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Ever wondered what those ‘AA’ stickers on the backs of cars mean? Me too…

You know the ones I’m talking about…You’re driving down the road and in front of you is a 4×4 with an AA sticker on the back. It looks something like this:

Now I’ve never been a member of the AA, never seen the need for it, to be quite honest. I’ve always thought this more important to the caravan and 4×4 brigade doing the “Lonely Planet” thing and concerned about getting stuck between Timbuktu and Pofadder.

Turns out I don’t know what I’m talking about.

This is how the free roadside assistance on my car insurance works.

One thing I know is that my insurance company offers ‘free’ roadside assistance. So I cracked open my policy to see what I get. Turns out I’m allowed two call-outs a year which sounds okay. I’ve never used it so it’s not really an issue…yet.

The first thing I notice is that they will tow my car to the nearest repairer and store it there if I have a valid claim. It also mentions they’ll pay for the reasonable costs of doing so.

While I’m happy about them towing me to the nearest repairer, my question is, “Who gets to decide what the reasonable costs are, and who pays if the costs are unreasonable?” And if they authorised the tow surely they should pay the full cost?

The second thing I notice is that I get emergency repairs in order to continue my journey. The amount paid is limited to R1, 000.
A thousand Rand! They’ve got to be kidding, right? Who is going to come out in the middle of the night and only charge R1, 000?” 

I also notice they’ll pay for the reasonable costs of delivering my vehicle anywhere in one of the countries covered by my policy.
Once again, this reasonable thing crops up. I can only assume, that since they’re authorising the delivery, that the cost is reasonable.

But now I’m curious about the AA – why would anyone want to pay for something that everyone else is getting for free?

3 reasons why people join the AA

  • The first reason is because the AA is a non-profit organisation. Put it this way, who would you rather trust – a company out to make a buck off you or a company that’s not?
  • The second reason appears to be the 96% success rate the AA has with on the spot roadside repairs in urban areas. Can your insurance company tell you their success rate?
  • The third reason, and the one I like the most, is that you are entitled to roadside assistance, regardless if you are travelling in your car or travelling in someone else’s car as a passenger. Good luck in trying to get your insurance company to come out for someone else’s car.

How many options are there at the AA?

The AA has four options in 2017 ranging from basic to highly comprehensive:

  • AA Action essential optionR88.50 per month
  • AA Alliance for the over 60’s– R75.50 per month
  • AA Advantage standard option– R111.50 per month, and
  • AA Advantage Plus premium option – R189.50 per month

Let’s focus on their basic plan – the AA Action essential. This is ideal for those who travel less frequently, but don’t want hassles in an emergency.

So what do you get for your money?

The first thing I noticed is the 2 call-outs a year. That’s about the same as what I have now. On the AA Action option you also get a 20 kilometre tow if needed. In other words we’re talking about a 40 kilometre round trip.

The AA will also:

  • Jump start your vehicle if needed
  • Change your flat tyre (Spare a thought for the guys and ladies driving big SUV’s)
  • Unlock your car (How many times haven’t I needed this in the past?)
  • Test your car’s battery and sell you a replacement battery if necessary
  • Provide on the spot technical repairs
  • Give you a tow if my car breaks down
  • Give you a tow if you’re in an accident at special rates (Free of charge on the AA Advantage Plus option)
  • Provide you with fuel to get to the nearest filling station should you run out (There’s been a couple of times where I’ve tested my fuel gauge to the limits).

These benefits are offered at discounted rates:

  • Overnight accommodation for you and four passengers
  • 24 hour car hire while your vehicle is being repaired, or
  • Long distance towing
  • By the way, they’ll also allow you to hire a car to get you back to your car if it’s more than 100 kilometres from your home.

And then there’s the important stuff – medical emergency benefits:

  • AA Mayday emergency medical evacuation for you, your spouse, and dependants younger than 25.
  • This service can be used for any situation you find yourself in – whether vehicle, home, work, or holiday
  • If you wind up in hospital, the AA will provide a guarantee to the hospital of up to R5, 000. This will have to be claimed back from your medical aid.

Medical emergency also includes:

  • Medical road and air evacuation where needed (Nice, especially if you aren’t on medical aid)
  • Relocation after treatment (Imagine not being on medical aid and being booted from a private to a government hospital?),
  • Rape and trauma counselling,
  • Repatriation of mortal remains,
  • Free telephonic medical advice,
  • Dispatch of emergency medication or blood,
  • Travelling companion for your small children if they’re left stranded while you’re in hospital, and
  • Drug information if you’re in a foreign country and unsure about taking prescribed medication.

Other non-medical benefits we must mention:

  • Travel, technical, and motor related helplines.
  • Free AA maps
  • Message relay service between yourself and worried family members keeping them informed.
  • Referrals to AA approved panel beaters

I’m only on page four of the AA brochure, and the list of benefits just goes on and on. Here are some of the other benefits:

  • The AA eCard allows you to update all your details electronically. This helps the AA find you in an emergency. Another thing it does is guide you through the whole accident reporting process including the information needed for legal purposes. Imagine hitting a pedestrian in the dead of night. Who would you call for legal advice?
  • The AA Mobi App tells the AA exactly where you are. They will know what type of car which is important if, for instance, your battery needs replacing. AA Accident Assist on the app allows you to record details of the accident scene while you’re there and upload it onto your profile. Think of voice recordings and photos which might come in useful much later at claim stage? Points of interest on the app helps you find what you’re looking for in unfamiliar areas.
  • AA Added Value is all about legal stuff. AA will manage your road accident claims for you. They will also notify you of traffic fines and arrange a discount for you. They also assist with pothole claims against municipalities.
  • AA Designated Driver is there for the occasional night out when someone sober is needed behind the wheel. Special rates for AA members.
  • AA Glass offers mobile glass replacement and chip repair at discounted rates.

There’s a ton of stuff they offer but I hope you’re getting the picture.

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