It doesn’t matter if you break down in your own driveway or hundreds of miles away from home; our breakdown cover guide will show you how to acquire the correct coverage at the right price so you can have peace of mind no matter what.
To obtain the appropriate breakdown cover, it is not enough to just locate the most reputable service provider. You will want to make certain that you obtain the appropriate level of coverage for your requirements without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money.
For example, were you aware that if you are within a quarter of a mile of your residence, you are not covered by basic roadside assistance?
If your car does not start on a frosty winter morning and you want to be seen at home, you may be required to pay an additional fee of up to 109 pounds in addition to your standard breakdown policy.
According to the findings of our research, the majority of people who phoned for roadside assistance went to their homes rather than to any other site; therefore, it is essential to obtain the appropriate amount of coverage.
Different kinds of coverage for car breakdowns
There are a few different ways to obtain breakdown coverage. The following are the primary categories:
Coverage for damages caused by a third party: You are charged on an annual basis. If your vehicle experiences a breakdown, the service provider will either tow you to a nearby garage or make an attempt to fix it on the side of the road. The largest and most well-known third-party providers are the AA, RAC, and Green Flag, respectively.
Coverage that requires payment before making a claim: You are still required to pay an annual fee, but the amount you pay is often reduced. In the event that your vehicle breaks down, you are responsible for paying for any roadside repairs or recovery, and you can later submit a claim for reimbursement.
Coverage for mechanical failure provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer: If you buy a new automobile, the dealership should throw in complimentary coverage for mechanical failure that bears the manufacturer’s name. For instance, if you purchase a Honda, you are eligible to receive free roadside assistance for a period of three years through Honda Breakdown Assist. The real service is provided by a different company than what was advertised (the AA, in the case of Honda)
Coverage for breakdowns that is bundled with bank accounts or auto insurance: You have the option of purchasing automobile breakdown coverage as part of your packaged bank account or auto insurance policy (for more information, go to our advice on how to obtain the best deal on auto insurance). For instance, the packaged account that Nationwide offers comes with breakdown coverage provided by LV Britannia. Additionally, the automobile insurance that NFU Mutual offers comes with breakdown coverage provided by the RAC. It would appear that pay-and-claim coverage is being phased out.
Only one of the 12 third-party service providers that we evaluated this year, GEM Motoring Assist, offers a pay-and-claim option for their customers. When compared to standard coverage, you would only be able to save £18 per year by going with this option. Check out our list of the best breakdown cover providers to see how GEM Motoring Assist stacks up against the other roadside assistance companies that we’ve evaluated.
How many levels of car breakdown cover are there, and is the basic level enough?
A significant number of individuals obtain their breakdown coverage through the services of third-party companies. A good number of these provide coverage on multiple tiers. The names that different businesses give to these tiers may vary, but the following are the four most common ones:
1. Roadside support
(the most fundamental type of cover) You will be towed to the nearest garage or have the option of having your vehicle repaired on the spot by a breakdown van when it arrives at your location. The majority of plans will contain a limit on recovery that is between 10 and 15 miles away from the location of the breakdown. Keep in mind that if you only have basic roadside assistance, you won’t be able to call your provider out if your vehicle breaks down within a quarter of a mile of your home (or a full mile if you have Allianz, Autoaid, AXA, or Start Rescue). This is the case even if the vehicle breaks down further away.
2. Cover for the home
(provides you with house coverage in addition to standard roadside help) This can sometimes be an expensive addition to basic cover (though this is not always the case), but our research has shown that the majority of people who call a breakdown service are doing so from their homes. This is true more so than from any other single place. If you need to upgrade your coverage in an emergency from basic to home protection, the cost may be as high as £109 and would include a one-time fee known as “pay-on-use.”
3. The revitalization of the nation
(towed to any location within the United Kingdom) You and any passengers in your vehicle will receive a tow to the location of your choice anywhere in the United Kingdom (this can include your own residence if you so desire), or to the garage that is located closest to your final destination. In the event that you just have roadside assistance, your vehicle will be towed to a nearby repair shop.
4. European cover
This will cover you for any roadside repairs or a tow to a local garage if your car breaks down while you are travelling on the continent. If you do not already have this protection, the majority of UK providers will not be able to offer you any support once you are overseas. Because of this, you should make sure that you obtain European cover before you leave the UK.
In the event that this does not occur, you will be need to make your own arrangements for assistance from a local recovery agency and will be responsible for the costs of towing and repairs. The majority of service providers offer both annual and single-trip coverage; however, before purchasing either option, you should verify that the country to which you are travelling is included on the list of protected destinations.
What elements of auto breakdown cover are the most important to watch out for
Because you have personal cover, you are able to contact a breakdown service for any automobile you are in at any given time, regardless of whether you are the driver or a passenger in the vehicle (as opposed to vehicle-level cover, which applies to a specific car). This could come in handy if you have more than one vehicle or if you frequently ride in someone else’s vehicle (you could even use it as a bargaining chip to get upgraded from rear seat to front passenger seat).
When you acquire a quote, the majority of carriers, but not all of them, will give you the option of purchasing personal coverage in addition to vehicle-level coverage; this option typically comes at a somewhat higher cost.
If you purchase breakdown coverage from some companies, you may get an unlimited number of callouts from them; however, other companies may place a restriction on the number of times they will assist you if your vehicle breaks down. We have discovered insurance that provide only minimal roadside assistance and allow for as little as two or three callouts per year, and even some policies that provide complete coverage will only provide assistance five times.
Proceeding with travel
If a breakdown provider is unable to fix your vehicle immediately, this type of coverage will pay for a rental car, overnight accommodations, or costs towards taxis and public transportation on your behalf. It is typically included with more comprehensive policies. This is a regular feature for certain service providers, while for others it is an additional paid add-on.
If you put the wrong kind of fuel in your car, you could end up doing serious damage to the engine. The cost to drain and flush the system could range anywhere from 150 to 300 pounds. We discovered that fewer than one-quarter of the insurance policies we researched will cover you for this, and even if they do, you may be required to pay an additional premium of up to £225 for the privilege.
Be sure to read the fine print of the insurance policy before purchasing it if your dog is a frequent passenger in your vehicle. Although the majority of service providers claim that they will continue to pay for your repairs even if you are travelling with a pet, transporting the animal is typically up to the discretion of the patrol mechanic who attends to the breakdown and is done so at the owner’s own risk.
In the event that the patrol mechanic is unwilling to allow your pet into the cab, or if there simply isn’t enough room for them, they will either need to be towed in your vehicle, or you may be required to arrange alternative transportation on your own.
How much does it cost to have car breakdown cover?
Allianz Assistance £36.50
GEM Motoring Assist is available.
Green Flag £24.64
LV Britannia Rescue £30
Is having breakdown cover really necessary?
In a word, absolutely, and this is especially true if you drive a vehicle that isn’t as dependable as others. Using our guide to the most reliable automobiles, you can determine whether or not your vehicle is prone to developing problems. If you have no breakdown cover and need to hire a breakdown service, the bill may easily run into the hundreds of pounds.
And despite the fact that it might be tempting to save money up front by just getting basic cover, you could end up having to pay out significant sums of money if your vehicle breaks down on your driveway (the most likely location for you to need to call out a breakdown service) or when you are very far away from home.
Where are the most common auto repair shops?
At home, 47% of the total
In the city, 26%
15% of residents live in rural or outlying areas.
12% of travel is on a motorway or dual road.
How much does it cost to purchase protection in the event of an unexpected event?
We contacted some of the most reputable suppliers of auto breakdown assistance and asked them how much it would cost to call out a recovery vehicle in three distinct scenarios, depending on whether you had basic protection or none at all.
In most cases, the cost of joining is included in these fees, in addition to an additional fee for “emergency call-outs.” This can result in far higher expenditures than would have been incurred had the individual simply chosen to purchase more comprehensive coverage from the beginning. COM
How to reduce the expenses associated with breakdown cover
Compare different breakdown cover options.
Make a list of potential providers by selecting the most relevant findings from our breakdown cover surveys. Take into account your requirements and pick the level of service that best fits them. You can compare costs online or by calling the various firms. If you’ve found a quotation for the same service elsewhere that’s lower than the one your favourite supplier gave you, give them a call and see if they can meet or beat it (take a look at our haggling tips, below).
Think outside of the big three.
Although the AA, RAC, and Green Flag have the biggest market share of everyone we examine, our findings show that other companies may provide services of an as high quality – and frequently at prices that are more affordable.
Do not make monthly payments.
If you can do it financially, paying for something on an annual basis rather than on a monthly basis will save you money. By default, the AA and RAC websites will display monthly payments; however, if you choose to pay annually, you will receive the following discounts:
As part of your auto insurance policy or packaged bank account, you can receive free or discounted breakdown assistance.
Accessories for automobile insurance
Try to get a car insurance policy from a business that you like that comes with a breakdown add-on. This is presuming that the car insurance deal itself is something you want. For instance, if you go with NFU Mutual for your auto insurance, the RAC will provide you with complimentary basic breakdown cover at no additional cost. If you also want house cover, which is recommended by us, it will cost you an additional £35; national recovery is included in that price. When compared to the solo protection offered by RAC, this represents a saving of £115.
a pre-packaged form of a bank account
The Nationwide Flexplus is the packaged bank account that has received the greatest rating from us. It will cost you £13 per month, which comes out to £156 per year. You will receive worldwide travel insurance that includes coverage for winter sports, mobile phone coverage of up to £1,500, and breakdown recovery services in the UK and Europe from LV Britannia Rescue (which normally costs £142 for stand-alone European breakdown policy). The value of bank accounts that come with additional fees is up for debate. On the other hand, if you intend to drive your car to Europe, perhaps with skis in the trunk so that you can make use of the winter sport insurance, then this account can be something you want to take into consideration. Learn more about the many types of bank accounts.
Do you plan on purchasing a new vehicle within the next year?
If you are considering purchasing a new vehicle within the next twelve months, you should inquire about the cancellation and refund policies of any existing third-party breakdown providers at the time of your policy’s renewal (but before you actually renew your policy). Because the manufacturer of your new car will provide you with free coverage, you should avoid purchasing additional insurance policies. In most cases, you will be eligible for a refund calculated on a pro-rata basis, taking into account the length of time remaining on your present agreement; however, this is not always the case. There will be an administrative fee deducted from the pro-rata reimbursement on occasion. It is possible that you will not be eligible for a refund if you have filed a claim during the year that your coverage is valid for, and some businesses do not provide refunds under any circumstances. All freshly instituted regulations are subject to a cooling-off period of fourteen days. If you decide to cancel your policy within the first 14 days of purchasing it or renewing it, you should be eligible for a full refund. According to our research, the Automobile Association of America (AA) is the only third-party service provider that offers the option to pause coverage temporarily and then pick it up again at a later time if necessary. In most cases, you will be required to pause your coverage for at least three months.
How to negotiate for better terms on your breakdown cover Auto repair shops anticipate you will try to lower their prices.
Because it is typically more cost effective for them to maintain the clients they already have rather than to recruit new ones, their price structures include room for negotiation. In the auto breakdown study that we conducted in 2021, we discovered that more than three quarters of respondents who negotiated with their provider on renewal had a reduced price. This was one of the findings.
The vast majority of negotiations are still conducted over the phone. Try live chat instead if the thought of having an uncomfortable discussion is keeping you from taking the next step. Because of this, you will also have the opportunity to preserve a written record of what was discussed. We questioned people who had previously worked in sales and been effective at bargaining for their best suggestions, which include the following:
Mentioning any problems that you’ve had with the service provider
Bringing attention to the amount of time that you have been a client
Specifying the frequency with which you’ve utilised the service.
The script we use makes negotiating a breeze.
Use our script to increase your chances of receiving a better price from an existing provider, and simplify the process of bargaining at the same time. “I would like to know why I would be paying extra this year,” the customer said after receiving the renewal notice.
Watch for an answer before continuing. There is a good chance that the corporation will point out that new clients are frequently extended special introductory pricing.
“I’ve seen better deals from other suppliers than what I’m now getting with you,” you say. “I’ve seen better deals from other providers.”
Hold tight and listen to the call handler’s response. You have the option of increasing your level of persuasion if they do not offer to lower your rate.
“I am able to negotiate a better price with [name of provider].” I will terminate my insurance with you if you are unable to equal or beat the price that I found elsewhere. If you are not satisfied with the offer that has been made to you, you should not continue to put up with it. There is no use in paying more than necessary. Instead, make advantage of our research on firms that provide car breakdown cover so that we can direct you toward a good provider who comes highly recommended by previous clients.
The best way to improve the quality of service provided by your breakdown provider
Make use of the app provided by the breakdown service.
If you have a smartphone and can obtain a signal, utilising the app provided by your breakdown cover company to organise a callout is an excellent option that comes with a number of benefits. The most important function is that it can report your precise location to the provider of your breakdown service.
You can no longer refer to the layby you are in by saying something like “by the tree, right after a bridge.” The percentage of respondents who used an app to report their breakdown in our survey in 2021 was 15%, which is more than twice as many as in 2020.
People have complained to us that their vehicle was damaged while being towed, but the breakdown provider has denied responsibility for the damage.
You can make an effort to avoid this situation by snapping photographs of your broken-down vehicle, just as you would do in the event that you were in an accident. After that, take pictures of any more damage that occurs while you are towing it, just in case. However, exercise caution and only snap photographs when it is secure to do so.
Is it required by law to get breakdown coverage on your vehicle?
No. You are not required to purchase emergency roadside assistance for your vehicle. After a breakdown, you have the option to purchase breakdown cover, but doing so will cost you. When you sign up for coverage at the scene of a breakdown if you have no coverage at all, you will be subject to steep fees, which may be more than £200 depending on the circumstances. In the event that you just have basic roadside assistance and your vehicle breaks down in your driveway or you need to be towed more than 100 miles to your destination, you have the option to immediately upgrade your coverage.
The European Union’s protection and Brexit
There is no evidence that the Brexit has had any impact whatsoever, either in terms of pricing or in any other way, on breakdown cover in Europe. The unfortunate news is that you won’t be able to leave the UK until you remember to purchase European breakdown cover. If you break down when travelling outside of the country and do not have the required coverage, your provider might not be able to help you.
Existing customers may be eligible for individualised pricing based on the specifics of their situation, or the companies may be able to connect them with international business associates. But if you’re going to be driving in Europe, getting European coverage set up before you leave will save you a lot of bother and money in the long run.
Car breakdown service providers often provide annual or single-trip coverage options; therefore, you should investigate this option before going on your vacation.