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April 14, 2021

Is a CAA membership still worth the money?

Motor clubs like the Canadian Automobile Association used to be a driver's only option when the car broke down and you ended up on the side of he road.

But, with an army of other businesses are now offering roadside assistance, as well as a wider range of services than just basic towing and breakdown help, it's by no means the only choice. 

Some car makers like KIA, for example, extend free coverage to new cars for the length of the warranty — usually four or five years. And BMW has recently introduced an IPhone app to help get you out of the ditch more quickly.

Even some cell phone service providers are supplying on-the-road protection.

CAA is still the dominant player in the industry, however, providing towing, flat-tire changing, lost-key replacement, battery-charging, and delivery of fuel or coolant — as well as travel services and discounts — for an annual fee ranging from about $64 to $101.

But is it still the best option?

While CAA/AAA hotel discounts likely paid off years ago, it seems you can find the same discount online if you check out hotel sites directly or go through aggregators like Expedia and Travelocity.

In fact, most hotel sites have a drop-down choice that includes "AAA/CAA discount" and "Best Available Rate". Often, the latter seems just as cheap.

And parallel roadside services offered by Costco and Canadian Tire do seem a bit cheaper on the surface, although towing costs vary sharply and reliability may be an issue. 

Of course, even if you’re driving with someone else, you can still tap the CAA program as the service is centred on you, not a specific vehicle as it is with many other services ... and then there are the maps.  

Are changing a flat, a few maps and some discounts worth $64 a year to you? Or have you nailed down a better deal than CAA?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...