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Do you need a breakdown cover?

Your car, van or motorcycle breaking down in the middle of nowhere or when you’re en route to an important appointment can be bad enough – but it’s awful if you’ve no breakdown insurance cover. Downright stressful. Friends and family members can’t always drop everything and come to your aid, after all. And that’s why it’s essential – both for your peace of mind and general convenience – that you book insurance coverage with a reliable breakdown insurance service.

Do a little research and you’ll find that most breakdown services these days provide 24-hour coverage and some prioritise lone females. Several insurance companies offer breakdown insurance as a matter of course (and which is all very well but does it give you the specific coverage you require?).

If you travel every day for work, commute regularly, take the kids back and fro to different activities each evening or enjoy long journeys at weekends, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to have breakdown cover. Especially if your car is more than three years old.

Most breakdown companies offer what they call ‘standard cover.’ This means paying upfront (or via monthly instalments) and getting assistance free when you do break down and have to call them out for assistance. You can then look at other types of insurance.

Different types of breakdown insurance policies

woman broken down car recovery tow truck for breakdown assistancePersonal breakdown cover – This means you can call out the breakdown service if you’re in another vehicle at the time.

Vehicle-based cover – You nominate a particular vehicle in this instance and only if you happen to be in that vehicle (or your own) when you breakdown, will the company cover you for breakdown assistance.

Pay and claim cover – The most inexpensive form of breakdown cover, you only pay when you need help. This help is usually via a breakdown company local to where you need help. You then pay the breakdown company on the spot and reclaim the money from the insurance policy at a later date.

Roadside assistance – Common to all breakdown insurance policies, roadside assistance is available if your car, van or motorbike gets into trouble when not at home (usually around 0.25 of a mile away). If it can’t be fixed there and then it will be towed to a garage or your house.

Vehicle recovery – This is when your vehicle will be towed to your home or a garage of your choice along with an agreed number of passengers.

Home assistance – Provides help if your car, van or motorcycle won’t start in the morning from your home driveway or a wheel falls off etc.

Onward travel – If you breakdown and are intent on continuing your journey while you have this cover then – depending on your policy – you may be able to hire a car, taxi or other travel option. It could also involve taking you back home or to a hotel while you wait for your car to be repaired.

European cover – Who wouldn’t want cover when breaking down in a foreign country where you don’t even speak the language? This type of breakdown cover can be an add-on to an existing policy if you plan on going to Europe that year.

How to find a cheap breakdown cover?

As well as comparing breakdown insurance companies for the price, look at what types of coverage they offer to make sure it’s the best match for you. If you work at night for instance, then you’ll probably want onward travel.

And, if you’re more of a Staycation type, there’s no point in getting a European cover add-on as chances are you will almost certainly never use it.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be a taxi or Uber driver who alternates between a fleet of cars then you’ll want personal rather than vehicle cover.

Tips to help you save money on breakdown insurance

  • Always shop around for companies offering special promotional discounts at particular times
  • Getting a multi-car insurance policy can prove much less expensive than buying a cover for each car in the family or even a standard family membership policy
  • You’ll pay less for insurance if you have a newer car and low mileage as you’re considered less of a risk’
  • If your car is old and you do more than the average number of miles, then it will be cheaper to get a ‘fixed rate’ rather than a ‘calculated rate’ breakdown insurance premium
  • Only pay when you claim policies do exactly what it says on the tin, meaning you don’t pay a fee unless you need to claim
  • Restrict yourself to just the basics i.e. if you’re not sure if you’ll go abroad on holiday with the car that year then don’t sign up for European Cover ‘just in case

Frequently asked questions

Can I upgrade my cover halfway through my current policy?

Some providers will allow you to, others may refuse.

Is it possible to get a student discount?

It’s not usual but no harm in asking…

What if I breakdown and don’t have a breakdown cover – can I get it there and then?

Yes, most companies will allow you to sign up on the spot, but it’ll be more expensive than if you had arranged cover beforehand.

Can I pay for breakdown cover in instalments rather than upfront in one go?

Yes, you can pay monthly by direct debit if that makes it easier for you to afford.

Will a breakdown cover refuse to insure my vehicle because it’s more than 17 years old?

It depends on who your cover is with but yes, some companies will refuse to give breakdown cover to vehicles over a certain age.

Surely there is a limit on the number of times I can call out the breakdown service?

Yes, every provider differs but they all have a maximum limit.

What if I can’t get started from the house one morning? Does that still count?

Yes, provided you have ticked the Home Start option on your cover.

I don’t use my car a lot – just for shopping and getting around town. What’s the best insurance cover for me?

Usually, roadside recovery is enough since you’re not far from home if you do breakdown so why bother with the expense of Onward Travel?