Motoring Solutions

Guides Advice

A Definitive Guide To Breakdown Cover

So what is breakdown cover exactly, and how it can help us? Who are the UK suppliers and do they offer the same or different policies. We examine those questions below.

UK Motoring Clubs: Lets Start At The Beginning

The two biggest names in British breakdown cover started out as motoring clubs over 100 years ago The UK version of the Automobile Association in 1906 and the Royal Automobile Club in 1897. The principle of these clubs were to bring automobile owners together, who at that time tended to be wealthy Gentlemen who were investing their money and time into new engineering of the “Horseless Carriage”.

3 main breakdown cover supplier logos

Vehicles of this time needed constant maintenance and the laws of the road had yet to be defined, so the clubs help members with these challenges, sharing their knowledge and then eventually shaping motoring scene.

They used motor sport as a way of promoting motoring to the masses. As time went on, the services these clubs offered extended into aiding motorists at the roadside when their vehicle broke down, using uniformed employed patrols.

They acted as a catalyst to the development to the motor industry and were key during the "Golden Age Of Motoring” when cars started to become affordable to the masses in the UK.

Eventually the club aspect became less proactive (although the Royal Automobile Club still exists) and the services became more in line to the insurance industry with separate arms for aspects such as road safety.

Green Flag started much later in 1971 as a network of garages rather than employed patrols and was never seen as a motoring club.

Insurance Cover In Times Of A Vehicle Breakdown

What was seen as a service delivered by membership of a club has now transformed into a modern Insurance Policy and/or Financial Service. Payment is made in advance of receiving a pre-agreed service should the vehicle breakdown or become inoperable, which is either owned by the policy owner, or being traveled in (depending on policy). The type of cover and conditions are stated in each policy that is bought by the customer.

It gives peace of mind that in times of trouble, and experienced engineer will visit the policy owner and vehicle and either repair or transport the vehicle to another location.

All 3 UK major suppliers The AA, RAC and Green Flag all offer a 24hr 365 day service that can be accessed using the agreed hotline number. It covers the entire UK mainland and some services advertise an average 30 min call out time, but obviously the location of the stricken car will affect call out time.

Each supplier offers different levels of breakdown cover, that range from attendance at the roadside with basic repairs, attend a home address, recovery, and transportation and European options. Most with “Branded Named Policies” that although on paper look but very similar may have differences that may limit cover for customers with varying requirements.

Some policies cover the physical car whoever drives, others covers the driver whatever the vehicle they are traveling in as driver or passenger.

A Basic Guide To Different Breakdown Cover Policies

Each of the policies below may have different "Brand Names" per supplier than listed below. This is only a basic guide to the different policy options. You should always check the exact details of all polices before purchase.

Roadside Assistance Policies

It is argued that the majority of the callouts by customers are issues that can be fixed by the roadside safely in a reasonable amount of time. A typical Roadside Assistance policy is designed to deal with that demand only.

This tends to be the cheapest cost option and will cover the vehicle (or driver depending on policy) only if it is a certain stipulated distance away from home.

An engineer will visit the stricken vehicle and attempt to get the driver moving. If it is not possible they will tow or transport the vehicle to a local destination, either a garage or home destination.

Typically the most amount of callouts will be fixed by the roadside as most problems are caused by flat batteries and tyres which can be repaired by the engineer.

Home Breakdown Cover Policies

These tend to be an “add on” or “upgrade” to another policy, where the cover is extended to fixing a non starting car on the driveway at home. It does not cover maintenance issues, or repairs not associated to an emergency callouts.

Breakdown Recovery Polices

This is a more detailed policy that covers attendance at the roadside but also offers the transportation of the stricken vehicle to anywhere in mainland UK, including its driver and passengers.

This could be very useful should the vehicle have total failure such as engine failure, gearbox failure or brake issues, things that just can’t be fixed in situ and needs to be repaired in a garage or at home.

car breakdown with warning triangle

There are some advanced breakdown recovery options that include train travel home and local accommodation.

European Breakdown Cover

As the title states, this cover is travel for an agreed amount of time within the participating countries of Europe. Breakdown Cover companies operate differently to British ones, so any callouts will be as per local operation, including average callouts times. This policy tends not to cover transportation of the vehicle back to the UK.