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Picture the scene: you’re driving down a beautiful desert road, enjoying the breathtaking scenery and the freedom of being on the road, when your car starts to sputter. You pull over to the side of the road, where your engine dies and starts spewing steam. You’re miles from civilization and haven’t seen a gas station for hours. What do you do?
If you have roadside assistance, you simply call a number and request help. A tow truck will come to your location and bring you and your vehicle to the closest repair shop to be repaired. But roadside assistance is helpful in many situations, not just the ones where you’re stranded in the wilderness with a broken car. You might have the option to add roadside assistance to your car insurance policy or consider a third-party option from AAA or a similar company. The best choice for you will depend on several factors. This article will explore the pros and cons of AAA roadside assistance vs. the coverage you can get from your insurance provider.
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What is AAA roadside assistance?
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a national nonprofit composed of motor clubs around the country. AAA members have access to several benefits, the best-known of which is roadside assistance. For an annual fee, AAA members can call for help when needed, whether they're dealing with a dead battery, a flat tire, or a more serious situation. AAA membership services apply to the member, so you’re covered no matter whose car you’re driving.
In addition to roadside assistance, AAA offers several perks to members, including discounts on anything from travel to restaurant meals, identity theft protection, and more. You may also be able to get an auto insurance policy from AAA.
AAA membership costs
The cost of AAA membership depends on where you live and the level of coverage you choose. Prices vary between regions, so you’ll need to contact AAA directly to find the exact pricing in your location.
There are three membership tiers: AAA Classic, AAA Plus, and AAA Premier. Base prices are for one named member. You can add other family members for an additional annual cost that works out to be less than each person having an individual membership. The average cost ranges for each membership level are as follows:
|Membership level||Annual cost for one driver||Annual cost per additional driver|
$38 to $74
$25 to $48
$60 to $124
$34 to $80
$77 to $164
$45 to $109
AAA membership plans
AAA offers a variety of benefits across its three membership tiers. The basic plan, AAA Classic, includes roadside assistance services like hookup and towing, flat tire service, battery jump start service, and stuck vehicle service. It also offers free roadside assistance for bicycles, so members are covered while they ride a bike, not just behind the wheel.
From there, each membership level adds extra perks, such as expanded towing limits, free fuel delivery, and higher vehicle lockout service credits. The main offerings for the three plan types are as follows:
|AAA Classic||AAA Plus||AAA Premier|
Up to 5 miles
Up to 100 miles
Up to 200 miles
At pump price
Vehicle lockout service credit
Up to $50
Up to $100
Up to $150
Home lockout service credit
Up to $150
Trip interruption reimbursement
Up to $500
Up to $1,000
Up to $1,500
$10,000 identity theft insurance
Legal defense reimbursement
Up to $1,000
Up to $1,500
Up to $2,000
What are the benefits of AAA roadside assistance?
AAA roadside assistance offers many benefits, in addition to the ability to call for help if your car breaks down. The following are some of the main advantages of a AAA membership.
24/7 roadside assistance
The main benefit of AAA membership is 24/7 roadside assistance. No matter where you are or what time of day it is, you can get help quickly, which adds extra peace of mind to every journey you make. Roadside assistance includes towing, flat tire repair, battery jumping, and stuck vehicle retrieval. AAA even extends its roadside assistance service to bicycles for its members, which means you can call for help if you’re cycling and get a flat tire.
Travel discounts and benefits
In addition to roadside assistance, AAA offers numerous discounts to help decrease your travel costs. You can access deals on hotels, flights, car rentals, and travel guides. AAA also provides trip interruption coverage that kicks in if your vehicle is immobilized while you’re on vacation.
Automotive discounts and benefits
AAA also offers several notable automotive-related discounts and benefits. If you’re a AAA member, you can get 10 percent off repairs at an approved service center, up to $50 total. Depending on your location, you could also get a free car inspection, discounted Carfax vehicle history report, and other benefits.
You may be eligible for some additional benefits, depending on your location and the membership tier you choose. These could include free notary services, discounted passport photos, credit for locksmith services at home, and discounts on international maps. Contact your local AAA auto club to learn what benefits you could be eligible for.
What are the drawbacks of AAA roadside assistance?
Like anything, AAA membership has some drawbacks, including the following.
You will need AAA membership in addition to car insurance, not instead of. While many people find the additional perks to be worth the membership cost, it might be difficult for others to justify the extra expense.
Limited towing in Classic plan
One of the best reasons to get roadside assistance is access to towing services. But the Classic plan is limited in how far it will tow your car, so you could incur an additional fee to tow your vehicle to the nearest service center.
Is it better to get AAA or roadside assistance through car insurance?
If you want roadside assistance, there are other options besides AAA. Many insurance providers will offer roadside assistance services as part of a policy or as an optional extra. Depending on the insurer, this coverage could be enough to get you help if you get stranded while traveling. But AAA offers perks that most insurers don’t.
Ultimately, the decision will be based on several factors, such as the following:
- How much do you use your car? If you rarely drive far from home, insurance-provided roadside assistance should be more than enough to cover you.
- What can you afford? A classic AAA plan for one member could be an extra $50 a year, and that’s for minimal coverage. You may find that roadside assistance through your insurer is more affordable.
- Will you use AAA perks? AAA might be the best option if you travel frequently. AAA has numerous discounts that can help you save on travel so you could make back your membership fee relatively fast.
If you’re still on the fence, it’s worth contacting your car insurance provider and your local AAA auto club to get a quote. You can then compare coverage to see which makes the most sense.
AAA vs. insurance-provided roadside assistance
When deciding between getting roadside assistance from AAA or your car insurance provider, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of each. The following table lists the most notable pros and cons of both options.
AAA roadside assistance
The value of a car roadside assistance program depends on how much you think you’ll use it. If you use your car a lot, drive long distances frequently, have an older vehicle with diminished car value, or don’t have the financial means to pay for roadside assistance when needed, then a AAA membership is worthwhile. It’s also the best option if you think you will use AAA’s available discounts since it can save you money on hotel stays, flights, car rentals, and car maintenance.
However, if your car insurance provider offers roadside assistance, it’s worth considering. This option is likely cheaper, although coverage may be more basic than AAA coverage, and you won’t get any of the additional perks that AAA offers.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Still have questions about roadside assistance and which one to choose? The answers to these common questions can help you in your understanding so you can make an informed decision.
How can I request AAA roadside assistance?
The easiest way to request AAA roadside assistance is to call 800-AAA-HELP (222-4357) from anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. You can also request assistance directly from AAA’s website or through the AAA mobile app, which is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Additionally, if you hold credit cards that offer roadside assistance as a benefit, you may have the option to request assistance through their dedicated services. Some credit cards provide roadside assistance as an added perk, allowing cardholders to access emergency services with ease.
How do I claim reimbursement with AAA?
To claim reimbursement for roadside assistance, fill out the “Road Service Reimbursement Request” form. You’ll need to include your membership number, contact information, and information about the service. Contact your local AAA auto club to get a copy of the form.
How do I add roadside assistance to my insurance policy?
It will depend on your insurer. The best option is to contact your insurance provider directly to ask for details on roadside assistance, including the types of services covered and the monthly or annual cost.
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