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Graphic Element, Right Gutter

 Environment At Heart of Small Auto Club

Originally posted on August 21, 2006

• Name: Better World Club
• Founded: 2002
• Headquarters: Portland, Ore.
• Service area: All 50 states
• Members: Nearly 20,000
• Services: Towing, road maps, eco-tours, roadside aid to bicyclists, and many more.
• Average roadside response time: 36 minutes
• Dues: $53.95 a year for one driver; $20 more covers spouse/partner
• Online: betterworldclub.com

Roadside assistance is offered by an army of businesses.
Besides auto clubs, these include auto insurers, carmakers, oil companies, credit card issuers, and even some cell phone service providers.
Some points to consider before buying roadside service:
• Does your household have an older car not under a manufacturer’s warranty? You might want to buy roadside assistance.
• Thinking about a plan offered by a cell phone company? Most won’t cover you if you leave your cell phone at home.
• Some auto insurers consider calls for roadside aid to be negatives, and a factor for raising rates. Check that out before using this option.
• Some people who want to make sure their minor children aren’t stuck in a disabled car buy AAA coverage for their offspring. They don’t have to be of driving age, and their AAA coverage goes with them in the baby-sitter’s car, etc.

— SOURCE: The News-Press research

A young, upstart auto club bills itself as the green alternative to AAA.

Like AAA, 4-year-old Better World Club offers roadside help, a travel agency and home and auto insurance.

It has contracts with many of the same service providers, and charges similar fees. Like AAA, Better World Club coverage is for the person and not the vehicle.
However, founder Mitch Rofsky sees some big differences, most notably: “AAA’s part of the highway lobby; we’re not.”

Critics such as Rofsky have said the much-bigger auto club lobbies for the rights of road builders and carmakers, with lesser regard for auto safety or for the environment.

An executive for AAA Auto Club South, however, is quick to mention the club’s sponsorship of older-driver refresher courses, sponsorship of student safety patrols in schools and battery-recycling programs.

AAA’s John Tomlin also noted the national club fought a trucking industry effort to allow tractor-trailer rigs to pull three trailers behind them.

In general, “We believe in protecting people’s right to mobility,” Tomlin said, “Other people may believe otherwise.”
What about Better World Club?

“Umm. I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of it,” Tomlin said.

Better World donates 1 percent of its annual revenues to environmental cleanup and advocacy programs. Efforts to offset greenhouse gas emissions are among the beneficiaries.

Another distinction is its bicycle roadside assistance, available to members as an add-on for $15 a year.

Club marketing efforts have focused on the Internet, including paying for a good position on popular search engines such as Google.

Listeners of public radio’s “Car Talk” might have heard the club mentioned: It’s a program sponsor.

Rofsky, who worked for consumer watchdog Ralph Nader many years ago, doesn’t expect his club to overtake AAA. But he’s hoping for a bigger piece of the action for the club which now has about 20,000 members nationally.

“If we could get just 1 percent of (AAA’s) business, that would be a very nice business.”

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