AAA membership renewal bill

According to a poll result from readers over two years ago, AAA membership is not crap — and that’s true enough for many people, as the occasional use of the roadside service provided by AAA makes the annual membership fees well worth it.

But alas, I decided recently to not renew my AAA membership.

Below are some reasons why I decided to cancel my AAA membership, and five reasons why you might want to do just the same:

1. You Might Not Need Their Roadside Services

The main reason why most people join AAA is for the roadside service — and it’s a service that I haven’t utilize in years. My car is fairly reliable, it has never broken down seriously to the point where it needed a tow, and for me, the towing is the only cost saving feature of a AAA membership.

Some of the other roadside services are of course handy, but none of which are things you might actually need.  The last time I got a flat tire was about three years ago, and as I was putting the tools and the flat tire back into my trunk, I remembered at the last minute that I had AAA membership.

Dead battery?  Unlikely to be an issue if you inspect and check your battery regularly.  With proper maintenance, an average car battery last 4-5 years.  In fact, a car battery is actually one of the more reliable parts in an automobile.

Locking yourself out of the car?  If your car doesn’t automatically lock its doors (like my econobox) and you have certain types of key-less entry, this is also a an unlikely scenario.

2. AAA Discounts Can Be Easily Beat Online

AAA travel and related discounts are nice, but it has been years since I’ve seen a discount that couldn’t be beat by other online travel comparison sites, cash rebate sites, or whatever coupon code and promotion that I can find on the web at the time.  Here are a few sites that I use regularly to look for quick travel related discounts:

  • Kayak.com – Travel price comparison search engine.
  • Fatwallet.com – For those last minute deals, cash backs, and coupons.
  • Retailmenot.com – For quick search on current coupons and promotions.
Update 2012: Here are some more modern websites/method where you can easily find competitive rates versus AAA rates:
  • BiddingTraveler.com - Lets you narrow down your Priceline “mystery” bidding hotels to what you really want for the price you want (I’ve personally used this service and similar bidding tactics successfully to get 5 star resorts for half off)
  • Hipmunk.com – While this is just a price comparison site similar to Kayak above, the structure, layout, and handy guide really makes it easy for you to find a balance between airfare price, schedule, and hotels base on your needs

3. Alternatives to Other AAA Goodies & Travel Services

What about goodies such as free maps and tailored travel services?  Again, these are things that you have alternative sources for.  I still like AAA’s free maps and would love to keep grabbing them if I ever go on a road trip, but more often than not, I would already have a trip mapped out via various online maps before I head out.

If I still need a map, there’s always Google Map via my phone and the loads of paper maps I’ve accumulated through the years that can be found in the closet.

Travel guide books? There’s the library. Travel services? With the web at your fingertips, everyone’s an expert travel agent if they have enough time to do the proper web research.

4. Overlapping Roadside Services

Don’t forget that many car insurance plans offer an option for you to add-on roadside service at a minimal cost, and many times this will be cheaper than a yearly AAA membership.  Most of these add-on gets you a free tow once per year, provides you with the usual roadside services, and usually covers everyone on the insurance plan.  I checked with my insurance company but unfortunately it didn’t offer this add-on option. Bleh.

Some select credit cards will also offer free roadside service or discounted roadside service options.  Most Visa Signature or World MasterCard credit cards should have this benefit available.  Your best bet is to dig out your benefits terms and condition to read the details, and write down the roadside service numbers for those potential future mishaps.

5. Renew Only When You Need It

At the end, it’s a given that for many people, an AAA membership is for that peace of mind and those unexpected moments. AAA can be well worth it for many people, it just isn’t worth it for me anymore.

Will I need a tow sometime in the future?  Most likely.  Will it be once every year?  I highly doubt it.

Here’s what I figured:  Why pay a yearly membership fee in anticipation for a needed towing service?  If you ever need a tow, just call AAA on the phone and renew or activate a new membership on the spot — you’ll get immediate towing service!

Sure, there’s a $20 membership processing fee on top of whatever it cost for AAA in your region, but that’s usually close enough in prices to local tow services anyway.  Seems practical enough of a solution especially if you don’t need the other AAA services and you’re just renewing the membership for those (potentially rare) moments when you need a tow.