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Car Breakdown Cover – What Do You Really Need?

If your car breaks down on the motorway in the middle of the night, who would you call?

  1. a) Your dad
  2. b) The mate who’s good with a spanner
  3. c) No-one. You’ll have a tinker round with it yourself. Can’t be too difficult can it?

If you answered a), b) or c) then the following advice may well be perfect for you.

Calling a friend – or a parent – to fix a mechanical problem could be wrong for many reasons. It’s a false economy. The likelihood is the same thing will happen again. It’s also dangerous. They might know what they’re doing but attempting to repair a car on a motorway hard shoulder without specialist hazard lighting and professional equipment is madness.

As for you doing it? Unless you work for the AA or RAC and have the boiler suit to prove it, enough said.

Which is where breakdown cover comes into play. It can get you going, keep you moving or at least transport you to a garage if the problem is too great to fix.

But what kind of policy do you need? Here’s the basics of breakdown cover.

  •      Most standard cover will offer roadside recovery and roadside rescue as a basic level of service. So, if your car breaks down and you can’t continue your journey, you don’t need to have a breakdown alongside it.
  •      If you regularly travel by car, travel alone, travel in remote areas, have young kids on board or drive a bit of a banger then breakdown insurance is definitely worth the investment for peace of mind alone.
  •      Standard breakdown cover is offered by most of the big providers and the best option for most customers. You’ll be offered various levels of cover to suit your circumstances including vehicle recovery, home assistance, onward travel and European cover.
  •      The level you opt for should be dependent on things such as how much mileage you do and the age of the vehicle. If you use your car for business, or commuting to and from work, you’ll be dependent on its reliability and keen to avoid any disruption. If you only use it for nipping to the shops every so often, there’s less urgency to keep it on the road.
  •      Personal breakdown covers you as a passenger in any car you’re travelling in. Vehicle based cover applies to a nominated vehicle only.
  •      There is something called ‘Pay and Claim’ cover, which is usually the cheapest kind of breakdown cover.  However, this differs significantly in that you’ll still pay an annual fee, but should your car break down, a local recovery company will be notified. You’ll pay them to carry out the work and then claim back the outlay by sending receipts and paperwork to the breakdown company. So, you save money, but it is more of a hassle.
  •      As with anything where you’re parting with your hard-earned cash, check the small-print. Some companies operate exclusions which you don’t want to discover when you’re on the side of the motorway in the middle of the night.
  •      Shop around and compare prices. Breakdown insurance is a very competitive market and there are some very good deals to be had.

One final thing to bear in mind:

Breakdown cover is not a good substitute for keeping your car in a roadworthy condition. So don’t make the mistake of thinking by investing in it, you’ve done away with servicing and maintenance etc. (nice try but a no-no!) If breakdown services see you and your car as a high risk, you’ll pay higher premiums.