Is Breakdown Cover Worth It?

Is Breakdown Cover Worth It?

Like car insurance, breakdown cover is an expense you begrudge paying for until you need it. But with modern cars being that much more reliable and requiring less frequent maintenance, is breakdown cover worth it? 

In this blog post we explore breakdown cover in detail, including what types are available, the secondary benefits of having it, and most importantly is it worth the cost or can you afford to ditch it? 

What is Breakdown Cover? 

Most breakdown cover is primarily roadside assistance, where a mobile technician will come to your location should you break down at the side of the road. This could be due to anything from a flat tyre to a serious engine fault.  

In some cases, the technician will fix the car then and there, but almost all roadside breakdown vans have recovery systems built in to safely tow the car to a local garage or your home, if close enough.  

What Are The Different Types Of Breakdown Cover? 

Breakdown policies are not a one-size-fits-all solution, with most companies offering different levels of coverage. Make sure any comparisons are made like for like, as some companies term their types of cover differently.  

Roadside Assistance 

Roadside assistance is a level of cover usually included as a minimum with most providers and means your car will be recovered or fixed from the roadside should you break down. This does not include non-starting issues when your car is at home.  

Roadside policies usually cover the entirety of the UK, but double-check if you live or travel to places such as the Scottish highlands or Channel Islands.  

Roadside recovery is usually capped at a certain distance from where you broke down, e.g. to a garage within a 10-mile radius, if the nearest garage is further away than this, you may well be charged extra. 

National Recovery Cover 

In addition to roadside cover, national recovery includes the towing of your vehicle to anywhere in the country. This would usually be to a garage of your choosing close to home but could be your house instead.  

All companies will differ on how they enforce this, so check carefully before purchasing.  

European Breakdown Cover 

As the name suggests, this is the usual breakdown cover, but that applies to Europe to, invaluable if you travel or are planning to travel to Europe.  

Again, different companies have different extras included, for example, the AA offers a £500  emergency hotel fund should you need to stop somewhere unplanned.  

Onward Travel Cover 

Should you break down on your way to an important event, then onward travel cover includes cover for your onward travel expenses. This includes hotel stays, hire cars or taxi fares.  

If you regularly drive long distances to see family or for work, this could save you money and hassle when you need to get to your destination no matter what.  

Personal Breakdown Cover 

Most breakdown cover policies specify the person(s) and car to be covered, personal breakdown covers any car you may be driving, regardless of who owns it or why you are driving it.  

Some policies don’t cover things like company-hired hire cars and such, but this could still be handy if you find yourself behind the wheel of a different car every month. 

Home-Start Breakdown Cover 

Most breakdowns happen at the side of the road, mid-journey, but it can also be a huge inconvenience to go out to your car one morning and it does not start. Home start cover allows a certain number of callouts to your home address per year.  

Is Breakdown Cover Worth It? 

The answer to this question depends heavily on the amount and type of driving you do and the car you drive. What’s invaluable to some drivers may be a waste of money to others. 

Some considerations as to whether breakdown cover is worth it for you include: 

  • What Car Do You Drive? If you’re cruising around in a brand-new car, the chances of you breaking down are lower than in an old banger. This doesn’t mean you will never break down, though. 
  • Where do you drive? If you always have plenty of public transport around you - for instance, if you live a drive mostly in a city, but if you regularly travel many miles from home, across the country, it would be much more of a pain to get home if anything happened. 
  • What time of Day do you usually drive? If you use your car to come home from night shifts, for example, it may be extra beneficial to have a mobile mechanic on hand should anything go wrong.
  • Who is in the car with you? Using your car to do the school run, or for family holidays, may make roadside assistance and recovery more worthwhile, as being stranded with kids can be much more of a headache than just yourself or other adults.  

What Are The Benefits of Having Breakdown Cover? 

Despite the costs, many people choose to pay for breakdown cover, for the following reasons: 

  • Financial Protection: A tow vehicle, taxis and car repairs can quickly add up 
  • Convenience: Most of us wouldn’t drive if we didn’t need to get somewhere, roadside recovery and onward travel enable that even in the most dire situations 
  • Peace of mind: A strange noise or burning smell when on a road trip or even your morning commute is never easy to deal with, but it is likely to be a lot easier with a roadside mechanic on call  

Typical Breakdown Scenarios 

On the way to work 

Breaking down on the way to work might sometimes be a blessing. But say you need to attend an important meeting that day, or have deadlines to meet, something as trivial as a puncture would often require an expensive tow, followed by a day desperately trying to sort out a replacement tyre

Many breakdown services have dedicated tyre repair vans that will be dispatched when you tell the operator your problem. Depending on wait times, it’s likely your car will be back on the road and you make it in by mid-morning.  

On a Family Holiday 

Your bags, the boot and the roof box are packed with clothes, pets and everything you need for a week's staycation, but a faulty battery when leaving a service station stops everything in its tracks.  

Having roadside assistance means you could be underway within a few hours with a new battery fitted, which the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.  

How Much Does Breakdown Cover Cost? 

Ranging from £10 to £50 per month, the monthly costs of breakdown cover vary depending on vehicle age, location, yearly mileage, cover type and more, so it’s always important to get multiple quotes, comparing not only cost, but the level of service, and customer reviews too. 

How to Get Cheaper Breakdown Cover 

Like most products and services it pays to shop around, and breakdown cover is no different, here are some useful tips to to ensure you get best deal with your breakdown cover: 

  • Never auto-renew. Make a note of when your cover term is ending, and get new quotes from multiple companies before renewing, either change supplier or use this price to negotiate with your current provider. 
  • Look into joint policies. Like multi-car insurance, joint breakdown policies can bring the individual prices down for more than one driver/car. 
  • Get free cover with insurance or bank accounts. Some insurance providers will add in breakdown cover at a reduced or even free cost to you, similarly, there are often banks that give free cover with premium bank accounts.  
  • Use cashback sites. These are companies that give you a cash kickback for buying products and services through their sites. Breakdown cover can often be bought with up to 45% cash back, slashing the overall cost.  

For more information on ways to save money on Breakdown Cover, check out the Money Savings Expert Guide. 

What Does Breakdown Cover Exclude? 

Policies can be tailored to suit, from the most basic cover-up to anything and everything that could go wrong with your car. Some providers will offer these services even if they’re not included in your plan, but will be chargeable at the time of repair 

These are a few of the things most basic breakdown policies won’t cover: 

  • Assistance when emergency service vehicles are present (RTAs) 
  • Multiple callouts for the same issue 
  • Key replacement 
  • Tyre replacement 
  • Misfuelling 
  • Use of the car for racing or similar activity 
  • Company car usage and in some cases commercial usage of your car 

Is Breakdown Cover Legally Required in the UK? 

No, breakdown cover is not a legal requirement to drive in the UK. Unlike tax, insurance and MOT, you can legally drive without paying for breakdown cover.  

This is also the case across Europe, so European breakdown cover is not legally required either.  

Getting Breakdown Cover: An Overview 

If you’ve never taken out breakdown cover before, the process will be alien to you, so we’ve put together a handy guide to help: 

  1. Familiarise yourself with the types of cover available. 
  2. Identify what services you need, e.g. do you want onward travel cover? Do you need to cover your car, or yourself in any car? 
  3. Use a price comparison website to get some initial quotes 
  4. Check for cheaper deals through cashback websites or your bank - as discussed above 
  5. Contact a company and begin the onboarding process 
  6. Once you have a policy, make sure you keep a copy of the relevant contact numbers and policy details in your car, and on your person. 

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Provider 

As with any service, price is not the only factor to consider, and with how vital breakdown cover can be, you want to make sure you’ve picked correctly before signing up for 12 months of cover: 

  • Customer reviews - This will give you an idea of how good their customer service is, as well as how complaints are handled 
  • Patrol area and amount - The efficiency and speed of response will be directly related to how many patrol vans the company has 
  • Response time - This data is available online and should be used to assess the best-performing breakdown providers 

Who is The Best Breakdown Company? 

An independent review by WhatCar? ranked Green Flag as the best provider for 2023. This was based on multiple areas such as response time, customer satisfaction surveys and price.  

The best service provider for you is one that can also offer all the services you require at a good price, so be sure to check through all the information available before committing.  

Final Words 

Deciding whether or not to take out a breakdown cover policy is another one of the decisions we’re faced with when running a car, and the answer is dependent on your personal circumstances.  

Making repairs easy for you 

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