What is roadside assistance?

If you’re a driver, you’ve probably found yourself querying ‘what is roadside assistance?’ at some point. It’s something you’ll need to consider, as roadside assistance (often known as breakdown cover) can be very useful, although you’ll need to find the right service provider for your needs.

You may not think you need to take out roadside assistance, but there’s always a chance your car could develop a fault, even if it’s fairly new. The breakdown experience is never fun, but you may be able to get extra peace of mind by taking out an annual breakdown cover policy.

If you’d like to find out more, this guide will help you understand what roadside assistance is, as well as helping you decide whether you need to take a policy out.

What is roadside assistance?

First things first – you need to know exactly what roadside assistance cover is before signing up for a policy.

In layman’s terms, roadside assistance is an insurance policy that is taken out in order to cover your vehicle in the event that your vehicle breaks down whilst driving. Vehicle breakdown cover is usually used if an issue occurs when driving and you’re unable to drive your car to a garage or your home, rather than for smaller faults. Breaking down can be particularly stressful, especially if you break down on a motorway, so roadside assistance is something all drivers should consider.

There are lots of different roadside assistance providers based within the UK – if you’re not sure who to pick, a comparison site may help you make your breakdown cover decision.

Some of the most well known breakdown providers within the UK are:

However, other services do exist, and you may find that local garages in your area will come and help you for a fee if you don’t have a set insurance provider. Most automobile manufacturers also have their own roadside assistance plans you can take out, so you may want to take out a policy with the manufacturer instead.

When your car breaks down and you have a roadside assistance plan set up, the company will usually send an expert technician out to assist you at your location. They’ll often try to fix the issue at the roadside if the company representative has the parts needed. If a larger fault has occurred, you’ll usually get onward travel to a garage or your home so that you can get the fault fixed yourself. 

What is covered under roadside assistance?

Breakdown cover policies will differ depending on the roadside assistance provider you use, as well as the type of policy you have taken out. It’s quite difficult to ascertain what will be covered by your chosen breakdown coverage plan, as it will largely depend on the type of policy you have taken out.

However, there are some common features that tend to be included within most basic roadside assistance packages:

  • Towing and recovery services – If your vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside, you’ll usually be towed to either your home or a garage to fix it.
  • Battery jump starts – If you have a flat battery and you break down as a result, your policy provider will usually send someone out to jump-start it. However, they won’t replace your battery, so this is something you’d need to fix elsewhere.
  • Punctures and flat tyre repairs  If your tyre needs more air in it, the technician will often try and pump it up first. If you need a replacement tyre, they’ll usually change it for your spare tyre, if you have one. In some cases, your provider will change your tyre for a brand new one, although this won’t be offered in all plans.
  • Locksmith services – If you lose your car key or you get locked out of your car, your provider may change your locks or provide a new key. This is sometimes an optional extra, so it may not be included in your plan.
  • Extraction services – If your vehicle gets stuck in mud or snow, a technician will be sent out to remove your car.
  • Fuel delivery – If you run out of petrol or diesel, you’ll be able to get emergency fuel delivered to get you on the road again. Some policies will also cover you if you accidentally put the wrong type of fuel into your vehicle, although you often have to pay more for this.

The cost of roadside assistance can differ a lot, as there are different levels of breakdown cover you can take out. For cheaper plans, you may only get breakdowns within a certain mileage covered. So if you break down in another county, you may have to pay an extra fee to get your car transported. With some policies, you also won’t be covered if you’re close to your home – usually within 1/4 of a mile. However, this is something you can add onto your existing policy if needed.

Before taking out vehicle cover, you should go through the different policies available to ensure you’re picking the right one for your needs.

Do I need breakdown cover?

‘Do I need breakdown cover?’ is another common question most drivers ask themselves, and it’s something that really depends on the individual. It’s not a legal requirement to have a roadside assistance policy, so you can choose to risk going without if you prefer.

Whilst breakdown services can be extremely useful, some people may consider them to be a waste of money, especially if they have a new car that is unlikely to break down in the near future. It’s important to point out that having vehicle breakdown cover won’t cover general faults, servicing, maintenance or your MOTs, so you’ll still need to pay for these things separately. Companies like The RAC offer their own MOT and servicing packages, so you may want to consider using them for your roadside assistance cover.

You’ll also need to pay for car insurance each year – sometimes you may get vehicle breakdown cover included, depending on the insurance company and policy you go for.

However, the breakdown experience can be very stressful, and finding yourself in that situation when you don’t have a roadside assistance plan can make the event much worse. If you do find yourself in an emergency breakdown situation, you’ll usually need to pay for someone to come out to help you, or set up a policy with a provider at the scene. Whilst you can take out roadside assistance with an existing fault, it will be more expensive to do so. There will usually be an emergency callout fee to pay, as well as the cost of setting up your policy.

If you don’t want to take out vehicle breakdown cover, you should ensure you get your car properly serviced and maintained each year. If any faults or warning lights appear, you should get your car checked out as soon as possible, no matter how minor the issue appears to be.

Your safety is our priority

Now that you’ve read our handy guide, you have the answers to the question ‘what is roadside assistance?’ Having a breakdown cover policy can be extremely useful, particularly if you have an older car that is prone to faults. However, it isn’t always necessary, so it’s your responsibility as to whether or not you want to take a policy out.

If you do decide you would like roadside assistance, you should compare different policies and providers first with a comparison tool, so you can get the best coverage for your needs.

At Finance Rate, our aim is to give you the best advice available in the public sphere. Our main focus is on financial information, although we also help our users with other things, such as breakdown cover. 

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