Breakdown Cover FAQs

A person with high-vis jacket standing next to broken down car.

While your car insurance policy can cover you against any accidents you may have on the road, breakdown cover can offer you protection when you run into more common issues such as flat tyres and dead batteries.

With the various levels of cover available, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting with your breakdown cover. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) asked about breakdown cover in the UK.

1. What is breakdown cover?

Sometimes referred to as breakdown insurance or emergency breakdown cover, breakdown cover is designed to protect you against any faults with your vehicle while you’re out and about.

So long as this fault has not been caused by an accident – regardless of whether it was your fault or not – your breakdown cover provider can send a mechanic to you with no more than a quick phone call.

If they can fix your vehicle at the side of the road, fantastic! But if not, they will take you and your vehicle to either a garage or a destination of your choice, depending on your chosen level of cover.

For a detailed look at breakdown cover and what it can off you, take a look at our complete guide to breakdown cover here.

2. Do I need breakdown cover?

Legally? No.

Breakdown cover in the UK is not a legal requirement, but it is an option which could save you a lot of money in the long run should your vehicle break down.

3. Does breakdown insurance cover me or my vehicle?

This depends on the level of cover you choose to take out.

Personal cover

Personal cover provides you with breakdown cover in any car that you happen to breakdown in, even if you are a passenger at the time. It is slightly more expensive, as the perceived risk of an unknown vehicle is higher to an insurer than that of one which is already stated on your policy.

Be warned that some personal cover policies will not cover cars over a certain age or mileage.

Vehicle cover

Vehicle cover provides you with breakdown cover in one registered vehicle, no matter who is driving at the time. This is ideal if you only drive one vehicle, or share your vehicle with others.

You can find more details to help you make the decision between personal cover or vehicle cover in our complete guide to breakdown cover here.

4. What are the different types of breakdown cover?

In general, there are 3 main types of breakdown cover:

Roadside assistance

Roadside assistance is the cheapest form of breakdown cover as it offers the most basic service.

With roadside assistance, your provider will send a mechanic to fix your car at roadside. This is usually adequate for simple faults such as a flat tyre or battery. If the mechanic is unable to solve your problem, you will be towed to the closest reputable garage, where you will have to pay for any repairs to your vehicle.

If you break down during any unsociable hours, you might be forced to wait until the garage opens to continue your journey.

Vehicle recovery

Vehicle recovery allows you to choose where you would like you and your vehicle to be taken in the event of a breakdown that cannot be solved at the side of the road, or the place where you break down. This can include your home, a chosen garage or your intended destination.

Many providers will offer to take you anywhere in the UK – however, some include mileage restrictions in their policies.

Onward travel cover

The most comprehensive of the three breakdown cover options available, onward travel cover can give you additional support in the event of a breakdown.

This can include overnight accommodation, access to a hire car or reimbursement of any costs incurred while using public transport on the way to your destination.

5. What does ‘home start’ mean on breakdown cover?

Most breakdown cover policies will only provide you with assistance if you are further than a specified distance – usually a quarter-of-a-mile – away from home.

With home start breakdown cover, your provider can come to your rescue even if your car is parked in your drive.

6. How much is breakdown cover?

The cost of breakdown cover varies depending on the level of cover you opt for.

A basic roadside assistance policy can cost you as little as £54 a year with some providers, while a policy offering more extensive cover could cost you in excess of around £140 per year.

The best way to ensure that you are getting a good deal on your breakdown cover is to shop around, making use of price comparison websites to compare deals being offered by different providers.

Consider what you’ll be likely to use it for and make sure that the cover you are getting is right for you.

7. Can I pay for breakdown cover monthly?

Yes.

You can pay for your breakdown cover either in one annual payment, or you can spread it over 12 months – as is usual for monthly payments, your overall cost will work out slightly more than if you pay up front.

8. Should I buy the cheapest breakdown cover policy?

Getting a good deal on your breakdown cover is important, but make sure you aren’t compromising on your cover too much.

Opting against a more comprehensive breakdown cover policy might seem a good idea at the time, but if or when you break down, you might find yourself having to fork out a lot of extra money.

If you are heavily reliant on your vehicle and rack up a lot of mileage, it is probably worth considering a slightly pricier package. If not, the cheapest breakdown cover might be enough for your needs.

9. What happens if I breakdown without cover?

Most breakdown providers offer cover which starts on the day that it is taken out – however, it will probably not cover you if you have already broken down.

If you break down without cover you can still call a provider of your choice, however, they will charge you a one-off payment for their services.

These one-off charges are usually set at a premium rate, so determine yourself whether you think it is worth the risk of not taking out cover or not.

10. Can I change my breakdown cover?

This depends entirely on your provider.

Some providers will give you the option of upgrading or downgrading your level of cover during the term of your policy, but some may not.

Any upgrades to your policy will, of course, come at an additional monthly premium.

11. Is there a limit to how many callouts I can make?

This is something which will be stated – and is worth checking – when you first take out your policy.

If you know that your car is prone to breaking down then make sure you are not limited to how many callouts you can make – or make sure you have a limit that you think you can stay within.

Remember that if your car is likely to break down, and perhaps regularly does, then your monthly premiums will almost certainly be more expensive.

12. What doesn’t breakdown insurance cover?

It’s possible.

You may have opted to pay extra on your car insurance policy to cover you against breakdowns, while some bank accounts also come with policies such as breakdown cover as an added extra.

There are also cases where car dealers will give you free breakdown cover for a period of time, but this often needs to be activated before you can make use of it.

If you do have breakdown cover provided through another product, make sure it is adequate for your needs and consider asking for an upgrade if not.

If you are unable to upgrade, it might be worth taking out an individual breakdown cover policy to make sure you are covered.

13. Do I already have breakdown cover?

It’s possible.

You may have opted to pay extra on your car insurance policy to cover you against breakdowns, while some bank accounts also come with policies such as breakdown cover as an added extra.

There are also cases where car dealers will give you free breakdown cover for a period of time, but this often needs to be activated before you can make use of it.

If you do have breakdown cover provided through another product, make sure it is adequate for your needs and consider asking for an upgrade if not.

If you are unable to upgrade, it might be worth taking out an individual breakdown cover policy to make sure you are covered.

14. Does breakdown cover include repairs?

This depends on your level of cover, and will be stated in the terms of your policy.

Most policies will cover the costs of labour, but may charge you for any parts of your vehicle that have been replaced.

However, some providers will help you to cover the costs of any repairs to your vehicle up to a certain price, but may charge an excess fee which will have been stated when you first took out the policy.

As with many other kinds of insurance, this excess fee could rise with the number of claims that you make on your policy, so be sure to read the terms to avoid any nasty surprises.

Some insurers might contract out the work needed to recover your car, meaning you could have to stump up the cash for labour yourself before claiming it back from your provider.

15. I’ve locked my car keys inside my car – am I covered by my breakdown cover?

Most breakdown providers will help to get into your car at no extra cost if you have even a basic membership with them.

However, if they are required to call an auto locksmith, some providers will make you pay for any additional costs. If neither the recovery service nor locksmith can get into your car, your breakdown provider will arrange for you and your vehicle to be taken to a local garage for further assistance.

In some cases, premium breakdown cover policies will arrange travel for you to recover a spare car key from home.

16. Can you get temporary breakdown cover?

Yes.

If you are making a particularly long journey and wish to take out breakdown cover specifically for that day, you can take out short-term breakdown cover.

17. Can I transfer my breakdown cover to my new vehicle?

If you have vehicle breakdown cover, you will need to contact your provider upon purchasing a new vehicle to add it to your breakdown cover.

Remember, if you have personal breakdown cover, the car you are driving is irrelevant so you will already be covered in your new vehicle.

18. Is there a vehicle age limit on breakdown cover?

Older vehicles are – more often than not – far more likely to break down than newer ones. It is also often the case that the parts used to make them are no longer in circulation, meaning they can be expensive to repair.

For these reasons, it can be more expensive to get breakdown cover for vehicles over 10 years old.

Some insurers will cover cars of any age, but breakdown cover for older cars usually comes at a premium.

19. Can I get a no-claims discount on breakdown cover?

Yes.

It’s usually associated with car insurance, but some breakdown cover providers will offer you a no claims discount (also referred to as no claims bonus) if you haven’t made a claim throughout the term of your policy at the end of the year.

20. Can I get discount on breakdown cover?

Discount codes pop up every now and then, so make sure you search for one before taking out a breakdown cover policy that suits you.

Some providers will offer discounts for members of the NHS or Special Forces, so make the most of them if you’re eligible.

For more information on breakdown cover, read our complete guide here!