Dropping AAA for Better World Club saves me over $500 per year and supports the environment

Due to skyrocketing car insurance costs, I became motivated to do some comparison shopping. Along the way I discovered how the American Automobile Assocation is a lobbyist for more roads, more pollution, and more gas guzzling. Fortunately I found the Better World Club.

I ride my bicycle for everyday transportation. I ride to shop for groceries, run errands, meet with clients, enjoy the beautiful outdoors of Santa Cruz County, and even to tow my yellow labrador retriever to the beach.

Steve towing Duke in Solvit Houndabout trailer on Wilder Ranch trail in Santa Cruz

But I still drive a car from time to time to haul heavy materials, to travel long distances on short notice, or when I wuss out because of darkness or weather conditions. It's a necessary evil.

I have not owned a car since 1999, and my wife owns the title to the one car in our household, although I would like to be rid of it altogether. For five years before I got married, it was easy not to own a car. When I needed to go somewhere that my feet, bike, or public transportation could not carry me, I would rent a car. I purchased inexpensive non-owner liability insurance (to cover other people's property or medical expenses) for about $250 per year, and my credit card provided coverage for any damage or theft to the rental car for free.

Without owning a car, my driving nearly ceased, I stayed mentally and physically fit while having fun, and I saved thousands of dollars per year. I didn't have to pay any of the high expenses of car ownership, including car owners insurance, registration, repairs, maintenance, and parking.

Until we both return to not owning cars, we have to manage those expenses and look for ways to reduce the costs. Of course, we already minimize our driving, and personal behavior is the single greatest factor in effecting change.

Shopping for the best insurance

Car owner insurance is a pretty hefty chunk of change, so I targeted that next. I started shopping around for a replacement to our insurance carrier, American Automobile Association (AAA), or in California its chapter is called the California State Automobile Association (CSAA).

I compared Geico, State Farm, and others, and none of them could measure up to CSAA both in terms of insurance coverage as well as its membership program. I love me some free road maps, and my wife likes the peace of mind that emergency roadside assistance brings. Then I read about the Better World Club (BWC) and how it provides all kinds of insurance through a partnership program as well as a membership program like CSAA's.

After looking at all the factors, we decided to switch both insurance carriers and membership programs from CSAA to BWC. Along the way, I made both pleasant and unsettling discoveries. I found that BWC could provide comparable insurance coverage for automobiles as well as home owner and umbrella policies for over $500 less than what we currently paid. BWC also actively supports environmental clean up and advocacy. On the dark side, I discovered reports about the deplorable political lobbying activities of AAA. The strength and positive actions of BWC, together with the negative behavior of AAA, cemented our conviction to switch from CSAA to BWC. Details of my experience follow.

Insurance Cost

We got cost estimates for comparable automobile insurance coverage, including all the discounts. But we made a pleasant discovery that by going through BWC, we could also get home owner and umbrella insurance policies, and get yet another discount for having multiple policies through the same insurance carrier. All policies—auto, home, and umbrella—have comparable coverage, limits, and deductibles.

Insurance Type BWC CSAA or State Farm
Auto $606.20 $683.00
Home $518.00 $913.00
Umbrella $222.00 $305.00
Total $1,346.20 $1,901.00

Annual savings: $554.80

Membership Cost

In 2012 in Santa Cruz County, California, CSAA dues for the primary member were $57 and for the associate $35, or a total of $92 for both of us.

With Better World Club, the dues for the primary member were $57.95 and for the associate $27, or a total of $84.95 for both of us. We also got a 10% discount off a new membership. And because we were switching from CSAA, the one-time signup fee was waived.

Annual savings: $7.05

Getting Insurance

When we first got our automobile, home owner, and umbrella insurance policies through CSAA and State Farm, we had to schedule an appointment with an agent and meet them in their office. This was inconvenient and time consuming for us. Additionally the agents tried to "upsell" us on additional insurance and annuity products, and we expressed we had no interest whatsoever in them. This was uncomfortable and unnecessary. When we say "no" to "would you like fries with that?", then the agents should respect it and not waste all of our time.

However, working through the partner with BWC was a pleasure. Everything was done over the telephone or electronically at our convenience, including digital signatures of documents. Although we originally were interested in just automobile coverage, the agent suggested that if we emailed her a scanned policy declarations page for both home owner and umbrella insurance, then she could try to beat the cost with comparable coverage. I'm glad I listened to her. Our agent works for JD Fulwiler & Company Insurance, and set us up with Safeco Insurance as our carrier.

Billing and Payments

Within the last few years, both CSAA and State Farm figured out how to accept payments electronically. There may be a cost for payment made by credit card. However their payments must be made annually to avoid fees.

With BWC I can pay automobile and umbrella policies monthly and automatically. I can pay our home owner policy annually. All payments can be made by credit card for no additional fee. It's nice to be able to spread out payments over the year.

Customer Service

The websites are pretty atrocious for CSAA, State Farm, and BWC itself, but for Safeco, the insurance carrier for BWC, it's not bad.

When calling customer support, CSAA would enter voice prompt hell. For State Farm, I had to endure more upselling. Safeco was generally pleasant and helpful, and quickly answered the calls.

Social and Environmental Responsibility

AAA has a long history of opposing legislation that would improve air quality, improve the safety of automobile occupants, and provide funding for infrastructure for all road users. They are liars and jerks ("misleading" is too kind a term), and I regret having a membership with them for over twenty years.

Here are some stories about AAA's activities.

Had I known my AAA membership dues would be used for such nefarious activities, I would have sought a replacement sooner.

Better World Club is a completely different organization. BWC is an environmentally friendly full-service automobile club. Emergency roadside assistance services are nationwide and available at any time. BWC donates 1% of its annual revenue to environmental clean up and advocacy, and they have a pro-environment, pro-consumer policy agenda. They even offer bicycle roadside assistance, as described in this humorous video "Trouble at the Naked Bike Ride".

View a complete comparison of BWC membership services with other auto clubs.

Get 10% off a new Better World Club membership

Join now and get 10% off a new membership

Or call toll-free and mention promotion code: REFR2121.

Better World Club 866-238-1137 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM, Pacific Time)

For insurance, you can get a quote for automobile, home owner, umbrella and other types of coverage.

JD Fulwiler & Co. Insurance
Amanda Manning
Better World Club Program Specialist
Toll Free: 1-855-977-5644

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Updates, suggestions and comments regarding this article may be sent to Steve Piercy, web@stevepiercy.com or comment using Disqus.


Written by Steve Piercy in money on Tue, Dec 30, 2014.
Last modified: Tue, Dec 30, 2014
Tags: Better World Club, AAA, American Automobile Association, membership, bicycle roadside assistance

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