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Breakdown cover can help to keep you moving if you encounter a problem on the road

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October 17th, 2023

What is breakdown cover?

Breakdown recovery cover protects you if your vehicle fails on a UK road. Without it you could find yourself marooned on the hard shoulder or in the middle of nowhere, trying to figure out what to do next. 

A quality breakdown recovery policy means you can call a mechanic to help in an emergency. The mechanic will either fix your vehicle there and then or arrange for a tow to their garage. With the right policy in place you could get a hire car so you can continue on your journey should the problem be more serious than a flat battery or punctured tyre

It’s not a replacement for motor insurance, and it won’t cover damage to property or injury to your or others. It’s a back-up, there to get you up and running as quickly as possible.

Breakdown cover can be bought as an individual policy, or offered as an add-on to your regular car, van or motorcycle insurance.”

Do I need breakdown cover?

Unlike car insurance, breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement but it can get you out of trouble if you’re stranded. Just knowing you have it in place can reduce the stress of the experience. 

There are two types of breakdown cover to select from:

  • Vehicle cover: You can only call out for assistance when the covered car, van or motorcycle breaks down.

  • Personal breakdown cover: This covers any vehicle you’re travelling in, either as the driver or a passenger.

If you only ever travel in your own car, vehicle cover can be a good way to get cheap breakdown cover. But if you regularly drive or are a passenger in different cars, personal breakdown cover may prove the better option.

Here’s more information on how breakdown cover works.

Types of breakdown cover

Roadside assistance

Every breakdown cover policy comes with roadside assistance. It provides on-the-spot help if your vehicle breaks down or will tow you to the nearest garage if need be.

Breakdown recovery

National roadside breakdown recovery cover ensures your vehicle will be towed to any location of your choice in the UK if it can’t be fixed at the roadside. This means that even if you’re far away from home when you break down, your vehicle can be fixed near where you live.

Onward travel cover

This cover gives you the option to continue with your journey if your car’s taken to a garage. You get the choice of a hire car, hotel accommodation and/or alternative travel arrangements.

Home start

This covers breakdowns at your home or nearby (such as a quarter of a mile away).

European breakdown cover

This extends your policy so you’re covered for trips in Europe. Here’s how European breakdown cover works.

Types of breakdown cover

Roadside assistance

Every breakdown cover policy comes with roadside assistance. It provides on-the-spot help if your vehicle breaks down or will tow you to the nearest garage if need be.

Breakdown recovery

National roadside breakdown recovery cover ensures your vehicle will be towed to any location of your choice in the UK if it can’t be fixed at the roadside. This means that even if you’re far away from home when you break down, your vehicle can be fixed near where you live.

Onward travel cover

This cover gives you the option to continue with your journey if your car’s taken to a garage. You get the choice of a hire car, hotel accommodation and/or alternative travel arrangements.

Home start

This covers breakdowns at your home or nearby (such as a quarter of a mile away).

European breakdown cover

This extends your policy so you’re covered for trips in Europe. Here’s how European breakdown cover works.

How to choose the best breakdown cover

Breakdown cover can cost from around £60 to more than £200 a year. With such a price range, it’s important you find the right cover for your needs at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Here are three things to consider during the decision-making process:

Look at the extras

Try not to focus on finding the cheapest breakdown cover as this might not be the most suitable cover for you long-term. For example, some policies might include extras that mean you are much better protected if something happens.

Consider the excess

The cheaper deals might include a higher excess, which means you might have a big financial hit when the breakdown occurs. Instead, decide how much excess you can realistically afford and let this guide you to the right cover.

Take your time

When you are looking at insurance options, it’s always better to shop around and not rush your decision. Compare quotes from a variety of providers and always read the policy to fully understand the costs involved.

What extras can be included in the breakdown cover?

Key replacement

This covers the cost of calling out a locksmith, plus new locks and keys if yours are broken, lost or stolen. You may also get a hire car while the issue is resolved.

Misfuelling cover

This covers your costs if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your vehicle. With misfuelling cover an engineer drains, flushes, and cleans out your fuel system before refilling with the correct fuel.

Battery cover

If your battery dies and your breakdown provider can’t recharge it, this covers the cost of a replacement.

Parts and labour

If your vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside and is towed to a garage, this extra covers the cost of any parts and labour needed. You may be asked to provide evidence of your last service to make a claim.

Tyre replacement

This covers breakdowns resulting from punctured tyres. The engineer repairs your tyre if they can, or fits a replacement.

What extras can be included in the breakdown cover?

Key replacement

This covers the cost of calling out a locksmith, plus new locks and keys if yours are broken, lost or stolen. You may also get a hire car while the issue is resolved.

Misfuelling cover

This covers your costs if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your vehicle. With misfuelling cover an engineer drains, flushes, and cleans out your fuel system before refilling with the correct fuel.

Battery cover

If your battery dies and your breakdown provider can’t recharge it, this covers the cost of a replacement.

Parts and labour

If your vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside and is towed to a garage, this extra covers the cost of any parts and labour needed. You may be asked to provide evidence of your last service to make a claim.

Tyre replacement

This covers breakdowns resulting from punctured tyres. The engineer repairs your tyre if they can, or fits a replacement.

What's covered and what's not covered?

What's covered

Roadside assistance or local cover
Breakdown at home
Vehicle recovery
Onward travel

What's not covered

Pet travel
Breakdown due to lack of maintenance
Road accident recovery
Breaking down abroad (if you don’t have European cover)

FAQs

How can I get cheap breakdown cover?

Get the best breakdown cover possible by shopping around through an online comparison. Also, avoid auto-renewing – you’ll probably find a cheaper like-for-like deal elsewhere.

What information do I need to share to get breakdown cover?

You need to give your breakdown cover provider your full name, postal address, personal details, driving licence details and particulars about your car, including mileage.

How many times can I claim on my breakdown cover?

It depends on your provider and the level of cover. Many offer unlimited callouts, but basic, cheap cover may only let you make a hand-full of claims a year, so always check the policy.

Can I get help if I breakdown at home?

Not always. You’ll need to have home-start cover included in your car policy. Here is how to work out what cover you need.

Am I covered in someone else’s car?

It depends. If you choose a personal cover policy, you’ll be covered whether you’re driving or a passenger in any car.

Can I pay for breakdown cover monthly?

Yes. You can either pay for your cover in one upfront payment, or you can spread it over the term of the policy, just as you can with standard motor insurance.

Can I earn a no-claims discount?

Possibly. Some providers offer a discount if you have not claimed on your policy in the previous year – check before you buy.

Can I get student discount on my breakdown policy?

Most breakdown cover providers don’t offer a student discount, but there might be other offers, such as online discounts, worth looking out for.

Explore our breakdown cover guides

Find out more about how breakdown cover works and whether it's right for you
What breakdown cover is right for you?
What breakdown cover is right for you?
What to do if your vehicle breaks down
What to do if your vehicle breaks down
Can you get breakdown cover when you have broken down?
Can you get breakdown cover when you have broken down?

About the author

Lucinda O'Brien
Lucinda O'Brien has spent the past 10 years writing and editing content for regional and national titles. She applies her industry knowledge to ensure readers can make confident financial decisions.

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