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Car insurance with breakdown cover

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A car breakdown is infuriating at any time, but if you’re stranded on the hard shoulder or stuck in the middle of nowhere, it can also be a pretty frightening experience. The right breakdown cover will ensure that help is only a phone call away, but how do you get the best cover for you? Get the lowdown on your options and find out whether you’d be better off buying car insurance with breakdown cover or choosing a standalone policy instead.

What is breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover provides you with emergency assistance if your car lets you down mid-journey and you can’t get back on the road by yourself. Some policies will also come to your rescue at home if you can’t get your car to start.

Breakdown cover can be purchased for cars, motorbikes and vans and can help with problems such as a flat battery, an alternator fault or a tyre puncture. It may also come to your aid (and spare you any blushes) if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in the tank or run out of fuel mid-journey.

The biggest breakdown services say that they respond to most call-outs within an hour and complete repairs within 30 minutes or so.

Breakdown cover is occasionally included with top-of-the-range comprehensive car insurance but doesn’t come as standard on most policies. However, you will normally have the option to buy breakdown cover with your car insurance as an optional extra.

Alternatively, you can compare breakdown cover yourself and buy a standalone policy rather than combining it with your car insurance.

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Buy a policy

You can select the benefits you need most and tailor your breakdown cover to your specific needs.

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Call for help

If your car breaks down, call your breakdown provider. Let them know what’s happened and where you are, and a mechanic will be dispatched.

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Help arrives

Most repairs can be completed on the roadside and you can continue with your journey. If not, your car will be towed to a garage for repairs. Depending on your policy, you may be able to file a claim for the costs of completing your journey.

Does car insurance come with breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover is occasionally included with top-of-the-range comprehensive car insurance but doesn’t come as standard on most policies. However, you will normally have the option to buy breakdown cover with your car insurance as an optional extra.

Alternatively, you can compare breakdown cover yourself and buy a standalone policy rather than combining it with your car insurance.

Should I get car insurance with breakdown cover?

It’s wise to weigh up the pros and cons of taking out car insurance with breakdown cover, over getting a standalone policy, before making a decision:

Pros of car insurance with breakdown cover Cons of car insurance with breakdown cover
  • Easier to manage: it can be easier to manage having car insurance and breakdown cover under one policy, with one set of paperwork
  • One renewal date: if you take out car insurance with breakdown cover, both policies will be in sync, meaning you can easily renew them at the same time
  • Potential discounts: you may receive a on your breakdown cover by taking it out alongside a car insurance policy
  • It might be cheaper elsewhere: while you can receive a discount for bundling car insurance with breakdown cover, you may be able to find a cheaper standalone policy by comparing providers
  • Less choice: normally when you bundle car insurance with breakdown cover, you’ll use the breakdown services of the insurance providers partner. This means you may not be able to go with your preferred breakdown cover company
  • Less customisation: you’ll likely have less control over what your breakdown cover includes if you purchase it with car insurance

How to compare car insurance quotes with breakdown cover

If you’re buying car insurance with breakdown cover, make sure you check the scope of that cover – are you getting basic roadside assistance or a more comprehensive national recovery service? How many call-outs can you make a year?

Before you agree, it’s a good idea to get standalone quotes from breakdown services. The RAC, the AA and Green Flag provide lots of information on their websites and can give you quick indications of price.

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Although car insurance is a legal requirement, breakdown cover is a personal choice.

 

Ultimately, you need to think about how much you rely on your car, how likely it is to break down and how you’d manage if it did. You may also want to think about whether you tend to drive alone or have other adults, children or pets as passengers.

 

Breakdown cover may be a higher priority if you have an older car that you use daily to commute to work or get the kids to school than if you have a new car that you only drive on weekends.

 

You should also consider whether you already have breakdown cover. Some fee-charging bank accounts include breakdown cover, while drivers of new cars may have breakdown cover included in the manufacturer’s warranty (for as long as the warranty lasts).

 

Leased and company cars often come with breakdown cover as well.

Types of breakdown cover

There are two main types of breakdown cover: personal cover and vehicle cover.

Personal breakdown cover

This type of breakdown policy covers you rather than a specific car. This means you can get roadside assistance in any car you’re driving or riding in (as long as it meets the policy requirements). You can set up the policy to include other members of your family, too.

Personal breakdown cover is generally more expensive than vehicle cover but can be helpful if you regularly drive or travel in multiple cars. 

Vehicle breakdown cover 

Vehicle breakdown covers the car (or van) rather than a specific person. As such, anyone driving it can call for roadside assistance if they break down as long as they’re insured to drive it.

This is normally the cheapest type of breakdown cover and can be a sensible option if you have a car that’s driven by other members of your family. If necessary, multiple cars can be covered by the same policy if they’re registered to the same address.

What does breakdown cover include?

Whether you choose personal or vehicle breakdown cover, you’ll need to select the level of cover you need.

Policies can be tailored with a range of benefits, including:

Roadside assistance

This is the foundation of breakdown cover and provides assistance if you break down at the side of the road. You can call out a mechanic to change your tire or jump-start your car. If your car can’t be fixed on the road, it may be towed to a local garage for repair, but you’ll need to check your policy for the specific terms.

National recovery

This type of cover offers roadside assistance wherever you break down. If repairs can’t be completed on the spot, your car will be towed to any location in the UK. This level of cover provides extra peace of mind for those who regularly drive a long way from home.

Onward travel

If your car can’t be fixed by the roadside, onward travel will help you get home. The details vary among policies but can include public transport tickets, courtesy cars and, in some cases, overnight accommodation.

European recovery

A big European road trip can put a lot of pressure on an older car. European recovery will ensure you get the roadside support you need when you’re driving on the Continent. It’s important to check exactly what’s covered; pay particular attention to whether you’ll get a courtesy car to carry on your journey and how you and your car will get back to the UK if it can’t be fixed.

Home start or at-home cover

These policies cover breakdowns that occur close to home (typically up to a mile) or in your drive. If you have a new car, this may not be worth paying for, but if you have an older car and worry about the battery on cold mornings, it can be a sensible investment.

In addition to breakdown cover for cars, vans and motorbikes, you can get breakdown cover for motorhomes, and business owners can arrange breakdown cover for a fleet of vehicles.

Additional benefits

You may be able to include the following benefits to your policy for an additional fee:

Cover Description
Tyre replacement New tyres if yours are damaged
Lost keys Replacement keys if yours are lost or stolen
New battery A new battery if yours is flat and needs replacing
Special vehicles Additional cover for trailers or caravans
Fuel cover Get help if you run out of fuel mid-journey or put the wrong fuel in the tank
Garage and parts cover Garage repairs will be covered if your car can’t be fixed at the roadside

What isn’t included with breakdown cover?

What’s not covered by your policy will largely be determined by the benefits you choose. For example, a home start won’t be covered if you selected only roadside assistance. 

However, there are some notable exclusions that may apply to all levels of cover.

These can include:

  • Failure to maintain your car: Your breakdown cover may not help if your call-out is the result of a lack of maintenance, such as not topping up your oil. Some, but not all, policies provide cover for misfueling
  • Recurring faults: Policies often limit the number of call-outs or refuse cover if you’ve neglected to repair a known fault
  • Recovery of your car after an accident: Some providers won’t tow your car if it’s been involved in an accident
  • Cover in Europe: Even if your car is insured to drive in Europe, your breakdown cover may not extend to the Continent unless you have specifically selected it
  • Breakdowns on private land: Some providers may only cover breakdowns on roads and may not come out if you’re stuck in a car park at a shopping centre or tourist attraction. If they do, you may be charged an extra fee for recovery
  • Transport of pets or livestock: Even if your policy covers your onward travel arrangements, that may exclude any four-legged friends you have in your vehicle. In some cases, it will come down to the mechanic’s discretion

As with any insurance policy, exclusions will vary among providers, so it’s important to check what is and isn’t covered without making any assumptions.

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How much is breakdown cover?

The cost of breakdown cover will depend on whether you choose personal or vehicle cover and the level of cover you need.

Basic roadside assistance will be the cheapest option – you’ll pay more if you want national recovery, European recovery, onward travel or home start.

Adding more people or vehicles to a policy will increase the cost, as will any other additional options you add onto your cover.

Cover can be purchased on a standalone basis and starts at around £25 to £30 a year for roadside assistance, rising to £100 or more for national recovery and home start.

How to get cheaper breakdown cover

While breakdown cover provides peace of mind, you don’t want to pay any more than necessary.

Check out our tips for cheaper breakdown cover:

  • Buy vehicle cover if you share your car with other family members; it’s cheaper than personal cover
  • As with multi-car insurance, you can also save money by having multiple cars on one breakdown cover policy
  • Don’t buy national recovery if you rarely make long journeys
  • Don’t pay for extras, such as European cover, unless you need them
  • Shop around and don’t renew with the same provider each year
  • Consider smaller breakdown services, not just the big names. They can often match the service of their bigger rivals by subcontracting out to local recovery firms
  • Haggle on renewal for a cheaper deal. 

When choosing the amount of cover you need, it’s also worth thinking about the age and reliability of your car and how likely it is to break down. Think about your car competency too – you may be perfectly comfortable jump-starting your car yourself or changing a tyre.

But don’t scrimp on cover that could prove helpful. Home starts cost extra but account for most calls to breakdown services.

Car insurance with breakdown cover FAQs

You can still call breakdown services, even if you don’t have breakdown cover. You can often arrange instant cover or emergency help, but it’s likely to be expensive. Alternatively, you can contact a local garage.

If you buy car insurance with breakdown cover, you may wonder if a breakdown will affect your no-claims bonus. The good news is it won’t – they are two separate policies.

While some policies offer unlimited call-outs a year, the cheapest breakdown cover may restrict you to one call-out a year, so make sure you check before you buy.

Yes, it’s possible to get European car insurance with breakdown cover on a single-trip basis – if you’re only going to need it for a short trip, this is likely to be cheaper than annual cover.

This depends on the breakdown service in question. Some have no age restrictions, while others may refuse cars that are more than 15 years old.

You may also find that battery replacement cover may be restricted to younger cars.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

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Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.