Should I get AAA for roadside assistance?

Your current car insurance provider likely offers roadside assistance as an optional and affordable add-on, but an AAA membership can give you perks and services that insurance companies can’t.

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Stephanie Nieves

Stephanie Nieves

Editor & Home and Auto Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is a former editor and insurance expert at Policygenius, where she covered home and auto insurance. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Money, HerMoney, PayScale, and The Muse.

Updated|3 min read

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Roadside assistance is an optional add-on to your standard car insurance coverage that covers the types of roadside emergencies that can leave you stranded on the side of the road. But getting roadside assistance through your car insurance provider isn’t your only option — there are also third-party providers that offer standalone roadside assistance packages through memberships, the most well-known of which is the American Automobile Association, or AAA.

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AAA is a national, nonprofit association for drivers that offers tiers of annual memberships. AAA provides roadside assistance services to its members, as well as other benefits including a wide network of membership discounts and identity theft monitoring.

You can also get car insurance from AAA, but many drivers have car insurance from a separate provider and have a AAA membership for roadside assistance and other perks. If you’re trying to decide whether to go with roadside assistance through AAA or through your regular insurance, it’s important to consider factors like cost, accessibility, and the relative value of benefits from an organization like AAA.

Key takeaways

  • Roadside assistance covers the kind of emergencies that can leave you stranded on the side of the road

  • Getting roadside assistance through your auto insurance provider is usually affordable and simple

  • Roadside assistance through another service, like AAA, can be more costly but come with membership perks like discounts and other services

Should I get AAA or roadside assistance coverage?

If you want roadside assistance but affordability is your top concern, it might make sense to go with the roadside assistance plan offered by your car insurance company. It will be less costly for nearly identical services. But if you have multiple vehicles, or think you’d get a lot of use out of the membership perks offered by AAA, the extra expense might be worth it.

Adding roadside assistance to your existing policy or getting a AAA membership are both simple processes that can be done in an afternoon, although you should know that once you activate your AAA membership, there can be a waiting period of several days before the roadside assistance service begins.

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Pros and cons of AAA

AAA is a membership organization. Drivers can pay for an annual AAA membership in addition to your standard car insurance coverage. The cost varies depending on where you live and which local AAA club services your area, but the most basic level of AAA membership might be around $50 a year and a top-tier membership might be around $160.

That makes a AAA membership more costly than adding roadside assistance through your car insurance company, but the perks may outweigh the costs for some drivers. Pros of getting roadside assistance through AAA include:

  • 24/7 roadside assistance covers you in any eligible vehicle you’re driving or riding in, even if you’re in someone else’s car

  • Some levels of AAA membership allow you to add coverage for vehicles like motorcycles and RVs

  • Membership covers up to four road-service calls a year

  • AAA membership gets you discounts at a wide range of restaurants, hotel chains, and stores

  • Reviews cite good customer service

There are also drawbacks to getting your roadside assistance coverage through AAA. Cons include:

  • An additional AAA membership is likely more expensive than roadside assistance through your auto insurance provider

  • Cheapest level of membership only covers up to five miles of towing, less than most insurance providers’ roadside assistance plans

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What does roadside assistance cover?

Whether you get roadside assistance through your regular auto insurance provider or through another service like AAA, it will likely cover the same range of roadside emergencies.

Some car insurance companies, like Nationwide and Travelers, offer multiple tiers of roadside assistance, like what you’d find with AAA. But at its most basic level, any roadside assistance coverage will probably include:

  • Flat-tire changes

  • Gas or fuel delivery

  • Jump starting a dead battery

  • Locksmith services if your key is lost, stolen, or locked inside your vehicle

  • Towing up to a certain distance

If you spring for a higher tier of roadside assistance coverage, it may include towing for longer distances, reimbursement for meals and lodging if a breakdown leaves you stranded far from home, or identity theft monitoring.

Pros and cons of roadside assistance through my car insurance

Adding roadside assistance coverage to your policy is usually easy and affordable, and most major car insurance providers offer roadside assistance, including GEICO, Progressive and State Farm

With some insurers, roadside assistance is included if you have comprehensive and collision coverage as part of your policy. Benefits to getting roadside assistance through your current car insurance provider include:

  • Costs will likely be around $5 to $15 per car

  • If your auto insurance company has a mobile app, you can call roadside assistance, start claims and make payments all the same place

  • Roadside assistance may already be a part of your policy if you have comp and collision coverage

Some drawbacks to getting roadside assistance through your car insurance provider include:

  • Costs go up the more vehicles you have

  • Doesn’t offer the discounts and membership perks that come with AAA

  • Customer service varies, so you should make sure to read reviews of your car insurance provider’s roadside assistance coverage

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Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after you get AAA can you use it?

You can start using AAA’s Basic Membership benefits as soon as you join. The Plus and Premier services, however, take seven days to come into effect from the day your enrollment or upgrade payment is received.

Does AAA replace tires?

AAA will also install a spare tire if adding air to the tire does not solve the issue. If a spare tire is not available, AAA can tow your vehicle to a repair shop of your choice.

How much is a AAA membership?

AAA offers three types of membership — Basic, Plus, and Premier — which range from $56 to $119. All memberships include roadside assistance, DMV services, trip planning by travel experts, and discounts for hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, and more.