Is AARP Worth the Cost?

If you’re turning 50 this year, you qualify for an AARP membership, but is it worth it? Can you get senior discounts without membership?

Once you reach 50, you’re likely to start hearing jokes about getting a senior discount at Denny’s. But reaching a certain age actually does present some new opportunities, like AARP membership.

AARP says that for $16 a year, members have access to discounts on insurance and other products and services. What is gained from this admittedly modest cost, and can you get similar discounts without joining the group? We looked into AARP’s benefits and its value to see what’s what.


Members can sign up for auto insurance through the AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford. An advertisement on their website says: “Drivers over 50 who switch their auto insurance save an average of $404.”

From our Solutions Center: How to quickly shop insurance

To compare insurance rates, I used a base model: coverage for a 50-year-old Texas woman with no recent accidents who drives a 2010 Honda Civic, including comprehensive and collision, with low limits and high deductibles. I received these three quotes:

  • Allstate – $215 per month.
  • AARP Auto Insurance Program — $100 per month.
  • Geico — $59.80 per month.

Since rates vary by age, location, driving record and a number of other factors, you might find a good deal through AARP’s plan, but you might also find a better price with another insurer. It’s worth requesting a free rate quote from AARP as well as other insurance companies to find the best price.

Travel deals

Travel deals are another perk to AARP membership. Here are a few things you’ll get:

  • Rental cars: Members get a discount with several traditional rental car companies, as well as a 30 percent discount on Zipcar memberships.
  • Hotels: Your membership will get you up to 20 percent off at several hotel chains, such as Days Inn and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, as well as up to 35 percent off from Endless Vacation Rentals.
  • Travel: You’ll get access to the AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia, which posts members-only flight deals, plus you’re entitled to a discount at Park Ride Fly USA for off-airport parking.
  • Cruises: The AARP Travel Center offers discounts on select cruises by companies including Norwegian Cruise Line, Windstar and Grand European Travel.

However, if you’re thinking of joining AARP just for the travel discounts, you should know that there are many senior discounts that don’t require membership. For example, Best Western offers a 10 percent discount to anyone 55 years or older. If you’re 62 or older, you’ll get a 15 percent discount at Marriott locations.

Some airlines, including Southwest, offer senior fares. A few flight deal sites also post travel deals for seniors, such as OneTravel, CheapOair and Travelation. However, make sure the discounted fares, whether you find them through AARP or elsewhere, are the lowest available for your chosen flights.

Other discounts

If you’re diligent about flashing your membership card, you can easily earn back your membership fee. Some examples on savings:

  • 15 percent off lunch or dinner at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants Monday through Thursday, and 15 percent off weekend lunches.
  • A free doughnut with the purchase of any large or extra-large drink at Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • 10 percent off at McCormick & Schmick’s.
  • 45 percent off the price of membership to Angie’s List.
  • 5 percent off plans and 30 percent off accessories at Consumer Cellular.

You can read the full list of discounts by checking out the AARP Member Benefits Guide.

However, many establishments and businesses offer senior discounts, no membership required. For example:

  • AMC Theatres: A 30-60 percent discount (depending on the day) for moviegoers 60 and older.
  • Verizon Wireless: The 65 Plus Plan comes with 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 a month for customers 65 and older.
  • Kohl’s: Customers 55 and older get 15 percent off in-store purchases on Wednesdays.

You can find plenty of sites that track senior discounts. Among them:

Wherever you’re shopping, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have a senior discount and how old you have to be to qualify.

Other features

One of the main advantages of an AARP membership is that you can join at age 50, whereas most senior discounts we found started at 55 or older.

AARP memberships also offer other perks. For example, if you’re married, your spouse will automatically get a free membership. If you’re single, you can sign up for AARP’s dating site. Members receive AARP Magazine, which has articles on everything from travel to personal finance.

Have you been an AARP member? Has membership provided value to you? Tell us on our Facebook page.

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  • ModernMode

    I was a member for one year. I don’t think people realize how much spam and juck mail they will receive. And a lot of the offers require you to keep your aarp membership ongoing to keep the offer. I canceled because I just wasn’t getting any benefit and was sick of the junk.

    • Kathryn

      I couldn’t agree more. We cancelled our membership because of the huge influx of junk mail. Every day asking if we wanted to be cremated, buried, if we needed a walk in bathtub, a safer shower, life insurance, car insurance, medicare insurance, insurance for our grandchildren, ANY insurance!, if we wanted retirement property in Costa Rica, collectible dolls, new cell phones, blah, blah, blah… they used to be a good organization, but seems like they’re just a junkmail clearinghouse now, making lots of money from selling members addresses.

      • Jcatz4

        I have had my AARP membership for 3 yrs. and I can’t say that I have really saved very much by having it. I have one more yr. left on the membership and I’m undecided as to whether or not I will renew it. I do get some junk mail for life ins., medical ins. and car ins. but not much else. My boyfriend has AARP so that he can get a savings each month on his United HealthCare supplemental ins. I’m not sure of how much he is saving. Hopefully, it is more than the $16. a yr. he pays for the AARP membership.

    • peggy

      I agree too much junk mail period!!!!

  • Marie Maberry

    Good article. And I found that AARP is strictly political and not in a good way! We went with AMAC a very good senior organization that is for us and not politically bent. Also AMAC has a senior driving class that can qualify you for discounts with your car insurance

    • Jcatz4

      AARP has driving classes. I have not taken any (and not sure if there is a fee) so I don’t know if taking it would save anything on my Geico car insurance.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        If you haven’t learned to drive by the time you are 50…

        • Jcatz4

          The driving classes offered by AARP are NOT beginners classes!!! I believe that they are defensive driving classes. In other words, you learn how to react in different driving situations. And FYI (ALTHOUGH IT IS REALLY NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS), I am 72 and I have had my driver’s license since I was 17. I have a perfect driving record!!!!!

          • disqus_3BrONUAJno

            It is a matter of public record, so before you get snitty about your perfect record, unless you’ve spent 25+ years of it driving things that have more than 2 axles and weigh over 26,000 pounds, I’m not impressed, because I have.

          • Jcatz4

            I wasn’t trying to impress you – just stating the facts. I’m certainly NOT impressed by you. Sir, with your supposedly great qualifications, you shouldn’t be homeless and my relatives tax dollars shouldn’t be paying for your medical care.

    • disqus_3BrONUAJno

      If AMAC is not political, why do they say they are in their advertising?

  • J72050

    …this outfit is a huge lobby in Congress, but what ever else they do, you do not need it..they are so hard up they gave me a free 1 year membership…when I get the emails, I delete them

  • Cindy Kadinger

    My question is 10% or 15% or whatever% off of what dollar amount? Is the percentage off of the regular inflated price or the already reduced price given to savvy shopping customers?? Most of the time, the discount is off the regular price and therefore costs much more than the advertised sale price.

  • John Kirk

    My wife and I quit our membership when the AARP came out in support of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare). I called them to ask them how it benefits the members to support legislation that will result in death panels (which though denied then are occuring now), cuts Medicare by $715 billion, and makes ludacris promises that we can keep my current insurance plan and physician, and that it will cover an additional 40 million folks while decreasing insurance premiums. They had no rebuttal and would not admit to the real reason they were supporting this terrible legislation. We’ve since joined the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) and are pleased with the change.

    • obamathemarxist

      I also quit, I called and they refunded my fee.

    • Sick of everything

      Death panels, really? Try and tell that to the millions who have gotten money back from their insurance companies that did not spend 80% on healthcare, or the kids allowed to stay on ins, no more pre-existing excuses, no more caps. Is it perfect, not hardly but at least someone is at least TRYING to get something done as opposed to the useless GOP doing exactly nothing for 3-4 yrs. Get it going and keep an eye on how it’s working and make adjustments, it’s not rocket science people! It’s funny how all the nay sayers that have been sniveling about the ACA for a couple of years now are all of the sudden deciding it may not be such a bad idea after all. Stop listening to the idiots at Fox noise and do your own research, most of your post was incorrect and a waste of time. Oh one other thing, do you know why the right is trying so hard to get non existent support for repeal, because they know once Oct passes people will start to realize that it’s not as bad as we have been told over and over again by the right.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        It would be worth joining if they could get the oath takers in the government to be oathkeepers instead of traitorous bribe takers.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        Obamacare was designed to fail so they could replace it with socialist national health care like most other “democracies” have.

    • Jxla88974738

      if only Obama had gotten big business to pay for his healthcare system, but instead of getting all the hands out of healthcare, he added layer upon layer of govt to the hand out mix. So in addition to all the hands now in the healthcare pot, in order for you to enjoy your (so called) “free” health care, other people are paying through the nose to cover their plans and yours. Those people are going broke paying for your plan. It is a very sad mess. I know people who had to seek charity in order to pay their high deductibles several years in a row because they got sick and used their insurance.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        There’s a reason why Walmart got the first corporate exemption…

        • Karmasue

          No – Walmart was onlygranted a delay, like several other companies who needed to comply with the higherstandards set by the ACA. The companies weren’t granted permission to ignore the law. They weresimply given one-year waivers to delay compliance with key standards in the
          ACA that mandated good coverage. The waiver process was there to allowthose companies (including Walmart) to continue to provide their cheap, bare-bonespolicies called “mini-meds plans” only until the law was fully implemented in 2014.

          • disqus_3BrONUAJno

            I work at Walmart, but not for Walmart, and their insurance is delayed by 90 days, in addition to that which they received. Since the ADA only provides AMA-approved benefits, based on pharmaceutical methodology, I am happy to make something below the poverty line, which makes me eligible for free care from medical volunteers funded by, among other sources, Walmart Foundation, so I get my medical coverage from Walmart in similar manner to how they pay me.

      • Karmasue

        You have nio idea what you are talkiing about. It isn’t, and never was, “free” health care. What your taxes paid for before the ACA was FREE healthcare for people who had NO healthcare and ended up in the ER! And it is not gov’t insurance…it is Aetna, Humana, BlueCross/Blue Shield, and 13 other huge private corporate insurance companies (that have been sucking the life out of us for decades). Only now these bottom-feeding companies have a pool of insureds through the ACA, which makes premiums lower for the insureds. These private insurers (Humana, etc), because of the ACA. have to abide by regulated standards – like no discrimination, no cancellation or increase in premium just because someone gets sick and uses their insurance, no turning people down for previous and current medical issues, and many other regulations that protect the people who use it. The only time the government (your taxes) are involved in premiums, or healthcare itself, is when a person’s income is so low that it meets the poverty guidelines. That is when the premium is subsidized by the gov’t. That is where your precious taxes come in. But it’s a lot less than is used to cost to pay off the ER for emergency treatment right before, and often just when it was too late for many people! And over time it is getting even better as people are remaining healthier because they do have preventative care. The biggest issue with the ACA program is that people who know nothing about how it works, spread the information they get from Faux News and dubious anti-Obama sources.

        • Ron Williams

          Well, since you’re shedding some light on the matter let me bring out the spotlight just to make sure that people will see it clearly. The ACA and the “sucking” private insurers you mention will CONTINUE to suck the life out of us. Just a little bit less because of ACA (for some people) but on the flip side they get a larger pool of people to suck from too. Do not dismiss the fact that the ACA was written by insurance companies for insurance companies and forced upon the American citizenry. This legislation was not for “the people” one single bit. That oxygen sucking sorry excuse for an air breather called Nancy Pelosi would have not uttered the most asinine phrase in the history of human government if ACA was for the people: “We have to pass the bill to see what’s inside it”. Being employed for over a decade by the SUCKING INSURANCE COMPANIES, that phrase my friend told me all I ever will need to know about ACA. In the long run it will cost the citizenry (our grandchildren and generations down the line) about 3-5 times the prophesied amount! Time will tell. Economic problems now? Just wait until we’re paying 3-5 Trillion dollars per year over the 900+ Billion projected.

          Gov war on illiteracy: FAIL
          Gov war on poverty: FAIL
          Gov war on drugs: Utter FAILURE
          Gov war on truly affordable and quality healthcare: FAILURE IN THE MAKING

    • disqus_3BrONUAJno

      One of the advantages to being legally homeless, as I am, is that I am exempt from Obamacare and its individual mandate. I get free health care from charitably-supported retired medical people. They are refreshingly candid about everything, which they will discuss, because they have no profit agendas.

  • Rose Dobbs

    When I found out they were in favor of Obama care I quickly stopped my membership and also the terrible amounts of spam emails and mail in my mailbox on a weekly basis. Their magazine was full of advertisements and had nothing to inform us of better decisions for our age group. Our insurance went up every year until I was sick of the 50% raise in our insurance and we are both good drivers. Neither one of us have had tickets or accidents in over 15 years. They can keep their membership and anyone that supports this new Obama care IE communistic attitude is really out of touch with God’s love and his word.

    • Sick of everything

      Ya like God has anything to do with it. I suppose you people that have a problem with someone at least trying to do something about the healthcare nightmare, maybe should move to a country that has coverage for all. One thing, if God is so great and loving and caring, then why does he allow his “children” to go through so much hell. Why would he let a mother strap her kids in the car and then send it into the river so they can drown, or go in and shoot 20 little kids, or any of the dozens of other heartless and unnecessary acts that happen every day. You bible thumpers are really a piece of work, ya I know your excuse is so bs about bring us closer together or his “plan”. What a crock. I thought God was supposed to advocate taking care of the sick and poor, well according to your right wing friends they don’t deserve help and are all just moochers, so much for Gods love and his word.

      • Rose Dobbs

        God has nothing to do with peoples choices. Everyone has free will that is what God give us and people make the choices not God. If read the bible you would see our Country is falling apart because so many people have chosen to erase God from their lives…including you. God didn’t tell the idiot to go shoot those children anymore then he told anyone else to kill someone. That so called President in the Whitehouse isn’t doing anything but trying to make this country like communism. You seem to have a grudge against yourself and want to blame God. Blame yourself not God. God has tried to get people to listen but like you they are stubborn devil worshippers. works and want it all their way. Did anyone ask us if we wanted this crap with Obama care…I would have told them to take it and shove it in their back pocket. Stop your blaming of God. Prayer is the answer. If you don’t like it to bad. I will pray for your soul because without God you can’t make it to Heaven….although I hope you do. It will be a paradise compared to what you are talking about in this country with whom we have in charge. As I said, free will and choices is what we all have. I was born in this country…can you say the same. Who knows.. you seem to be the devils advocate. May God forgive you. Lashing out to me isn’t the way. I don’t want to pay more taxes for someone else to have insurance when I can’t afford it myself. Their used to be jobs in this Country but all of the governments interventions have caused the lack thereof. I didn’t write to be ridiculed for my beliefs. I wrote because people are voicing an opinion about AARP. I know first hand what they charge and will never go back. Get a life because the one you have doesn’t appeal to what is in store for your future.

        • ghortej

          “without God you can’t make it to Heaven….although I hope you do. It will be a paradise compared to what you are talking about in this country with whom we have in charge.”

          Um… did you just say being dead would be better than living in the United States?

          Is this country really that terrible to you? Are you being tortured? Oppressed? Sent to a reeducation camp? Forced into slavery? Beaten up? Kicked out of your home? Ever been told you have to live in a ghetto? Or even just a particular neighborhood? Ever been limited by what you can and can not say or think? Or what job you’ll have? Or what job your kids will have? Or how many kids you’re allowed?

          All of those things are happening in the world right now. But you would rather be dead than have to get health insurance?

          (If you don’t want to be ridiculed for your beliefs, maybe you shouldn’t write about them?)

          • disqus_3BrONUAJno

            If our politicians would keep their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution, our problems would be fewer and simpler.

        • disqus_3BrONUAJno

          Free will with a big downside if you don’t choose correctly, eternity in hell.

  • obamathemarxist

    Amen to that

  • Sick of everything

    Ya I have been considering an AARP membership, but after reading this which has confirmed a couple of suspicions I don’t think I need it. I have AAA and you get the same discounts plus a lot more. AARP won’t come rescue you if you brake down.

    • camille

      i have it through the Hartford and for $79 a yr it is just like AAAplus. for $10 a yr you can add a family member that lives in your house. I have used it a few times for dead battery or can’t start car. the last thing was a key had broken off in the door. I called someone to fix it and make a new key and they charged me $180. I sent the bill to Hartford and recently got a ck for $194. I made $14 on the deal plus got my money back. Im happy with this.

    • disqus_3BrONUAJno

      You better not break down an inch further from a mechanic than the AAA limit…

  • TWL

    $16 a year… yes, I think I get that back in discounts and I don’t even use their major products like insurance or travel. Even I don’t agree with all the policy positions taken by AARP, I appreciate their advocacy for seniors. I detest the rightwing politics of AMAC.

    • disqus_3BrONUAJno

      Maybe you should consider membership in the Communist Party of the United States, like Obama’s mentor had…

  • LagunaLady27

    Never received any junk mail or spam from my AARP membership. I like the publications and the travel discounts. I went to one of their conferences. They are very low cost and enjoyable.

  • LagunaLady27

    My insurance went up $2.00, but several items that required a co-pay before, no longer do. It was a net benefit for me.

  • grandmaguest

    Good heavens……the article was asking you if you had a membership and if you thought you received value for your money!
    This has become a debate and name calling over politics! Obamacare, rightwing, leftwing, conservative, liberal!
    COME ON PEOPLE….. HOW ABOUT STAYING ON TOPIC. if you want to rant and rave about politics, etc. go find someplace else to do it. Let’s have civil conversations on here.

    • King Norris

      It is on topic. People felt they weren’t receiving the value for their money once they discovered what the AARP really about.. Politics is not mutually exclusive; it’s intertwine with everything in life, whether you like it or not and does affect how people think.

  • Rod57401

    I did a search for complaints about aarp,consumer cellular and the hartford ins and found lots of complaints and not many happy customers.
    Best advise is do a little search before buying into anything connected with aarp or any other company.

  • Taciturn

    I was a member of AARP for many years. I have finally stopped my membership because of their ad nauseam marketing emails. AARP makes their hefty profits by shilling for insurance companies and numerous other businesses of every sort. I found that their fictitious auto insurance savings claims were utterly false. AARP is a marketing machine. A virtually parasitic organization living off seniors naive beliefs that the organization actually cares about seniors because of some altruistic commitment. Baloney !

  • disqus_3BrONUAJno

    The AARP car insurance line is only staffed during business hours. How would you like to have an accident any other time if you are their customer?

    • Jcatz4

      It is NOT AARP car insurance – it is AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford. You receive a discount on your auto insurance if you are an AARP member. The AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford is underwritten by Hartford Fire Insurance Company and its affiliates, One Hartford Plaza, Hartford, CT 06155.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        Then the Hartford is committing fraud by misrepresenting themselves as AARP, which is what they call themselves on all of the paperwork, in addition to making the same claim that you felt that I was too illiterate to read, apparently. It doesn’t matter if it is offered by God almighty, if they don’t answer their phones with human beings 24/7, they’ll never have me as a customer.

  • disqus_3BrONUAJno

    If they send you a prepaid business reply envelope, tape it to a box full of sand. They have to pay the postage on anything sent to them with that permit.

  • Amy Livingston

    A poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that opposition to the ACA/Obamacare peaked about a year ago, at 53% opposed and 37% for (so presumably 10% undecided). Today, it’s about even, with 44% in favor and 41% opposed. If the trend continues, by next year the favorable numbers should represent a solid majority. So it sounds like the previous poster’s claim was right: once the law actually went into effect, people started to realize that nothing terrible was happening as a result, and actually, some things about it are pretty good. (I can’t put the link here or my comment will be censored, but you can easily find it by searching on “public opinion polls Obamacare.”)

    One more comment: Why do you say “I’m not particularly glad your premiums went down now that I’m subsidizing you”? “Sick of everything” never said that he was receiving a subsidy or even that his premiums had dropped.

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