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.

      • Leland M. Glen

        Actually; the reason you and all other members receive this junk mail is because AARP receives a commission on each sale plus they charge these companies for the addresses, this amounts to hundreds of millions and is why they offer a $16 membership; they could offer a zero membership and still collect these obscene millions. They care about as much for you and they do conservatives. By the way; there is an alternative group that represents conservative values.

  • 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.

      • Ducan MichL

        The ONLY reason ACA passed at all is because Obama was sleeping with the private insurance companies who “helped” write the law so it stuffed their bloated pockets. Of course THIS PLEASED most REPUBLICANS who’s ONLY job on Capitol Hill is to blow the rich and the companies, or portfolios that they own.

        People like ME who fall in that “gap” (we’re Medicaid “class”) but live in Taliban controlled states (aka Republican) have a “choice” between rip-off-rate private insurance or none. If we choose NONE then Obama and the private insurance cartel will “penalize” us via the IRS (if we dare to work legally that is!)

        Of course the “middle class” like you, the ONLY ppl the law was written for, who “qualify” for subsidies have tunnel vision which prevents you from seeing the world BELOW YOU and so everything’s just fine with ACA isn’t it?

        (PS I’m actively encouraging all “GAP” people to either work for cash, lie on your W2, or simply refuse to pay the “un insured penalty” as a protest against the Republican-Cartel written tax code and the ACA GAP) LIKE IT OR NOT, THE U.S. CLASS-WAR is hot and getting hotter. Pick your side or get out of the way.

    • Jim

      I support The Affordable Care Act. I worked on pins and needles for 17 YEARS because I could not afford health insurance. Now that I am 60 and feeling my age because working two jobs wears a body out; I am grateful to President Obama for this law. I now pay $12.00 per month for the very minimum of health coverage. What that meant to me was high blood pressure control. So those of you who think that you are better than me because you can afford health care on your own, you best get on your knees and pray to God for forgiveness of the sin of pride. Don’t pray to your dollars; thank God that you have not had to go for 17 YEARS bandaging your self instead if going for proper medical treatment. I am now crippled from having to reset my own shoulder after it was knocked out of joint by a woman in grand maul seizure. Thou hypocrites.

  • 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?)

          • Rose Dobbs

            (You) and (sick of everything) seem to have the answers for every things that happens in this country so go out and solve the issues and good luck trying to accomplish your goal. Your ridiculing don’t bother me what so every. Maybe you should use your big mouth to try to solve the problems that started the fires in Washington DC such as the budget.

          • ghortej

            All I did was ask you questions. There are no answers in what I wrote, which seems to have gone in one ear and out the other.

            I’m assuming you can vote, so getting you to start asking questions rather than blindly regurgitating something you heard on your favorite radio station or television channel is what I’m doing to solve the issues in this country. I know you believe God gave you free will, so stop letting others think for you!

      • BomberBuck

        Sick of everything – What is your problem? Never mind, that was a rhetorical question. I don’t understand folks like you who feel compelled to attack and belittle others on the internet blogs. You’ve probably been a bully all your life. It’s a sad state that you want to spread your personnal misery onto other people who’ve done nothing to you other than come to your attention from a benign blog entry they’ve made.
        P.S. You don’t know God’s plan any more than you know where I get my news.

  • 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.

  • Judy Putnam

    I don’t care what AARP offers. They endorsed Obamacare and that cooked them for me. I just can’t keep the junk mail from coming and I’ve tried several different ways of asking them to stop it. Thanks to Marie Mabry who obviously shares my view. Go with AMAC! And to all the others on this comments section. They should stay out of Obama’s bed!

  • Judy Putnam

    In answer to Sick of Everything: You should take my son-in-law’s advice – visit a VA Hosp and see how efficient it is. My Lord, does anyone think that the people who run the IRS can really run our health system? 70% of IRS employees have already asked to opt out, as have all the unions and, of course, Mr Obama and the Congress will get to keep what they have and not be put on a waiting list like the European socialized medicine does. For serious health issues, most of them die before they can get an appointment Move there if that’s what you want.

  • fedup

    We used to belong. When they became so politically active and shifted their focus from helping seniors to promoting their products, such as the medical insurance, we chose not to support them. We chose AmacAdvantage instead.

  • steve

    Had Hartford AARP auto policy moved to different zip code and their AARP 55 policy wanted to go up about 4-5 hundred dollars.
    Noticed independent ins selling Hartford under non AARP policy and they were at my original or 4-5 hundred less. Dumped AARP.

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