D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from S...

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Written by D. Gilson, PhD
Professor & Published Author D. Gilson, PhD

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years Laura Walker

UPDATED: May 6, 2022

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Car insurance comes in a wide variety of forms. While most drivers choose a typical car insurance company like Nationwide Insurance millions of drivers opt to use AAA Auto Insurance who is an example of a less traditional insurer.

AAA provides car insurance through constituent automobile clubs in the fifty-club national organization.

Regardless of the structure of the car insurance companies in question, it’s important to understand some individual facts about each, in order to make an informed decision when selecting a policy for your automobile.

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About AAA Auto Insurance

The first American Automotive Association motor club was founded more than one hundred years ago, as a motorists’ advocacy organization with 1,500 members. Their activities at the start included lobbying for safer vehicles and motorists’ rights.

Gradually AAA began adding services, beginning with Emergency Roadside Assistance in 1915. They offered their first automotive insurance policy in 1969.

Today, AAA has more than 50 million members in 50 individual motor clubs across the United States. They publish maps, travel guides, and serve as travel agents, among other products and services.

They also offer insurance policies including homeowners, automobile, recreational vehicle, and life insurance along with a number of financial products, similar to those available at many large insurance firms.

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About Nationwide Insurance

Nationwide Insurance began in 1925 as Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. The initial mission was to act as a provider of inexpensive automotive policies for Ohio farmers. The group began to expand, until in 1955, their coverage included policy holders far west of Ohio.

That year, they adopted Nationwide as their name to include the new, expanded coverage area.

Since that time, Nationwide has become one of the largest insurance and financial products providers in the world. They command $135 billion in assets, and are the 6th largest insurance provider in the United States for both automotive and homeowner policies. As a result, it offers some of the best prices on car insurance.

The company has a variety of insurance coverage options, and provides discounts to policyholders for good drivers, students, military personnel and people who live in low-crime areas. It also provides coverage for rental cars, motorcycles and boats.

Nationwide prides itself on stability. During the recent economic downturn, it demonstrated this characteristic. By adhering to a contingency plan of their making they were able to avoid bailout requests from the government, unlike many other firms in the industry.

Which company ranks more highly? Comparing AAA and Nationwide

AAA and Nationwide Insurance are two fundamentally different companies. As a motor club, AAA’s scope is far broader than that of Nationwide. However, Nationwide was founded as an automotive insurance provider, and has been providing policies for forty-four more years than AAA.

By industry standards, it can be difficult to discern the clearly superior company. J.D. Power and Associates rates ACG (Automotive Club Group) and ACSC (Automotive Club of Southern California) as representative insurance providers for AAA.

However, ACG refers to a generalized sample of the offerings of various AAA clubs across the country. So, a specific club might actually perform better or worse than J.D. Power’s listing for ACG.

ACSC is a key example. They received four out of five stars in two categories, and three in the rest, while ACG received three out of five in every category except for contacting the insurer, which was rated two out of five.

Nationwide, on the other hand, received three out of five stars for overall satisfaction, contacting the insurer, policy offerings, and billing and payment, and two out of five for pricing. This puts them on fairly even footing with the generalized Automotive Club Group ratings.

Both companies are financially strong. A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s all rated both organizations very well. This is a key characteristic for an insurance provider.

Who is a better car insurance company – AAA or Nationwide?

In the case of AAA and Nationwide, it’s important to consider the additional benefits in which you’re most interested. Like most companies, discounts are available for multiple-policy clients. AAA offers products geared toward travel and driving in general, along with a variety of insurance policies and financial products.

Auto club membership can be a huge benefit to an individual.

However, it may not be exactly what you’re looking for. Nationwide offers a wider range of insurance and financial products. If this selection is attractive, it’s worth looking into signing with them.

Which is a better partner for the goals you are trying to accomplish? As with any major life decision, choosing an auto insurance provider isn’t as black and white as one might wish.

This is particularly true when comparing two extremely different organizations, such as AAA and Nationwide Insurance.

The key is to have clearly understood your needs regarding auto insurance. Then, do your research, request a range of quotes, and compare them to your desires.

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