10 December 2007

Better World Auto Club

Living in Southern California - the birthplace of the 20th Century car-based culture - driving is a fact of life for me, despite what some Northern California Democrats and Greens may think of motorists. But just because I have to drive doesn't mean that I have to oppose mass transit, environmental initiatives, or even recognition of same-sex domestic partners.

Unfortunately, those issues are what AAA, the grand-daddy of automotive clubs in America, oppose - to a point where even the car experts at NPR's CarTalk call AAA's positions ridiculous. AAA, and its friends such as the oil industry and the pro-car Republicans, do not realize that more reliance on mass transit will clear up the highways, and actually make driving fun once again. But common wisdom is that AAA is like a utility - a necessary evil that one has to live with, such as the local telephone company or the cable TV provider.

Common wisdom is wrong, however, since AAA is far from the only game in town. In fact, when fellow blogger (and my writing mentor) Gayle Brandeis let her AAA membership lapse, and switched to Better World Club, I took notice. After asking her a few questions then (and again a few days ago) regarding her experiences, and after getting some more Internet feedback, I decided that a switch would not hurt - even though I am not eligible for the 15% hybrid discount that Gayle got. I did get free initiation ($10 savings), however, upon providing my AAA membership number. My membership will be active on January 10th of the new year, when my AAA membership will run out.

I've taken a quick look at the members-only area of the Better World Club website in the meantime, and the services look impressive. The hotel discounts, though not as extensive as AAA's, are serviceable - I can get discounts at Choice Hotels, Ramada Inn, Days Inn, and their affiliates. Basic towing is limited to 5 miles (as opposed to AAA's 7 miles), but if I am happy with my membership experience, I will gladly upgrade to premium (100 miles, same as AAA), which I will need as my cars get older. I can also request guidebooks and maps, though I don't count on needing much of either (even during my AAA days, I needed very little of them).

Of course, the best part is that I belong to an auto club that more accurately reflects my personal philosophy and values - and that I can drive with less guilt and more awareness. I will post updates if anything good or bad happens with Better World Club.

Better World Club