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Jul 29

Breakdown cover: best deals on breakdown insurance

Reading Time: 6 mins

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.

Happily most drivers with cover who find themselves in a spot of trouble are quickly back on the road without too much delay. If the problem is more major, Autonational for example, provide a recovery service that will deliver you, your car and up to five passengers to your home or destination, anywhere in the UK for £66 per year.

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.

What are the best deals?

This table compares the price of hassle-free automaticpackages available online, based on vehicle cover only. Personal cover from these providers is generally 10% more expensive.

Road side Assistance Only UK Recovery Home start Combined UK Recovery & Homestart
Onward Travel
Green Insurance £17.80 n/a n/a £28.80 n/a
Green Flag From £20 From £40 From £45 From £60 From £116 (European recovery)
ETA £23.85 (when paying annually online with a direct debit, otherwise £33.85 ) £58.23 (£10 discount available when paying annually online by direct debit) £56.75 (£10 discount available when paying annually online by direct debit) £81.13 (£10 discount available when paying annually online by direct debit) £59.72 (£10 discount when paying annually online by direct debit)
The AA £30 £71 £75 £89 £70
RAC From £27.99 £96.99 (Only available with recovery) £119.99 £129.99
Autonational £30 £48 £48 ( Their ‘Total Super Service’ includes all cover for £66 ) n/a

If you just want reassurance, cover a high annual mileage, travel or commute far from home or perhaps drive a car that is over ten years old, this type of cover will suit you better. With so many policy options it’s quite straightforward to find the policy that’s right for you. Here are our top value picks:

    • Best value ‘basic roadside assistance’ cover: by Green Insurance is just £18.20 when bought online. You are limited to six call outs per year but it’s still great value if your car is in good condition. Green Insurance also provide the cheapest UK recovery and homestart packages at £28.80. Full European cover is available from £58.85. They also claim to offset 100% of the emissions generated by their breakdown vehicles.
    • Best value ‘fully inclusive’ cover: by Autonational includes a no-claims bonus offer, providing a 25% discount if you haven’t had a breakdown in the past year. The comprehensive package is available online with three months free cover. The cheapest fully inclusive package we could find.
    • Need a breakdown cover plan tailored to your needs? Rescue My Car offer a tailor made service depending on your circumstances. Cover starts from as little as £17.90.

Where should I look for the cheapest type of breakdown cover?

You will nearly always get cheaper deals if you buy your policy online. Selling policies online is cheaper for companies and enables them to pass some of the savings they make onto customers.

Most companies provide online menus that will calculate your premium for you. Look closely at exactly what is covered. Pay and claim companies offer very cheap breakdown policies with various levels of cover, but remember to watch out for any hidden costs. For example:

  • Autoaid offer the cheapest personal home start, recovery and onward travel policy for £38. Similar cover through the AA and RAC will cost upwards of £100. There is a catch however, as local recovery providers are used you will have to pay in full at the time of rescue and then claim the costs back. Positive feedback indicates the system does work and it’s a fine money saver if you run a reliable car over short distances. If you don’t like paperwork however, stay away from this type of cover.
  • Start Rescue offer some of the cheapest pay and claim comprehensive vehicle breakdown cover, the three star all inclusive package costs £35.40. Ideal for multiple drivers heading abroad, the four star package includes European cover for £61.

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.
  • Check for affliations – Tesco vouchers can heavily reduce your RAC breakdown premium.
  • Avoid breaking down in the first place by servicing your car regularly – prevention is better than cure!


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12 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.

12 years ago
Reply to  Sue

Good, thanks for the update.

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