When choosing a breakdown coverage policy, the first decision you will have to make is whether to cover yourself or your vehicle. Although there are practical and financial advantages to both, generally those who regularly operate multiple vehicles opt for personal breakdown cover.
Covering yourself ensures that you will receive breakdown assistance regardless of what car you are driving, whether it be your own, a company car, or a vehicle you loaned from another individual. Paying for a single coverage plan provides far greater value than insuring each car separately, as well as allowing you the flexibility to operate a vehicle without having to cover it in advance.
Advantages of Personal Cover
The primary benefit of personal breakdown cover is the ability to get assistance regardless of the vehicle you are driving. This is because the coverage applies to you and not the car. This translates to added flexibility, especially if you drive multiple vehicles or rent cars frequently during business travel.
Although generally personal cover is more expensive than vehicle breakdown cover, depending on your situation covering yourself may provide better value. For example, if your vehicle is over 10 years old, it might fetch a much higher premium due to the tendency for older cars to breakdown. Insuring yourself avoids the added costs attached to unreliable vehicles.
Finally, some personal cover policies grant you recovery assistance even if you are simply a passenger. This can be a great help if you catch a ride with a driver who does not possess breakdown coverage.
Disadvantages of Personal Cover
Typically, personal breakdown coverage is more expensive than vehicle coverage. Even if you operate two vehicles, some policies will provide a large discount for a second car. Furthermore, some policy providers, including major insurance companies, do not offer personal breakdown cover. As a result, choosing personal cover will limit your options and hinder your ability to find a more competitive price.
In addition to price, covering yourself makes less sense if another person regularly drives your car. If you and your spouse both make use of the same vehicle, covering the car ensures that you will both be able to get breakdown assistance no matter who is behind the wheel.
Level of Coverage
Breakdown policies are usually separated into four or five tiers. The cheapest levels provide only roadside assistance or recovery to a nearby garage. However, you will be responsible for any labour, repair or parts that take place in a garage.
The higher tiers will have a more expensive premium, but will have comprehensive coverage for recovery and repair, as well as special amenities such as onward travel, emergency overnight accommodation, and European cover if you go abroad.
Choosing personal breakdown coverage also does not preclude you from covering multiple members of a household. Companies like AA offer personal cover for multiple individuals as opposed to vehicles, in the form of the following:
- Single Membership – Covers you in any car as both passenger and driver
- Joint Membership – Covers you and a member of your household in any car, as both passenger and driver
- Family Membership – Covers you and three other members of your household in any car as both passenger and driver
- Vehicle Membership – Covers your vehicle regardless of who is driving
Normally, it makes more sense economically and practically to opt for vehicle membership. However, some households may own an abundance of vehicles, or travel in cars that are too old or unreliable to justify the premium for traditional breakdown cover.
Read the Small Print
While many policies may seem identical on the surface, reading the small print will allow you to distinguish which plan is more suitable for your situation. For instance, different companies will institute different caps on how much you can claim. Others may have higher excesses, or limits on the amount people eligible or cash available for overnight accommodation.
For example, the RAC provides emergency accommodation up to £150 per person, £500 per group, whereas Insurance Choice provides £160 but only for a single individual. The AA offers roadside assistance beginning at a quarter mile from home, while Breakdown Direct clients must be at least one mile away from home to receive service.
As a result, common phrases such as ‘roadside assistance’ or ‘onward travel’ may have completely disparate interpretations depending on the provider.
Other small print may limit your eligibility for service or exclude certain aspects altogether. Some common exclusions and rules for coverage are as follows:
- No recovery is provided following an accident
- Breakdowns attended by the policy or other emergency service will not be recovered until authorised
- Pets and animals may not be recovered
- No labour costs included
- No service if breakdown occurs twice for the same reason (with no attempt by the driver to rectify the problem) in the span 30 days
- Member must be present and provide identification at the location of the breakdown
Some providers will allow for alternative payment methods for your breakdown coverage. Traditionally, you pay an annual premium which defrays the cost of repairs and recovery to the insurance provider in the event of a breakdown.
Pay and claim options exist, however, which offer lower premiums in exchange for the driver being responsible for paying the cost of repairs upfront. The policyholder then files a claim with the breakdown provider for reimbursement.
Moreover, many banks and car insurance providers offer free breakdown cover along with their usual products. If you have car insurance plan or a home loan, you may want to check and confirm that you are not covered for a breakdown before shopping for coverage.
Choosing your Breakdown Service Provider
Given the bevvy of choices available to consumers, you might want to whittle down your options by first making use of an online comparison tool. Once you have narrowed your list down to the providers that offer suitable personal breakdown options, take a closer examination of each policy and see what it actually entails. Find out if there are any extraneous fees such as callout charges, and what benefits come with a particular tier of service.