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AAA: More than a century helping motorists

Rick Wagner • May 3, 2019 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — When it comes to being a AAA member, roadside assistance is the top reason for joining and the benefit of savings programs are the top reason for staying, with roadside assistance a close second. That’s according to surveys of club members, explained Knoxville-based AAA Auto Club Group Director of Public Affairs Stephanie Milani.

For more than 117 years, since March of 1902, Milani said AAA has existed to help the motoring public, but it also is a full-service travel agency and resource, has discount programs good at more than 250,000 locations nationwide and offers insurance along with roadside assistance. It serves more than 50 million Americans with annual memberships.

AAA is online at at aaa.com.

WHY JOIN?

Aside from roadside assistance, well suited for young professionals, college students, traveling retirees and others, she said discounts on food, travel and merchandise are AAA perks everyone can use. “We have the Show Your Card & Save program,” Milani said. 

However, she said one of the more popular benefits non-members may not know about is that AAA members can enroll at no extra charge in the ProtectMyID program, an annual value of $49.

“You need to do that. I’m enrolled,” Milani said. She said the program will send those enrolled a monthly email update to let them know about any recent activities involving their credit, loan applications, etc. AAA also offers a full-service travel agency out of its Northeast Tennessee headquarters in Johnson City and that cruises and trips arranged through AAA can have perks such as early boarding or free drinks or excursions on cruises.

For driving trips, members can get free Trip Tik and Tour Guide maps. It also offers two sets of free passport photos a year in the Classic and Plus levels and unlimited passport photo sets at the Premiere level. 

WHAT ARE THE ROADSIDE OFFERINGS AND COSTS?

AAA offers three main levels of membership:

— Classic: Provides up to four tows a year of up to five miles each. Additional distances are billed per mile. The cost is $67 annually for one person, and a family member may be added at no charge for the first year.

— Plus: Provides up to four tows a year up to 100 miles each. Additional distances are billed per mile. The cost is $103 annually for one person.

 Premiere: Provides one two up to 200 miles and three additional tows up to 100 miles. Additional distances are billed per mile. The cost is $130 for one person.

AAA also offers battery service, where a technician will come out to check a vehicles battery and charging system. A battery truck can come out for installation of a new battery, which must be purchased, and a jump start is offered, too. “That is one service I use with my membership,” Milani said. She said even if the vehicle starter seems to turn slower than it should at home or on the road, a technician will come out and check everything.

In addition, AAA offers locksmith service for folks who get locked out of their vehicle, up to a value of $50 for the Classic members, $100 for Plus and $150 for Premiere. And for those with recreational vehicles or RVs, the RV coverage can be added to the Plus and Premiere packages based on the size of the RV, and those with motorcycles can add their motorcycles to any of the three levels for $35 a year.

HOW DOES COVERAGE WORK?

All three levels will follow the covered person, meaning that if you are covered by AAA and in a vehicle with someone else and it breaks down, even if that vehicle is not yours, it will cover that vehicle, too. Other than tows, the service will provide fuel to get to a gas station, with the Classic level charging for the fuel but the Plus and Premiere providing the fuel at no extra charge.

‘The AAA service does follow the person,” Milani said.

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