Ideally, we want our lives to move seamlessly and without interruption. We rely on our vehicles to transport us from place to place so that we can work, play, and live. Unfortunately, there are times we are bombarded with things beyond our control, obstacles we fail to anticipate that interfere with our daily routine.
This can come in the form of an accident, a traffic jam, or a roadside breakdown. Having your car inoperable for even an hour can be a minor nuisance, yet this problem can be exacerbated without proper breakdown coverage.
Generally, there are two ways to obtain breakdown cover. The first option is to secure breakdown coverage for your car. This means that no matter who is operating your vehicle, they will be able to get roadside assistance should the car break down. The second option is personal breakdown coverage, which covers an individual regardless of whose car they are driving.
Most breakdown policy seekers elect to go with a form of the first option, as it is usually more cost effective and more convenient for households with multiple drivers. The following guide goes into detail regarding the various advantages and nuances of car breakdown coverage.
The Advantages of Covering Your Car
Many households have multiple drivers. Rather than insure each person individually, it makes more sense to cover the car itself for breakdown protection. Even for households with multiple cars, the cost of adding a second vehicle to an existing policy is typically attenuated through promotional discounts.
For example, Autonational Rescue provides a 50% discount on premiums for an additional car. Other major providers dispense similar savings for customers who opt for larger packages.
Breakdown providers themselves prefer car breakdown coverage, and the premiums are cheaper as a result. This is due to the fact that a car is much easier to evaluate in terms of wear, tear, and age. The age of a car in particular is a far better indicator for breakdowns than the personality of a driver.
Covering yourself means covering an unpredictable range of cars, and for that reason insurance companies tend to apply high premiums to those types of insurance. Choosing to cover your car means lower costs as well as a wider selection of providers to pick from.
The Disadvantages of Covering Your Car
For drivers who operate older, less reliable cars, covering your vehicle can be more expensive than covering yourself. Some breakdown providers will even go so far as to refuse coverage for models over 16 years of age. Others will take into consideration maintenance history and the shelf life of the car itself before having their actuaries determine whether the car is a risk.
Either way, premiums will likely be high in order to compensate for the high probability of a breakdown.
Personal breakdown cover also provides more flexibility, as you are covered for any car you drive regardless of its ownership. Individuals who regularly use multiple cars may find this more appealing than covering each vehicle separately.
Choosing a Breakdown Service
There are hundreds of providers in the UK, each of which brands their policies with their own special name. However, under the surface most breakdown policies will offer coverage that falls into one of the following categories:
- Roadside assistance and recovery to a nearby garage
- Roadside assistance and recovery to anywhere in the UK
- Roadside assistance, recovery, and Fix at Home
- Roadside assistance, recovery, Fix at Home, and onward travel/emergency overnight accommodation
- Roadside assistance, recovery, Fix at Home, onward travel, and European cover
On the other hand, this is not to imply that service in the same category is equal from company to company. For example, one provider might stipulate that a car qualifies for roadside assistance only if the breakdown occurs more than a mile from home. Another provider might have a much more lenient condition of a quarter mile.
Purchasing European cover may not be as comprehensive as you think, with some providers offering to only cover regions that are members of the European Union. Almost all policies have varying claim limits, whether it is a cap on the total amount claimed or caps on individual services like garage repair.
It is essential that you peruse the terms and conditions of each plan as well as the pricing to ensure the policy will meet your needs. Consider the age of your car and determine the areas for which your vehicle is at risk, and whether the policy covers you in that regard.
For example, if your car is in constant need of replacement parts, you might want to consider a breakdown cover that includes assistance for parts and labour as opposed to simple recovery.
Some common exclusions that you may find in your policy include:
- Home start and qualifying distance – Is your car covered for a breakdown at home, and if not, how far must the vehicle be to qualify for roadside assistance?
- Courtesy car – If your car is in the garage, are you supplied with a replacement vehicle, and if so, for how long?
- Onward travel or Emergency Accommodation – Will the company provide alternative transportation or hotel accommodation if your car breaks down?
- No Claims Period – Is there an interim period (14 to 30 days after sign up) before you can request a callout?
Avoid Signing Up for Superfluous Coverage
Before you shop for a breakdown cover policy, it may be wise to double check your existing insurance products to see if you are already covered. Home loans, car insurance, and travel insurance often add complementary breakdown cover as part of their sales package. In other cases, you may be able to bundle breakdown cover with these products for a cheaper rate.
Those who have recently purchased a car may also be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty in the event of a breakdown. Dealers often have breakdown cover for the first year following purchase, so it is important to verify whether or not you already have coverage before shopping for a policy.