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Breakdown cover: What to watch out for

MoneyMagpie team 29th Jul 2020 2 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Breakdown cover is essential – the last thing you want on a weekend getaway is to be stuck at the roadside with a car full of kids. If you’re not careful it can be super expensive to break down without insurance, and you could be left with a hefty bill if you get caught out. We’ve found some really cheap offers and some well-priced policies with good cover, so now there’s no excuse to not get covered!

Do I need breakdown cover?

There are lots of reasons why your vehicle might break down and some of the most common – like a flat battery, an electrical fault, a punctured tyre or even engine trouble – can usually be easily solved at the roadside by breakdown service providers.

If you travel by car, van or motorbike regularly, it’s worthwhile having a policy with a reputable breakdown recovery service. Just make sure you shop around to get the best value for money.

The Home Office statutory charge to recover any vehicle from the public highway in the event of breakdown or accident is from £150 in England, Wales and Scotland (plus £20 per day storage) for a vehicle weighing less than 3.5 tonnes. This could cost even more if you arrange for your own recovery.

What are the main types of breakdown cover?

The first important decision to make is how keen you are to save money and how much of a risk you are prepared to take. Breakdown insurance is a way of reducing the risk of being stranded whilst facing large recovery bills. The extensive range of breakdown cover available can be separated into two categories.

  • Traditional, AUTOMATIC, fully comprehensive policies- providing a large range of cover options.
  • Cheaper, PAY AND CLAIM policies – pay on recovery and claim back in full later.

Your own personal circumstances will also help determine the type of cover that best suits your needs. This can include the age of you and your car, your annual mileage and whether you wish to include extras such as repair cover, nationwide recovery or European breakdown cover.

As with all insurance policies it is vital to read and understand the full terms of any agreement, before you pay the premium.

Who or what is covered?

Traditional motoring clubs such as the AA and the RAC provide automatic comprehensive breakdown cover but you need to decide whether you need personal or vehicle cover. Do several people in your family drive the same car? Do you drive or ride as a passenger in several different cars? Basic roadside assistance packages are usually based on one of the following types of cover:

  • Personal cover will protect you when driving any car, you can even request a rescue if you’re just a passenger in a car that has broken down. Ideal if you regularly drive more than one car, but is usually more expensive.
  • Vehicle cover is a straightforward, low cost service – but the age and mileage of your car will affect the price. It’s useful if several members of the family use the same car.
  • Joint cover for you and your partner – or even your family if you live at the same address.

What are the cost options?

Cost options increase your level of cover over a basic package, providing peace of mind and allowing you to tailor your required policy. The number and type of options you choose will determine the cost of your premium.

  • Roadside Assistance: The basic level of 24/7 breakdown cover. A trained mechanic will aim to fix your car at the roadside or deliver you to an approved local garage if unable to fix the fault.
  • Recovery: The recovery company will take your vehicle and your passengers to your home or another destination anywhere in the UK.
  • Homestart: This means that you can get help if you break down at home or within a quarter of a mile from it.
  • Onward travel: You are provided with an alternative way to travel if you are away from home when you break down. You may be given a replacement vehicle, or even accommodation, for a specified amount of time.
  • European cover: If you travel abroad regularly, or are planning to, European breakdown cover is often cheaper when bought as part of an existing policy. Usually you’ll get between 30 and 90 days of European cover – contact your policy provider to find out how long you’re covered for.

Where else can I buy breakdown cover?

Most breakdown recovery websites provide helpline telephone numbers. Call and tell them if the information on screen is too confusing.

Dig out your car insurance policy and check for any breakdown cover included in your insurance premium, there is no need to pay for breakdown cover twice! Favourable prices can also be found when you buy breakdown cover through your insurers.

Also check your bank account. We found Lloyds TSB provide AA breakdown cover on Silver, Gold, Platinum and Premium accounts. Also, Natwest customers with Select Platinum accounts receive breakdown cover.

Some useful tips..

  • Check your own car insurance policy and bank accounts as you may already have breakdown cover.
  • Get a quote before buying online – there may be hidden costs.
  • Read and understand your policy. Look for limitations on the number of callouts, hidden costs, excess payments etc.
  • The best deals are often aimed at new customers. If you find a cheaper like-for-like policy on a comparison site like Confused, take your new quote back to your insurer and ask them to beat it.
  • Avoid breaking down in the first place by servicing your car regularly – prevention is better than cure!


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14 years ago

Having read your article I’m pleased to update your readers that the threatened strike at the AA has been called OFF and we will be providing service as normal during this bank holiday weekend. We have reached agreement with the union who are now recommending the proposed changes to their members. Our patrols remain fully committed to being there 24/7 for our members.

Jasmine Birtles
14 years ago
Reply to  Sue

Good, thanks for the update.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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