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Roadside assistance vs. AAA: which is better?

The fear of being stranded on the road can be daunting, but there are plenty of roadside assistance options out there. You can add roadside assistance to your personal auto policy — your GEICO or Progressive policy, for instance — or you can buy a secondary policy through a company like AAA. If you're already shopping for new car insurance, it can be included in your quote.
 
Each option comes with costs and benefits, including price and coverage differences. 

Key Takeaways:


  • AAA is primarily known for their roadside assistance program, offering more comprehensive options.
  • Most major auto insurance companies also offer roadside assistance at an additional cost. 
  • A AAA membership includes deals and discounts on many other services like rental cars, registration renewal, hotels and dining, and more. 

What is AAA and what insurance coverage does it provide?

Although AAA is a car insurance company, it is known for its roadside assistance program. Offering more coverage than a typical insurer-provided roadside assistance program, AAA’s roadside assistance package comes in tiers. See below what's included in AAA’s Classic, Plus, and Premier membership levels.
 
AAA's roadside assistance package is more comprehensive than similar programs offered by other car insurance providers. Each of these is consistent with a tier of the membership plan, as described below.
EMERGENCY ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE COMPARISON: AAA
Coverage detail Classic Membership Plus Membership Premier membership
Jump start Included Included Included
Towing Up to 7 miles, 4 times a year Up to 100 miles One per household up to 200 miles, remaining tows up to 100 miles
Emergency Fuel Services Free delivery, pay for fuel Free delivery and fuel Free delivery and fuel
Vehicle Lockout Coverage up to $60 Coverage up to $100 Coverage up to $150
Flat Tire Service Included Included Included
Extrication/Winching Service One service per year Two services Two services
Rental Car Benefits Discounted Discounted plus one car-class upgrade One-day complimentary midsize rental car
AAA ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
Coverage detail Classic membership Plus membership Premier membership
Vehicle inspection service Included Included Included
Discounts (shopping, dining, hotels, and entertainment) Included Included Included
Identity theft protection Daily monitoring, email alerts, fraud resolution support, loss card protection Daily monitoring, email alerts, fraud resolution support, loss card protection Daily monitoring, email alerts, fraud resolution support, loss card protection, $10,000 in identity theft insurance
Discount on Carfax vehicle report 20% off CARFAX 20% off CARFAX One free year, 40% for additional reports
Vehicle inspection service Free 40pt, or discount 86pt Free 40pt, or discount 86pt $45 mail-in rebate for 86pt

The difference between AAA and your auto insurer: AAA is a full-service auto owners' organization, rather than a company focused on insuring your vehicle.


How much does AAA cost?

Because AAA is built on a tiered membership system, the cost changes by tier. The price depends on the number of people and vehicles you have on the plan. The rates listed below are reflective of a one-driver, one-vehicle household. You can add drivers to your AAA membership with a slight increase in membership fees.

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AAA Membership Tier Costs
Coverage detail Classic membership Plus membership Premiere membership
Monthly fee $5 $7.75 $9.75
6-month fee $30 $47 $59
Annual fee $60 $279 $351

Insurance companies' roadside assistance program comparison

The roadside assistance programs of top insurance companies share some things in common with AAA. The only companies that provide small labor or mechanical help and winching services (if your vehicle is stuck in the mud and needs to be extracted) are Progressive and AARP.
 
Popular roadside assistance programs
Program offerings GEICO State Farm USAA Progressive AARP
Emergency jumpstart services Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Towing Yes to nearest service station Yes Yes 15-mile radius Yes
Emergency fuel services No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vehicle lockout Up to $100 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Flat tire services Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Extrication/winching service No No No Yes Yes
Labor/small mechanical repair No No No Up to one hour Yes

AAA vs. competitor programs

One major difference between AAA and insurer-provided roadside assistance is the level of detail they provide regarding their obligations. AAA has a more comprehensive and clearly outlined program. AAA outlines within its policy documentation the services it will and will not cover — for example, for how many miles the service will tow your vehicle. Personal auto insurance policies usually describe their towing limitations as “to the nearest towing facility.” Depending on your location, this could be 4 blocks, 7 miles, or 100 miles.

 

Zebra tip:

Insurance-provided roadside assistance programs are usually cheaper than AAA. Roadside assistance is factored into your monthly bill just as your comprehensive or collision coverage would be. See the table for average costs you can expect from these services.

Other insurance companies' roadside assistance programs
Insurance provider Roadside assistance cost
GEICO $14 per car, per year
State Farm $5-$7 per policy period
USAA Unlisted
Progressive $10-$18 per policy period
AARP $58-$74 per year

Should you use AAA or your car insurance for roadside help?

That depends on what level of service you require. AAA's offerings go beyond roadside assistance, and it is renowned for its quality of service. If you travel to remote locations, the piece of mind provided by AAA could be worth the extra investment.

If you live in a metro area and don’t drive much, but still want roadside support, your current provider’s roadside service might be a suitable solution.

If you’re looking for car insurance quotes with roadside assistance costs included, enter your ZIP code below to compare rates.

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RECENT QUESTIONS

Can I bundle my renters and new car insurance?

We have several companies that will be able to fit your needs. At this time, we do not quote renters insurance on our site but we can quote you with our agency.
Jul 2, 2018 Belleville, Il

Can I get AAA roadside assistance without having insurance with them?

You should be able to purchase roadside assistance with AAA without switching your insurance coverage to AAA. Their roadside coverage is actually offered separate from their insurance policies for this specific reason.
Feb 14, 2017 Yuba City, CA

Customer service for AAA roadside assistance only versus AAA auto insurance?

Insurance companies are regulated at a state commissioner level and in theory, are supposed to be neutral. But, it's hard to say for sure any being is entirely neutral.
Apr 8, 2018 Sacramento, California

Does roadside assistance help with keys locked in a car?

While I cannot speak for the actual details of your policy, GEICO's roadside assistance does provide lockout services up to $100. Meaning, they would reimbursement you after-the-fact for your claim.
Jan 16, 2018 Indianapolis, Indiana

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.