A flat! And I don’t know how to change a tire (embarrassing)…
I was driving to the airport on a weekday morning in my Nissan Altima, on my way to New Orleans for a work trip, when I heard a loud BANG. Then my car started fishtailing in the middle of GA-400 in Atlanta, and I struggled to get the car under control. Luckily, there was a wide shoulder between the highway and an exit, and I pulled into that area.
It was a new experience for me; I had never blown a tire or experienced a flat tire. What should I do? I didn’t know who I was supposed to call. Flummoxed, I dialed the number for the local police station.
“I blew out a tire on the highway in Buckhead,” I said. “I’m not sure what to do.”
“Miss, you need to call the DOT [Department of Transportation]. We can’t help you,” the dispatcher said.
As it turned out, a friendly police officer stopped to see what I was doing in the middle of the median, and he changed my tire for me because I was embarrassingly helpless. I missed my flight, but I learned a valuable lesson in preparedness.
Not long after that, I joined AAA for the first time. That was probably back in 2003, and I have been a member ever since.
But You Can Change Your Own Tires. So Do You Still Need AAA?
Was fear the strongest motivator for me to join AAA? Probably. But I think the membership is worth it, and it would be even more so if I would take advantage of all of the member benefits. You probably already know the usual: towing, roadside assistance, vehicle lockout services, dead battery replacement, and emergency fuel service. They even cover minor repairs on the road: your own personal auto triage.
While many insurance programs offer roadside protection, reimbursement is not the same as calling AAA and having them send help. Here are other things that insurance plans don’t offer that AAA does.
9 Ways AAA Membership Pays For Itself
- A safety net for young drivers. Have confidence that your teen driver is protected when out on the road. Nothing is worse than getting a call from your daughter at college that she’s had a flat tire or can’t get her car started. AAA provides peace of mind for you and for her.
- Driver’s ed classes are just a click away. And, reasonably priced! You want your son to learn to drive but YOU don’t want to teach him. Sign up for AAA’s 8 hours of classroom instruction ($125 in Connecticut) and 4 hours of driving instruction ($300 in Connecticut); even non-members can sign up (prices are slightly higher for non members).
- Travel discounts. Most hotels offer a AAA rate which can typically shave a few dollars off each night’s stay and Hertz offers a 20% discount to AAA members.
- Financing and insurance offers. Similarly to AARP, credit unions and other organizations, AAA offers all types of insurance and loan programs that may save you money.
- Exclusive member discounts. We got a notice from AAA last year that offered us an opportunity to trade in our cell phones for new updated ones and get a better monthly rate for switching providers through an exclusive AAA deal. There are also discounts on movie tickets, theme parks, sporting events and select retail brands. Members are sent monthly offers and some of them are pretty good.
- Add family members for a small cost. Your membership can cover everyone in your household; after paying the basic fee ($58 in Connecticut) you can add other drivers for $30 each.
- Free car care inspections. AAA holds regular check up clinics to help you prepare for change of seasons and be proactive about car maintenance.
- Discounts on AAA memberships can be had, too. Discount sites and coupon sites often have special offers on AAA membership. Be sure to look before signing up.
- Bicycle service is included too! Have a kid at college with a flat tire? Or a mishap pedaling to work? AAA offers bicycle service with two free service calls a year.