Like car insurance, breakdown cover is one of those things that we hope we never need to use but becomes very useful at the moment we need it! It's important to make sure that you understand the different levels of cover available and the benefits of each breakdown policy, to take the stress out of an unexpected breakdown and ensure you don't find yourself stranded at the side of the road sometime.
What is breakdown cover and why do I need it?
There are a number of companies that provide cover in the event of a breakdown. Breakdown cover, sometimes called roadside assistance, is a rescue service that provides you with a number to call if your car breaks down, and they will come out to you and either attempt to fix your car or tow it safely off the road if they can't fix it there and then. If they do tow it off the road, depending on your level of cover, the rescue service will help continue travel, recover it to any UK destination or bring it home. It is important to have breakdown cover in place to make sure that you don't find yourself stranded if you break down.
How do I get breakdown cover?
There are a number of ways to get breakdown cover in place. You can buy a policy online or over the phone directly from one of many providers such as AA, RAC or Green Flag. You may also find that you can get breakdown cover included with your car insurance policy for a small extra cost on top of the premium. Or if your car is new or nearly new and still under warranty, many manufacturers provide roadside assistance with the car. So, check all your documents to see if you might have it already without realising, to prevent paying for extra cover.
What levels of cover are there?
Breakdown policies come with different levels of cover which can make it seem complicated, so let's break it down a bit.
- Person/Vehicle - Some policies only cover your particular vehicle, but others will cover you as driver or passenger of another car.
- Home breakdown cover - For many breakdown companies, cover if your car breaks down at home is an added extra. Some policies only kick in once you're at least a quarter of a mile away from home.
- Onward travel - A basic policy will usually get you clear of the road and take your car to the nearest garage if it can't be repaired at the roadside. Adding onward travel cover will ensure that both you and your car are transported where you need to be.
- Partner/family cover - For one premium you could cover your partner's car as well as your own, or even cover every car in your household to keep your kids on the road too.
- Accident cover - Most policies only cover breakdowns rather than accidents, so consider whether you need extra cover to help recover your car if you're involved in an accident.
What happens if I break down?
The breakdown company you choose will give you a number to call in the event of a breakdown. When you call them, they will ask for your location, so they can pinpoint where you are. They will also ask whether you are on or off the road, and you'll be prioritised if you're in a dangerous place. They'll give you advice such as staying out of the car and behind the barriers if you are at the side of a major road or motorway. You'll then get updates with an estimated time of arrival, and if the break down company offers an app, you can track where the patrol vehicle is in relation to your vehicle. If it can't be fixed at the roadside, they will arrange to have your car recovered to a safe place. If you've got onward travel cover, they'll arrange for you and your car to be transported to wherever you need to be.
It isn't required by law to have breakdown cover, but personally I think it's an absolutely essential tool. You'll have the peace of mind that if you have an unexpected breakdown, help will be on the way and they'll do their very best to get you back on the road. Without breakdown cover, you'll find yourself having to abandon your car or anxiously search for a recovery company, who will generally charge expensive fees for a call out. Like any insurance policy, you might not need it, but you'll be very grateful if you ever do. That said, I really hope you don't break down! Don't forget that at Thame Cars, all our cars are nearly new and prepared to as-new condition and are provided with a warranty (and in some cases the warranty will have breakdown cover included!). Give us a call or pop in if you need any more advice.