Our History

The AA has been going the extra mile for over 100 years. We were formed by a group of motoring enthusiasts on 29 June 1905. They wanted to champion motorists – in particular, to help drivers avoid police speed traps.

As motoring became more popular, so did the AA. 100 members in 1905 grew to 83,000 by 1914. As AA membership expanded, so did our activities.

Today, we are the UK’s largest breakdown cover organisation. Because we know anything can happen, we’ve developed a range of other services and products to keep customers prepared. These include: car insurance, maps, travel guides, campsite guides, home insurance, savings accounts, apps and home emergency breakdown cover. Here are the key points in our journey.

  • 1905-1909

    Putting up road signs - 1905

    In 1906 the AA began to put up the country’s first effective danger and warning signs. We’ve been promoting road safety ever since. In 1907, we offered members a car insurance policy – 23 years before it became a legal requirement.

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  • 1910

    Road service car - 1910

    We introduced the first AA routes around 1910, with handwritten details. By 1929 we were issuing 239,000 routes a year. In 2010 we hit 1 billion (and our routes and travel guide business is still going strong). From 1912, we also started to inspect hotels. Those receiving the AA’s famous star classification were included in subsequent editions of the ‘Members’ Handbook’.

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  • 1920s-1950s

    Automobile Association - 1920 - 1950

    By 1939, two million cars were on UK roads and 725,000 motorists had joined the AA.

    After the Second World War, we led the protest against petrol rationing, which was finally lifted in 1950. It was a campaign that reflected our traditional role of championing motorists’ rights.

    Since that time the AA has led a number of major campaigns – including the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, which became law in 1983, and the introduction of unleaded petrol. In recent years, we have lobbied successive governments over unfair motoring taxes and the lack of investment in transport.

    The AA has always been innovative in harnessing new technology. The introduction of two-way radio after the Second World War saw the 1949 launch of a night-time breakdown service in the London area, which was gradually extended to cover most of Britain.

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  • 1960s

    AA Recovery - 1960

    We established the AA Insurance broking service in 1967. After a number of cut-price companies had crashed in the 1960s, motorists wanted absolutely secure motor insurance cover from an organisation they could trust. So they turned to us in their thousands. Today, AA Insurance Services is the UK’s largest independent motor and home broker.

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  • 1970s

    AA Relay Service - 1970

    In October 1973, we introduced AA Relay. We guaranteed to transport any vehicle that could not be fixed at the roadside – together with driver, passengers, luggage and trailer or caravan – to any destination in Britain.

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  • 1980s-1990s

    Driving instructor - 1980 - 1990

    In June 1999, we set a new standard for the breakdown and recovery industry and came first in the annual JD Power survey of 25,000 drivers.

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  • 2000-2010

    100 years at AA - 2000

    The first decade of the new century was a busy one. We celebrated our centenary and were awarded numerous accolades from JD Power and Which? magazine.

    In 2003, all our patrols were issued with state-of-the-art roadside diagnostic equipment, enabling us to fix more vehicles at the roadside quicker.

    In July 2004 we introduced our industry-leading AA Telephone Savings Account.

    On 1 October 2004 the AA left the Centrica group following its acquisition by two leading European private-equity firms – CVC and Permira.

    In June 2006 a new company called Acromas was created, bringing together the AA and Saga, two of the UK’s strongest and most trusted brands.

    We continued to launch innovative new products and services – from Fuel Assist, to the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) who use specially equipped vehicles to help in severe weather.

    During this decade, we also acquired businesses including DriveTech, the UK’s leading provider of driver training, assessment and driver awareness schemes and AutoWindshields, a glass repair and replacement service.

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  • 2010

    The AA Careers our history 2010

    By 2010 the amount of money deposited with AA Savings was so large (£4bn) it made us one of the leading players in the direct savings market.

    The AA Charitable Trust launched Drive Confident in March, offering free course to help improve confidence and skills for qualified drivers.

    The AA’s route planner is 100+ years old and we produced our 1 billionth route in July 2010 which equates to 125 billion miles – that’s 5.5 million times around the world!

    AA Financial services won the Moneyfacts award for Most Competitive Term Assurance Direct Provider for the 4th year in a row.

    AA Streetwatch was launched in October, when almost 2,000 AA members surveyed potholes, blocked drains, worn road markings, and other defects in their local area.

    We launched AA Home Emergency Response, a new service providing approved tradesmen to deal with everything in the home from burst pipes to broken boilers.

    Dedicated ‘key assist‘ and ‘battery assist‘ services were launched, to replace or repair keys or batteries at a time and location convenient for the customer.

    Monday 20 December 2010 was the busiest day in the AA’s history. Snow, ice and widespread freezing daytime temperatures resulted in two days’ worth of breakdowns by mid-afternoon, and a total for the day of 28,000 breakdowns.

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  • 2011

    The AA Careers our history 2011

    We purchased BSM in February, bringing together the UK’s two biggest driving schools. BSM and AA Driving School still operate as separate businesses.

    AA DriveTech acquired Intelligent Data Systems, a leading provider of driver risk management products and services, including driver licence verification, for business fleet managers.

    Later in the year AA DriveTech acquired Nationwide 4×4 ltd, a leading provider of driver training and events for drivers of off-road vehicles and machinery.

    Throughout the Autumn, viewers of Channel Five could see a team of AA Driving School instructors tackle qualified drivers with serious driving problems in Dangerous Drivers’ School.

    Total downloads of AA smart phone apps passed the 1.5 million mark.

    AA financial services won the Moneyfacts award for Best Internet Account Provider for our online savings product.

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  • 2012

    The AA Careers our history 2012

    In spring we introduced free membership upgrades – AA Silver and Gold – which provide access to a range of breakdown cover enhancements for loyal AA Breakdown members.

    From 2012, members who break down in the Highlands would once again be met by the welcome sight of a ‘Highland Patrol’. This iconic name was brought back in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year at the request of local patrols, almost 60 years after it was first introduced.

    In November, The AA Charitable Trust was awarded a prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for the development and promotion of its free ‘Drive Confident’ courses, which are run through the AA Driving School.

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  • 2013

    The AA Careers our history 2013

    In July, the AA launches a new car buying website AACars, powered by VCARS. Every buyer is provided with an AA Cars History Check up front so that they can have peace of mind regarding the car’s history and authenticity.

    Trials start of a ‘universal’ spare wheel in August. The innovative wheel is the first of its kind in the UK and fits the majority of modern cars with a five-stud wheel. It allows members to continue their journey with minimal disruption.

    In October, the AA was among the first 50 companies in the UK to commit its support to the military through the new armed forces corporate covenant. The covenant is a voluntary pledge of support from businesses and charities to the armed forces community.

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  • 2014

    The AA Careers our history 2014

    During the wettest winter since records began for the south east and central southern England, AA breakdown patrols and our Special Operations Response Team (SORT) with their flood adapted Land Rovers dealt with more than 4,500 flood-related breakdowns – many of which were stuck in water or the result of driving through flood water.

    In March, the AA and the AA Charitable Trust launched a national ‘Think Bikes!’ awareness campaign with support from British Cycling and The Motorcycle Industry Association. Two million free stickers were distributed to drivers as a reminder to do a ‘double-take’ in their mirrors for cycles and motorcycles in their blind spots. The campaign featured a video – now you see me(click the title to watch).

    As the first all-lanes running ‘smart’ motorway opened in April (M25 J23-25) the AA voiced significant reservations because permanent hard shoulder removal means that breakdowns and other emergencies could now take place in a live traffic lane rather than on the hard shoulder.

    Also in April AA Insurance launched Home Insurance Plus, a new comprehensive home insurance policy that aims to overcome homeowner concerns about what may be covered.

    On 26 June 2014, shares in the AA started trading on the London Stock Exchange as the AA became a Public Company for the first time in our 109 year history.

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  • 2015

    The AA Careers our history 2015

    The AA Charitable Trust’s Think Bikes campaign, which launched in 2014, goes global with support from the FIA, the world motoring organisation.

    In March we won the Fleet Supplier of the Year award at prestigious annual Fleet News Awards.

    In April we launched our first professional mobile tyre fitting service, AA Tyres.

    In June we saluted our heroes of the roadside with the launch of our first TV advertising campaign in a decade.

    In July we launched a brand new partnership with Bank of Ireland UK (BOI UK) to provide all of the AA’s Financial Services products.

    In August we were awarded Which? Recommended Provider status for the tenth year in a row.

    In October we launched The AA Garage Guide and Automyze, a free digital motoring management system.

    The AA Driving School launched ‘Drive Motorway’ with the AA Charitable Trust. We offered 2,000 free two-hour courses to help drivers overcome a fear of motorway driving.

    In December we announced a partnership with transportation information provider Inrix, whose real-time traffic data now powers the traffic news on the AA’s website and the AA app.

    In the New Year 2016 Honours List, Edmund King, AA president, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to road safety.

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We're ready to make another century to remember. One that's full of new opportunities and new ways to help our members and customers - because anything can happen.