Too many people auto-renew breakdown cover and pay over the odds. Know where to look and you can often get a cheap basic AA or RAC policy without paying the full price, or comprehensive cover for less than £50 a year.
This guide reveals the best ways to cut the cost of breakdown cover, including tips on how haggling can help.
Breakdown cover need-to-knows…
The days of mutual motoring clubs are long gone – roadside recovery policies are big business. So forget loyalty and focus on getting the top deal. Here are five need-to-knows to read before checking the best buys…
1. Breakdown firms are among the easiest to haggle with
When it comes to haggling, don’t think you need to be in backstreet bazaars. Haggling success rates are high when it comes to breakdown cover. These results are from a poll we took in Nov 2014 (full result, see our Haggling Poll):
Haggling success with breakdown cover
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2. If your car’s shiny and new, do you need the full works?
If you’ve a modern, reliable car, then you only need cover as an emergency back-up plan, so basic cover is likely to be enough. If your car’s older, or has a history of breakdowns, you should consider a more comprehensive policy.
There are three main UK cover types. If a policy just has the first, we classify it as ‘basic’. If it has all three, we call it ‘comprehensive’:
Basic cover. It typically means your car will be fixed at the roadside or towed to a local garage. But it won’t usually cover you if you breakdown close to your home.
Home start. In addition to basic cover, you will be covered for a problem if your motor won’t start at home.
Onward travel. If your car’s kept in a garage for repairs, this generally means you’ll get a hire car for up to three days, plus a night’s accommodation. It also covers costs if you need to continue by public transport.
3. Driving in Europe? Ensure you’re covered
If you’re planning to go regularly, consider taking out an annual breakdown policy with European cover.
If you’ll only need it for a few days a year, a cheap UK policy which you can upgrade to cover Europe when you need it, may be better. Always check the option is available before taking out the policy – and ask how long it takes to add before it come into effect – some impose exclusions against claims in the first 15 days from the start of the extension.
See our Cheap European Cover section for the best deals for annual and single cover.
Finally, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance and notify your car insurer to get that extra protection while you’re abroad.
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4. It can be cheaper to pay and claim
There are two ways providers will let you claim on a policy and it’s important to understand which you’re getting.
Automatic service. With this, you call up when you breakdown and the provider send its patrols (or sometimes sub-contracted ones) to sort it. Breakdown heavyweights RAC and AA both work this way.
Pay and claim. This isn’t as common. When there’s a problem, the provider sends a local recovery firm, chosen by you or it, rather than its own patrols.
You pay for the repairs (let it know if you want to pay by card so it can ensure the patrol accepts it), and send in the receipt to claim it back later.
5. Always check whether you’re covering a car or a person
You can either cover the car you’re in or you can take out personal cover which protects you no matter what car you’re driving. Buying personal cover is typically more expensive so only go for this if you think you’ll need it.
If you never swap motors the pricier policy is pointless, but if you regularly drive other people’s cars, it’s worth thinking about.