Evaluate your options to make the best choice for you and your car.
Most important points
- Roadside assistance is very useful.
- Many auto insurers offer it as supplemental coverage or even include it as part of a regular policy.
- AAA is best known for its roadside assistance, but a membership has other benefits that may come in handy for you.
If you’ve had a driver’s license for quite some time, chances are you’re stuck on the side of the road and need help. Maybe you ran out of gas, locked out of your car, or had a simple flat tire. Or maybe something more colorful went wrong, like accidentally running over someone’s discarded exhaust on a snowy highway, puncturing your oil pan and draining all the oil from your engine. That was me one day back when I was a grad student. It was not a nice day, but luckily I had roadside assistance through my car insurance.
Roadside assistance can be added to many car insurance plans, and having access to it can be very useful. Roadside assistance can help you if your car breaks down for any reason – it can include towing services, starting batteries, locksmith assistance and more. And it can be especially helpful if you have an older car that’s out of the manufacturer’s warranty, as it’s more likely to require mechanical intervention.
But if you’re interested in roadside assistance, plus access to various discounts and other helpful perks, you may be wondering if you should get an AAA membership instead of opting for roadside assistance through your insurer. Here are a few questions and answers that can help you decide between auto insurance and AAA roadside assistance.
Does my car insurance come with roadside assistance?
If you’re trying to decide whether to get roadside assistance through AAA, it’s a good idea to review your auto insurance policy details, as you may already have it. If you have a comprehensive policy with your insurer, roadside assistance may be included, or you may already be paying for it. Through your insurer, it’s probably a nominal amount of maybe $8 to $25 a year. If you already have this coverage, or can easily add it to your insurance policy, is it worth considering an AAA membership as well? Perhaps.
How much does an AAA membership cost?
Pricing for AAA memberships varies based on where you live, how many vehicles you want to cover, and whether any special offers are available. At the time of writing, here are the available membership levels/annual costs available to me:
$40.60 per year
Data source: AAA Northeast
As you can see, even the basic membership is more than the average annual cost of roadside assistance through an auto insurance company. However, AAA very clearly outlines the level of service they provide; for example, if I chose the Plus membership, I would be entitled to four roadside assistance calls per year and the AAA would tow my car up to 100 miles. My car insurance is through one of the larger national insurers, and according to its website and my past experience using this service, it only covers towing my vehicle to “the nearest repair facility”. This is less useful to me than being able to choose where my vehicle is taken. And don’t forget that AAA membership means more than just roadside assistance if your car breaks down.
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What does an AAA membership entail?
AAA is known for offering numerous discounts on hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel expenses. But it also gives members the chance to get discounts on dining out, gym memberships, and even prescription glasses. And these discounts are available regardless of the AAA membership level you purchase. Suddenly, it may make more sense for you to even pay for a basic level membership.
Now we get to the heart of the matter: does paying for an AAA membership make sense for your budget? If you would like to take advantage of the discounts and benefits available to you as an AAA member, you are a frequent traveler, or even if you drive an older vehicle that is prone to mechanical problems and would prefer more flexibility in roadside assistance for you are available, then a AAA membership might make sense for you. It’s a good idea to find out if you have roadside assistance through your auto insurance company, what this coverage might cover, and how much an AAA membership might cost you. This information will help you make the right choice.
If you’ve also experienced the anxiety that comes with a car breakdown and leaving you stranded on the side of the road, you’ve no doubt rejoiced that roadside assistance programs could save the day (or at least your bank account, as towing services are often expensive). Now that you know how to choose between roadside assistance through your insurer or AAA, you’ll be better prepared to be safe behind the wheel (and save some money, too).
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