Beginner’s Guide to Car Breakdown Services

breakdown cover getting started

Car breakdown insurance can be a confusing subject, with its unique vocabulary and small print that many find off-putting. For new drivers, or those who have never bought it before, the whole subject can seem so complex and riddled with traps for the unwary that it can be easier to just ignore the whole subject.

That is an understandable view – but it could be a dangerous one. Like all insurance (and car breakdown cover is just another form of insurance) you buy it hoping that you’ll never need it, and it’s tempting to avoid thinking of what might happen to save some money. But just think; could you repair your car on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway at night, in the rain? What would you do if your car broke down while you were travelling through France on holiday? How would you manage if your car had a flat battery outside your house?

For many of us, who have neither the inclination nor ability to carry around a box of tools and spares, car breakdown cover is a necessary evil, so why not let us help you to find the right cover – as cheaply as possible?

Tell Me About Car Breakdown Cover – Just the Basics, Please!

As we’ve said, car breakdown cover is really just an insurance policy. The breakdown company take your premium in the hope that you won’t need to call on them – something that you probably hope too!

Depending on the level of cover that you have bought you can expect them to come and repair your car at the side of the road, tow you to the nearest garage if they can’t, tow you to your final destination, come out to you at home if your car won’t start, repair your car anywhere in Europe, or even pay for the labour and parts that are needed.

As with so many things in life you pay your money and take your choice because what you are really paying for is peace of mind.

The Most Basic Cover is Ok, Isn’t It?

Yes, it can be. If you live and work locally and never make a long journey then the basic cover will probably be OK. The patrol will come out to you and try to repair your car at the side of the road, something that they are very good at. Most of the time they can do so (they repair 4 out of 5 cars themselves) and they’ll send you on your way in an hour or so.

The problems start when you are on a longer journey; the most basic cover (often called ‘Roadside’ or ‘Rescue’ or something similar) will usually only cover them taking you and your car to the nearest garage. If you are a hundred miles from home and it’s a Sunday, for example, then you’ve got a problem. You’ve got to get home, arrange for the repair to be carried out, and then go and fetch your car when it’s going again. This can be a troublesome and expensive problem to deal with.

The next level of cover (usually called ‘Relay’ or ‘Rescue’ or something similar) will take you home or on to your final destination. This can be especially important if you are going on holiday or have to get home for some reason. This is the lowest level of cover that is appropriate for most people.

The most comprehensive policy that most people should consider adds cover if your car breaks down at your home address, something that the more basic ones don’t. It’s not essential but can save a lot of inconvenience and may not cost that much extra.

My Car is Very Reliable Normally; Do I Really Need Breakdown Cover?

According to Green Flag the most common car breakdowns are:

  1. Non-start/battery failure
  2. Minor accidents
  3. Tyre/wheel problems
  4. Electrical
  5. Mechanical
  6. Drive system
  7. Cooling system
  8. Keys locked in the car/stolen or lost
  9. Mis-fuelling/running out of petrol
  10. Cables

As you can see, five of the top ten (battery, tyre/wheel, keys, fuel, and accidents) are nothing to do with your car’s reliability. We can all run out of fuel, lock our keys in the car or have a puncture – and no matter how carefully your service you car, nothing can stop someone running into you!

That’s why every motorist should consider buying breakdown cover – because life is unpredictable.

You’ve Convinced Me; Which Companies Should I Consider?

There are three main players: the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), the Automobile Association (AA), and Green Flag.

The AA is the largest, the RAC is the longest established, and Green Flag is the cheapest and newest. All will provide great cover at a reasonable price and will be there when you need them – just like your favourite pair of leggings, but I digress. Green Flag has proved to be the fastest to get out to you and repairs more cars at the side of the road than the other two, but it’s a very small difference.

How Do I Choose Which One to Buy From?

There is no substitute for legwork, I’m afraid, but we have produced a guide that will help you! We have also summarised the three companies in a handy, easy-to-read guide: click here for the AA, here for the RAC, and here for Green Flag.

One thing that you do need to check who or what is covered. The AA, Green Flag and the RAC will all cover either you (so you are covered if you are a driver or passenger in any car) or the vehicle (so that anyone who drives it is covered).

Is There a Cheaper Way to Get Comprehensive Cover?

Yes there is – but there is a catch. AutoAid can provide comprehensive cover, including your spouse at no extra cost, at an unbeatable price. The catch is that you must pay for the recovery and then claim it back from them.

They have a great record of paying back the money very quickly. This is a good, cheap option – if you have the money to pay upfront.

What About Holiday Cover; Can They Cover Me in Europe?

Yes, all of the big players can cover you in Europe for an extra fee.

Car breakdown cover really isn’t as complex as it can look at first glance. All you need to do is think about how and where you drive and then select the level of cover that will give you peace of mind, something that is, as they say, priceless!