Breakdown cover is insurance that means you can get help if your vehicle breaks down on the road or at home. There are various types of breakdown cover – the one that is best suited to you will depend on a number of factors, such as how often you drive, the type of vehicle(s) you drive, and whether you live alone or with other drivers.
In this handy guide, we will cover absolutely everything you need to know about breakdown cover, including:
- The different types of breakdown cover you can get
- How to choose the right breakdown cover for you
- What is included in a standard breakdown cover policy
- How to get cheaper breakdown cover
- And much more
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Without further ado, let’s dive into breakdown cover and equip you with all the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for your financial future.
What is breakdown cover?
Breakdown cover helps to get you back on the road if you can’t get your vehicle up and running. It can be purchased for cars, motorbikes, or vans and is sometimes also known as ‘breakdown and recovery’.
If your vehicle breaks down and you are unable to continue your journey, having breakdown cover ensures that you can access assistance and don’t find yourself stranded. Your vehicle will either be fixed by the side of the road if the problem is minor (such as a punctured tyre), or towed to the nearest garage if more major repairs are required and you will receive a courtesy car for the time being. Some policies will even cover home visits to help you get your vehicle started.
Breakdown cover is generally bought as an individual policy, but some providers will also offer it as part of your car insurance. It can even come included with some bank accounts, so you should check that you are not getting breakdown cover from any other sources before taking it out.
What are the different types of breakdown cover?
There are two main types of breakdown cover that you can choose between: vehicle breakdown cover or personal breakdown cover.
However, other options are also available if more than one person in your household owns a car, or if you are a business owner.
Vehicle breakdown cover
This covers a specific vehicle, which means you will be able to get assistance regardless of who is driving the car when it breaks down. You might be able to include multiple vehicles registered to the same address under one vehicle cover policy.
Personal breakdown cover
This covers you rather than the vehicle, regardless of whether you’re the driver or a passenger. Personal cover is usually more expensive than vehicle breakdown cover, but you can usually include more than one person from your household on your policy to help you save some money.
Multi-car breakdown cover
Also known as family breakdown cover, this money-saving option allows you to cover multiple vehicles within the same household. All cars have to be registered to the same address to be considered for multi-car cover, but they don’t have to be owned by the same person.
Some multi-car policies will also cover children who are away at university – however, you’d have to check the specific terms of your policy to find out if this is something that your insurance provider offers.
Business breakdown cover
If your business relies on multiple vehicles to operate, you might benefit from business breakdown cover. Some business breakdown policies offer like-for-like replacements if your vehicle is undriveable so you can carry on working.
You might also be able to get other perks with your business breakdown cover, such as online tools to manage your vehicles, or discounts for each vehicle you add to the policy.
Which type of breakdown cover should I choose?
As you can see, there are multiple types of breakdown cover available and it is important that you choose the correct one for you. When deciding which breakdown cover to go for, there are various factors to consider, including:
- What provider to opt for
- The right level of cover for your needs
- Getting a fair and decent price
Ensuring that you hit all three is not always the easiest task though, and it is no wonder why people often choose the first offer they find. However, we have broken down how to achieve each step to make the process as easy and simple as possible for you.
How to find the best provider
When you think of breakdown cover providers, there are probably three that come to mind: the AA, the RAC and Green Flag. It is likely these popped into your mind as they are well-known and trusted providers that you have probably heard your friends and family mention or even seen on a TV advert. However, there are many breakdown providers outside of these three and you are most likely to get a better price with a less well-known provider.
Using comparison websites, such as Compare the Market, is a great way to find other breakdown cover quotes from smaller but equally trusted providers that offer the same level of breakdown cover but at a far better price.
Choosing between the different levels of breakdown cover
The various cover levels can confuse even the most experienced of drivers, but ensuring you have the right level of breakdown cover for your needs is potentially the most important factor in your purchasing decision.
Most often, people choose the basic level of cover, which is usually the cheapest level, too. More often than not, the basic level of breakdown cover includes roadside assistance, meaning if you breakdown on the side of the road, a breakdown cover specialist will come out and attempt to fix your vehicle on the roadside. If this cannot be done, they will take it to the nearest garage.
It is important to note there are sometimes exceptions to this so it is important to check policy terms to know what you are covered for.
Obviously, what type of cover you opt for is dependent on your situation, so if you find that the basic level of breakdown cover is not enough, you can choose from the other levels of cover.
The different levels of breakdown cover
Typically, there are five different levels of breakdown cover available, however, this can vary depending on the provider you opt for.
|Type of Breakdown Cover||What’s included|
|Roadside assistance||The most basic level of breakdown cover|
|Home start/ Home rescue||For when you breakdown in your driveway, or close to home|
|Onward travel/ Onward journey||If you breakdown far from your destination, this level of cover ensures you aren’t stranded|
|National recovery||If your vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside, you can be taken anywhere in the UK for repairs|
|European cover||Breakdown cover for when you’re travelling in Europe|
Other cover levels can include star level, personal cover, and family breakdown cover. So, if you often find yourself driving other types of vehicles, such as a work car or if you share cars within your family, opting for personal breakdown cover may be best as that way you have personal cover, no matter what vehicle you are in.
There are also optional extras you can add to your breakdown cover, these can include:
- Unlimited callouts
- Wrong fuel
- Replacement tyres, batteries and keys
These additions can come at an extra cost, but the most important thing to remember when choosing your breakdown cover is opting for a level of cover that fits in with your lifestyle and meets your needs to give you peace of mind that you are covered no matter what happens.
Getting the right price
Making sure you get a level of cover that fits your needs whilst also at a reasonable cost is not the easiest job.
Price comparison websites, such as Go Compare, can help you see how much you are likely to be paying for the type of breakdown cover you require. It is always worth shopping around the various providers to see what their prices are. However, these prices are not always set in stone.
Sometimes, breakdown providers will have special offers on their websites which could reduce your overall costs and it is always a good idea to haggle with your current provider to reduce the price of your breakdown cover. If the thought of having that conversation on the phone is too awkward for you, those instant messaging boxes can be useful!
It is also worth noting that more often than not, paying monthly for your cover can actually cost you more in the long run. Yearly prices usually work out less each month than the price of the monthly payouts. So, although it may seem like a lot of money leaving your bank account at one time, overall you are saving money across the year.
Thinking of getting a new car?
If you are planning to get a new car within the year, it is always worth checking your policy documents for any cancellation details. More often than not, when purchasing your new vehicle, you will get free cover from the car’s manufacturer, so you want to make sure you are not doubling up on cover and spending money when you do not need to!
Usually, you will receive a pro-rata refund depending on how long you have left on your current cover, however, this is not always the case and will likely come with some additional cost. If you have made a claim on your insurance in the past year, you may not be eligible for a refund and some providers simply do not offer them.
Most standard breakdown policies offer a 14-day cooling-off period when a new policy is purchased. Therefore, if you need to cancel your cover within the fortnight, you should receive a refund in full providing you haven’t used the cover.
Is breakdown cover offered by your bank?
Yes, you read that right! Sometimes, breakdown cover is included within your bank account. Known as ‘packaged bank accounts’, not only is a level of breakdown cover included, but travel and mobile insurance are also usually included in this style of bank account.
They usually include a monthly fee, but providers such as Nationwide, Halifax, and Virgin Money offer differing levels of breakdown cover, such as UK and even European breakdown cover.
It is worth contacting your bank to see if your current bank account offers this, or it could even be worth switching accounts to get these offers, and you’ll sometimes get money for switching, too!
Personal breakdown cover
Personal breakdown cover is an insurance policy that you can get in addition to your usual vehicle breakdown cover.
This style of breakdown cover policy differs from vehicle-based cover as it is you – the named policyholder – that is covered by the policy (rather than the vehicle itself). So, no matter what vehicle you are in, if it breaks down, you will be able to call for breakdown recovery help even if, for that journey, you are just the passenger.
Do I need personal breakdown cover?
As personal breakdown cover is valid for both drivers and passengers, if you are someone who often car shares, hires vehicles, or drives multiple cars, it is a good idea to include this specific level of breakdown cover in your policy.
However, if you are not somebody who usually gets lifts from other people or if you share a car with members of your family, such as your partner, it is likely that this type of breakdown cover won’t be the right level of cover for you.
What does personal breakdown cover include?
Just as it is with other types of insurance policy, what is included in personal cover can vary depending on the level you opt for, typically ranging from basic cover to a more comprehensive arrangement. Standard policies usually include breakdown assistance and roadside recovery.
Depending on where you break down and when you break down – for example, the time of day – your breakdown provider will normally send a mechanic to attempt to fix the issue. Saying that, if the fault cannot be mended there and then, you and the vehicle in question will be taken to a nearby garage for the repair.
Beyond basic cover, tailor your breakdown policy to suit you
More often than not, breakdown cover providers also offer optional extras to enhance your protection.
One of these additions is National Recovery; so, as well as offering to drop you at the nearest garage if your car cannot be repaired, recovery operators can also take you and your vehicle to any location in the UK.
Another extra you can opt for is Onward Travel. For example, if a mechanic cannot solve your problem at the roadside, this cover pays for alternative transport (sometimes even overnight accommodation) to make sure you have somewhere safe to go whilst your vehicle is being repaired. This option is especially important if you are a lone traveller.
Most personal breakdown cover options also include:
- New keys if yours get stolen, broken, or lost
- Replacement tyres in case you get a flat tyre or find you have damaged tyres from punctures
- Flat batteries are also replaced
Plus, if you accidentally use the wrong fuel, most providers will cover draining and flushing of the incorrect fuel, as well as giving you some petrol or diesel, so that you’re able to get to a nearby garage and fill up correctly.
What are the advantages of personal breakdown cover?
There are multiple advantages to getting personal breakdown cover. Let’s start with potentially the biggest:
Coverage across multiple vehicles: With personal breakdown cover, you have cover across different types of cars, including electric vehicles, even if you are just a passenger. This means if you are with someone who does not have breakdown insurance, you can use your own breakdown callouts to get help for you both.
Unlimited callouts: This type of cover normally includes unlimited callouts as standard – as long as there is not a recurring issue with your vehicle. Standard routine maintenance of your vehicle, such as taking it for regular services, means this should not be an issue though, so any additional callouts should be fine.
Simply one policy that covers all: If you often find yourself driving your family or friends’ cars, hire cars, or even work cars, you will not have to purchase separate insurance policies for each vehicle. This is a core benefit. As it is a personal-based policy (rather than vehicle-based), you’re covered as an individual no matter what car you’re driving. Therefore, opting for personal breakdown cover gives you peace of mind of knowing that no matter what happens, you are covered.
What are the disadvantages of personal breakdown cover?
Though there are many perks to personal breakdown cover, it is not without disadvantages. The main one being:
Presence at the incident: With personal breakdown cover, the policyholder must be in the car to claim the breakdown cover. This is the case even if the car is registered to the policyholder but, at the time of the incident, they were not present.
So, if you are not in the car with a friend or family member when they break down, they will not benefit from your cover.
Owning an eligible vehicle: Whether or not you will qualify for personal breakdown cover is also dependent on if you own an eligible vehicle. For example, some breakdown providers do not cover certain types of vehicles due to their length, width, and weight. Therefore, it is important to double-check the policy conditions before adding personal cover to your insurance.
This rule also affects claiming on your policy if the vehicle you are travelling in as a passenger is excluded by your breakdown assistance provider.
Additional cost: Having to pay extra for the cover is naturally a downside. Personal cover is usually more expensive than regular vehicle cover due to the scope of coverage it provides across multiple vehicles.
Naturally, basic cover is the least expensive option, but cheaper breakdown cover may not include the optional extras, such as National Recovery and Onward Travel. Higher levels of cover may include add-ons, but they will likely come at an extra cost.
The fine print: European breakdown cover also varies across companies. Some providers do not allow European cover in certain personal policies, but occasionally providers will offer similar cover to that which is available in the UK, such as access to Roadside Assistance.
Again, it is important to check policy terms to see if European assistance is covered (this is particularly crucial to check if you opt for the cheapest level of breakdown cover).
Can I add additional people to my breakdown policy?
Most standalone breakdown cover packages allow you to include multiple people on a single policy. For example, some providers allow you to add up to two people on one policy – this is mostly known as a joint policy.
That said, some providers will let you include up to five people on one personal breakdown cover as long as they live at the same address; this can include flatmates and family members.
This option is commonly known as family breakdown cover – even children are eligible on some personal breakdown covers, making it the ideal solution for families. Age restrictions can be in place though on certain family breakdown cover policies, so it is best to check the details to be sure.
What’s included in standard breakdown cover?
Across all breakdown cover types, standard breakdown policies are the most popular. This is most likely due to the majority of providers offering basic roadside recovery as standard, making it the easiest – and potentially safest – choice in case anything were to happen on your journey.
Usually this style of cover has unlimited callouts, but you should check your policy details to ensure you aren’t charged for additional callouts.
If you have broken down and find yourself more than a quarter mile away from your home, a standard breakdown service typically includes 60 minutes of free labour – however, if the mechanic needs additional time or your vehicle is unable to be fixed on the roadside, the vehicle recovery service will pay for it to be transported to the nearest garage or your home. In most cases, this will depend on whichever is closest to where you have broken down.
If you have broken down because you need a tyre replacement or more complex repairs, such as for an electrical fault, the cost is not usually included with your standard breakdown cover, meaning you would have to pay additional costs to cover this work.
Naturally, different breakdown providers offer various ‘standard’ breakdown covers, so it is important to check the policy wording to know exactly what you are purchasing, especially if you are opting for the cheapest breakdown cover policy.
What’s not covered by a breakdown policy?
Unfortunately, there are some exclusions to certain breakdown policies, and, of course, these vary depending on your policy provider, so make sure to look over your breakdown cover policy documents carefully.
A new policy: If you have taken out a breakdown cover policy less than 24 hours ago, certain policy conditions may exclude you from accessing breakdown support during this window of time.
The number of callouts: Certain policies have limits on the number of callouts allowed, and callouts for non-emergency repairs are not always included. This can include windscreen repairs, oil top-ups, or even flat tyres. Making sure you know how to do at least some basic repairs, such as changing your spare tyre or knowing how to top up your engine oil, can prevent any unforeseen costs and unnecessary waiting times.
Additional callouts for the same issue: Multiple additional callouts for the same issue are also not covered by certain policy providers. Numerous callouts for one problem may be a sign that something is wrong with your vehicle, so taking your car for a regular service is important to make sure policy providers will cover any breakdowns.
Road accidents: Some companies simply refuse to include road accident recovery in their standard breakdown cover. Certain providers may offer to tow their customers’ vehicles from the accident scene but, more often than not, they will only do this after they have received authorisation from an emergency service provider, such as the police.
Driving with animals: If you have a pet or animal with you when you break down, this could also prevent you from accessing your breakdown cover. Usually, having an animal in the car with you will not automatically be an issue, but it could have implications if, for example, you have to get alternative transport, so it is best to check your policy conditions to be sure.
Vehicles used for racing: Not surprisingly, any cars or vehicles that are used for racing or similar activities will likely be excluded from standard breakdown cover.
Breakdowns at home: Unless you have ‘home rescue’ – also known as ‘home start’ – as part of your cover, any breakdowns you have close to your house or even at home, may not be included in your policy as standard. It is important to note that this also includes breakdowns on private land, instead of on a public road.
European breakdown cover: Similar to personal breakdown cover, some standard breakdown policies do not include European assistance. If you are planning on driving within Europe – perhaps on a holiday, for example – it is best to look over your policy wording to see if you are covered at your destination.
Does my breakdown cover include Roadside Assistance?
Roadside Assistance usually comes as standard in most breakdown cover policies. Sometimes providers have different cover levels to choose from, with Roadside Assistance usually being the most basic level available.
Roadside Assistance essentially does what it says in its name: it offers you assistance if, on your journey, you break down by the side of the road.
But what exactly does this look like?
Usually, a breakdown cover specialist will come to your location and attempt to do any roadside repairs. However, if the fault can’t be resolved without additional services, they will take your vehicle to a nearby garage, or sometimes one chosen by you or your breakdown cover provider.
Note: This is dependent on your cover, so be sure to pay close attention to your breakdown cover policy wording to know what you are entitled to.
If the chosen garage is closed, you can ask the specialist to take your vehicle back to your house so that it can be picked up by your chosen garage another time.
One thing to note about Roadside Assistance is that it is typically only offered when you break down a certain distance from your home. More often than not, this is at least a quarter of a mile.
If you do breakdown at home, your Roadside Assistance cover cannot be applied, as this comes under another of the breakdown cover levels – ‘home rescue’ (also known as ‘home start’ by some breakdown service providers).
Certain breakdown providers also have a limit on how far away you can be from home – for example, 10 miles. Whether or not you have access to Roadside Assistance further than this radius limit is dependent on what breakdown cover level you opt for.
How can I get cheaper breakdown cover?
If you are hoping to get cheaper breakdown cover, there are several tips that could bring the price down. Of course, no one wants to be paying more than they have to.
Don’t auto renew
Here’s a great place to start. Be proactive: don’t forget about your policy renewal and allow it to roll into the next year.
Sure, auto renewal can be fine if:
- You are already happy with your renewal quote
- You don’t care about the price
- Your circumstances are exactly the same as the previous year
However, allowing your policy to auto renew without any interaction with your insurer can cause the price of cover to creep up with inflation over time.
Having a conversation with your insurance provider allows you to keep them informed of any changes in your circumstances.
Do you really need alternative transport or national breakdown recovery if you only drive locally? Your partner sold their car (which you also drove) after your last renewal; are you still paying for personal cover or multi-car breakdown cover when you may now only need cover for a single vehicle?
Any change since the last time you spoke to your insurer may mean you are paying for a product that no longer meets your requirements. So, maintain communications, contact your provider before renewal, be transparent with your insurer, and make sure the product and the price are right for you.
Use comparison sites
The quotes you receive on the comparison site are not set in stone until you click all the way through to the provider, answering all necessary questions along the way. Provided all information is accurate and you have selected the correct product for you, the price displayed at the transaction screen will be the one applicable to you.
Comparison tools are handy to give you a good estimate of what quotes you can expect from other providers, but you must be mindful that the quotes you receive may be subject to change.
Quotes you receive on comparison sites and from insurance providers can be held for a set period of time (typically 24 hours), but due to market fluctuations, a quote based on the same information can vary from hour to hour.
For example, if you run a quote, then try another quote on the same site with the same information the following day – it’s not uncommon for the price to differ.
Adjust your type of cover
As mentioned above, if you keep on top of your cover, regularly checking it is up to date and appropriate for your circumstances, you may find a reduction in your price.
- If you share the vehicle with a family member, and you both have personal cover or multi-car cover, you could try a joint policy instead of having multiple policies active at once
- If you only ever drive your car but currently pay for personal cover or multi-car cover, you could consider vehicle cover instead to reduce costs
- If the vehicle is brand new, it has a lower risk of breaking down; you could consider lower levels of cover such as Roadside Assistance (also called roadside recovery)
- If you do not drive long distances, you could also consider Roadside Assistance instead of Nationwide or European Breakdown Cover
Your insurance provider would be happy to discuss your options with you so you can make an informed decision.
How do I compare breakdown cover policies?
Comparison websites work by running your details through a panel of insurance providers to give you a quote based on the details you enter.
Once you have filled in your details accurately, you will receive a list of quotes to choose from. These figures will not be a final price, but an estimation based on the information provided on the form.
The site will likely allow you to filter by:
- Most appropriate
- Most popular
Once you have found a quote you are happy with, you may be required to click through to the provider’s website so you can complete the transaction with the company directly.
At this point, if there are any follow-up questions on the provider’s website that you didn’t answer on the comparison site, the price may recalculate accordingly.
The provider may have their own follow-up questions to ask you. They may even need to call you directly – and these final details may also cause your quote to be recalculated.
Please be aware that, when getting quotes on a comparison website, each search forwards your information to the providers on the comparison site. This will include any differences in details, so make sure you are filling in your information correctly the first time to prevent confusion later.
Consider a smaller breakdown provider
While you may be more inclined to go with larger, better-known household names for breakdown cover, it may be worthwhile to consider smaller breakdown providers too.
These firms may be able to provide a comparable service. Though not guaranteed, potential benefits could include:
- A more personalised service
- Lower premiums
- More flexibility in their policies
- Local knowledge and expertise (useful should you be travelling in an area unfamiliar to you)
- Quicker response times
Shaving any time off the usual wait could save the day if you are on a tight schedule.
Speak to an advisor
If there are errors on your form, or if you lack the confidence to proceed alone, an advisor from a prospective insurer will be happy to talk you through your options over the phone.
For insurers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it is a legal requirement that your policy is an appropriate match for your needs and that the relevant forms are an accurate reflection of your circumstances – any inaccuracies could void your policy.
The advisor is there to make sure your cover is not rendered void due to inaccurate information. Approach the phone call like a team effort to get you exactly what you need and provide you with clarity and peace of mind.
After having the conversation, you may realise you need a different type of breakdown cover altogether. For example, you may not have considered the need for overnight accommodation, national recovery, or alternative transport in the event of a breakdown far away from home. Or say, you might not be aware of the disruption to your day from a flat battery on the drive until you have that conversation.
Your advisor will be there to answer any questions you may have, raise your confidence, and allow you to make an informed decision about the right breakdown cover for you.
Having the relevant paperwork or details to hand for any phone calls can make the process smoother and simpler – not to mention minimise stress.
Can I add extras to my breakdown cover policy?
Common names for the different levels of breakdown offered by insurers are Roadside, UK, Home, and European breakdown.
As well as the different types of breakdown cover, you’re also able to add features to your chosen type of breakdown cover to broaden the protection it provides, safeguarding you against more scenarios for extra peace of mind.
These features are often referred to as Add-ons, Bolt-ons, or Optional Extras.
So, what optional extras can I choose?
Below is a list of the typical optional extras available to add onto your breakdown product with popular UK insurers. Please be sure to refer to your own policy documents or ask your insurer for more information on the optional extras they provide.
In the event of you losing your keys, you can be covered up to a set amount (for example, if you have comprehensive breakdown cover, the AA covers up to £1,000 towards the cost of a replacement).
If you have a faulty battery or if your battery is dead and can’t be recharged, you can be covered up to a certain amount for a replacement.
Dedicated battery testers can be dispatched to your location to test, fix, or refit a battery on the spot to keep you on the move.
Whether this is included will depend on your breakdown cover provider, as each provider is different.
In the event of punctures or malicious damage, you can receive cover for tyres up to a set amount, which varies based on the provider.
Cover from RAC, for instance, can replace up to five tyres, up to the amount of £150 each if repair is not possible.
If you have several cars in the family, a multi-car breakdown policy will allow you to insure multiple vehicles on one policy. This can be more convenient, meaning you only have to keep track of one policy, one renewal date, and one set of contact details in the event of a claim.
Note: For you to be considered for multi-car cover, your cars need to be registered to the same address.
European breakdown cover
If you frequently take your car with you on holiday, this feature is there to protect you while you are away. European breakdown cover can sometimes come as its own, higher level of breakdown, or it can be listed as an optional extra.
Misfuelling means putting the wrong type of fuel into your car. This can happen if you have just bought a new car, regularly swap between different cars, get distracted at the petrol station, or are simply in a hurry.
Misfuelling is a common mistake and can lead to extensive harm to a vehicle if not handled properly.
Be sure to check with a new insurer or read through your policy wording if you are covered for the following:
- The cost of your tank being drained and flushed out
- Getting you to the nearest garage
- The cost of repairs (to the engine, for example)
Note: Trying to drive with the wrong fuel in your car, whether accidentally or on purpose, can cause severe damage and may jeopardise your misfuelling cover.
Filling your diesel car with petrol is the most common and the most serious type of misfuelling; petrol is corrosive and dissolves diesel lubricant, increasing the friction between parts and causing severe damage to the vehicle if you attempt to drive.
Should you accidentally misfuel, the car’s entire fuel system may need replacing, incurring heavy costs. This is why it is always important to contact a professional mechanic or breakdown service immediately.
If you plan to tow a caravan or trailer, make sure you check with the insurer before buying a breakdown policy to ensure it covers towing.
Some insurers will cover a towed caravan or trailer under a certain size and weight, and will endeavour to keep your car and caravan together in the event of needing to be taken to a garage for repair.
Will I be covered if I break down abroad?
Depending on the insurance provider, your breakdown service may include cover for European travel and travelling abroad. The likelihood being that this option will more likely be available should you opt for a higher level of vehicle cover, or as an optional extra.
Depending on the insurer, you and your vehicle may be able to be returned to the UK, and the cover may be subject to limits on the country you are travelling to, or the length of time spent on holiday. Be sure to raise this with your breakdown provider, or refer to your policy wording.
Can I get breakdown cover with my car insurance?
Car breakdown cover options are not included automatically with modern insurance products, but many insurance companies can either include breakdown cover alongside your main car insurance policy, add it on afterwards, or treat it as standalone.
Carefully search your car insurer’s website for mentions of including breakdown cover on your insurance product.
On newer vehicles, breakdown can often be included for the first year or so. It is also common for long-standing breakdown protection to roll on year after year – easily forgotten about if you’ve never had to use it.
So, please take caution not to accidentally duplicate breakdown cover.
How many callouts can I make a year?
This depends on the individual vehicle breakdown cover provider, as well as the circumstances surrounding the breakdown and whether or not the repeated breakdowns are due to the same vehicle fault.
For example, for some providers, there is no limit to the number of callouts you can make a year (but callouts for a repeated fault will not be covered).
If in doubt, contact the insurance company directly or refer to your policy details.
Can I cancel my breakdown cover policy?
If you are not happy with your policy, you do have the right to cancel.
For policy purchases made over the phone or via a website, the policyholder for the breakdown cover has 14 days in which they are free to change their mind and cancel with no fee. If you attempt to cancel after this 14 day grace period, you may incur a cancellation fee.
If the breakdown cover you wish to cancel is a standalone product, not attached to a car insurance policy, it can be cancelled on its own.
But, if you added your breakdown cover onto a core insurance policy, you may not be able to cancel the breakdown cover on its own – depending on the insurer, you may be required to:
- Cancel both insurance and breakdown
- A fee may then need to be paid
- New fees would be incurred to set up a new policy elsewhere
Certain charges may be waived if you decide to stay with the same insurer.
For further information relevant to your specific insurer, please call them directly or refer to your policy documents.
What would happen if I broke down without breakdown cover?
Throughout our lifetime, almost all of us will have hassles with our car – when such an incident should arise, having cover can give you peace of mind.
But what should you do if you don’t have breakdown cover?
Breaking down without cover in place can be a stressful and upsetting situation, especially if you have a busy schedule or face missing an important event.
Below is some information to help you through the panic, minimise stress in an already stressful situation, and get your car back on the road as soon as possible.
You’ve broken down – what now?
First things first – don’t panic! You might regret not taking cover in the first place, but keeping a level head will help make the process a lot smoother.
As explained in detail in rules 275 and 276 of the highway code, safety is the number one priority;
- If you are on a motorway, try to exit by pulling into a service station. If this is not possible, park the car along the hard shoulder, as far left as possible, out of the way of passing cars.
- Exit the vehicle to the side furthest away from passing traffic and find a wall or safety barrier to stand behind.
- If you are on your own, conserve your mobile battery – until you are out of the emergency, only use your mobile device to make essential calls, such as ringing the emergency breakdown services line, and alerting family, friends or colleagues to your situation.
- Take note of your location, nearby road names or landmarks you may have passed before breaking down.
- Be considerate of other drivers – ensure your hazard lights are on, especially at night, to help alert others to your situation.
- If it is dark, wear bright or reflective clothing, or a high visibility jacket if available. Due to their thin material, they can be packed into a small and convenient size and left in the boot until needed. These are available to purchase online or in stores such as Go Outdoors or Sports Direct.
- Do not stand between your car and passing traffic, and take care not to stand in a place which obscures your hazard lights.
- Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you have the relevant training and expertise. You could make the situation worse or cause more damage to the vehicle, putting yourself or others at risk. Even if you are a qualified mechanic, the safest option is to wait for help and allow the experts to check the problem.
- If you break down on a motorway, do not attempt to repair the vehicle yourself under any circumstances.
Breaking down with animals in the car
If you have your beloved pets with you when you break down, it can make a tricky situation even trickier. This may be likely if you are on a trip, or yourself or a family member require an assistance dog.
Whether you will be able to travel with your pets during a recovery will depend on the breakdown provider, the size of the recovery vehicle and the number of pets and family members in the car. It is important to mention any pets during a breakdown right away, so you can be certain you’re waiting for a breakdown provider who will be able to transport your pets in a way which keeps them both safe and happy.
As detailed in Rule 57 of the Highway Code, dogs or other animals must be suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. Pets can be restrained safely with a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard.
The patrol/recovery operator does have the right to refuse to transport any animal in their cab. If this is the case, it is possible for your pets to remain in your vehicle while it’s being towed or transported on a recovery vehicle.
Assuming there are no safety concerns, owners of assistance dogs such as guide dogs for the visually impaired, ‘hearing’ dogs for the hearing-impaired, or dogs for individuals with disabilities will be allowed to travel with their dogs.
Do I legally need to have breakdown cover?
If you have broken down, and not only cold, wet and stranded, but also afraid of consequences from the police or the DVLA – you can put these fears to bed.
While insurance is mandatory to legally drive your car, it is entirely your prerogative as to whether you have breakdown cover.
You aren’t going to be fined, receive points on your licence, receive a telling off or caution by police, or any other form of punishment. So feel free to ring who you need to without fear of being reprimanded.
Besides, the costs after breaking down without cover might just be punishment enough.
Check whether you already have cover
It is quite common for people to have breakdown already in place, whether that be a legacy product they have been paying for for years without realising, breakdown may have been purchased alongside car insurance, or covered automatically for a year after purchasing a vehicle or by the bank.
Ways to check if you are already covered include:
- Bank statements for recurring transactions
- Past emails
- Hard-copy documents if you have any in the car
You can also try contacting an insurer or breakdown provider, as they may have their own system in place to check if a customer has breakdown already before they attempt to sell it to you.
So before calling for help, check whether you have cover in place that you may have forgotten about. Because you may be in for a lot less stress than you initially thought.
Can I buy breakdown cover and use it straightaway?
Generally, breakdown providers do not allow cover to begin until 24 hours after the policy is purchased. Emergency cover can be arranged with the same provider for an additional fee on top, but you would not be using the cover you have purchased – you’d be using their instant/emergency breakdown callout service instead.
Instant breakdown cover can be purchased at the side of the road. Your new provider will then send someone to come and fix your vehicle. Please be aware: you can’t buy instant breakdown cover online, it has to be done over the phone.
If I don’t have breakdown cover, who should I call?
You may have the urge to take out a breakdown policy immediately with a trusted breakdown provider – generally, cover from breakdown policies doesn’t kick in until 24 hours from the policies inception. This means you may need to pay the fees for setting up the breakdown policy, but then wouldn’t be able to use it! You’d then need to pay further costs for a callout (not counting parts and recovery fees) to get you out of your current emergency.
Alternatively, you could try contacting nearby garages, or looking into instant breakdown cover. If you have concerns over your own or someone else’s safety, you might even feel the need to contact the emergency services.
Should I call the emergency services?
First things first – whether you have breakdown cover or not – if you are stranded in severe weather conditions in the middle of nowhere, or if you or other road users are in a dangerous situation, please call the emergency services on 999.
Make sure you have pulled over in a safe space and are in a position where you can contact the emergency services.
If necessary and safe enough to do so, exit the vehicle via a door furthest away from passing traffic and stand in a place where you are away from any danger. If you have any high-visibility clothing, please wear them to make it easier for other road users and emergency service workers to see you, especially if it’s dark.
Remember, do not attempt to make extensive repairs yourself.
What are local breakdown providers?
Local breakdown providers are independent garages within range of your emergency who will send someone to come and fix or retrieve your vehicle in the event of a breakdown. Costs will be incurred for parts, labour, or distance travelled to retrieve the vehicle if repairs can’t be done at the roadside.
Garages are likely to charge high call-out fees for emergency breakdowns, not counting the cost of parts or repairs. You’d also need to arrange transport or overnight accommodation if your car needs significant repairs.
Keep in mind that garages are not normally open 24/7, so if you break down at night or outside standard working hours, you might struggle to get help locally. If you feel a sense of fear or urgency that you need help right away, do not hesitate to contact the emergency services.
What are instant breakdown providers?
In the event of being stranded on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle without a breakdown policy, you can arrange and take out instant breakdown cover on the spot. This requires a direct phone call to a provider, who can set up your policy and send someone to come and fix your vehicle.
It is important to speak to an advisor when taking out this type of policy, as someone won’t be able to come and assist you in an emergency if you go ahead and purchase a policy online without speaking to anyone.
The good news is, emergency numbers on providers’ websites are generally manned 24/7 year round, so there is a strong likelihood of getting through to speak to someone.
When taking out a breakdown policy while stranded at the side of the road, elements which you might normally consider, such as policy features, can be pushed to the wayside by stress.
Therefore, try to keep in mind how much instant breakdown cover can cost you; this type of policy can be quite expensive compared to standard breakdown policies.
It is also important to clarify with your advisor whether the policy includes cover for:
- Towing your vehicle to a garage
- Getting you and your passengers home safely
- Estimated time of arrival
- Location of the providers garage
Whether you’ve decided on instant cover or a local breakdown, call the provider, calmly explain your situation in detail, answer any questions they may have for more insight into the problem, and request a call-out.
While emergency assistance may be more costly, this is the risk taken when driving without breakdown cover, especially if the car is an older model or if you drive for longer distances.
Roadside assistance may be enough for the repairs you need; many callouts can be resolved at the roadside, but be mentally prepared if you need to be transported to a nearby garage for more extensive repairs and additional costs.
Breaking down overseas without cover
Thousands of people in Britain drive in other European countries every year, accessing Europe via the ferry across the channel or the Euro-tunnel.
If you know you will be driving abroad, taking out standard breakdown cover with a European Assistance optional extra provides more peace of mind and can help you avoid extra costs while you are outside the UK.
In the event you break down in a foreign country without cover, you may be able to get one-off emergency breakdown cover from some providers over the phone. However, the number of providers that offer this is more limited, and will still prove to be a more costly option in comparison to standard breakdown cover.
As an alternative to buying instant European cover, you can try to find local assistance in the country that you are in, but this could be expensive and difficult to arrange, especially if you don’t speak the language.
Don’t wait until it’s too late: find cover today
It is understandable to feel like you are on your own and stranded if you break down without cover. And while it is not an ideal situation to find yourself in, it is important to remember that you do have options and you aren’t going to be stuck there forever.
It is challenging to weigh up your options on the fly, especially if you are stressed from running late, juggling a phone call to arrange for instant breakdown cover, when the weather isn’t in your favour with distressed children at the roadside, deciding who to contact for assistance.
Even if your car is well-maintained or brand new, vehicles come with lots of moving parts and can be susceptible to a fault that leaves you stuck by the side of the road. These faults, especially with a car engine, can often happen during the cold and wet weather too, making an already bad situation worse. So it is worth being ready.
The costs of emergency call outs, as well as paying more per mile for vehicle retrieval, personal accommodations (and alternative transport if needed) can cause costs to rise quickly, so having a plan in advance to cover these eventualities can reduce your costs and your stress too.
In the event of a breakdown for those with cover already in place, all it takes is one phone call to your provider, and (depending on your features and optional extras), the following can all be arranged without paying high call-out fees:
- Roadside repairs
- Garage repairs
- Vehicle retrievals
- Onwards travel
- Alternative transport
- European cover
So no need for impromptu shopping around on the roadside with numb fingers in the wet and cold, searching for an emergency number of a yet-to-be-discovered provider – simply a saved number in your phone and peace of mind that matters are in hand. If you have other financial queries but aren’t sure where to start, head to our homepage for more handy resources.
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