AAA alternatives?
July 9, 2009 2:23 PM   Subscribe

AAA alternatives? So I've just learned about the political lobbying AAA does, and I'd rather not support that if I can help it.

In a slight tangent to this thread, someone mentioned Better World Club as an alternative to AAA (and their anti-bicycle, anti-environment lobbying). Anyone have personal experience with this or other automobile clubs?

Or do I even really need a car club membership? I haven't used any part of my AAA membership for 7 years...
posted by danny the boy to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used any part of my AAA membership for 7 years...

Hmm, that might be your answer. We have an emergency tow/jump start thing through our (VW) dealer.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2009

I've read that some car insurance companies offer roadside assistance, so you might wanna look into that.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:30 PM on July 9, 2009

Seconding girlmightlive--I have USAA and they offer roadside assistance/towing for cheap.
posted by Kimberly at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2009

The bonus features of AAA are kind of nice. Going to a (slightly more) personal office instead of the DMV for most DMV-based activities I need to do is nice, if nothing else than for the short lines. If you don't need to use the DMV much/at all, or don't mind the lines, those are not bonuses for you.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:46 PM on July 9, 2009

I have had towing through my last two cell phone plans (Sprint and AT&T).
posted by ottereroticist at 2:53 PM on July 9, 2009

Best answer: Reposted from the blue (should have been posted here first, really, if I'd been paying attention):

I've used Better World Club, and been very happy with them. Never had cause to call them for a lockout, but used their towing service several times and always found them quite friendly and efficient. They also offer roadside service for cyclists, though I've no direct experience with that.

Tom and Ray from Car Talk recommend them, which is what originally convinced me to sign up.
posted by fermion at 2:59 PM on July 9, 2009

Both my State Farm and Geico insurance have had roadside service available as an add-on for crazy-cheap: Geico, IIRC, has some restrictions on car age, but State Farm covered towing, help in changing a tire, etc even on my 20-year-old beater of a van. AAA does travel planning, but I think there's plenty of places online to get that kind of help, even for free.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2009

A lot of credit cards give you roadside assistance as part of the deal.
posted by nosila at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2009

I am a member of BWC, they are just fine. The auto clubs contract out the actual roadside assistance anyway and probably use the same contractors.

That said I think some of the negative press around AAA misrepresents their positions--you can check out their hilariously defensive site AAA Exchange to get their side of the story.
posted by phoenixy at 3:06 PM on July 9, 2009

Seconding roadside assistance through your cell phone plan. I dropped AAA in favor of Verizon's roadside assistance a few years ago; it cost less ($3/mo vs. $5/mo for the most basic AAA membership), plus the maximum free towing distance is longer (10 miles vs. 5). With Verizon, at least, although you have to have your cell phone with you to get roadside assistance, you don't actually have to call from your cell phone (so if you break down in an area without cell coverage you can still call from a landline and get help). I'm fortunate that I haven't had the need to use their roadside assistance yet, so I can't comment on the quality.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:20 PM on July 9, 2009

Our 24 hour roadside assistance is available in California through our Costco/Ameriprise auto insurance for $8 per year per car. Yours might be more due to marital status, age, driving history etc.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:30 PM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: I marked the two personal experiences with BWC as 'best', but really appreciate the other suggestions too. I know I have the option through my auto insurer for roadside assistance... I always assumed it'd be a hassle to use that coverage through them, and just got AAA instead. I'll take another look at their terms before deciding whether to switch to BWC or not.
posted by danny the boy at 3:38 PM on July 9, 2009

Nationwide gives me roadside assistance for $20 a year as an add on to my car insurance. I think all the major insurance companies have a roadside assistance plan so check with yours.
posted by COD at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2009

re: roadside assistance through the insurance company:
I have USAA, and had to use it once for a jump at the airport, and it wasn't really much of a hassle. there's a number on the card you call, then you talk to a person who enters what you need into their computer. then in a couple minutes their local affiliate (or whatever) calls you back and verifies the particulars. It came in pretty handy when I needed it. I don't imagine that the process would be much different with any other roadside assistance plan.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:10 PM on July 9, 2009

Keep your car in good repair, keep an eye on the gas, put a spare car key in your wallet and a spare house key in your car. Carry a mobile phone, or keep a pay-as-you-go phone in the car. I dropped AAA after they were unable to help me a couple of times. Towing isn't usually that expensive unless you live someplace really rural. Not having AAA means that if I get a flat tire in a snowstorm, I'm either calling roadside repair (offered by most tow companies) or getting wet, cold & miserable. I carry jumper cables, and mostly use them to help other people.
posted by theora55 at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2009

A note about roadside assistance offered as an add-on to your auto insurance:

My brother had this through a big national insurance provider (I'm not 100% sure which, that's why I'm not naming it), but he used it and his rates went up, as if he had gotten a ticket or caused an accident. Not as much, but it still went up . YMMV
posted by sandra_s at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2009

you can check out their hilariously defensive site AAA Exchange to get their side of the story.

I took a quick look, and didn't notice anything of substance at all in there. Perhaps that is what makes it hilarious, but on the off chance that you are thinking of something specific, please link directly to it.
posted by Chuckles at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah that was my initial fear too... that actually using my insurance co's service would cause my premiums to go up. I'll need to verify with them if this is the case. If so, it'd make more sense to go with the phone company or other provider.

Does it in fact make sense to pay what is essentially insurance against towing? I was always taught to never insure risk I could afford to take on my own. Is the cost of unaffiliated roadside assistance much more than through AAA or similar program? I can see tow truck co's and locksmiths gouging, but is that much more?
posted by danny the boy at 5:02 PM on July 9, 2009

Is the cost of unaffiliated roadside assistance much more than through AAA or similar program? I can see tow truck co's and locksmiths gouging, but is that much more?

I have AAA but I've also been the recipient of a lot of roadside assistance at various times and while I'm finally getting to the point where I'm probably losing money on the deal, that point arrived recently. A lot of this depends where you are. I live in a rural area, so if I got up one day and there was something wrong with my car that I couldn't fix I'd have to call a tow truck to move my car. If I was at home (before I moved) that might just mean 20-30 miles of towing, but if it was and it was paid for by AAA, then my whole year's premiums would be taken care of and any other road service I'd get would be "free." If you're really far from home, both clubs will give you 100 miles of towing for their premium prices. This would cost you $300-ish on your own which is much more than either membership costs. I haven't seen these companies charging more to non-club members, just that when you call for assistance you know you're doing business with someone who nominally has been checked out by a larger organization and is at some level answerable to them.

The other thing that roadside assistance is good for is if you're with someone else. AAA or the equivalent covers the card holder, so even if you're awesome about making sure you don't run out of gas or don't get a flat tire, you can help out a friend who may need service. I've done this before for people who had locked themselves out of their car. I just had to be there, it didn't need to be my car.

I also travel a lot so I go and get free maps [BWC does this as well] which are useful even in the age of Google Maps, esp for things like tracking down hotels if you're on the road without good net access. If you really haven't used AAA for seven years it's likely that you still won't need it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:02 PM on July 9, 2009

Best answer: (Examples of public policy stance information from AAA Exchange:

The Clean Air Act

Public transit)

Anyway, I originally joined BWC because they were cheaper than AAA--they will match AAA's price, at least for the first year, and when I joined they were giving away $40 in gas rebates to new customers, although I don't know if they are still doing that. Pretty good deal, though.
posted by phoenixy at 8:48 PM on July 9, 2009

I joined GM Motor Club. In addition to roadside assistance and trip insurance, you get access to all the printable Entertainment Book coupons. It has already paid for itself in 2 months.
posted by coolsara at 11:00 PM on July 9, 2009

Response by poster: I think the main appeal for me has always been to deal with AAA vetted towing/locksmithing company, rather than whatever random one I could find on my own, especially if I am far from home. Is that worth $80 a year, if I haven't used any of my benefits in 7 years... perhaps not.

AT&T wireless is $2.99/mo., but I'm assuming it only covers 5 mi of towing whereas my current premium AAA plan covers 100 mi.

Actually my car insurance company does towing/roadside assist for $4 a year! I think I'm going to go with that!
posted by danny the boy at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2009

Thanks for the links, phoenixy! I had found the public transit one already.. Too bad there isn't more "exchange" going on, because what they say is not very clear.
posted by Chuckles at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2009

If anyone is still watching this question: Does BWC offer hotel and other discounts like AAA does?
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2009

BWC does not really have a discount program--that's the main downside. You can see on their site that the discount list is sort of pathetic (unless you're interested in a digital subscription to Smart Homeowner or discounts at Bamboo For Sale).
posted by phoenixy at 8:14 PM on July 10, 2009

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