When it comes to things like hotels, rental cars and other travel-related necessities, AAA is one of the best ways to save money.
In this article, I’ll tell you what you need to know about joining AAA including the cost, whether membership is worth it and how to save money using the service.
Should You Join AAA? Here’s What You Need To Know
AAA stands for the American Automobile Association. Formed in 1902, the group was originally made up of automobile enthusiasts. Now more than a century later, AAA and its affiliated clubs offer a range of services that cater to travelers on the go.
I’ve been an AAA member for a number of years, and it has saved me money on rental cars and more.
If you buy an AAA membership, I strongly suggest that you take advantage of the many perks. If not, your subscription could quickly become one of those monthly expenses you hardly ever use, and that’s a waste of money.
How Much Does AAA Cost?
AAA’s pricing depends on where you live and the membership level you select. There are three membership tiers — Classic, Plus and Premier — and they all are priced differently. We’ll get into each tier in more detail a bit later.
An annual membership can cost as little as $53 and as much as $169.
Mostly, the prices are governed by where you live and what affiliated club (Auto Club South, Auto Club Northeast, etc.) you belong to, but there are exceptions. I checked the AAA prices across several cities in September 2021, and here’s what I found.
AAA Membership Prices: 8 Sample Cities
|ZIP Code||City / State||Classic||Plus||Premier|
|95050||San Jose, CA||$56||$91||$119|
What Are Some Key Features of an AAA Membership?
Aside from roadside assistance, one of the most popular AAA features is access to travel discounts on hotels, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages.
To see the key features that AAA membership offers, it’s beneficial to look the differences between the three membership tiers: Classic, Plus and Premier.
|AAA Classic||AAA Plus||AAA Premier|
|Towing: Up to four tows per year up to 5 miles each||Towing: Up to four tows per year up to 100 miles each||Towing: Up to four tows per year up to 100 miles each including one up to 200 miles|
|Battery jumpstart||Battery jumpstart||Battery jumpstart and free replacement|
|Free identity theft monitoring||Free identity theft monitoring||Free identity theft monitoring and free $10,000 identity theft insurance|
|Fuel delivery (you pay for fuel)||Fuel delivery (fuel is free)||Fuel delivery (fuel is free)|
|Locksmith service up to $50 for vehicles||Locksmith service up to $100 for vehicles||Vehicle locksmith service up to $150
|Car travel interruption expense reimbursement ($600)||Car travel interruption expense reimbursement ($1,000)||Car travel interruption expense reimbursement ($1,500)|
|Hotel discounts||Hotel discounts||Hotel discounts|
* Membership information based on Northeast Club prices.
There are also travel discounts that could make a membership worth your while. AAA works with the following hotel brands:
- Best Western: Get a discount of up to 15% on room rates at Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
- Hilton: Members can save 5% or more at Hilton hotels and resorts.
- Marriott: Save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy points.
- MGM Resorts: Save 10% off rates.
For car rentals, AAA partners with Hertz to offer up to 20% on some rentals.
The last time I needed to rent a car, I checked Kayak, Orbitz and Priceline, but AAA’s discount beat them all. I ended up saving $40 with AAA for my rental car. The club offers discounts on cruises and vacation packages as well.
You also get access to TripTik Travel Planners and AAA Tourbook Guides.
AAA’s other services include auto loans and insurance, home insurance, and free identity theft protection via Experian.
By far, AAA’s biggest claim to fame is its roadside assistance. It operates 24 hours a day and covers each member whether they’re a driver or just a passenger.
As a AAA member, money expert Clark Howard says he’s used the service occasionally for towing.
“The big beef with AAA is how long you have to wait for emergency road service, but when it works, it’s great,” Clark says.
When I called AAA, a customer service representative told me that roadside assistance response times average between 30 minutes and an hour.
If you have the AAA app, you can track your driver’s location with the Service Tracker feature.
How To Save With an AAA Membership
If you buy an AAA membership and want to take immediate advantage of the savings, here’s how to get some of them:
- Go to the Deals page: You can search “All Deals” or “Local” to find restaurants and other discounts near you.
- Visit the AAA Dollars Online Mall: When you shop there, you can earn AAA Dollars toward renewal dues.
Having said all that, you may sign up for a membership and find that you’re not taking full advantage of it or that it’s not meeting your needs.
How To Cancel Your AAA Membership
AAA makes it fairly easy to cancel your membership, but you can’t close your account online. Call the Member Service Center at (800) 222-6424 to speak with one of their customer service representatives.
You may also be able to visit your local AAA club and cancel in person.
You may be due a full or partial refund based on how much time is left before your renewal date.
Conclusion: Is AAA Worth the Money?
I agree with Clark in saying that AAA membership is not for everyone. It largely depends on your lifestyle: how often you travel and whether the other services are things you’ll use.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people aren’t traveling as much, so they may decide that a AAA membership isn’t worth it right now.
On the other hand, AAA’s free vehicle towing may be a better option than an alternative such as your insurance company, which typically provides such services only through a policy claim.
Here’s the bottom line: Before you spend any money on AAA, make sure you take a good look at all of the services and compare the benefits of the membership tiers.