Having your car breakdown on the road can be a frightening experience. Often times people feel stranded and helpless, unsure of where to go or who to turn to. This is particularly the case for those who do not have proper breakdown coverage. Breakdown coverage provides roadside assistance, repair or services to help you get back on the road or to a safe location.
However, policies can differ depending on the provider, the vehicle, the type of breakdown, and the level of coverage chosen. The following information serves as a guide to help consumers determine the best breakdown cover for their situation.
Types of Coverage
Most providers in the UK offer distinct tiers of coverage ranging from basic roadside assistance to full packages that include breakdown assistance in Europe. While the details of these packages can vary from company to company, generally they fall into five categories:
- Tier 1 – Roadside assistance and recovery to a local garage only
- Tier 2 – Roadside assistance and recovery to either a local garage or any UK destination for you and your passengers
- Tier 3 – Roadside assistance, recovery to a local garage and any UK destination for you and your passengers, and fix at home
- Tier 4 – Roadside assistance, recovery to a local garage and any UK destination for you and your passengers, fix at home, and coverage of onward travel expenses
- Tier 5 – All services from previous tiers plus European breakdown assistance
As with most insurance products, the advantage of lower tier coverage is basically a matter of price. In exchange, each tier is addled by various limitations. For example, Tier 1 policies will only provide recovery to a local garage within a specific distance of your breakdown, such as 10 to 15 miles.
This can be quite a conundrum if your car breaks down in a remote area. On the other hand, a higher level of service will provide towing to any destination in the UK.
Choosing a tier that does not include fix at home can also limit your service. One of the more common breakdown issues people experience is the inability to get their car started in the morning. However, lower level coverage will only provide assistance if the breakdown happens at least 1 to 5 miles from your home. If this type of vehicle breakdown is a concern, a more comprehensive coverage would be suitable for your needs.
In the event your car cannot be immediately repaired, having an onward travel option can get you to your destination at no extra cost. This can come in the form of public transportation, or via a courtesy car to use while repairs are made on your vehicle. Lastly, choosing a tier that includes European breakdown coverage may be critical for those who drive frequently out of the country.
Having your car breakdown in a country where you don’t speak the language can be particularly harrowing, and it is important you keep these factors in mind when choosing a package.
It is also vital to remember that companies will provide flexibility in the products they offer. Although they will being by offering packages that adhere to these five categories, many of the services included in higher tiers can be added on to lower level packages, as opposed to you being forced to opt for a full coverage plan.
Typically consumers can opt for one of two types of breakdown insurance policies. The first is the standard automatic service that most drivers are familiar with. The second, referred to as Call on Payout, requires upfront payment when an engineer is called out for repairs.
The policyholder then makes a claim with the insurance company to have their money returned. Each policy has its own advantages and risks, and it is crucial for policyholders to understand the differences before choosing a plan.
With your standard automatic service, a customer pays an annual fee to the company in exchange for breakdown coverage. In the event your car breaks down, you simply call the service to have the car fixed. The company will typically have their own engineer handle the issue, and the cost of the repair is included in your annual subscription.
Most providers will institute a limit on how many times you can request service during the subscription period. In the UK, some of the chief providers of automatic service include the RAC, the AA, and Breakdown Direct.
Pay and Claim
As the name implies, with a pay and claim policy a customer is responsible for paying for the repair service at the time of a breakdown. Rather than use its own employees, the provider relies on third party engineers from a local firm to repair the vehicle. Therefore these firms require immediate payment for services rendered. Afterward, the policyholder contacts the breakdown provider to file a claim. Major providers that offer pay and claim service include GEM Motoring Assist.
The difference between automatic service and pay and claim is convenience versus price. Automatic service saves you the hassle of filing a claim or making an immediate payment. On the other hand, pay on callout services are generally cheaper than their counterparts, as they put a larger burden on the policyholder.
Covering You or Your Car
In addition to choosing a level of coverage, you must also determine whether or not to cover yourself or your vehicle.
- Covering Yourself – This coverage is ideal for drivers who use more than one vehicle. Covering yourself means breakdown services will be provided regardless of what car you are driving. Some motoring organisations will even provide breakdown cover if you are a passenger in another individual’s car. Although this type of coverage offers additional flexibility, normally it comes with an extra surcharge.
- Covering Your Car – Conversely, if more than one person drives your vehicle, you may choose to cover your car. This is especially prudent in households with one car and multiple drivers, such as you and a partner or spouse. In the event of a breakdown, the driver becomes irrelevant, as the car itself is covered. This is the type of policy that comes standard with most offerings, and is usually cheaper than covering an individual driver.
European Breakdown Coverage
Each year it is important to evaluate how and where you will use your car before you select or renew a breakdown policy. If you are planning on driving abroad, the first thing you need to contemplate is the cost and types of European breakdown coverage. Whereas a vehicle breakdown in the UK can be a nuisance, having one in Europe can ruin your entire holiday, both emotionally and financially.
There are plenty of options to consider when purchasing breakdown coverage in Europe. You can opt for a short trip policy that protects you when you travel, or you can add European cover to your annual breakdown policy. When shopping for coverage, it is critical to not only examine the prices but the expansiveness of the coverage itself.
Some policies do not cover breakdown in specific countries. For business policyholders involved in international shipping, be sure to choose a package that offers coverage for your entire fleet.
Other Policy Considerations
In order to make a policy more attractive, companies will often provide extra add-ons to make a product more competitive. Factoring in the following promotional items will help you ultimately make a better and more informed decision.
- Courtesy Car – Some higher tier options provide a courtesy car for breakdowns included with an annual subscription. Generally this is reserved for Tier 3 and above.
- Call Limit – Almost all policies have a set call limit, or the number of times you can request a recovery per year. However, not all policies have equivalent limits. For instance, AA and RAC have a limit of 6 or 7 calls per year, whereas smaller companies may limit their services to 4. On the other hand, smaller limits may come at a lower price. Weighing the risk, costs, and rewards will allow you to determine the most suitable option.
- Excess – Most breakdown policies do not provide full coverage for more extensive vehicle issues. For example, if your car requires garage work, it will likely not be covered by breakdown cover.
- Age of Your Car – Some policies will charge a premium for breakdown services of older cars. In these cases, it might be more advantageous to cover the individual as opposed to the car itself.
Vehicle Breakdown Tips and Information
In the event your car breaks down, it is vital that you stay safe and follow the rules of the road until the situation is resolved. The provenance of panic is often uncertainty and ignorance. Educating yourself on how to handle a crisis can help you stay calm and collected if and when it occurs. The following is a list of tips and information on what to do should your car suffer a breakdown:
Breakdown on a Motorway
Ideally, you should exit the motorway at the next junction or find your way onto a service area. Unfortunately, the nature of the breakdown may prevent you from doing so. If circumstances force you to stop immediately, indicate your intention and pull over safely onto the hard shoulder, turning your wheels to the left after you stop.
If possible, attempt to park your car near an emergency roadside telephone, which are equidistantly spaced about a mile apart across the motorway. Before exiting the car, engage the handbrake and turn on your hazard lights and sidelights. In times of poor visibility, turning on your rear fog lights can also warn incoming drivers of your location.
When exiting the vehicle, always depart from the doors on the near side, opposite the trailing traffic. When waiting for assistance, stand as far back from the road as possible. If you brought any animals or pets, leave them inside the car.
Do not attempt to make any repairs yourself. Even if the task is relatively simple, attempting to make repairs on the road can be highly dangerous. The safer and smarter course of action is to use your mobile telephone and call for assistance. Relay the exact location of your vehicle to the proper authorities. If you are unable to get service, walk to the nearest emergency roadside telephone.
Approximately every 100 meters you will find a blue and white marker post placed along the hard shoulder of the motorway. These will have an arrow directing you to the nearest telephone. Remember to be mindful of traffic when walking.
On some occasions it may be impossible to reach the hard shoulder. If so, pull over on the central reservation. Do not attempt to cross the motorway to reach an emergency phone. Instead use your mobile and dial 999 before calling your breakdown provider. If you are involved in an accident and feel threatened by another individual, return to your vehicle and lock your doors. With any breakdown, it can take up to an hour for help to arrive.
Breakdown in a Free Recovery Area
If your car breaks down in a free recovery zone, there are SOS telephone boxes you can utilise to call for free assistance. Marker posts are strewn along the motorway which indicate the direction of the nearest SOS telephone box. Using the SOS phone as opposed to a mobile allows the motorway police call centre to determine your location immediately.
Remember that free recovery vehicles will only deliver you outside of the free recovery area, at which point you are responsible for contacting your own breakdown recovery service.
Pinpoint Your Location
Having you car breakdown can be a daunting experience. The more detailed description you can provide of your location, the faster you can receive assistance and be on your way. Without access to an SOS telephone box, however, this can be difficult as much of the motorway is either redundant or simply devoid of any markers with which you can identify where you are.
For this reason in the UK there are sign posts placed roughly 1 mile apart which lists key information regarding the road you are travelling on, the direction you are headed, and your distance from the start of the motorway.
Off the Motorway
If your breakdown occurs outside the motorway, it may be safe enough to take care of the problem yourself and judge whether or not you need recovery assistance. Taking the following precautionary measures can help ensure you and your passengers remain safe:
- Pull your car over and turn on your hazard lights. Make sure your car is not obstructing traffic and exit the vehicle on the side away from traffic.
- Keep a reflective jacket in your car and put it on to increase your visibility.
- Carry a warning triangle. At the time of a breakdown, walk 50 yards behind the car and place the triangle as a warning to other drivers. Remember to retrieve the triangle once you have finished making repairs.
- Commence repairs on the vehicle. Avoid walking on the side of traffic. If you are unable to fix the vehicle, call for breakdown assistance.
Common Causes of Breakdowns
Naturally, the best precaution you can take is to avoid a breakdown altogether. Each year over 6 million vehicles suffer some form of breakdown, many of which could have been avoid with the use of a few protective measures. Here are the top 5 reasons for vehicular breakdowns.
The primary of cause of breakdowns in the UK are related to battery failure and replacement. The most common reason for this is human error, as people often forget to turn off headlights, interior lights, or the radio while the car is no longer running. Batteries must be charged periodically, and neglecting to drive your car can also extinguish battery life.
Poor maintenance is another culprit for a weakened battery. It is important that you keep the terminals clean and that your alternator is functioning properly. In some cases, a battery may die simply due to old age.
Another common cause of breakdowns are tyre problems. Flat tyres, blowouts, and other vagaries of the road are risks most drivers expect will happen once in their lifetime. However, on occasion these problems are not simply a product of bad luck, but incidents that can be avoided by taking proper care of your tyres.
Verify that your tyres are inflated every fortnight and refer to the vehicle manual to find the optimal pressure. This can vary depending on your driving speed and load so be sure to adjust it accordingly during long trips. Have your tyres re-aligned regularly to maintain balance. Always have a spare tyre ready for use in the event of a flat or other emergency.
Educate yourself on how to change a tyre and consult the manual for guidance if you have any further questions.
Losing your keys is one of the more frustrating reasons to contact a recovery truck. Furthermore, if your vehicle is equipped with a transponder key for security, it can be quite expensive and time consuming to replace. Having a spare transponder key made in advance can diminish the hassle of obtaining a replacement.
As a bad alternator can result in a breakdown, it is a good idea to watch for indicators that the device is failing. Persistent battery issues or dimming headlights when the engine is off can portend a bad alternator. In some cases the belts that drive the alternator can also be responsible for running the water pump and radiator fan.
A sudden rise in engine temperature can point to a malfunctioning belt. This should trigger a red warning light on your dashboard, at which point you should pull over immediately and call for recovery.
The starter motor is generally a durable part of your car, but even it can fail on occasion. If the starter motor turns too slowly or fails to crank the engine, your car will not start. Having your car undergo regular checkups at a garage should help you catch any starter motor issues before they occur.
Prepare a Survival Kit
Finally, it never hurts to be prepared for a breakdown in a territory miles away from civilisation. When embarking on long journeys, ready a survival kit which includes these materials:
- Food and water
- Torch or other light source
- Road atlas
- Warning triangle
- Backup mobile battery or change for a phone box
- Reflective vest
Breakdown Providers & Finding a Suitable Breakdown Policy
Once you have mastered the basics of breakdown coverage, it is time to find a company that offers a plan with suitable coverage and a palatable price. When shopping for insurance products, remember to examine all options rather than limiting yourself to major companies such as Green Flag and the AA.
The key to securing a good deal is to maximise your options and pay attention to the details. This is accomplished by looking at all breakdown providers, car insurance companies, as well as offerings from banks and financial institutes. Many of them utilise the same network of engineers and mechanics, meaning the quality of your service will not diminish.
However, simply choosing a plan by face value may often leave you with inadequate coverage. Pay attention to the minutiae of each offering to ensure there are no extraneous fees and that you are covered for situations that are most applicable to you.
Established in 1971, Green Flag Motoring Assistance provides breakdown coverage to over 5 million customers in the UK. They also launched a European division in 1999. Of all breakdown calls made by Green Flag customers, 86% were resolved at roadside with an average recovery time under 30 minutes. The company also provides discounts to customers who go the entire year without a callout.
Each of Green Flag’s 5 breakdown policies include a free messaging service to notify family and friends. In addition to cars, Green Flag provides breakdown coverage for caravans, motorbikes, light vans and fleet vehicles. Prices start from £20 for the lowest tier to £120 for comprehensive coverage.
- Rescue – Roadside assistance, towing to nearest garage, free messaging service, starting at £20
- Rescue Plus – Fix at home service included with standard Rescue policy, from £45
- Recovery – Rescue service with recovery for you and your passengers to your home or preferred destination, from £40
- Recovery Plus – Recovery service with your choice of courtesy car or emergency accommodation, standard rail fare to collect your car, fix at home service included, starting at £69
- EuroPlus – All inclusive service with additional 90 day European cover for cars under 16 years of age, from £120
As part of a partnership with AXA Assistance, Insurance Choice Breakdown has provided recovery and repair services to customers since 1983. The company presently has over 600,000 clients and provide an average recovery time of 39 minutes, with priority given to women and the disabled.
They offer four levels of service starting from £19 to £69, which aims to provide customers more flexibility at lower levels of coverage. Each tier provides 24-hour motoring legal advice. Key services are also included in some options.
- Copper – Roadside assistance, towing to a local garage, policy excess of £40 per callout must be paid before recovery is dispatched, starting from £19 per year
- Bronze – Copper service with no £40 per callout excess, free messaging service, begins at £29
- Silver – Bronze service plus courtesy car or emergency accommodation for you and six passengers up to £160 provided you are at least 25 miles from home, fix at home service, starting at £49
- Gold – Silver service with additional European repair and recovery for vehicles less than 10 years old, repatriation to the UK, spare parts and garage storage costs, replacement keys, replacement driver, emergency repairs due to theft, from £69
One of the older breakdown providers on the market, the RAC was founded in 1897. In 1901, the company brought about uniformed patrols and was instrumental in the installation of emergency telephone boxes on the road in 1912. With members totalling over 7 million, the RAC is one of the more popular providers in the UK.
Despite its long heritage, the company provides a number of technologically savvy services, including online route planning. In addition to its five levels of coverage starting from £28 to £129, they also offer a £9.90 per day European coverage plan for those who want temporary breakdown protection.
- Roadside Assistance – UK roadside assistance for cars beyond a quarter mile from home, towing to RAC approved garages, accident care and advice, from £28
- Roadside & Nationwide Recovery – RA policy coverage plus recovery for you, your car, and seven passengers to anywhere in the UK, plans from £69
- Roadside & At Home – RA policy coverage plus towing to a local garage within 10 miles and fix at home services, starting at £66
- Roadside, Nationwide Recovery & At Home – Combines the previous three policies by providing both recovery services and fix at home assistance, from £99
- Roadside, Nationwide Recovery, At Home & Onward Travel – Onward Travel add-on provides the option of a courtesy car for up to 72 hours, emergency accommodation, or onward travel limited to £150 per person, £500 per group, plans starting from £129 annually
- European Breakdown Cover – £9.90 per day service applies roadside assistance and recovery in over 47 European countries, repatriation for you and your passengers to the UK, 24/7 English speaking helpline
The Automobile Association was formed by a group of motoring enthusiasts on June 29, 1905 at a restaurant in London’s West End. The original intent of the group was to help motorists avoid speed traps laid by police. By 1967, the organisation was involved in insurance brokering, which led to the establishment of AA Relay service in 1973.
The service would provide assistance to broken down vehicles and transport its passengers to any destination in the country. More than a century later, the AA is one of the premier providers of insurance and breakdown coverage, assisting over 1000 roadside breakdowns per year. With six policy options starting from £28 to £77.25, there are plenty of plans to choose from.
In 1967, The AA insurance broking service was introduced. In 1973, AA Relay was launched. This service guaranteed to transport any seriously broken-down vehicle along with it’s driver, passengers, luggage and caravan or trailer to any destination in Britain.
The AA also offers certification for hotels, restaurants, and bed & breakfasts. Driving schools are available to educate new and old drivers alike. Members are privy to discounts on a wide range of products as well.
- Roadside – Roadside assistance for cars at least a quarter mile from home, towing to a local garage, starting at £28
- Relay – Roadside policy coverage plus recovery to any mainland UK location for you, your car, and seven passengers, option for personal cover at the same price as vehicle, plans begin at £77.25
- Home Start – Roadside policy coverage plus fix at home service, starting from £72.75
- Stay Mobile – Roadside policy coverage with onward travel, option for courtesy car up to 72 hours or overnight accommodation, prices starting at £64.12
- Breakdown Repair Cover – Labour and replacement costs covered up to £500 minus £25 excess, up to five claims per year, payment arrangements made by AA, starting at £69.50
- European Breakdown Cover – Roadside repair and assistance in over 40 European nations, alternative transport costs and emergency overnight accommodation, towing to the nearest garage, legal protection up to £75,000, vehicle recovery to the UK up to the value of the car, option for single trip or annual policy, starting at £69.50
A subsidiary of Britannia Rescue, Asda Breakdown has been in operation since 1983. They have two specific offerings, one for service in the UK and Ireland and the other for recovery in Europe. Their products begin at £73.92 annually for domestic assistance and £129 annually for European coverage.
Founded by the Civil Service Motoring Association (CSMA), Britannia Rescue has operated in breakdown recovery for 28 years. Asda Breakdown in particular has been awarded ‘Best Buy’ status four times by consumer magazine Which. The service has an average response time of under 40 minutes, with 75% of the breakdowns repaired on the road. Preference is given to individuals driving alone, with small children, or under an immediate threat.
- UK and Republic of Ireland Breakdown Cover – Roadside assistance, recovery to your home or a specified garage, fix at home service, overnight accommodation or courtesy car, coverage for any connected caravan and trailer during breakdown, plans beginning at £6.16 per month
- European Breakdown Cover – Contains all the service and amenities of ASDA’s UK Breakdown Cover along with repatriation to the UK for you and up to 7 passengers, emergency courtesy car or accommodation in Europe, 24/7 UK based helpline, coverage for trips that last 180 days, starting at £10.75 per month
EA handles over 250,000 claims and recovery cases annually. They offer a range of products including insurance for travel, health, home, and motoring, and operate 24 hours, 7 days a week throughout the year. Owned by the Generali Group, the company was originally formed in France during the 1960s. They offer three levels of breakdown coverage in the UK, featuring standard service, fix at home protection, and European cover.
- UK Motor Breakdown – Roadside assistance, recovery to the nearest garage for you and your passengers, travel coverage to your destination or home for protracted repairs, legal advice and helpline, trailers and caravans included, plans starting at £45
- UK Motor Breakdown & Homestart – Identical coverage to UK Motor Breakdown with added support if your car breaks down at home, policies offered from £65
- European Motor Breakdown – Roadside assistance in over 40 European countries, repatriation for you and your passengers in the event the car cannot be repaired, English speaking helpline open 24/7, coverage starts from the moment you leave to when you return, extras available such as winter sports and pet travel coverage, plans begin at a cost of £10.60 per day
GEM Motoring Assist
GEM began as the Company of Veteran Motorists (CVM) back in 1932. Their chief objective was to attenuate the rising number of accidents on the road. In 1978, they introduced breakdown coverage and inexpensive roadside assistance. Today, the company services about 60,000 members, and in 2008 were voted the top roadside assistance company by the readers of Auto Express magazine.
The company has three tiers of service for their customers starting at £46.35. In addition to cars, GEM Motoring Assist provides breakdown cover for vans, motorbikes, trailers and caravans. Its Recovery RECLAIM policy is notable for allowing customers to the option of cheaper coverage in exchange for being responsible for upfront payments.
- Roadside – Roadside assistance for breakdowns more than a mile from home, towing to a local garage, service for motorbikes and small vans, starting at £46.35
- Recovery RECLAIM – Pay and claim policy with coverage for roadside and home breakdowns, recovery to any UK destination for you, your car, and six passengers, emergency overnight accommodation, onward travel, coverage for private vehicles in the event of an accident, theft, vandalism, mechanical failure, or driver sickness, starting at £62.55
- Recovery EXTRA – Offers similar services to Recovery RECLAIM in a subscription format, with plans from £81.90 per year
In operation since 1993, Autonational Rescue is a subsidiary of Equity Red Star, who have been helping motorists for over a century. Autonational Rescue attempts to set itself apart from the competition through a no claims discount on your breakdown cover.
Each policy comes with an introductory discount of 25% if you did not file a claim in the previous year. An additional discount of 50% is offered on a second vehicle. Average response time is 43 minutes for six policy types.
- Roadside SuperService – Roadside assistance on breakdowns over a mile away from home, towing to the nearest garage, from £30
- Recovery SuperService – Roadside SuperService plus recovery for you, your car, and up to 5 passengers to any mainland location in the UK, starting at £57
- Home SuperService – Roadside Superservice and fix at home, from £48
- Emergency Travel – Roadside Superservice plus emergency travel assistance or overnight accommodation for breakdowns more than 25 miles from home up to £100, policies starting at £42
- Caravan SuperService – Roadside assistance and towing for your car, caravan (UK standard coupling required), or trailer to a nearby garage, from £39
- Total SuperService – Caravan Superservice plus fix at home and emergency travel expenses, starting at £66
Owned by AXA Assistance, the company has over 40 years of experience helping motorists. Breakdown Direct provides four levels of coverage with guaranteed prices. As a web company, they have little overhead and internal costs. Coverage is provided based on the age of your vehicle, allowing for multiple drivers to utilise the service.
All policies come with 24 hour legal advice and cover for trailers and caravans. Legal expenses up to £100,000 are available as well. Discounts up to 30% are offered on additional cars at the same address.
- Option 101 – Roadside assistance across the UK for breakdowns more than a mile from home, recovery to garages within 15 miles, free legal advice and cover for trailers and caravans, starting at £16.22
- Option 201 – 101 benefits plus recovery for you, your car and 6 passengers in the UK plus lost key insurance, policies beginning at £26.95
- Option 301 – 201 benefits with fix at home and legal expense coverage up to £100,000, starting at £62
- Option 401 – 301 benefits plus cover for driving in Western Europe, 31 days per trip and 90 days per subscription period, starting at £89 per year
ETA Breakdown Cover
The Environmental Transport Association is the largest transport and environmental charity in the UK. As a non-profit organisation, they are able to offer very competitive prices as well as carbon-neutral options for those who seek it.
They provide a 25% discount for members of Petrol Prices, a 4 year no claims discount, and 12 months of breakdown cover for the price of 9. Moreover, the ETA fixes on average 80% of breakdowns at roadside with coverage for a secondary vehicle starting at £16.
- Roadside – Roadside assistance for up to an hour with recovery to a local garage, cover for cars and motorbikes, starting at £18.67
- National Recovery – Roadside assistance, towing for you, you car, and your passengers to any destination in the UK, from £45.34
- Homestart – Roadside coverage plus fix at home benefits, starting at £47.25
- Hotel and Car Rental – Roadside coverage plus option of 5-day courtesy car rental, train tickets, or hotel accommodation, plans from £58.67
- Trailer Cover – Roadside assistance plus recovery service for cars and towed vehicles, from £53.67
- Drop off and Return – Roadside policy coverage, plus customer drop off at home if a garage is closed and return transportation the following day, starting at £53.67
- European Breakdown Cover – Expansion of standard coverage across Europe, from £123.01
How To Find The Cheapest Breakdown Cover
In the past, it was not uncommon for individuals to repair their own car at the roadside. However, as the road itself has become more dangerous and technological advancements have made cars increasingly complex, motorists today understand that having breakdown coverage is a fundamental requirement when owning a vehicle.
Nevertheless, while the expense may be necessary there are still plenty of ways to save on breakdown cover. This is true whether you own a car, van or motorbike. With that in mind, the following tips are designed to help you secure the cheapest quote for breakdown cover:
Tip 1: Cover Yourself or Your Car
For policies with one driver and one vehicle, choosing a coverage is a matter a finding the lowest price for your desired coverage. However, when there are multiple drivers or vehicles involved, you will have to determine whether or not to choose coverage for yourself or your car.
For example, with vehicle breakdown cover the provider agrees to repair or recover a vehicle regardless of who drives it. If you and a spouse or family member share a vehicle, it will be cheaper to cover the car instead of insuring each individual driver. Conversely, if you own more vehicles than there are drivers, it may make more sense to cover yourself. If the number of drivers and cars are equal, generally vehicle coverage is the cheaper option.
Tip 2: Choose a Coverage Level
As covered earlier in the guide, there are normally 5 categories of service, with different companies offering variations on each tier. This is not to imply, however, that offerings in the same tier are entirely equal. For instance, AA’s lower tier coverage offers roadside assistance on breakdowns 1/4 mile away from home, whereas most other companies, including Autonational, GEM, and Breakdown Direct will only provide assistance on breakdowns over a mile away.
Another example of the difference between companies is in the various onward travel options. Price limitations regarding taxi service or hotel accommodations are different depending on your policy. Some will agree to take all passengers to any destination in the UK, while other providers may limit the number of passengers, the available destinations, or both. Terms and conditions also apply to towing, as some businesses will only offer service to company approved garages. Naturally, the prices for each category also fluctuate from provider to provider.
Tip 3: Find Coverage with a No Claims Discount
Many insurance providers will reward members who do not make a callout during their subscription period. For drivers who rarely suffer a breakdown, a no claims discount is an excellent way to save on expenses while still being fully protected in the event of an emergency.
Tip 4: Pay and Claim
Most breakdown coverage is done through an annual subscription. At the time of a breakdown, the provider handles all the fees and recovery services. A Pay and Claim option allows you to handle and pay for the cost of repair, and file a claim for the expenses afterward. As you are responsible for paying the money upfront, a pay and claim subscription is generally cheaper than a standard breakdown cover.
Tip 5: Avoid Coverage You Don’t Need
Every individual is different and has different risks and needs. Yet often times coverage is limited to a handful of tiers, loaded with amenities you will never need and but forced to pay for. Most of these packages are offered by the major providers with little need to cater to niche groups. On the other hand, smaller companies often provide more flexibility, allowing you to cover yourself only for the areas you think are of the most risk.
In fact, even with major providers some members make the mistake of choosing a fully comprehensive package when all they require is roadside assistance. Many premium deals are loaded with annual European coverage, despite the fact that many members do not frequently travel. Occasional trips are often better served by temporary coverage rather than full time European protection.
When choosing breakdown cover, it is a good idea to make a list of items you deem superfluous in the event of a breakdown, and adjust your search accordingly.
Tip 6: Haggle
Unlike other consumer products, with insurance the prices are always negotiable. Quotes are not a set price, but rather a bargaining point from which to barter. This is true not only for new customers but those who are reaching the end of their current subscription. Many consumers make the mistake of automatically renewing their breakdown and other insurance policies when they could otherwise receive a more favourable quote.
It is important for both old and new customers alike to shop around for better breakdown policies. Even if you are pleased with your present situation, finding a cheaper deal provides you with leverage that you can use to coax your existing provider into giving you a better rate.
Tip 7: Compare Breakdown Cover Online
Often times the largest obstacle to finding a better deal is our own laziness. We convince ourselves that shopping for a new insurance policy is a waste of time, when in reality we don’t want to do the research. So we click renew, lay languidly on the couch and return to another year of television torpor.
However, these days a click is all that is required to perform thorough, meticulous research. Online comparison sites can scour the internet for hundreds of policies and whittle them down to a price and coverage tier you are comfortable with.
Tip 8: Take Advantage of Bundles
Not all coverage is provided by specialised breakdown providers. Insurance companies, banks, and other lenders often package breakdown service as part of a loan bundle. If you have an existing insurance product or loan with a particular company, inquire whether they have a vehicle breakdown service and the costs involved in signing up.
Breakdown Insurance FAQ
What steps can I take to avoid a breakdown?
Reducing your risk begins with taking care of your vehicle. Make sure to have your car fully serviced and undergo maintenance checkups as dictated by the manual. Check your tyre pressure on a regular basis and use the correct petrol for your car.
In addition to general care, take precautionary measures whenever travelling into areas with inclement weather, such as bringing antifreeze when travelling in cold areas. If you own an unreliable car, consider using a hire car on long trips.
What are the most common causes of a breakdown?
Most of the time a breakdown is the result not of age or a poorly maintained car, but simple neglect. Batteries can die when a door is not properly closed. Keys are often forgotten and locked in the car. Ignoring worn down tyres can lead to flat or an accident.
What is commercial breakdown insurance?
Commercial vehicle breakdown coverage is designed for anyone using their vehicle outside private affairs. This includes full-time workers, such as a heavy goods driver who delivers products via the motorway, as well as part-time and volunteer workers, such as a minibus driver helping out on a school trip.
Commercial breakdown differs from private insurance by catering to the more complex repair and recovery issues involved with commercial vehicles. These insurance products are typically offered only by specialist companies that deal primarily with business trucks and vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
Who can I contact to receive Vehicle Breakdown Recovery assistance?
There are a number of organisations created and designed to provide assistance in the realm of breakdown recovery, including the following agencies:
- The Highways Agency – Gives advice on highway safety
- The Financial Services Association – Keeps a list of reputable insurance providers
- The Automobile Association (AA) – Provides motoring advice and insurance products
- The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) – Offers route planners, live traffic updates, and motoring advice
- The SURVIVE Group – Dispenses handy guides, advice, and leaflets on motor safety
- The Retail Motor Industry – Support for individuals looking to file a complaint for various motor related infractions
What is the SURVIVE group?
SURVIVE is an acronym for Safe Use of Roadside Verges in Vehicular Emergencies. Founded in part by the Automobile Association, SURVIVE consists of people, agencies, and organisations dedicated to encouraging safe driving.
SURVIVE is currently partners with the Highways Agency, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and various other networks involved in road service management. The primary goal of the group is to promote safety for those travelling and working on the road.