To help buyers make their decision, we’ve reviewed cover levels across the UK to find the best breakdown cover providers.
Three of the best breakdown cover providers
The rest of the best
How we created our list of the best breakdown providers
Rather than creating a list of cheap policies, we sought to determine the overall value for money that each policy offered.
We outlined a set of requirements that we felt all our insurers had to hit for their policies. We’ve only included insurers that:
- Full cover for home rescue should your car breakdown on the driveway or a mile from home
- Onward travel to your final destination or home
- Roadside recovery assistance as standard on the policy
- At least a 4 out of 5-star rating on either Trustpilot or Review Centre
We also considered other factors that the policy included:
- Offer of alternative transport or accommodation, including hire cars and hotel stays — this can sometimes be limited to only supplying accommodation to the number of people in your vehicle at the time of breakdown or limiting the amount of money you can receive for accommodation and hire cars.
- Garage support should your vehicle need to be taken for repairs
- Cover for callouts, providing it’s not the same issue being reported each time — some insurance companies limit the number of callouts that you can make per year.
Why do I need breakdown cover?
To help make breakdown cover comparison as easy as possible, we’ve put together this guide.
Breakdown cover can fund the costs you might have to pay if your car breaks down on the side of the road. Without it, roadside breakdowns can be potentially expensive to resolve. The tow to a local garage plus the fees to fix any issues with the car can quickly run into hundreds of pounds.
Unforeseen breakdowns are one of the main reasons why most UK drivers choose to take out breakdown insurance. According to Auto Express, Highways England recorded 224,225 breakdowns in 2019 on our motorways (these are the most recent figures).
Depending on the level of cover your need, there are a range of policies and providers to choose from. Typically, the most basic breakdown cover will send a mechanic to your location to try to fix your car at the roadside or tow it to a local garage. More comprehensive policies may include onward travel to your home or final destination, as well as optional car hire and overnight accommodation.
Is breakdown cover included in car insurance?
As with all breakdown insurance providers, it’s challenging to make generalisations. Breakdown cover, on its own, is not the same as car insurance as there are exclusions to policies. If you’re looking for car insurance, we’ve ranked the best car insurance companies.
Some car insurance brands that also offer breakdown may offer it as an add-on when you buy your insurance, but it is often sold separately. You’ll also find that some brands that are more known for breakdown cover also offer car insurance.
Get a quote from the RAC to see how much you could save on your breakdown cover.
What types of breakdown cover are there?
There are five main types of breakdown cover:
- Roadside assistance — The most basic form of breakdown cover, roadside assistance provides help to drivers by the side of the road should they break down. Assistance is provided by a trained engineer who will attempt to repair the vehicle at the scene.
- National recovery — Similar to roadside assistance, national recovery assists you should you break down. Rather than being limited to being taken to a local garage as you would with roadside assistance, national recovery allows you and your vehicle to be taken to any destination in the UK for repairs.
- At-home — This cover provides you with assistance should your vehicle break down on the driveway or within a specified distance from your house. This breakdown cover is especially useful during the colder winter months when cars are more likely to fail to start due to snow and ice. If it’s not possible to start your vehicle, most providers offer a tow service to a local garage.
- Onward travel — Should your vehicle break down and you’re left stranded, you’re offered the option of onward travel to your final destination. Some insurers also cover the cost of a hire car or alternative accommodation up to a certain amount.
- European breakdown — This is the only type of breakdown cover that is tailored to travel across Europe. This cover is extremely flexible and can be worked to match your circumstances. It often includes hotel accommodation and hire car cover.
Get a quote today from Green Flag and see how much you could save.
Deciding what level of cover you need
Deciding what level of motor breakdown service you need is a personal choice. Whether you’re heading on a family outing with the kids or know how unreliable your old banger is, breakdown cover is important.
Ultimately, you should base your decision on how much you rely on your vehicle, how vulnerable you are to breakdowns, how often you use your car, and how much value you place on fast reliable service.
Taking your circumstances into account, it’s worth looking at the types of cover we’ve listed above to work out which are most important to you and make sure you choose a policy that includes them.
See how much you could save with The AA Breakdown Cover
Annual or single-trip European car breakdown cover
If you’re planning on making multiple trips to Europe in a year, annual cover may be more beneficial for you.
Checking your policy to see how many days of travel you’re covered in Europe is essential. Most insurers will cap the number of days to 30 for a single trip and up to 90 days in a total year. You may also be able to add European travel cover to an existing breakdown policy if extra add-ons are an option.
If you’re travelling to an unusual destination, check that you’ll definitely be covered. Every insurance policy is different, and as with all types of insurance, it’s always best to check up-front if the policy is going to meet your needs.
Following the agreement of the Brexit trade deal, drivers entering Europe from 1 January 2021 will need to take extra items with them on their journey. This includes vehicle log books, insurance green cards, extra documentation for any pets in the car and a GB sticker on their vehicle. You may also be required to show an international driving permit if you don’t have a photocard licence.
How to compare the best motor breakdown cover?
Cost isn't everything
While finding cheaper breakdown cover can seem like a win, it’s important to remember that lower costs can sometimes mean less cover.
When you’re stuck on the roadside, other aspects of the service — such as the time it takes for a recovery vehicle to reach you — might suddenly seem far more important.
Look into the following questions can help you find the best breakdown cover to suit you:
- What is the average response time? Feel free to ask the provider you’re considering if you can’t find this information readily available
- Is there a money-back guarantee if mechanics are late?
- What percentage of faults are fixed at the roadside?
- How satisfied are their customers?
- Do they have a callout limit?
If you have a new car that is unlikely to break down, it might be worth considering policies that offer rewards for no callouts.
Using a comparison site
Comparison websites can be a good way to find the cheapest breakdown cover.
However, it’s important to remember that price isn’t the only factor. Many providers compete to feature at the top of comparison website results, which sometimes leads them to create basic policies that can be priced ultra-competitively.
While a basic car breakdown policy might fit your needs, it could end up costing more in the long run if the service provided doesn’t come up to scratch and you end up supplementing it at your own expense.
Do I need specialist motorbike breakdown cover?
Breaking down on a motorbike can be particularly stressful. Not only is it difficult to find shelter, but you may find that some roadside recovery vehicles aren’t fully equipped to recover motorcycles.
Getting the right breakdown cover for motorbikes is essential but before buying a specialist policy, check whether you are already covered on a standard one.
Many of the big breakdown providers include motorcycle breakdown cover within their standard policies. The AA, RAC Breakdown Cover, Green Flag and GEM all include motorbikes in their policies and have specialist bike recovery services.
Find the best motorcycling insurance for you.
Buying breakdown cover alongside car insurance
Many car insurance providers offer combined packages where you can add on vehicle breakdown cover. While buying these services together can save time, sometimes it’s not always the cheapest option.
Bear in mind that the cost of the breakdown cover will be incorporated into the cost of the car insurance. Depending on your personal circumstances it might be cheaper to buy two separate policies.
Some insurance firms’ breakdown service will be provided by a different company. If you do buy a joint policy, it’s important to check who will provide roadside recovery and ensure that they have access to plenty of assistance vehicles should you ever find yourself in an emergency.
Here is a list of some of the partnerships between car insurance providers and breakdown cover providers:
|Breakdown or car insurance firm||Breakdown cover provided by|
|Direct Line||Green Flag|
What exclusions should I look out for on a car breakdown policy?
With car breakdown cover, it’s incredibly important you check your policy for any exclusions. If you’re not careful, policy exclusions can throw a serious spanner in the works should you ever need help.
Here are some things that may be excluded in your policy and what to look out for
- Flat tyres – not all providers class a flat tyre as breaking down.
- Accidents – some policies exclude recovery of cars that have been involved in an accident.
- Breaking down on private land – ‘roadside’ assistance sometimes literally only applies to the roadside.
- Pets – If you regularly transport animals, check what would happen in the event of a claim. This is particularly important if you transport horses or livestock.
We've written about what you should do if you break down with a pet in your car.