Beware – AAA Battery Service or Scam?

“Triple A” – Just saying those words conjures up positive, warm feelings, mostly due to the countless times that AAA tow trucks have come to the rescue and provided a needed jump, or can of gas. I happily pay my $49 yearly fee, feeling secure in the reassurance a Triple A card provides. Why would this company then risk the decades of trust and good will just to make a marginal buck? Here’s the story. Last week I came home from a two week trip only to find that my car wouldn’t start. Dead battery. Very dead. Car wouldn’t make a mutter. Called Triple A and instead of sending out a tow truck, they sent a special truck to provide jumps and also sell you a new battery if you need it. Well, according to the Triple A man, my battery was so dead, it was beyond redemption. He could get it going, but there was no way the car would start again if I cut the engine. He could offer me a great quality battery right there on the spot, and install it for about $112.

This seemed very fishy to me.

First, I’ve never spent more than $60 for a battery. And second, I was in a vulnerable position and he had no incentive to give me a good deal. I declined the offer and drove off to Sears. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes with my engine going, the Sears lady (hey now they have female mechanics!) tested my battery and found it good. Perfectly fine. No problem. I didn’t need a new battery after all. The alternator had recharged the battery on the trip over. I did find that with my German car, I will need to pay around $100 for a new battery when I need it. So Triple A’s pricing is probably fair. But if you don’t need a new battery, there’s no reason to be pressured into buying one.

18 thoughts on “Beware – AAA Battery Service or Scam?

  1. Lady, what planet have you been living on for these last few years? I don’t know when AAA bought in, but that is the oldest scam in the book. (By the way, I don’t know how AAA works, but our towing/fixit service uses independent contractors. Maybe AAA doesn’t know about this crook. Why don’t you send them this story, and see how they react?) NEVER let the towing/starter/emergencyfixit guy sell you a new battery: the statistics are just way against you.

    And as long as we’re talking sex anyway, my impression is that they’re a little more likely to try to take advantage of a woman. If you have no strong preference for your current gender, you could have it changed surgically, and reduce the chance of having a random car-fixer try to scam you from about 99.3% to about 99.2%.

    A Fellow-Sufferer.

  2. Actually, this is an official service of triple A. You can even check their website. And if you call AAA asking for a tow, they’ll tell you about the battery sales service they offer.

  3. Dear AAA member,
    As a wife of a AAA tow truck driver, I just had to add my two cents. I know for a fact that the prices of AAA batteries are very comparible with car dealerships. You also have to remember that they are coming to you on the side of the high-way risking there lives for you the member, or where ever you are. Instead of you having to shop around, they are bring it to you. Also battery testers will very, you can get it tested at one place and turn around a few mins. later and get ot tested again and it can tell you something completly diferent. And for your information AAA is a non-profit organization!!! The reason that ANY AAA driver carries batteries is strickly for YOUR convience!!!
    Warmly, Wife of AAA Tow Truck driver:)

  4. Please don’t judge AAA by the wrongs of one person. AAA is a not-for-profit organization that has been around since 1902. We are the original road service company. Local Tow Companies must go through a strict process to participate with AAA to receive calls to assist customers. I’m sure the owner of the company that driver works for would not be happy about your experience. I hope that you let AAA know of the experience. Let me know if I can ever be of any help to you as AAA appreciates your membership.

  5. Just because AAA is a none profit organization does not make them honest. In Southern California there were numerous supervisors that helped friends and others get towing contracts that didnt deserve them. Even heard of payoffs for them. I do agree that $112 is fair being the drivers risk their lives on the freeways all the time. I just dont think you should say just because its the AAA it’s honest.

  6. I’ve been a member for 13+ years and just yesterday I had a road service call at my home, dead battery. I paid $121.00 for a battery with a 72 months warranty good nationwide.

    I”d hate to think I”VE been scammed. The terminals were very corroded and there was acid deposits on top of the battery.

    I will be notifying AAA and Comsumers Affairs to have this investigated.

  7. We do not do contracted towing with AAA, they do not pay enough, but we do go out for them, when they pay our rates.
    If your battery had corroded ends, and the acid deposits were on the top, those ends usually need to be cleaned up, and or replaced.
    Also, how old was your battery, and did that cost include the installation of the new battery.
    As long as that warranty is 72 months, I don’t think you were scammed. Just save that receipt so you have exact purchase date proof. Keep it in your glove box.
    Usually our NAPA batteries are anywhere from 60-120.00. Depends on the vehicle model.
    Purcell’s Towing, Delavan WI

  8. Pauline: If the AAA driver was following his training guidelines, he attached his state-of-the-art Midtronics tester directly to the battery posts, cutting through the corrosion and speedily and accurately determining battery condition. I’m sure that he cleaned the terminals before installing the new battery. Since this is all pretty standard, I doubt that you were scammed. I’m really disappointed that he didn’t communicate what was going on so any suspicion you now have would have been allayed at the outset. Batteries fail. Some within a very few years. There are a number of factors in these failures. As with all businesses, there are no doubt some shady employees in Triple-A, though they seem to make a concerted effort to screen those people out. It’s conceivable that you got taken, but not at all likely.

  9. I drive a battery truck for AAA fleet service. I can tell you that a mechanic is only as good as his (or her) test equipment. The tester I was issued by AAA is a MidTronics tester that is capable of basic diagnostics of the battery pack, starting system, and charging system. It has been my experience that any electronic equipment is capable of giving a false result. I honestly don’t think you were scammed. I have been on location many times and had a battery test bad only to let the vehicle run for 15 minutes and find that it has been restored by the current from the alternator. Unfortunately, on today’s automobiles, the electronics system is so complex (often running up to 7 computers, over 25 sensors, stereo, lighting, and even traction control and load leveling systems)that there is no fool proof sure fire way to give a definative answer to the status of your battery. The tester gives us a readout of the voltage and amperage. It then gives one of the following messages: GOOD BATTERY, CHARGE & RETEST, REPLACE BATTERY, BAD CELL, or SYSTEM NOISE-CHECK LOADS. If it says REPLACE, I am going to recommend you replace it. I will give you that the guy probably should have let it run a while and then retested it, but he may have been busy that day. (We often have a 2-3 hour backlog.) Or, he may have just been relatively inexperienced and had too much trust in his test equipment. Even the finest dealers and mechanics often have to work on the same vehicle multiple times to isolate and repair a problem. I am sorry you feel you had a bad experience. I wish you the best of luck. And the next time you break down at midnight in the pouring rain, we will still be there to help get you going again. Drive safe. See you on the road. Oh, by the way, we don;t sell the batteries on commission. We are hourly. Our goal is to get you back on the road the best we can. We get paid the same either way.

  10. Hey there, I am a tow truck driver for AAA. There is one point that herman made, that I would like to emphasize. We get paid the same amount no matter what. He is on hourly, I am on salary. Every company varies, but again….. we get paid the same. Im sorry you feel you had a bad experience, but I please, when you are broken down on the freeway and we are risking our lives to help you because we CHOOSE TO, please don’t automatically assume we are “scamming” you.
    We are here to help. Take care, drive safely

  11. I just had exactly the same experience on a AAA jump start call. They came to my home, told me they have to test the dead battery first, because if there is a dead cell, it could blow up! He tested it. It said it needed replacement, he offered me a $145 battery installed on site, and I said well first lets jump it and see if it really does blow up. I stood back…low and behold it jumped up like a bunny rabbit… no explosion. I called AAA because I thought my local service guy was scamming me. AAA tells me he is following their protocol. So now I am pretty sure this is a AAA scam. If you test a dead battery and the test comes back 0% charged, that does not mean you need a new battery. It means your battery is dead, which you already knew or you wouldn’t have called AAA! AAA won’t be there next time I break down on the highway, because I’m signing up with a more honest service! I suggest that you honest service guys (and I do think most of you are) do the same.

  12. I have been a service provider for the evil empire for over 17 years and I can well rest assure you their battery service is a scam.
    In the first place they make up a ficticious price and then reduce it to a ‘member price’ that is list. What value minded person pays list for anything. You can buy the same battery at any NAPA store for $40-$50 less. Next they expect service providers to bring home a 30% sales return. Since only 28 out of every 100 cars in No. America of all ages needs a battery in any given year, 30 per is a pretty high number considering it’s in a closed market.
    The way it’s set up, if you don’t sell a battery on enough calls the bill is more than you make; and if you protect the integrity of your businesses good name they cancel your contract and you still owe them the bill. There have been quite a few family owned, honest, hard working community businesses that have had to either bite the bullet and/or go belly up while AAA and their foreign-owned partners in crime, Club Assist, roll on happily and fraudulantly to the bank.
    AAA is building an umbrella over an ever expanding network of bandits and cutting contracts of long standing, honest service providers who won’t lower their standards.
    And the members have only one brand to choose from. And it is hardly the cream of the crop.
    You want to go with a good club that doesn’t use it’s members as a market target pool for sub par over priced products? Check out that green minded club headquarted in Portland. They have a model that just might be the answer to a betterworld club.

  13. Funny. Same darn thing happened to me today. AAA driver (his van said AAA), told me I had a dead cell. He said he could charge it for me but then I couldn’t turn the car off or it wouldn’t start again. So I drove it to the dealership because my car is only two years old and was under warranty. Battery was perfectly fine. No dead cell at all. The AAA guy tried to sell me one for $115 plus tax.

    It’s a scam… You know what ~ I sat in the dealership for over an hour with my child who was not so patient. My other child was with a sitter, who I had to pay extra to stay longer. I’m ticked that the guy tried to rip me off… Risk your life??? I dont think so.

  14. Tow truck drivers, AAA employees, all of us risk our lives for those who break down on the roadway.
    There are tow truck operators, roadside assistance helpers who are killed, at least 5 a month or better, helping those in need,
    Please do not say that those of us who are honest, are not risking our lives for helping those in need.
    When your battery is “dead” yes, sometimes you can recharge it. It is not always good to jump it and let your alternator recharge it. It is very hard on it.
    Sometimes you need to let it sit on a charger for hours. Even then, it may need to be replaced.

    Try tow411, you can see all of the deceased who have NOT RISKED THERE LIVES, to help those in need. Then step out onto an interstate, stand next to those doing 65+ mph, to change a tire, tow a vehicle, of do a jump start, and tell me,
    that we do not risk our lives.

  15. Dear KK – I can appreciate that tow truck drivers risk their lives for those of us with broken down cars. That doesn’t mean I should be misled by anyone representing AAA, a company I usually trust, to sell me a battery I don’t need. The battery in this story lasted another 2 years on that charge from driving to Sears.

    The point of this post isn’t to condemn tow truck drivers, or even AAA tow truck drivers, but to send a strong message to the management of AAA that this customer does not appreciate being pressured to buy something she doesn’t need.

  16. Not all batteries are created equal. Even within the same brand name you have different levels of quality. You can purchase a low grade battery, a mid grade battery or a premium grade battery. You get what you pay for just like in anything else. AAA only sells your premium grade batteries. If you were to purchase the exact same battery off the shelf on a store you would pay a similar price. I purchased a battery from them for $125 and found it at the auto parts store for $117. Personally, I think the extra $8 that I spent was worth the price of them coming out to me and installing it on the spot. They saved me valuable time and the pain of having to install it myself.

  17. I would like to add, I own a motorcycle breakdown service company , that runs alot like AAA but for motorcycles only. When we use outside companies to rescue our members , We will personally contact the member to make sure everything was ok with there towing. Now if no, I will personally visit the company that towed our member, and I will pull there contract right out from them , the end for them. We pay our towing people there rates not ours to keep them busy as a company. As a owner this is my duty no matter where I have to go. Customers to a company is #1. Maybe AAA should practice some kind of check up system and start caring more about there members. The only reason I say This is I have many members that used to be AAA members but were very unhappy. Our members are our family , not our customers. Everyone have a great day!!!

  18. Sanders towing showed up today…ran the test and the kid gave gave me a sales pitch after explaining how I got a bad cell. Besides being “creepy” his line of BS didn’t sell me…took the car to the dealership and if anyone had an incentive to sell me a new battery they did, they ran multiple tests and said it just needed a charge and they suggested getting a Battery Tender given I rarely use this car and this would keep it charged when not using.

    The BS about Non Profit means nothing, just like the federal government. Non proit means they pay everything out, to overpaid upper management. WHile it appears to be a service it’s clear by this forum that it’s a scam to pad the local operator.

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