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Is AAA Worth It?

Posted By Jim On 07/06/2005 @ 8:16 am In Insurance,Reviews,Shopping | 89 Comments

For those who aren’t familiar with AAA, they’re a practically ubiquitous automobile/travel organization where you pay annual dues in order to have access to a set of resources. The resources include free limited towing, some travel discounts, free trip planning and maps, and limited financial services. The only downside is that it’s expensive; I pay over $150 a year for one Basic membership and two associate memberships! (It’s $70 just for me) Is it worth it?



Discounts:
AAA will get you discounts practically anywhere and especially in places you don’t expect. I once walked into a Jos. A. Banks outlet, saw a nice jacket on clearance for like $30, and even got 20% off for showing my AAA card. Of course, if you’re a big spender, you can recoup the $70 in a heartbeat… save 20% off a $2,000 suit (I doubt the discount is that high on a suit) and you’ve recouped the cost.

When you check into a hotel or call in to reserve, ask about an AAA discount. I recently reserved a room down in Ocean City for three nights and AAA saved 15%, or about $90 or so. The thing is I split the room with six other people so my “savings” amounted to only $15.

Discounted Travel:
Ticket discounts is one of the biggest draws for AAA and the reason why I joined last year. My girlfriend and I planned on trips to Disney down in Orlando and an AAA membership significantly allows you purchase park tickets at a huge discount. Also, AAA is the only place that sells five-day passes. (or something like that)

Towing:
Having to be towed sucks. My girlfriend has had her car towed twice but I’ve never had the bad luck of having it towed ever but the two associate memberships are for my mother and my sister. While my mom would have no problem needing towing service since my dad would be nearby, my sister is much farther away. She’s also not particularly car savvy and having this service is always nice. Plus, she drives a VW Bug that’s been giving my dad headaches so he never knows when the piece of crap is going to need to get towed. For those of you who use AAA because of the free limited towing, check your car manual because your car may already have free limited towing service from your manufacturer that equals that of AAA.

Free Travel Planning:
This is a cool service I would probably never use, even less now with Google Maps or Mapquest. They can print out an entire driving plan to get you from point A to point B, even with highlighted streets. But one thing I do use from their travel planning area are the free travel guides. They have useful phone numbers of local restaurants and hotels and definitely a plus. Their rating system means nothing to me though.. quadruple platinum stars encrusted in diamonds? So what, how much does it cost and is it a recognizable hotel chain?

I’m not entirely sold on AAA memberships, especially in years where I don’t foresee taking big vacations where AAA would matter. The discounts are nice but not nice enough to be shelling out $70 a year for, I don’t think I should even be spending enough on those sorts of things to even justify the discount helping me out. Ultimately, I keep the membership because of the free limited towing service provided to my sister and my mom and that’s probably why my dad wanted me to get it.


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