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?

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Once you’ve reached 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 just $16 a year, members have access to discounts on insurance and other products and services. But is it worth the admittedly modest cost, or can people get similar discounts on their own without joining the group? We looked into AARP’s benefits and their 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 $375.”

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 not just AARP but 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 at several car rental companies.
  • Hotels. Your membership will get you up to 20 percent off at several hotel chains, such as Sheraton and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Other hotels offer smaller discounts.
  • Travel. You’ll get access to the AARP Travel Center 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 and trips. The AARP Travel Center offers cruise deals like 5 percent off select Norwegian Cruise Line cruises and other discounts, such as 10 percent off Endless Vacation Rentals.

However, if you’re thinking of joining AARP just for the travel discounts, you’ll likely find other 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 actually the lowest available for your chosen flights.

Other discounts

If you’re diligent about flashing your membership card, you can save some money — easily enough to earn back your membership fee. Some examples:

  • 15 percent off lunch or dinner at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants Monday through Thursday and 15 percent off weekend lunches.
  • A free donut with the purchase of any large or extra large drink at Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • 10 percent off at Bonefish Grill.
  • 45 percent off the price of membership to Angie’s List.
  • 5 percent off plans and 30 percent off accessories at Consumer Cellular.
  • 20 percent off local or one-way rentals at Budget Truck Rental.

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 — discounted tickets on Tuesdays for anyone 60 and up.
  • Verizon Wireless. The 65 Plus Plan comes with 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 a month for customers 65 and older.
  • Kohl’s. Customers 60 and older get 15 percent off in-store purchases on Wednesdays.

You can find plenty of lists identifying senior discounts that don’t require an AARP membership (although take note that offers change and not all stores in a chain participate). 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

Memberships also come with a host of 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 new dating site, which is currently 50 percent off for members. Members receive AARP Magazine, which has articles on everything from travel to personal finance. And you’ll get access to their freebie section, which has free samples and other freebie deals.

Should you sign up?

One main advantage AARP has is the age limit. Most senior discounts we found started at 55 or higher, but you can qualify for AARP starting at 50 years of age.

On the other hand, you can take advantage of discounts available to people in all age groups by signing up for a company’s emails or liking companies on their Facebook page.

Before you decide whether to join, check out the Member Benefits Guide to see if you’ll get good use from a membership based on where you spend your money.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?)

  • 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.

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