Is AARP Worth the Cost?

Photo (cc) by Alex Ristea

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.

Insurance

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.”

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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