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My CAA (Plus) membership is up for renewal. I’m debating whether we still need the Plus package. If we downgrade to Basic, then PCRA becomes a possible alternative.

What have your experiences been with PCRA?

Thanks for your insights.
/Peter
 

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Are either one really worth it?

I have never had any roadside assistance except that which came with a new car warranty. I have always been of the opinion that insurance for having a tow truck come get you doesn't make economic sense.

I've maintained my cars and had one car towed in twenty years.
 

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If you do have a problem, you can always call CAA without a membership and then purchase it on the spot. That way if you don't use it that year, you don't pay for it.

Not sure of the price difference though.
 

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I also question the need for CAA membership (or with similar organizations)...cars are built much better these days, i think the chances of it breaking down along the way are pretty slim and i understand how some folks want to have the peace of mind (especially if you leave the keys inside etc)

I am not a handyman by any means but push comes to shove, I can change a flat tire...mind you doing it in -25 Celsius is not a fun game but I digress.

When we travel, we rent cars so this has rarely been an issue for us.
 

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I absolutely disagree that this service is unnecessary.

I was driving a 10 year old subaru, which was designed somewhat poorly and had a particularly thin OEM head gasket. Failures were common and I was saved several times by my CAA membership. I serviced the card regularly and properly - this was simply an issue of a 'slightly' defective car. You never know what will happen to your car. YMMV

Certainly its a form of insurance - and the value of it will always depend on whether you use it or not.

There are also additional benefits like reduced national park passes etc.
 

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I myself questioned the usefulness of CAA (Plus) membership over the years but it has come in handy several times in the past though. Once was after an accident on the highway that required towing about 40 KMs. Once when the car did not start and it required a boost. Twice when keys were left in the car (once with the engine running :). So I guess what I am trying to get at is that the membership does come in handy but probably not every year. The argument that CAA is only useful if the car breaks down is rather weak. We will keep renewing it for years to come. For us, the retail discounts CAA offers is not an incentive to get the membership. Chances are you will will not know that membership offers a discount or even if you did, you will forget to claim it. But the question of the OP asking if PCRA is better than CAA is something I cannot answer.
 

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Does anyone know if there is any cost savings between renewing or only getting the membership if you need it?

I.e. Don't renew, but if you have a problem then you would call CAA and then pay for a years membership at that point.
 

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Agape,

there is a 'activation' fee if your account has been dormant for greater than X months.

I've recently bought a new car, so I don't have CAA anymore. In the past, I've had some periods on and extended periods off. Just depended on whether I had long trips planned.

Other reasons may not be mechanical. It nasty storms, people drive into ditches all the time around these parts.

To the OP, if you have a Costco membership, they also offer a roadside assistance program that's cheaper than CAA's. I think the bottom line are the additional perks and whether you need them. Maximum towing distance is also a major consideration.
 

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I absolutely disagree that this service is unnecessary.

I was driving a 10 year old subaru, which was designed somewhat poorly and had a particularly thin OEM head gasket. Failures were common and I was saved several times by my CAA membership. I serviced the card regularly and properly - this was simply an issue of a 'slightly' defective car.
I can understand buying CAA in this case, but I think you would have to agree that it was only you defective car that validates this theory (I know a guy that had constant head gasket problems with his old Subaru too). If you car is more reliable, it falls apart or at least it doesn't make sense to buy CAA until you discover you have a lemon.

Once was after an accident on the highway that required towing about 40 KMs.
Your normal insurance should have covered this.

Overall, I think you must really, really want the free maps and other bonus to make it work. I guess I just don't value them enough.
 

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I and my wife both have new(ish) vehicles and I have kept my CAA membership around the whole time since new. I was aware of the new auto Roadside Assistance but I found that overall my experience with CAA is way better.

I rarely use the Roadside Assistance but I do use CAA for their many other "free" services.

- Their registry agents are actually friendly and helpful (something I have yet to find elsewhere)
- Pay with Credit Card at the registry! Awesome! I don't carry cash and purposely keep my checking account as close to empty as possible so my credit card is the way to go.
- I buy cheap movie tickets at CAA, $9 instead of $12.50, I get to go to more movies now
- Their travel services are excellent, anytime I'm thinking about a trip I call and get useful advice
- Maps, gotta love getting a fresh new city map each year, especially in a growing and changing city

I think the best thing ever is the fact that I walk in and get service within a few minutes, very rarely do I have to wait in line. I have yet to find an unfriendly person there, though maybe I'm just lucky. I save enough each year in CAA savings and aggravation that its worth double the membership cost.

This is starting to sound like a paid advertisement so I guess I’ll just finish by saying that for myself its be very much worth the money, but if all you are really looking for is Roadside Assistance I would suspect that you could find it cheaper elsewhere. Normally my policy is to pay as little as possible for a service I’m almost never going to use and if required fight through crappy service, but I’ve started using the CAA features so much I’m willing to pay a little more to have a pleasant experience.
 

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Wasted over thousands with CAA

I myself questioned the usefulness of CAA (Plus) membership over the years but it has come in handy several times in the past though.

I have CAA Plus membership for a loong looong time. In yr 2000, I called them for a towing my car 30km distance over 10 years ago.

I had them to boost battery on my driveway twice with a week or two in Winter of 2008. The Technicians gave good battery reading report both times. Third time, I decided to get a friend give me a boost & replaced the battery from Walmart Energizer. Problem solved. Have I relied on CAA & blame on cold weather, I would have run the 5 calls in another week!!

I made a service call this Sunday @ 3:10pm for boost/battery check (Quite a surprise that the battery was only 30months old to fail!). After tired of waiting for CAA to arrive , I sent out my kids to piano class on Taxi. Then I decided to checkout the battery myself & founded corroded battery connection. I cleaned it up with a blade/sand paper & reconnected the battery. Problem solved. However, decided not to cancel the CAA call to get a reading on battery. It took 1 hour & 35 minutes to arrive @ my drive way. The technician who arrive appologized. He mentioned that he had to come from downtown calls & there are fewer technicains out on Sunday. It wasn't even the -1 degree C that day. If this was a subzero, I would have waited another hour or two!!

Collecting membership & printing nice brochures are one thing, but providing the emergency service as promised is another.

I DO REGRET wasting money on CAA membership all these years.

Also, their Car Insurance quote with membership discount is a lot more than what I could find elsewhere.

I filled a complain about their service & their representative return call next day with simple appology & said he would offer 10% discount toward membership. He keep on saying that if they couldn't get service in time noone else will!! I told him that the membership should be free for the following year to see & believe their serivce anymore.

It takes an incident to loose a customer. They don't realize that they get paid by membership dues. Once I leave I will NEVER go back. My kids won't anything to do with CAA in future either.

I could have called my neighbour for a boost or even if am on the road, I could have flagged someone for help if I am on the road, or called a familiar tow service. We passed the stone age of public telephone booth.... I could Still I will end up with thousand dollars in my pocket than having CAA over the years.
 

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CAA vs PCRA

I reached the point last summer, where I had to make a decision whether to go with PCRA (slightly cheaper) or CAA. In the end, I decided to go with CAA because MORE tow truck operators/garages seem to be associated with CAA.
Being practically disabled, I would have a hard time changing a flat tire on my truck as the tires are very heavy, not to mention doing this on the side of the road of a busy highway by yourself can be dangerous, especially at night.

I had brake failure (seized caliper on the highway) and fortunately the nearest town was within a kilometer when it siezed, however I managed to drive it (with the engine straining), into the nearest garage to have the caliper replaced again.

I didn't have any roadside assistance up until then, but having and unexpected brake failure after changing out both brake calipers 12 months earlier, convinced me that having some kind of road side assistance would be a good idea at this point as the other caliper that was installed at the same time, is still on the vehicle. Whether it will fail sooner than expected remains to be seen, but I'm glad now that I have CAA plus to tow me up to 200km if need be and that would get me home in most cases.

Another reason would be having a mechanical failure or flat tire in the evening in the winter at minus temperatures.
 

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I was on a long trip last summer with someone who had CAA membership. He was trying to use a Garmin to find an office to get maps or whatever brochures they hand out

I found the new office location for him on my phone. By the end of the trip he realized I could get more up to date info faster on the phone

I carry booster cables in my trunk. I use them more to help random people. If I need a tow truck I'll call one. I've called a tow truck twice in 10 years and I drive old used cars with 250k+ kms
 

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I think the way to figure this out is to tally up what you spend on an annual membership in CAA over five years, and then figure out what the average cost of one or two tows over those five years would be if you had to pay for them out of your own pocket, plus try to put a price on the convenience factor of calling one number (CAA) versus calling around to find the nearest tow service.

It's true that if you have a smartphone and a data plan, or a GPS, you'd be able to find a tow service pretty painlessly. A dedicated GPS is much cheaper in the long run than a smartphone with data plan; a decent GPS with lifetime traffic and lifetime map updates might set you back $250 total, whereas a smartphone with data plan could easily cost you that much every four months or less.

I've been driving since 1980 and I think I've had to have my car towed a total of six times in all that time. Even if you assume $200 per tow, or $1200 total, I imagine that ends up considerably cheaper than 30 years' worth of membership fees to CAA (it bugs me that they don't post membership prices on their website but ask you to call them instead; that's an automatic no-sale for me).
 

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The 1st reason I have CAA is my wife has a problem she is calling CAA. Everything is traceable and reliable people show up.

I also have RV Plus because I've towed boats and trailers all over Canada and US. Most stuff I can fix it's just a lot more fun having it towed home and letting my mechanic deal with it.

It's worth every penny to me.
 

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CAA has been worth every penny for me.
I haven't used the services a lot...I've had the membership for 8 years now and have called them maybe 4 or 5 times.
But each time, it's been worth it because of the circumstances - stuck in the middle of nowhere, snowed in, flat tire or dead battery late at night, from what I recall.
I've never used PCRA so can't compare, but I would like to carry some reliable roadside assistance service at all times.

For those that drive a lot for work or personal purposes, have young children, etc. the $65 or so a year are well spent, IMHO.
 

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CAA or any other autoclub membership is just a form or insurance. Just because I haven't needed my disability or life insurance, it doesn't mean that paying the premiums is a 'waste' of money.

As brad points out, when it gets used, it can pay off quite significantly.
 

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Actually if CAA is only $65/year then it does sound like a good deal. Over 30 years this works out to less than $2,000, and if you assume $200 per tow this would pay for 10 tows over 30 years, plus the other more minor benefits and conveniences others have mentioned here. It's probably cheaper than extending your vehicle manufacturer's roadside assistance plan (e.g., for Toyota it's about $85/year).
 

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I pay $65 for standard coverage including taxes.
Used to be $62 but went up about 2 years ago.
Whenever I have used them, I've liked the quick response, the frequent status updates and the general professionalism.
The maps, travel guides and other resources that they provide are a bonus.
 
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