Thursday, January 07, 2010

Roadside assistance

As a kid I remember seeing AAA commercials on TV. People paid monthly subscription fees for AAA's "driver assistance", "trip/driving directions", and "hotel discounts".

You youngsters will probably have difficulty believing this, but back in the olden days AAA offered drivers the peace of mind of knowing that if their car broke down, they could walk to the nearest phone booth, call AAA and a tow truck would be dispatched. Its true!

But with the advent of cell phones, GPS, OnStar, Mapquest, and websites like, does anyone belong to AAA anymore?

Even roadside assistance is no longer exclusive to AAA. Nearly all auto insurance companies offer it for a nominal fee, and I love it.

Several years ago when Spouse & I had just purchased our mobile-'home away from home' at the beach, our Ford Explorer broke down. It was the Sat night before Easter Sun and we had brought some furniture and stuff to our vintage beach place. We were heading back home to VA late that night so we could spend Easter Sun with our family. We stopped to fill up at a gas station kind of in the middle of nowhere. When we were ready to get back on the road, the truck wouldn't start. I used my cell phone to call for roadside assistance. The tow truck driver was unable to get our truck started, so he towed it to a local garage. We paid nothing. A cab took us back to the beach. We did have to pay for the cab.

On my worst birthday ever when Big Ella would not start, I called roadside assistance. Again, my car was towed on a flatbed to the mechanic's garage and I paid $0. (It turned out to be the generator.)

Just last week, Spouse's Honda CRV would not start due to the extreme cold and a weak battery. He drove my BMW to work and after it warmed up a bit I called roadside assistance. A mechanic started Spouse's car using jumper cables, which technically we could have done ourselves. But since I knew we had roadside assistance, we didn't have to get our hands greasy or dirty trying to jump start the car ourselves, in the cold. (Once started, I drove it to a garage and the 7 year old battery was replaced.)

In all 3 cases, for just $36. a year or $3. a month, for the roadside assistance perk offered by our insurance company, we were never without help AND we paid $0. for the attempts to restart our vehicles and for the towing. The people we spoke to and the tow truck drivers they sent couldn't have been nicer or more helpful, and we didn't need a subscription to a separate service provider like AAA.

And as for the "trip/driving directions" and "hotel discounts" that used to be such an added value to AAA's membership? We didn't need them either.

I heart roadside assistance!

Crush du Jour: Eric Leven


behrmark said...

It's no longer called AAA here but Automobile Club of Southern California. The nice thing about this membership club is you can use it to receive discounts at various retail establishments, they will take care of your tag renewal, and they have a travel division through which you can book trips (I never have but the parental units have). You also get their bi-monthly publication Westways, which features areas of interest and a calendar of events for all of the California counties. So for $42/year it's not a bad deal. Oh and many of the tow truck drivers who are ACSC members look like your crush du jour. Seriously.

anne marie in philly said...

been a member of AAA since 1982.

I use the roadside assistance, the travel discounts, the "show your card and save" discounts, the maps and tourbooks.

I own no GPS, no laptop, no cell phone, no onstar. mapquest can lead you down the wrong road.

yeah, I me a luddite.

Michael Rivers said...

I've never had AAA. Each time I get mail from them I think I should join. I never know what to do!

Bob said...

We use AAA for the trip planning [hotels, etc] and rental car deals; plus discounts on retail shopping [glasses, etc].

Jeff said...

Did dude who started spouse's car look anything like your crush du jour? I'd def. sign up if he did! ;)

A Lewis said...

Eric!! yummy.
It reminds me of my friend from Alabama who likes to say that "We don't have the AAA down here, we only have the KKK."

cb said...

I believe my mom still has AAA.

Joy said...

I have AAA but then I'm old.

Larry Ohio said...

Yay Eric! I've always had such a crush on him. I just wish he'd blog more!

Greg and I have AAA and we wouldn't go without it. No, our insurance company does not do the roadside assistance thing. That is not some kind of universal benefit that you may think it is.

AAA has rescued us twice in the last three years, and one time we were 100 miles from home! Their service has more than paid for their subscription price. Plus, we just saved $40 last weekend at the motel in Gaithersburg by using the AAA discount. AAA cannot be beat!

Larry Ohio said...

Wait a minute... is Eric the blogger you dreamed about last week? Tell the truth...

Steve said...

If you travel for business, roadside assistance is a must! I've needed it on multiple occasions and don't know what I would have done without it.