Car breakdown and recovery garages

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What to do if you break down?

Before you call for a breakdown and recovery specialist, it’s important to make sure you’re safe – breaking down can be dangerous, especially if you’re on the motorway. Here are some steps you should take.

1. Get your car to a safe place.

If it’s possible to do so safely, move your car off the road. If you’re on a motorway and you can’t make it to the next exit, pull up onto the hard shoulder as far to the left as you can with the wheels turned to the left.

2. Put your hazard lights on.

Turn on your hazard warning lights to warn other drivers that your car is stationary. If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on as well.

3. Stay away from moving traffic.

It’s usually safest for you to get out of the car using the door furthest away from the traffic, and wait behind a barrier if you can. If you’re on a motorway, move up the bank and stay upstream of passing traffic.

4. Make yourself visible.

Don’t use a warning triangle if you’re on a motorway (it’s too dangerous) but if you’re on a smaller road and it’s safe, you can put one at least 45m behind your vehicle. If you have a high vis jacket, you should put this on too.

5. Call for help.

Call your breakdown recovery company once it’s safe to do so. If you don’t have a mobile phone and you’re on the motorway, you can follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder to find an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway.

Breakdown and recovery costs

The average breakdown and recovery service price is on average £137.13 on WhoCanFixMyCar. However, the exact cost will depend on a range of factors, like whether your car can be repaired by the roadside, or whether it has to be towed to a garage. 

Local vehicle recovery starts from as little as £25 for call out, with mileage charges on top. However, a long-distance tow outside of working hours (for example, on a Sunday night) can cost many times that price.

Find breakdown recovery garages near you

Some garages will be happy to send out a mobile mechanic to fix your car at the roadside, or to collect your car and take it to the garage if it has broken down. However, this isn’t a service that all garages offer, as the ability to collect vehicles comes with extra overheads like insurance costs.

If you’ve broken down and you don’t have breakdown cover, you can use our directory to find garages that offer breakdown and recovery services near you.

  • Share your location with us or enter your postcode

  • Provide your vehicle registration number and telephone number to allow garages to contact you

  • Compare a number of quotes from local garages.

  • Breakdown and recovery

    The average cost of vehicle recovery booked on WhoCanFixMyCar is £137.13. If your car has broken down or is failing to start, you can have your vehicle recovered by a specialist breakdown and recovery garage who can either repair your car at the roadside, or tow you to where you need to be.

    Can include
    • Roadside recovery
    • Vehicle towing
  • Find RAC approved garages

    Our network of Approved Garages was set up to help motorists like you find good quality and reliable Garages. With over 700 Approved Garages across the country you’ll always be in safe hands.

  • Find a Green Flag approved garages

    Green Flag is one of the top UK breakdown organisations providing motoring support, expertise and reassurance for millions of customers every year. Like the AA, we have access to over 2,000 patrols, meaning we'll get to you no matter where you break down. We manage each and every breakdown from our 24/7/365 operational centres, sending help wherever it’s needed.

What causes your car to break down?

There are lots of different faults that could cause your car to break down. The most common are:

  • A flat or faulty battery

  • A flat or burst tyre

  • Faulty spark plugs

  • A problem with the high tension leads

  • A faulty alternator

  • A broken clutch pedal

  • Putting the wrong fuel in your car

  • Running out of oil

Depending on what kind of problem your car has, a breakdown specialist or garage may be able to quickly repair it by the roadside. However, if your car needs a more complex fix to get it on the road again, your breakdown specialist will need to recover it and bring it to a garage. Most breakdown specialists will also be able to transport you and any passengers to a safe place – normally to the garage where your car is being taken.

Top tips for avoiding a car breakdown
Read our guide

What is vehicle recovery?

Vehicle recovery, also known as breakdown recovery, is when a car that isn't drivable is transported elsewhere. 

No matter how carefully you look after your car, there’s always a risk that it could break down and leave you stranded by the roadside (or even just on your driveway!). If this happens, that’s where vehicle recovery comes in. A specialist or garage can travel to you and take your car to the garage where it can be safely repaired.

Lots of drivers have something called breakdown cover.’ That’s where you pay a fee every month or year and, in return, your provider will fix your vehicle by the roadside or recover it if it breaks down.

Some car insurance policies will even include breakdown cover as standard. However, if you don’t have breakdown cover and you find you need to get your vehicle recovered, you can find a specialist or garage to do this for you.

When do I need breakdown and recovery services?

It’s best not to wait until your car cuts out completely to call a breakdown and recovery specialist. There are lots of signs that your car may no longer be safe to drive. If you spot any of them, pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and investigate. If something looks like it’s not right, you should call for a breakdown and recovery specialist.

  • A loud or sudden noise

  • A change in how your car feels to drive (eg. your steering wheel starts to wobble)

  • Flames coming from any part of your car

  • Steam in your car

  • The temperature or oil light comes on

  • A new or unusual smell

What impacts the cost of car breakdown services?

  • The issue that has caused your car to break down.

  • Whether the problem can be fixed at the roadside or whether your car has to be taken to a garage.

  • Whether or not you have breakdown cover.

  • The make and model of your car.

  • Your location.

  • How far the breakdown specialist or garage has to travel.

  • Whether or not you’ve broken down during working hours.

Breaking down with breakdown cover vs without

The main thing that will affect the cost of car breakdown services is whether or not you have breakdown cover. If you do, you’ll be able to call your breakdown cover provider to get roadside assistance or vehicle recovery without having to pay a penny (just remember that it’s not actually free as you’ll be paying every month or year for the pleasure!). 

If you break down without breakdown cover, on the other hand, you’ll be charged much more. In this case, you can get instant cover, which is where you buy breakdown cover immediately after breaking down.

This will be more expensive than buying breakdown cover beforehand as you’ll normally get charged an extra ‘emergency call-out’ fee. Alternatively, you can call a local garage or specialist for help.

Breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it. However, it can be particularly useful if you use your car frequently, you drive an old car or you travel at times where getting help can be difficult, for instance at night.

Is breakdown cover included under warranty?

Most warranties won’t come with breakdown cover, although they will cover the cost of repairs if your car has broken down due to a manufacturing fault. That said, a few manufacturers will include extra services as part of their new car warranty including, in some cases, breakdown cover.

Is breakdown cover included with car insurance?

It depends. Some insurance providers include breakdown cover as an optional extra and a few even include it as standard. Before you buy breakdown cover, make sure to check what your car insurance includes and compare the cost of adding it as an extra versus getting it as a separate policy.

How much does breakdown and recovery cost?

The average cost of breakdown and recovery services booked on WhoCanFixMyCar is £137.13 Local vehicle recovery can start at just £25 for a call-out plus mileage charges, but a long-distance tow outside of working hours could cost many times that price.

What should you do if you break down?

The first thing to worry about if you break down is safety. Before calling for breakdown services, move your car off the road (if you can do so safely) and put your hazard lights on. Make sure to stay away from moving traffic and, if you have one, put on a high vis jacket. 

What do you do if you break down without cover?

If you don’t have breakdown cover, you can contact a nearby garage. Alternatively, you can get instant cover from a breakdown provider (for an additional fee) or, if you’re on a major road, you can call for help using an emergency phone.

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