What happens when you are driving along the motorway and a tyre blows out? Or, say you are taking the kids to school; however, the car doesn’t start. You may even be on holiday abroad and your car breaks down.
The AA is the UK’s leading breakdown service. In 2011 it dealt with 3.4 million call-outs, rescuing a tenth of stranded UK drivers. During the cold weather the number of call outs almost double.
Therefore, getting breakdown cover is a highly sensible decision. You can call a breakdown expert to repair your car at the roadside or have it transported to the nearest garage. Who wants to be stranded by the roadside?
The AA and the RAC are the most well known names for breakdown cover, although there are other companies who provide breakdown cover.
Essentially there are two kinds of breakdown cover. The most well known companies operate a so-called automatic service. You normally pay an annual membership fee; you can phone for assistance should you have a problem, at no additional cost. There is usually a limit to the number of call outs permitted, normally five per annum.
Specific smaller breakdown cover providers send out a local company out as opposed to their own patrols. A local firm responds and in certain cases you may have to pay for the call-out as well as any recovery. You are then able to reclaim the cost from the breakdown company. This type of cover is like a traditional insurance policy.
Should you be prepared to pay up front for call out, the automatic system is more convenient.
There are various levels of breakdown cover. The cost of a basic policy can be just £20 a year, covering roadside assistance and recovery. Should you break down, you can call out someone who will fix your car or tow it to the nearest garage or home. The breakdown has to happen more than a quarter of a mile away from your home and the closest garage has to be within 10 miles. Should your car need towing more than 10 miles, you may liable for those costs.
The cost of repairing your car is not included in breakdown cover. Should your car be repaired at the roadside, you may still have to fork out for any spare parts.
For a higher premium you can get national or nationwide recovery. It transports you, your vehicle and up to a set number of passengers, normally seven, to any chosen destination in the UK. It enables you to get to your destination or get home, whatever the distance.
The home start policy is great if you are concerned about your car not starting in the morning or you want peace of mind should you break down less than a mile from your home.
Moreover, you are able to upgrade your policy to include onward travel. Should it not be possible to fix your car on the roadside you can upgrade your policy for car hire for up to three days, overnight accommodation or the cost of public transport. The specific terms can differ considerably from one firm to another, therefore, read the small print carefully.
Certain breakdown cover policies do pay out a limited amount for parts and garage costs.
There may well be restrictions as per the type and age of the vehicle.
Should you motor on the Continent, it is advisable to get European breakdown cover. You can add European cover to your annual UK policy, which usually permits up to 90 days cover within Europe or you can purchase breakdown cover for a single trip, should you be planning a single journey. If you travel consistently in Europe, annual cover could prove to be the cheaper option.
European cover varies between insurers, hence, check your policy details. It is also vital that you check which countries are classified as European to ensure your destination is listed. This may seem simplistic; however, certain policies purely cover countries within the European Union.
The majority of policies usually offer a minimum of roadside help and emergency repairs, as well as English-speaking assistance. Moreover, you can get vehicle recovery to the UK or another destination and cover for alternative transport and accommodation. The more comprehensive the policy, the more expensive it is going to be.
You will need to decide on the kind of policy you need and whether or not you want cover for your car or yourself. Should you opt for personal breakdown cover, you can call for assistance whether you are driving or you are a passenger in your own car, or another vehicle.
On the other hand, you can arrange cover for any other driver in a named vehicle. This kind of policy covers the car, whoever is driving. Usually you can cover a maximum of three named vehicles on a policy.
A personal policy is likely to suit you better if you frequently drive more than one vehicle. It is best to compare both policies to ensure you obtain the best deal.
Certain breakdown cover packages can impose age limits on vehicles. So, vehicles more than ten years old may not be covered.
There are numerous van owners who may rely on their vehicle for business operations. Therefore, it is highly advisable to have van breakdown cover to get your vehicle back on the road quickly.
Should you have breakdown cover, do not ignore the maintenance of your car. The breakdown service provider can legitimately decline assistance if car is not legal or roadworthy. Therefore, ensure you have an up to date MOT as well as a spare tyre in your boot.
Car maintenance is a key area which can prevent breakdowns. Battery related issues constitute the most frequent reason for call-outs. Hence, do remember to switch off any lights when the engine is off. On short journeys your battery does not get the best opportunity to charge, so, occasionally give your car a good run.
Punctures and torn tyres are other frequent causes of call-outs. Hence, check your tyre pressure on a regular basis and try not to hit the kerb.
The cheapest breakdown cover may not be the best policy. Should you not wish to jump start your car in the morning, you may wish to take out a home policy. On the other hand, if you have a brand new car, you may opt to not have that cover. European breakdown cover is likely to be a must for motorists who travel abroad frequently, which is an extra premium. However, should you not motor on the Continent it is pointless having European breakdown cover.
It is also advisable to work out usual waiting times for roadside rescue and whether or not the insurer prioritises vulnerable motorists.