The first touring clubs and associations were for people travelling by cycle, train or on foot. Automobile clubs were formed later when the automobile became more widely used and distributed. The clubs were mainly social in nature, and almost entirely confined to Europe until the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the owners of automobiles throughout Europe and North America felt the need to meet and discuss their problems: laws that restricted their activities, the organization of races, the development of the motor car as a practical means of conveyance, the encouragement of technical progress, and their defence against a hostile public.
In Canada, the establishment of automobile clubs began in 1903 with the founding of the Hamilton and Toronto Automobile clubs, when there were fewer than 178 automobiles in the country. By 1913, a dozen small nonprofit provincial and regional motor clubs united to establish the not-for-profit Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) with a mandate to promote a better understanding of the automobile and to improve roads and motoring conditions in general. Today, the CAA is one of Canada's largest consumer-based organizations and has 9 constituent clubs spanning the country, with a total membership of more than 5 million motorists. The organization's mandate has expanded to include leadership in the areas of traffic safety and public policy as it relates to the motoring environment.
The CAA is a major club in a worldwide network of about 200 motoring and touring associations and clubs, all with the common bond of promoting travel and tourism and the protection and preservation of motorists' rights and privileges. Each of these individual organizations consists of many component clubs and branch offices located in every community where there are motor vehicles and tourists. The main purpose of such an affiliated network, comprising thousands of offices in over 100 countries, is to ensure that members of the various clubs have access to club services and assistance wherever they travel.