Breaking down in the UK is hardly an issue. AA cover is excellent and you are never far from anywhere on our densely populated island. Some of the areas this US road trip visits are over 250 miles to the nearest city as it weaves close to the Mexican border through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. No one wants to breakdown but if you were to you’d hope it happened near a Starbucks, not on a dirt road under blazing sun with buzzards circling.
In all the miles I’ve covered in air cooled 911s I can honestly say despite their age they are not cars that let you down. However that doesn’t mean I’ve not had to call the AA. Flat batteries are common on these cars and I can remember calling them out once to get my 964 moving, and up in the Scottish Highlands one late Sunday afternoon I ran out of fuel in the 993. Out in the States I once managed to mangle the underside of a BMW 4 Series in Death Valley and was fortunate in being able to make some roadside repairs before nursing it to Sixt in San Jose but it could easily have needed recovering from one of the hottest places on earth. Things happen.
Basic cover from the AA
I’m an AA Gold Card holder and looking on their website they state as an AA member, you’re entitled to hundreds of discounts and offers overseas, through the ‘Show your Card!’ scheme. That members can enjoy savings on accommodation, tourist attractions, transport, restaurants, and leisure activities. And, if you’re travelling to the USA, you’re entitled to a number of basic roadside services including emergency road service, towing, lock-out and or battery services. Plus, selected discounts shared with American AAA. It is selected discounts though, not the full privileges like money off at Hiltons and Marriots.
I tried calling and speaking to them about this to find out just how it works and what discounts it covered given I was booking a lot of hotels. Nobody in the organisation knew anything about it. At first I was told they offer no such service until I pointed out it was on their website, I was then pushed to the European breakdown side of the business, who then sent me back to the UK side, who then tried to send me back again before I had the pleasure of some little know all who knew bugger all who just kept reading what was on the website page to me – the website page he didn’t know existed until I gave him the link. He kept telling me to call the AAA in the US to find out what the AA in the UK are offering their members. My favourite part of this futile conversation was then Know-all said “see, its like this, if you breakdown in America its not the AA who send one of their vans out to you…”. Does this guy really think I’m expecting the AA to scramble a jet out to Palm Springs for me? The conversation went in circles until I sensed he was about to repeat himself yet again and politely told him “don’t say it again, don’t even think about explaining to me that you won’t send an AA patrolman in a bright yellow van out to me in Arizona”. Anyway, he agreed to speak to someone higher up the feeding chain and call me back by way of an excuse to get off the line. I called the AAA in the USA and joined.
AAA cover in the USA
They have three levels of cover, the notable differences being the towing distances covered increase. After an hour on the phone to various people in the AA I’d been beaten into submission so opted for the Premier Membership and adding both drivers in case we somehow became separated. It cost $166, and even at that an absolute bargain to cover a car built in 1997 that has a steering wheel on the wrong side of the road with over 150,000 miles on it across 7,000 miles in six weeks. The basic cover is about $60 and by joining you can almost certainly find a hotel offering an AAA discount and recoup the cost.
The cards are both sent out by post and emailed as ones that can be printed out so it is one of those things that can be done last minute.
It took less than 15 minutes to sort out. Know-all still hasn’t called me back!
To arrange AAA cover from the UK you need to contact the office in the State you are arriving in. I called the nationwide number and was transferred to an office dealing with Tennessee