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Thursday, August 12, 2010

AAA: Don’t Leave Home Without It

The AAA logoImage via Wikipedia
Remember the American Express TV ads of the 1970s with actor Karl Malden that said, “American Express, don’t leave home without it!”

Based on firsthand experience, that tag line needs to be updated to reflect that fact that you should never leave home without membership with the Automobile Association of America better known as AAA.

My reason for this AAA affinity follows....

Yesterday was our family’s first day back from a weeklong vacation out of state – no big deal; people do it all the time. What was a big deal was that while parked at our resort, the battery to our vehicle completely died – it wouldn’t turn over and a battery jump from another car didn’t work either.

For the record, I’m not particularly “handy” or “mechanically inclined” – so we were already at a disadvantage. In fact, changing our iridescent light bulbs to the ones that look like curly fries from Arby’s is about the maximum extent of my handyman ability.

So my wife smartly called AAA and found out that it offers a discounted, mobile battery replacement service for its members. While my wife and daughters went to the pool I waited at the car for about 45 minutes for the service truck to arrive. For the record, waiting is something I’m an EXPERT at – with three women in my house it’s a necessary survival skill. Back to the story….

Even though it was a Sunday, the onsite AAA technician was as pleasant as could be. He tested the battery and ran some other diagnostics that conveyed the certain demise of the power cell. In record time he popped it out of the vehicle and plopped in a brand new one that fired up instantly.

He then ran through a series of other diagnostic checks to ensure the amps, volts or something like that weren’t overloading the car’s electrical system, which could cause other problems [NOTE to any high schoolers: be sure to pay attention during physics class – there is real world application for that stuff!!!]

Lastly, he took the old battery and said he would dispose of it for us as well. The entire service call plus the new battery and disposal of the old one was just over $100 – to me that was an incredible deal. Again, I know nothing about cars and don’t pretend to but I do know that I would have been willing to pay ten times that amount to make sure my family wasn’t stranded.

I’m fairly certain that without AAA, I would have paid a bunch more for towing and other “services” rendered by an out-of-state mechanic I didn’t know.

The moral of story is that I’ll gladly continue to write that $75 annual membership fee for AAA because I never want to be on the road without it.

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  1. Yikes! Well, it is certainly good that y'all had AAA available! We don't use them, but have good insurance with roadside assistance available. Now, though, you have me wondering if they offer this or similar service! You never expect it to happen to your car, but when it does, it's usually the most annoying and/or worst times it could. So, I say again - glad y'all had the coverage, and now I wonder how "great" ours is!

  2. Tor, do you have roadside assistance with your car insurance?? I know Geico offers it... people sign up for it and forget they have it sometimes...I think the service is pretty similar...just a heads up to check. I think AAA is great...been locked out of my car a few times, had to be towed and also had jump starts..having assistance is peace of mind!.

  3. @Laura/Anon - thanks for taking the time to read the post and then comment. One of my goals for this online experiment is to spur interactive engagement and I'm grateful to you both for your continued input!

    To your comments....we absolutely have roadside assistance with our auto insurer (Nationwide). BUT I'm reluctant to contact them for this type of thing because I'm a bit paranoid and I assume the higher the number of contacts with the insurer the greater the premium increase when I actually do have an accident.

    They probably don't work that way, but I do know the credit reporting agencies do and can only assume the insurance game is similarly rigged.

    I know, I'm overly paranoid...

  4. Tor
    I almost broke a window of my car to get to my keys one time until my wife (always marry smarter) reminded me we had AAA. They came to the campground, while I sat and had another beer and all was right with the world. Molly locked her keys in her car at work last week, and had a great outcome too. Put your kids on as soon as they start driving.

  5. @Bill, great advice about adding the kids once they can drive - even better advice about "always marry smarter" - genius!