Savvy Britain


Breakdown Cover Guide

Breakdown Cover InsuranceWhen your vehicle breaks down it can be a stressful time, this superb Breakdown Cover Guide should help you understand the pros and cons to insurance policies with roadside assistance included.

Generally speaking, most insurers in the UK will offer breakdown cover in some form. Most insurers will either offer a ‘roadside recovery’ or a ‘roadside rescue’.

By in large, this is typically a standard feature of their policies however some for insurers, it’s an ‘optional extra’. If this is the case, this means you will most likely have to pay more to have breakdown recovery on your car insurance.

It’s worth pointing out, that you may find that purchasing your breakdown cover separately from another company could actually be ‘cheaper’ than having it included within your insurance premium. As this varies massively, and is calculated on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, you will need to do your own research to see if it works out better for you or not.

Should I Have Breakdown Recovery?

If your budget can allow it, then it’s always a good idea to take out a policy, which includes roadside assistance. It’s a good investment for drivers who travel regularly, it can however be particularly suited to drivers who own ‘older’ vehicles, people who drive in remote locations or commuters / business travellers.

A good point to remember is that some dealerships will offer roadside recovery when purchasing a brand new car. If this is the case for you, then you should read all the documentation and see how long this service is applicable for.

Some dealerships offer a ‘6-month free’ roadside rescue, while others could be much longer. Obviously it goes without saying that if a dealership covers you for breakdown, then you should negotiate with your insurance provider to get a better deal without the recovery option built in.

Understanding the Breakdown Cover Levels

As you would expect, different insurers and providers offer different levels of ‘coverage’. Let’s take a look at this in more detail:
  • Roadside Assistance – As you would expect, roadside assistance simply does what it says on the tin. If you breakdown away from home and need a mechanic to assist you, then your breakdown recovery policy will send somebody to attempt to fix the problem at the roadside. Typically, if your vehicle cannot be fixed at the roadside, it will be towed to the nearest garage or your home, whichever is closer.
  • Vehicle Recovery – Typically if your car cannot be repaired ‘at the roadside’ then it will need to be recovered and taken to be fixed. Generally, most policy covers, which include this feature, will recover the vehicle along with the passengers (there could be a limit to how many passengers can be collected, this depends on individual providers). In most cases the vehicle will be taken to a local garage, however, some policies will allow the vehicle to be taken to a garage of your choice. This will usually be known as ‘national recovery’ or ‘nationwide coverage’.
  • Home Assistance – Usually Home Assistance helps you if your vehicle breaks down at your home or within a set distance from it. In most cases this is around a quarter to half a mile away. However it can be further, this varies depending on the insurance provider.
  • Onward Travel – This basically means that your insurance cover may include a hire car or an alternative mode of transport to your destination or home address.
  • European Cover – Most insurance companies will offer European car cover as an extra, it tends not to be a standard feature. Just like driving on British roads, it’s always recommended to get breakdown cover if you’re travelling around the continent. If you break down abroad it cannot only be costly, the language barrier can sometimes be an issue too. Generally, if your UK car insurance offers European Cover then they will most likely use an English-Speaking recovery team.
As you can see there’s a lot to think about. The right cover for you is obviously a personal choice depending on your own requirements.

Generally, how you use your vehicle will most likely determine the level of cover you require. If you commute long distances or do a lot of motorway driving, it’s most likely you will need a policy, which includes roadside assistance, vehicle recovery and onward travel all included together. On the contrary if you only take a trip ‘locally’ then some features such as ‘onward travel’ may be totally redundant.

Always remember that most UK insurance providers will often have their own ‘definitions’ and different ‘cover levels’, there isn’t always a universal grouping of terminology and phrases.
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Things to look out for

Unfortunately just like other insurances, you always need to read the small print and all documentation your provider sends you.

In majority of cases, there will be some exceptions to your cover, you should be aware of things such as:
  • Packaged Deals – Unfortunately there can sometimes can an illusion that breakdown cover when included with insurance can be cheaper than purchasing separate breakdown cover from another provider. This is because we tend to think that when items are packed together, discounts occur. This isn’t always the case. Think of £1 shops, everything they sell is £1, however if some of the products were in a normal shop they may actually be less than a pound. This kind of works in a similar manner, it’s always best to conduct your own research to see how good of a deal you’re actually getting.
  • Delays from the policy start date – sometimes breakdown recovery / assistance will only become ‘active’ after a set number of days. For example, you take a policy out on the 1st of July and the breakdown cover won’t start until the 14th of July. This obviously varies depending on which insurer you use.
  • Number of Call-Outs – It’s not uncommon for your cover to have a limited number of call-outs included. This will range hugely depending on your provider. If you ‘use’ all of your call-outs during the policy duration, you may find additional charges should you need roadside assistance / recovery.
  • Human Error – Unfortunately we all make mistakes, that’s just a part of life, however some cover agreements will not include human error as part of the breakdown recovery feature. For example this could include the battery going flat because the lights were left on, you’ve run out of fuel, put the wrong fuel in, or lost your car keys. You should always read your policy documentation to see how this may apply to you.
  • Vehicle Weight Limit – Some insurers will not recovery a vehicle over a particularly weight limit.

Original Publication: 15 June 2017
Last Updated: 15 June 2017

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