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Breakdown – Is Triple A(AAA) Worth The Money?

by The Happy Rock on April 24, 2008

breakdown-car-stranded.jpgAs we were driving home from watching some of our nieces and nephews for the weekend, I realized that pushing on the gas pedal of our Nissan Murano was not doing ANYTHING! I quickly pulled over and coasted to a stop. I figured I would try a restart and see if that fixes anything. Nope, the dreaded low battery cranking and then clicking. We were stranded!

Deep breath, stay calm. Call The Happy Boulderette(Mom) and arrange ride. Call AAA to get towed. Entertain The Happy Pebble and The Not So Happy And Hungry Pebble Jr. for about 45 minutes. Luckily we had a spare bottle that we heated with body warmth to keep Jr. content enough. All in all it was actually kind of endearing to see the family huddled together in the front seat making the best of a not so perfect situation.

Both my mom and the tow truck arrived almost he same time. We arrived home without incident and our car ended up at the mechanic. Got the car back today and it turned out to be the drive belt pulley and bracket to the tune of $400 with oil change and tune-up.

So no the real question, is AAA worth it……Yes. The trick in trying to analyze the whether AAA is truly worth the cost is to realize what you are paying for. For those that don’t know what AAA is or what they have to offer, here is the link to the benefits page of Mid-Atlantic AAA. People sign up for the emergency roadside services, and rarely use the discounts or travel planning from what I can tell. The point to remember is that you are buying insurance. Like most insurance the percentages and math say that it is isn’t worth it, but that doesn’t mean the protection, convenience, and psychological aspects don’t make up for it math.

First, if you use the discounts for things like movie theater, hotels, and other related activities, the membership will probably pay for itself pretty quickly. For the most part though, you can get similar or better discounts and planning on the web for free.

tow-truck-lights.jpgSecond, the road services value will depend on the kind of car and driving you are doing, so these numbers will vary by family. For us, we have been paying the $150 a year for AAA Plus(150 mile towing package) for 6 years now. Including Sunday’s use I have used it 5 times. Two lock outs in the hectic time leading up to our wedding and three tows, two 5 miles and the other 50 miles. Mathematically the numbers are ugly. $900 paid and only about $350 in services used. I suspect that those numbers will be pretty close to the same for ‘most’ people.

Even though the math doesn’t work out in your favor, most people are still willing to pay for the insurance. They want to know that their wife can easily get out of a jam or that someone will be there relatively quickly with just a phone call when something does happen. Just from talking to people this aspect of the AAA coverage is generally accepted as well worth the money.

So, is it worth? I say yes, as long as you realize that you are paying for piece of mind and not getting a good deal on roadside coverage.

* Note – Some auto insurance policies provide emergency roadside clauses, but I have had to dig for information on my previous policies. I have now learned to call and ask.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

spillingbuckets April 25, 2008 at 6:36 am

Totally agree! I’ve used the roadside assistance several times (unfortunately) and always use their trip planning before a big vacation. They have great maps and trip-tik’s. Plus the discounts…

Totally worth it.

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Meoip April 25, 2008 at 7:04 am

I vote maybe, it depends on how you use it. I use the discounts like the fuel card at 4% of a gallon, restaurants, museums, medicine and various stores. I get maps (decorated my dorm room in college with them) triptiks, and book travel through them.
If you just use the road side assistance it’s cheaper to go through any number of your insurance companies but if you use there services it’s worth it.
I plan the bonus programs at work and use AAA to help plan the vacations.

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Ben @ Trees Full of Money April 25, 2008 at 9:22 am

Sorry about your mishap :(

Glad that everything worked out ok, it was also nice to see that recognized the positive side of your bad situation (the family togetherness!).

I agree that mathematically AAA isn’t worth it but it is piece of mind that i don’t mind paying for, especially when I’m away on business!

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Sarah April 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm

One thing to keep in mind is that you can join AAA right when you have the emergency.

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Sue April 25, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Interesting spam protection. The plus membership is definitely recommended if you want a long distance tow.

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Ed April 25, 2008 at 3:17 pm

As with any insurance, their product is “Peace of Mind”.
I didn’t know that you could just join when you have the trouble. We have AAA and I use it maybe once a year (when I leave my lights on).

I guess I could save more money by just maintaining the car better, but its tough since I don’t know jack about cars.

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Chief Family Officer April 25, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I totally agree, and am also glad that you are all okay! I also wanted to say that I love all the nicknames (Happy Boulderette made me LOL!).

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Eric April 25, 2008 at 7:52 pm

AAA is worth it and you have to be careful about using a roadside service from your auto insurance. [Warning - might be a Urban Myth] I heard from a friend of a friend that some insurance companies will actually RAISE your insurance premium based on using the roadside service. The explanation was – if you took good care of your car, then it wouldn’t break down. If you are less prone to take care of your car, then it is more likely that you will be in an accident – like with a tire blow out.

Silly, I know – but you have been warned! Now, excuse me while I take that cactus back to Pier 1.

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The Happy Rock April 25, 2008 at 11:56 pm

@Eric – Thanks for the tip about the insurance company. That is one people should ask when they call about roadside coverage on their auto policy.

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Tim Diehl April 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

i agree. we’ve beem card carrying members for years. and i’m likewise glad that everything worked out for you all…esp since you were doing all this to watch my kids! you happy rocks all…well, rock!

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Pattie September 16, 2008 at 1:20 am

AAA is well worth the $ for the peace of mind it offers, not to mention the actual services. I have Roadside Assistance offered through Kia, and a toll-free number, but the one time I “tried” to use it, I was on hold for no less than 45 minutes, and I finally gave up. To have any sort of incident that requires roadside assistance, and to get help within 30 minutes or less, is well worth the money spent. Even if you don’t use your membership, and you’ve paid for the year, just knowing it’s there is “priceless.” They’ll bring you gas, which you do not have to pay for, and depending on your plan, can get towed up to 100 miles, which will get most people quite a distance with a broken down vehicle. You almost can’t put a price on that.

My children were added to the family plan when they got their licenses, and it’s nice to know that no matter where they are or with whom, they’re covered even in someone else’s car. No more “we locked the keys in the car,” or the ever popular “we ran out of gas” because their AAA membership covers them no matter whose auto they’re in, as long as they’re present when the tow truck comes, their membership works. You can’t put a price on the peace of mind that brings.

Rock On!!

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Adrian October 20, 2008 at 7:25 am

Piece of mind is really difficult to express in $s… so I rather say it is worth it. I’ve noticed, that if I am not preparing for the worst it is more likely to happen with me. Thinking through this I am more willingly paying for my breakdown cover.

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Amica December 16, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Yea, peace of mind is worth of money and it may happen that repair costs may exceed total amount of insurance premiums paid (although, I don’t wish it to happen to me). And I agree with Eric about rise of insurance premiums in case of using roadside service. Some companies treat you as a risky and more expensive driver, that’s why they increase rates.

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wilner June 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

If you do a lot of long-distance driving especially in remote areas where there is no through traffic AND you don’t know how to fix your own car OR don’t have time to fix your own car, then probably AAA is worth it.
Twice a month, I go out to our hangar, a 150-mile round trip and having AAA is nice insurance in case I need a tow. Recently, I started out, but soon and suddenly lost power. I coasted to a stop and tried to restart. No go. I thought I was out of gas since the gauge was low, but refilling with a spare can of gas did not help. I metered out the battery and it was fine. Then I took off the distributor and cranked the engine, watching to see if the position of the distributor rotor changed: it did not. That told me that the timing belt was broken. Fortunately, I had a spare timing belt with me, but I left some of my tools at home, so I couldn’t replace it anyway. So I called AAA, and they towed it to my mechanic (they won’t tow it to a house, only a mechanic’s shop). Sure enough it was the timing belt to the tune of $450 (all new belts and tune up). I could have done the work myself, but oh well.

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JOHN J January 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm

The money is worth it for the family protection .Wheather it’a Triple A or On Star and my wife and daughter. If they are out alone They can get the help they need with out having to ask a stranger for help who might be a threat to them

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Rj May 10, 2013 at 11:59 pm

I think that AAA is probably worth it, but the way you throw around the word math is a little odd. Like any sort of insurance, AAA makes money off of the fact that on average a customer will spend less on their services than they pay in dues. It is also very convenient for a triple A member to be able to call one number and have everything taken care of. What you pay for is convenience and insurance.

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