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Posted by showplatesexpress
January 16th, 2020 at 11:59 am

For many years, a breakdown was synonymous with the AA and the RAC then Green Flag came along and this was the status quo for decades. Nowadays, many of the motor insurers and even high street banks have started offering breakdown cover as an added extra on a car policy or in a ‘packaged account’ format for which the customer pays a monthly fee in the latter scenario.  So if you are not with the AA or the RAC, exactly who comes out to rescue you in the event of a breakdown?

The AA and the RAC employ and train their own dedicated patrols but the rest of the pack use what is described as ‘independent operators’.  Some pundits say that the consistency and service standard from the big two is worth paying for but other people feel that local operators in a rural area may actually be of more use if they cannot repair you by the roadside.

The type of cover

The two key factors which should contribute to the most appropriate sort of cover for you and your vehicle are:-

  • The type of motoring you do
  • The age of the vehicle

There are lots of different types of cover options to choose from including:-

  • Pay and claim policies under which you pay upfront for any callouts and the cost of recovering the vehicle if necessary and then claim this back from your breakdown company. This cover can be cheap upfront but will leave you having to find some potentially fairly hefty bills at the roadside if the worst happens
  • Local policies, these tend to work by covering the vehicle anywhere from a 10 to a 25-mile radius from your designated home address and are by definition cheaper than policies which cover you nationwide but not always, so do compare costs and coverage carefully
  • Limited local cover for one car allowing for one breakdown per year, subsequent breakdowns fall outside the terms of the policy and will be chargeable. If you do breakdown outside your defined local area, expect to be in for some big bills

Nationwide Cover

This is anytime, any place, anywhere and is understandably the most expensive option.  There are three different levels of cover:-

Roadside Assistance – a patrol will be sent out to try and fix your car by the roadside and if it cannot be repaired then it will be taken to a local garage for you.  Sometimes the cover will require you to be more than ¼ of a mile away from home in order for the breakdown to qualify for a response

Breakdown Recovery – this extra layer of cover means the driver and passengers will be taken onto their intended destination within the UK cannot be repaired by the roadside

Homestart – both of the above plus cover if your car is at home and won’t start or work properly.

Additional Extras – some policies will include car hire, accommodation costs overnight and coverage for the cost of public transport.

Understanding the cover

Many policies are expensive because they cover one individual in any car rather than single-vehicle cover.  This might work really well for but equally, if you only ever drive one car, then it could just constitute unnecessary expense.

Check the Terms and Conditions

Always be aware of the policies age limit if you have an older vehicle.  Also, some cover will limit the number of callouts per annum and if you exceed this then it can get pricey.

What Car? Survey

What Car decided to investigate all the different breakdown providers as part of its ‘2019 What Car? Reliability Survey’.  The poll was conducted across just over 18,000 car owners so is a fairly decent sampling pool.  The survey looked at different key areas:-

  • How long did it take for the breakdown team to arrive at the scene – responses varied from 30 minutes to, in some cases, over two hours. The AA scored the most highly with its patrols reaching 23% of callouts within less than half an hour, Green Flag and Autoaid were snapping at their heels with results of 22%
  • Were the callout team able to resolve the problem at the roadside? The RAC was top of the pops here with a repair rate of 40% and figures of 25% for temporary repairs allowing the vehicle to continue its journey.  The AA and RAC were not far behind effecting permanent repairs on 38% and 37% of callouts respectively

Overall, WhatCar? Found that the AA was their top assistance provider in terms of speed of response to the initial call and their ability to effect a permanent repair at the roadside.  Green Flag came in second and it’s worth noting that Green Flag’s single-vehicle cover is less than half the cost of that provided by the AA and RAC although statistically, they do not perform quite so well at sorting problems by the roadside.

What are your priorities?

If you travel for your job or have a young family, then the speed of response might be more important to you than anything else.  So, it could be worth looking at some of the other independent operators:-

  • Autoaid
  • AXA
  • ETA
  • LV Britannia
  • Start Rescue
  • Asda

Peace of mind versus cost

Some motorists are quite happy to pay a higher premium to guarantee peace of mind but if you shop around and only drive locally then there are savings to be made.  Breakdowns are all a matter of luck largely.  Always service and maintain your vehicle and statistically, you should encounter fewer problems.  Simple protocols such as never driving on your reserve fuel tank, always checking lights, water and oil before long journeys are worthwhile precautions.

Should you breakdown, it is also worth keeping hi-vis jackets and gilets in the car, a red warning triangle and a fully charged flashlamp or torch.  Safety comes first and all the recovery services will endeavour to prioritise young or elderly drivers and cars carrying children.