Why you probably don’t need boiler cover – and, if you do still want it, how to save money and avoid being charged over the odds
Boiler cover is financially worthwhile for very few people, our research finds, year on year. Paying for boiler cover means that, if your boiler breaks down, the contract provider will send an engineer to assess the problem and try to fix it. Boiler cover usually also includes an annual service.
In June and July 2021, we surveyed 7,930 Which? members about their use of boiler cover. We’ve also analysed policy details from a range of boiler cover providers. We found that paying for services and repairs when you need them works out cheaper than taking out boiler cover in most cases.
For many, though, having a policy in place offers peace of mind, as you know you’ll be covered if your boiler breaks in the depths of winter. So, if you do still want cover, read on to find out how to avoid being stung by escalating prices. Boiler servicing is an essential part of maintenance that can reduce the need for cover and repairs. Check out our advice on getting the best boiler service for tips and customer scores.
Types of boiler cover
The level of protection provided by boiler cover and servicing contracts varies depending on the company and the package you purchase. Some policies cover just your boiler; others also include repairs for central heating, plumbing and drains. Some may even cover your electrical wiring or pest control.
Can I get cover for an older boiler?
Some policies set maximum ages for boilers they will allow you to take out cover for – usually 15 years. So, if you have a very old one, you may need to shop around for cover. Some policies also limit how much they will pay towards repairs. If you take out cover, it’s worth choosing a policy with an unlimited claim cost, which will also replace your boiler (or pay some money towards a replacement) if it’s no longer economical to repair it. This is particularly useful if you have an older model, which may need more expensive repairs once something goes wrong.
Do you need boiler cover?
Which? members in our survey paid an average of £297 a year for a boiler cover package. In general, the more your cover includes, the more you’ll pay for it. But cover is rarely a cost-effective option, our research shows year after year, as the monthly payments add up to more than paying for an annual service and repairs when needed.
Our latest survey found that a policy with British Gas would have been worth it for only 0.4% of respondents. That’s comparing respondents with a policy including at least a service and repairs against those who didn’t have boiler cover, and just paid for a service and repairs when needed.
For other providers, the picture isn’t much better. A policy with a provider other than British Gas would have been worth it for just 1% of respondents, we found. It’s true that some policies include extras such as plumbing, drains, home electrics and pest control. Carefully consider whether you’ll need any of these extras before signing up for them.
How important is peace of mind?
What if you’re happy to pay extra for the peace of mind it provides, as you’re reassured by knowing your provider will send out an engineer when you need one? You’ll need to evaluate how important peace of mind is to you and whether there’s another, cheaper way you can obtain it. Do you have enough savings to get your boiler repaired or, in a worst-case scenario, replaced?
Could you set by monthly savings towards a boiler repair or replacement instead of paying a provider? Also, consider how likely it is that you’ll need an emergency call-out.
We found that only 21% of people surveyed had to call an engineer for boiler repairs in the past 12 months. So the majority of people with cover are paying every month for a policy that is only providing them with an annual service, as they don’t need any repairs. If you need to call out an engineer, use our Trusted Traders tool to find trusted engineers in your area:
Does home insurance cover boilers?
A standard home insurance policy won’t usually cover the cost of replacing or repairing a broken boiler. However, many insurance providers will add cover as an extra, if you are willing to pay for it. They might call this ‘home emergency cover’ instead of boiler cover. Our research shows that this isn’t a popular option. Check that you’re not already paying for boiler cover as an extra on your home insurance before signing up.
How to get cheap boiler cover
1. Don’t pay for more cover than you need
The average cost of cover varies widely depending on the type of policy you get, so think about what would most suit you and your household. If your home has central heating, you may want to include this as part of your cover – this will include protection for your radiators. But look out for any superfluous extras in your policy – for example, things already covered in your existing home insurance, such as electrical problems, pipes and drainage.
2. Consider paying for your boiler cover annually
Investigate whether you could save money by paying annually for a year’s boiler cover, compared with spreading the cost in monthly payments across the year.
3. Switch boiler provider
Sadly, loyalty doesn’t pay. Of customers who renewed the same policy with the same provider, only 3% received a lower renewal quote. And 21% were given a quote for the same price. If you’re happy with your provider, but not so happy with the price, try haggling. Your provider may be willing to reduce the premium to keep your custom. Only 27% of people we surveyed said they tried to haggle, but many who did managed to reduce the quote.
4. Pay an excess fee
Increasing your excess payment could save money overall, despite sounding counterintuitive. An excess is a one-off fee, usually £60, charged when a company has to send out an engineer. If your policy includes an excess fee, the monthly or yearly payments will be lower. Our survey found that 20% of people don’t know how much their excess is, while 59% have a £0 excess. Our results showed less than 25% of people called for repairs in the past 12 months. So a £0 excess is rarely worth it, as a year of higher payments will be more expensive than paying a £60 excess charge if needed.
Should I have an annual boiler service?
Yes. An annual service is essential for keeping your boiler running efficiently and safely. We recommend you get one whether or not you take out breakdown cover. At Which?, we only review and publish information about contracts that offer an annual service. Regular checks help ensure your boiler is working properly and may even help prolong its life. Many providers will only cover you if you have an annual service. Some providers don’t include an annual service as part of your cover, so their contracts can seem cheaper.
Is there anything I should watch out for?
Take note of attractive introductory prices. For example, Homeserve clearly state that its basic boiler cover will cost £96 for the first year, but rise to £210 for the second year. We’ve come across other companies that quote only the cost of the first year of cover, then hike up their prices in the second year. In fact, 70% of boiler cover owners we asked faced a price increase when their yearly renewal was offered. Before choosing a provider, check what the cost of its contract is beyond the first 12 months, or after any introductory discount has finished. Keep an eye on your bill when it comes to renewal time, and don’t be afraid to haggle or shop around. Some providers may be able to offer you a price as if you were a new customer. While breakdown cover may give you peace of mind, you should also remember that some problems may not be covered by a servicing contract. A typical example is where sludge build-up occurs. This would require a full system flush (which can cost more than £400), but not all of the companies we looked at cover the cost of this in their policies.
Boiler policy exclusions you need to know about
Boiler age If you have quite an old boiler (more than 15 years), some providers will not accept you as a new customer.
Boiler life Existing customers should also be wary. Some providers won’t renew the cover if your boiler reaches a certain age.
Cost limit If your boiler breaks and you need costly repairs, a policy with no limit on repair costs would be best. Some have a limit of £1,500 a year, while others are unlimited. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully before starting any policy.
We scoured the T&Cs for cover policies and found instances where they state that the company won’t tell you or refund you if you’re paying for overlapping cover.
Other policies make no mention of the possibility of overlapping cover. This means you could be charged twice for cover of the same boiler part or problem. Make sure you know exactly what policies you are purchasing, so you aren’t paying for something to be covered twice.
We found these examples of terms and conditions showing providers’ views on overlapping cover:
British Gas: ‘Overlapping cover: If you have several different products, some parts of your system might be covered twice.’
Homeserve: ‘Overlapping cover: If you have several different policies, some elements of your cover may overlap. In the instances of overlapping cover, we will not issue a refund.’