Many drivers these days choose to buy car breakdown cover as it offers peace of mind for the busy motorist. After all, you don’t want to be stranded at the roadside on the school run, or miss your flight because of a mechanical failure en route to the airport.
The cost of breakdown cover varies and it makes sense to get the best deal for you and your vehicle. No one wants to pay over the odds for breakdown cover, especially as the cost of running a car is so high. But the cheapest breakdown cover policy is not always the best. It might, for example, offer only basic cover when you want more of a premium package.
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Back to basics
There are various different levels of breakdown cover. A basic policy usually covers any repairs to your vehicle at the roadside. If it cannot be fixed, the car will be towed to the nearest garage and you will have to pay for any necessary repairs.
You can usually add home start for an additional premium, which means you are covered if your car won’t start in the morning, or if it breaks down within a quarter mile of your home. You can also choose national or nationwide cover, which will take you and your passengers to your chosen destination in the UK in the event of a breakdown. So, if you break down you know that you can get home or to your local garage.
A premium policy goes the extra mile and covers onward travel, which includes car hire and accommodation. However, the terms and conditions vary so you should always read the small print.
A basic policy is typically cheaper than a premium policy because it does not offer as many benefits. But it might be a false economy. If you have recently bought a new car with a high reliability rating, a basic policy is probably adequate. But if you car is old and temperamental, you might save more in the long run if you opt for a pricier roadside assistance package.
Motorists who drive abroad should consider European breakdown cover. You can either buy a single trip European breakdown cover policy or you can add European cover to your annual UK policy, which usually gives you cover for up to 90 days.
Annual cover can work out cheaper if you make frequent driving trips to the Continent. But if you never drive outside the UK, European breakdown cover is not worth the expense.
Up close and personal
A breakdown cover policy can cover either a person or a vehicle. If you choose personal cover, you can call for assistance whether you are in your own car, or a car that belongs to someone else. It is consequently more expensive than cover for a named vehicle. Personal cover might be right for you if you regularly drive more than one car. Otherwise, you could save money with vehicle cover.
When we think of breakdown cover services we tend to think of organisations such as the AA and the RAC that run their own patrol services. But some firms operate differently. They don’t have their own patrol service but instead send out a local recovery company to deal with any call outs.
You then pay for any repairs and claim back the money from the roadside assistance company.
Pay and claim services are often cheaper, so if you think you will keep hold of your receipts and remember to put in a claim, it might be a good option.
There is usually a limit on the number of call outs you can make each year on a roadside assistance policy – and if you agree to an even lower limit, you might be able to negotiate a discount. You might also secure a discount if you cover the whole family, or more than one vehicle. Some firms offer discounts if you buy online, too.
Some car insurance policies automatically include breakdown cover. You might also have breakdown cover in place if you pay for a premium bank account. Of course, there is no point in paying twice for breakdown cover, but you should check the level of any ‘free’ breakdown cover policy as it might only be basic.
It’s tempting to renew your breakdown cover with the same firm each year – tempting but often expensive as loyalty rarely pays. You can almost always save money if you compare prices when you buy breakdown cover – and it’s easy with MoneySupermarket’s free independent comparison service.