Comparing the best auto clubs
Finding an Auto Club
by Dollar Stretcher Contributors
Choosing a Roadside Assistance Plan
Before You Buy Roadside a Assistance Plan
7 Auto Tourism Tips
Comparing the Best Auto Clubs
I want to buy a membership for a motorist club mainly for towing or roadside help. I was hoping your readers could share their experiences with the different motorist clubs available (i.e. AAA, Allstate, Shell, etc.).
BP Motor Club Fan
I have belonged to BP Motor Club for ten years and find it a great value. Included are towing, lockout help, trip routing and a half price hotel and motel rates through the ITC 50 group. The cost is only $78.00 per year and you can be billed quarterly. It has always paid for itself and the service is wonderful.
I've found that AAA is a great service for very little money. If you have a flat, run out of gas, etc. they will come to your rescue in a tow truck for free. All you have to do is show your card. You can also get discounts on admission to museums and hotels by showing your card. If you are planning a trip, you can go to the local AAA office and get free maps and travel information about the places you're visisting. They even highlight the best road routes for you on the maps! AAA is only about $75 a year, and well worth every cent!!
J.P. in Williamsburg, VA
Check Rider on Your Auto Insurance
I gave up motor clubs years ago because I found that I could have roadside assistance through my insurance which costs me about $24/year as opposed to the 78$/year plus that I had been paying through AAA. This is for towing and roadside assistance and it is directly billed back to the insurance company if you use a company that has this set up. And I'll tell you what... the AAA tow truck doesn't get there any quicker... they use the same company! And in fact, sometimes they are slower because the tow companies don't make much money on those AAA calls. Just a thought as an alternative if all you are looking for is towing and roadside (it might be available to you)... if you must choose one motor club though I would probably go for AAA because they are such a large, national company and they have a lot of perks with membership if you are interested in that kind of thing.
Another AAA User
I have been a member of AAA since I started driving at 16. My grandmother has been a member for a long, long time (since before I was born). I've always had tremendously good service and I think the price is well worth it. I have the Premiere service (or Gold, whatever the top one is called). As a (until recently) single woman out on my own, I wanted a service that was fast, efficient, courteous and hassle-free. AAA has been that and more for me. Plus, all the discounts, free maps, travel services, and other bonuses are great!
Heather Anne W
I have had AAA for a couple of years and from two different states. In Massachusetts - I have never had a problem. I could walk in and get trip kits and maps at any time. They were always helpful. My parents found out that you can get car loans from them. I have needed to be towed twice in the past two years and had no problems at all!
In North Carolina, I have had problems with AAA. They gave me grief because I had Massachusetts AAA (it should not have been a problem). The first time I went to get maps and trip kits, they chastised me for not giving them three days' notice. (I was the only client in the office and no one was doing anything.) The second time I gave them three days' notice and I have bought the AAA from them in NC and they chastised me for not giving them a week's notice. (Again I was the only client in the office.) So I believe it was that office.
The trip kits are flip maps that are usually broken down in two hour increments. They were wonderful for driving across the country. I knew ahead of time which exits had food and gas. I got the state guides which listed hotels and prices. I was traveling with pets, so I could call up two hours before I wanted to finish driving each night and call the hotels which allowed pets. I could then just drive to a hotel each night hassle free.
I would recommend paying extra and getting the AAA Plus. They will tow you up to 100 miles. The regular AAA only pays for the first three miles of towing. So, with the plus, you can pretty much get towed to a garage or dealership near your house.
The only real challenge I had was when my car died on New Year's Eve on the NJ turnpike. I found out that turnpikes have their own agreements with local towing companies and AAA and all other motor clubs must abide by this. AAA and other motor clubs are not allowed to tow you on a turnpike. But they can tow you from the off ramp. This one night I was able to get my car off the turnpike (I was right next to the off ramp ) and a garage was within the three miles ( I found out about the three mile limit that night too.). I was able to get my car to a garage that did a great repair job on my car. The garage was open and they knew of a cab driver that was willing to, for a fixed fee, drive me to the airport in Pennsylvania. By midnight I had a rental car and was able to finish driving home to MA.
I believe AAA will tow you, get gas if you run out, will jump your car, etc. six times for each service within a year. I would highly recommend AAA.
With Credit Card Offer
For several years, I was a member of AAA, but I seldom used their services. Then I received a credit card offer that included the basic road service that AAA offers but without the annual membership fee. So I got rid of AAA and got the credit card, which has no annual fee. I still have access to the same service if I should need it.
I can definitely recommend which motor club NOT to join. Although its myriad of services and heavy advertising bring in thousands of new subscribers each year, AAA has proven to be nothing more than unreliable for my family. We've been stranded in both snow and ice storms and have been told they were "too busy" to respond. I was pregnant during the worst heat wave in August, five years ago, when my car died on the way home from work. I waited for 3 hours after calling AAA. My husband, worried about where I was, finally traced my route home, found me, and called back to AAA. The operator who took our call had gone "off shift" and forgotten to route the request. When the towtruck finally came, he told us that he couldn't tow us to the garage near our house because he was going "off shift" and it would take too long. The next day, we canceled our membership and demanded a total refund for the year's dues. We were refused. Now, I carry a few business cards for local towing companies (one near home, one near work, etc.) and have much more peace of mind that in an emergency, I have a number of places to call for help
Our family travels extensively and we belong to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). As an affiliate with the AAA we get all the free maps, discounts on hotels and attractions as well as the road-side service. The membership is with the driver, not the car so when we are renting in the US, we still have AAA on the rental car.
A special bonus is the affiliation with Automobile associations around the world. We are currently driving 2000 km through Australia, using over $30 worth of RACQ (Royal Automobile Club of Queensland) maps and their accomodation guide. All for free since they recognize the AAA members.
On travel benefits alone, we save our membership dues each year so I highly recommend the AAA.
Comparing the Best Auto Clubs
We have been a member of AAA for a few years now and have not had a problem with them until moving to a small town in MS. Now when we call for a tow or are locked out it usually takes 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours to get someone. The problem is that AAA only has their tow trucks in large cities and use independent ones in smaller towns. You then have to rely on them to call the company they use and then it is at their convenience that they come out.
We have also used the State Farm Roadside Assistance Program, which is something you can add to your insurance for only pennies a month. For us it was $6 per year. It was great as you call the tow company you want to use and then submit your bill. We took our bill in to our agent and he wrote a check right then to reimburse us. There is no limit as to how many tows or times you can use it except that it is limited to one tow per incident. You can't have it towed somewhere and if they can't fix it or it costs too much, have it towed elsewhere. With AAA you have a limit on how many times you can use each service they provide.
We are now using the Roadside Service with our new Insurance carrier USAA, which is available to all military members (active or retired) and is well worth it. It works about the same as State Farm for about the same price. The insurance is just a little cheaper than State Farm. We would recommend this to any Military member to use for all services (banking, insurance-all types, and investing).
Call GEICO at 1-800-861-8380. You get road service that includes towing with your auto insurance. And I did some calling around and there auto insurance was cheaper than the others I called. The web address is Geico.com.
I had Allstate Motor Club at one time, I was traveling from Memphis,Tn to Jacksonville,NC by myself it was about 2 am when my truck broke down. I called their emergency number and I was told they could't help me because I was too far out from a big city. I waited on the side of the road for 2 hrs. until police came to help me. Needless to say I changed Clubs, and am now very happy with AAA. Never had a problem with towing or road service. Which is great since I am female and travel with my job and have that feeling of security.
Buy Protection from Auto Insurer and Save Big!
In most cases, the best deal is NOT buying into an auto club, but rather putting emergency assistance protection on your auto insurance. An auto club can cost $60 or more a year, while my emergency insurance costs about $4 per year. I use other services at the local auto club by just walking in. I can download maps from the internet for nothing, though I use my GPS instead.
Barbara in CT
3 Options Compared
I have had roadside towing through AAA, Verizon (where I have cell service), and Nationwide (where I now have auto and home insurance). Yes, the extras with AAA are nice, but you can do your own trip kit online these days. Verizon was nice as it followed the families cell phones, not the individual or a vehicle. So if you're riding with someone needing a tow, they could also use it.
Reduce the cost of your gasoline with a 'gas card'. You can compare them
AAA All the Way
In addition to being everywhere (and I have needed them in places which don't even have names!), they are the best advertisement for towing and repairs. Consequently, if a local businessman gets their approval, he does not want to lose it by trying something shady.
I don't know why you wouldn't want to use all their other benefits like travel information, maps, Triptiks, coupons for area businesses, emailed extras, and even personalized travel service, which enables me to drive alone on long explorative trips throughout the US. I've used all of the above services with complete satisfaction.
Don't Bother With This One
Until yesterday, I had AARP motor club, which they farm out to Allstate. They both suck. I had a flat tire on a highway just west of San Antonio on an 80 degree, clear, sunny day and they couldn't get anybody there to help because of "weather conditions"! We sat on the side of the road for two hours before some kind soul stopped and helped. By the way, the guy on the other end of the phone was in India. He transferred my call to an office in Dallas, which is 250 miles away. They tried to send someone from San Antonio who said we were out of his area.
See If You Have a Less Expensive Option
For towing and roadside help, there are much less expensive options than auto clubs. I pay about $6 to $8 a year for towing service added to my car insurance. However, check whether using this insurance will affect your rates with your company before signing up for it.
I was happy with AAA especially their map services and travel books but the cost is higher.
I have AARP's motor club and they are great. You can be any age to join AARP; it's not age dependent.I had my car towed last year after it broke down. They got me a tow truck fast, kept in touch until they were sure I was safe, and checked again to be sure I was happy with the service I received. Can't ask for more than that! A year costs about the price of one towing job.
What Are You Looking For?
If you are only looking for towing and roadside assistance (not vacation planning), the very best auto club is not a club at all. Call your auto insurance carrier and ask how much it costs to add towing and roadside assistance to your policy. It is only $8 every 6 months through our auto insurance carrier! We had a 20-year-old pickup that needed to be towed to the shop a few times in one year. But, it cost us only $8!
Steer Clear of Verizon's Roadside Assistance
I used to use Verizon's roadside assistance program because it was only $2.99 a month added on to my monthly cell bill. I used it a couple times for towing in the local area with no problem. However, when I was stuck on the Massachusetts Turnpike (a state road) on a very cold late January afternoon, I was kept on hold for a very long time before they decided to tell me that they don't service state roads.
It was already getting dark and I was getting very cold. I pleaded with them to send help and was told they would call back. They did call back but just to say the couldn't help. Thankfully, a state trooper pulled up behind me and called a local tow truck. I had to pay over $200 to get that tow, but at that time, it was worth it.
I have since gone to AAA Plus and have had no problems whatsoever and certainly enjoy the other benefits and discounts AAA offers. My favorite other AAA benefit is being able to do many Registry of Motor Vehicle transactions at their office including when you need to get a new license with a picture!
Deb in East Longmeadow, MA
Go With AAA
We have had AAA many years. When we really needed them, they came through for us. Once my daughter locked her toddler in the car while still in my driveway. We called AAA and told them our circumstances, and within 20 minutes, someone was there to unlock the door. At other times, we have ended up on the side of the interstate, which always scares me to death. They have responded quickly and efficiently. They don't cost much, and when my children left home, I was able to continue carrying them under my membership until they reached a certain age.
Credit Card Roadside Assistance
If you have credit cards, check to see if they include automobile help benefits. I know that American Express cardholders have this service. There are likely other credit cards that also carry this benefit. Then you can write down the number that you should call and put it in your visor.
Are You a Veteran or Active Military?
If you or a family member is a veteran or active military, USAA has been great!
Take the Next Step:
- Before you buy or sell a vehicle, get all the facts. Edmunds.com will give you what you need to know to make a confident deal.
- Are you getting the best auto insurance rate? See how much you could save with one click. Fast, free quotes, online comparisons, and instant access to ID cards!
- Do you struggle to get ahead financially? Then you'll want to subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.
More Tips & Tools to Help You
Live Better...For Less
- 4 costly car maintenance mistakes to avoid
- 5 common ways you are killing your car
- 7 secret sales tactics car salesmen hope you don't know
- 7 smart steps to switching your car insurance
- Your trickiest cleaning problems solved
- How to eliminate mosquitos for less Insider Report
- Choosing a roadside assistance plan
- Auto loan calculator
- Should you buy or lease you next car?
- Is a new car or used car best for your next purchase?
- Auto down payment calculator
- More helpful auto calculators