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What is breakdown cover and is it worth it?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 3 months ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
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WhoCanFixMyCar discusses the ins and outs of breakdown cover

Breakdown cover is designed to help you out if your car fails, making sure you don’t get stuck by the side of (or in the middle of!) a busy road. When you call your breakdown cover provider, they will usually dispatch a mechanic very quickly to provide roadside assistance. 

The most common causes of breakdowns are battery problems and flat tyres - fortunately, these can often be fixed at the roadside. However, if the issue requires more attention, some providers offer a hire car to help you get to where you need to be. It all depends on the type of breakdown cover you have.

Contents:

Types of breakdown cover

Is breakdown cover worth it?

What to check when buying breakdown cover

Breakdown cover FAQs


Types of breakdown cover

There are five different types of cover to be aware of:

  • Roadside assistance

  • National recovery

  • At home

  • Onward journey

  • European

In addition to the types listed above, you also need to decide whether you want the cover to be personal (it only applies to you) or for a specific vehicle (it applies to anyone driving that vehicle).

Man on the phone sitting after a car breakdown

Roadside assistance

This covers if you break down in the middle of a journey. A trained mechanic will provide roadside assistance, and if the problem can’t be fixed there and then, towing is included in most - but not all - policies.

National recovery

If you often drive long distances, it’s worth considering national recovery. In addition to roadside repair, this type of cover includes a tow to any UK location. 

At home

Often, this type of cover is known as ‘home start’ because it only applies if you break down at or near your home. The exact distance will vary from one provider to the next, but it’s unlikely to stretch further than a mile.

Onward journey

For anyone who regularly embarks on important car journeys where reaching the final destination in a timely manner is important, onward journey breakdown cover is likely to be the best option. It includes solutions like overnight accommodation, car hire and alternative transport.

European cover

Finally, European cover is appropriate for anyone who regularly takes their car on holiday to countries in the EU. This is usually an add on rather than a standalone policy. 


Is breakdown cover worth it?

If you’re fortunate enough to have never experienced a breakdown before, you might be wondering “do I need breakdown cover?”. The answer, to put it simply, is probably “yes”.

Breakdowns can and do happen - in fact, there are thousands every day on UK roads - so if you drive your car regularly then it’s worth having some kind of breakdown cover. Otherwise, you could end up stuck at the roadside for hours and end up paying hefty call out fees.

Benefits of having breakdown cover include:

  • No call out fee

  • Peace of mind - you know what to do if a breakdown happens

  • Fast recovery time

  • You can choose a tailored plan


What to check when buying breakdown cover

Here’s a checklist of things to think about before you make a final decision.

  • Is the cover for you or the car?

  • What area does the cover include?

  • How fast is the estimated response time?

  • Can you add multiple cars?


Breakdown cover FAQs

Does breakdown cover include punctures?

Tyre punctures are one of the most common causes of breakdowns, and they are included in breakdown cover as a general rule. 

Does breakdown cover include parts?

With standard roadside assistance, the mechanic who arrives at the scene of the breakdown might be able to fix your car there and then if he or she has the correct parts, but if your car has to be taken to a garage you’ll have to pay for the parts and repairs yourself. 

However, breakdown cover providers often offer an add on which helps to cover the cost of any additional repairs and parts.

Does breakdown cover include repairs?

Yes, breakdown cover helps you with recovery and repairs, but there may be an additional cost for parts depending on what has caused the breakdown. Check with your insurance provider.

What isn’t covered?

Human errors generally aren’t included in breakdown cover. So, for example, if you leave your headlights or radio on and accidentally drain your car’s battery, this won’t be covered. Likewise, running out of fuel or putting the wrong fuel in your car are both considered human errors.

Does car insurance cover breakdown repairs?

Most regular car insurance policies don’t cover breakdowns. However, breakdown cover is usually an optional extra that can be added on for an additional fee each month.

Insurance policies which do come with breakdown cover or which offer it as an add on can often be quite expensive; often, the best option is to shop around and buy them separately. 

What is excess in breakdown cover?

If you see breakdown cover that comes with an ‘excess’, this means that a one-off payment is required after a breakdown which goes towards the cost of roadside assistance and recovery. The excess is set in advance; the higher it is, the less you’ll pay each month (or year, depending on your payment plan) for the cover.


If you've noticed your car isn't quite working as it should and you're worried a breakdown might be on the horizon, why not get it booked in with a reliable local mechanic who will be able to find out what's wrong and fix it before the issue becomes more serious?

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