independent service provider.
In terms of travel benefits, snowbirds can take advantage of AAA travel planning services. For those who prefer “hard copies” when trip planning, you can also order TripTiks, TourBooks, and maps.
AAA’s mobile app not only provides directions but also highlights hotels, restaurants, gas prices, local attractions, and more.
Depending on the local motor club joined, snowbirds with AAA memberships have access to free identity theft protection and a variety of exclusive member discounts and rewards, such as reduced pricing for:
- local attractions
- car washes
- sporting events
- rental cars
- and more!
Snowbirds should check with their insurer to see if they can save money on auto insurance by taking and passing an online Defensive Driving course AAA offers too.
3 Membership Tiers Basic (Classic), Plus, and Premier
There are three AAA membership levels snowbirds can choose from. Listed below are the key benefits and the annual cost of each type of membership.
Prices and AAA member services may vary based on the auto club you join. This is an example from the Western & Central New York American Auto Club.
To find out how much a local AAA membership plan costs, click on this link and enter your zip code.
1. AAA Basic (Classic)
First Member in Family – $57, Additional family memberships, $41
- Annual Service Calls – 4 per membership year
- Free Towing Per Call – 5 miles
- Fuel Delivery – Free Delivery, You Pay for Fuel
- Tire Changes
- Emergency Extraction/Winching
- Bicycle Assistance
- Locksmith Service for Car – $50
- Emergency Extraction/Winching
- AAA Discounts and Rewards
- Travel Planning
- TripTiks, TourBooks, Maps
2. AAA Plus
Primary Member – $90, Additional family members, $62
Similar to Basic Membership w/these changes/additions:
- Miles of Free Towing Per Call – 100 miles
- Fuel Delivery – Free Fuel and Delivery
- Locksmith Service for Car – $100
- Motorcycle/RV Coverage – Optional $35 rider
- Trip Interruption Protection – $350/member
3. AAA Premier
Primary Member – $118, Additional family members, $80
Similar to Plus Membership w/these changes/additions:
- Miles of Free Towing Per Call – 200 miles (1 of 4), 100 miles (3 of 4)
- Fuel Delivery – Free Fuel and Delivery
- Locksmith Services for Car and Home – $100 for each
- Trip Interruption Protection – $1500/member
- Free Travel Booking
- Free Rental Car (1-day) with Tow
- Annual Carfax Report
Be Careful with Other Roadside Assistance Options
You might feel like a AAA membership is just adding more cost when you already have other roadside assistance options. If you added low-cost roadside coverage through your insurance company or have it as a benefit of buying a new car, be sure you understand what is actually covered.
Don’t assume you have coverage for services you may need or that you won’t have to pay much because of your benefit. You may also have limited choices of repair shops to get your car serviced than you realized.
Also, it is very important to find out if using roadside assistance counts as an insurance claim.
Personal finance expert Clark Howard warns that your roadside assistance call could become part of your C.L.U.E. report (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange). Insurers use this shared database to determine insurance rates.
Using roadside assistance too often could have a big impact on your insurance rates. Your insurance agent should be able to answer questions about this.
Also keep in mind that roadside assistance through your insurer likely covers only your vehicle, unlike AAA which covers you and whatever vehicle you’re traveling in.
Are AAA Memberships a Good Idea For Snowbirds?
Whether you drive to your snowbirding home or keep a car down south to use in the winter, you know there’s always a chance of having car trouble.
A flat tire on the highway, locking your keys in the car, or a dead battery from an interior light being left on can leave you stranded or ruin your plans.
AAA memberships offer more benefits than typical roadside assistance included when you purchase a car, or through options, you add with your insurer. But it's also an extra charge.
Many snowbirds decide the value of a AAA membership is well worth the price and saves them money in the long run. Along with the peace of mind having AAA provides, the additional exclusive savings opportunities they offer can often make up for the cost of a membership.
While the Plus and Premier membership tiers offer more benefits, many people choose the Basic AAA membership – providing some level of roadside assistance coverage, in addition to deals, discounts, and rewards available with a AAA membership card – keeping on budget.
If you have a premium credit card, you may have roadside assistance as a benefit. Check to see if you hold a credit card that could take the place of paying for a AAA membership or adding to your auto insurance coverage.
Finally, self-insuring and setting up a sinking fund for vehicle emergencies is always a good option versus purchasing a membership you likely won’t use.