A Guide to Breakdown Cover for New and Learner Drivers
Nearly everyone has either had a car breakdown, or will experience it at some point in their lives. This can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And if you’re a newly qualified driver, the thought of breaking down when you’re out on the road and on your own can be really scary. There are plenty of things that could go wrong with your car, so it’s extremely important that you’re prepared and have a backup plan. If you don’t, you can end up being stranded in the middle of nowhere or stuck by the side of the road for hours! Late at night, in the rain, far from home, all alone, feeling powerless… This is when you realise that the fantastic breakdown cover deal you looked at a few weeks earlier, but never bought it, could really come in handy. That’s always the way, isn’t it?
A Guide to Breakdown Cover
It doesn’t have to be like this. You can enjoy the independence and freedom your car gives you without constant stressing out or worrying about your car breaking down. What’s the best way to ensure that someone will come to your rescue wherever you are, day or night, and you and your car will be looked after if the worst does happen? Having a breakdown cover policy in place. It really does make a big difference.
Here’s a quick Guide to Breakdown Cover
What is breakdown cover?
Breaking down on the road can be very expensive if you don’t have the right cover in place, so getting one is the most sensible thing you can do to avoid as much of the cost, hassle and stress of it as possible. Breakdown cover is an insurance policy that offers you peace of mind for when you’re out and about in your car so you don’t need to worry about what to do if it breaks down. It’s not a legal requirement but it can make your life a whole lot easier.
What are the types of breakdown cover?
When shopping for car breakdown cover, the first thing you need to do is to decide whether you want to go for standard breakdown cover or a ‘pay and claim’ policy.
Standard car breakdown cover is the most popular type of breakdown insurance policy. It’s typically the most straightforward and convenient breakdown cover choice. It’s paid for annually and it entitles you to a number of call-outs per year at no additional charge. As with any policy, it’s important that you check your breakdown policy documents for the full terms and conditions so you know how many call-outs you are covered for.
Most standard car breakdown policies offer you the choice between personal breakdown cover and vehicle-based cover.
If you want the policy to apply to a particular car, choose vehicle-based cover. Although it’s limited to one car only, it’ll provide cover to whoever is behind the wheel. If you use different cars on a regular basis, then a personal cover is a better option. It’ll cover you as an individual in any eligible car you are travelling in, regardless of whether you are the driver or a passenger. It’s typically more expensive than vehicle-based cover so only go for it if you’re sure you’ll really need it.
Pay and Claim breakdown cover works slightly differently and usually costs less, but it’s not as convenient as standard breakdown cover.
Just like a standard policy, you pay an annual fee up front to your breakdown cover provider but if your car breaks down, they will contract their breakdown services out to a local recovery firm. You will be required to pay for the service at the time of the breakdown and then claim the money back from your own provider by sending in your receipts.
If you think that you may not always have the necessary funds to hand to cover the cost of your breakdown as and when it happens, standard breakdown cover is a better option.
Which level of breakdown cover is right for me?
Breakdown companies offer different coverage plans, with their own benefits and advantages, so you can essentially find a bespoke policy tailored to suit your needs and your budget.
There are different levels of breakdown cover you can choose from. Depending on the kind of protection you want to have when you are out on the road, you can receive assistance at your home address, across the UK or throughout Europe. As with most things, the more you are willing to pay, the better and more comprehensive breakdown cover you will get.
Be realistic with the level of cover you will really need and spend some time shopping around for the deal that is right for you at a price that you can afford.
Each company uses different definitions for the levels of breakdown cover they provide, but broadly speaking the most common ones are:
This is the most basic and most affordable level of cover you can get. It means that whenever you experience a breakdown away from your home, your breakdown provider will send someone out to fix your car at the roadside. Bear in mind that the cost of a breakdown that occurs too close to your home will not be covered.
This level of cover comes in addition to Roadside Assistance. It usually means that if the breakdown company is unable to get your car back up and running at the roadside, you will be towed to a nearby garage where you can get your car repaired. Some breakdown companies bundle this in with their roadside assistance cover so make sure you check the small print when comparing breakdown covers.
If your car cannot be repaired and made safe to drive at the place you have broken down, National Recovery will take you, your passengers and your car to any single destination of your choice across the UK.
Home Assistance, also known as Home Start, offers you all the benefits of Roadside Assistance with the additional reassurance of being covered at, or within a certain (very close) distance of your home.
This is the most comprehensive cover and it generally means you will get a replacement car to keep you moving if your car needs to be kept in a garage for repairs. Some policies will also cover overnight accommodation or the cost of public transport while your car is being repaired.
Are there any optional extras I could add to my breakdown cover?
There is a number of optional extras you can choose from and add to your breakdown cover should you wish to do so. Here are just a few of the additional cover benefits you might find worth thinking about. Some providers may include these with their standard cover, others charge extra for them, so make sure you always read terms and conditions before taking out a policy.
Putting petrol in your diesel fuel tank or vice versa can be an easy mistake to make, but if you’re not covered for it, it can also be very expensive. Having misfuelling cover in place means that when you put the wrong fuel in your car, your breakdown company will have an engineer come out to a petrol station to drain, flush and clean out your car fuel system on the spot. This will allow you to re-fill it with the right fuel and get back on the road.
Parts & Labour cover
If your car breaks down when you’re out on the road and it cannot be repaired at the roadside, this cover will help you with the cost towards any parts and labour that your car may need at the repairing garage.
Lost or Stolen Key cover
As its name suggests, this cover offers you assistance if your keys are lost, stolen or broken. Breakdown companies will also often cover you for reprogramming alarms and immobilisers and the cost of replacement locks and keys.
If your battery goes flat and your breakdown provider is unable to recharge it, this optional extra covers the cost of supplying a new battery and fitting it to your car to get you back on the road.
European breakdown cover
Most breakdown cover providers offer a European cover option and you should consider purchasing it if you’re planning to use your car abroad. Should anything go wrong with it while you travel in Europe, with this cover you’ll get the same guarantees as you would receive in the UK. It gives you the option of having your car repaired at the side of the road or, if it cannot be fixed then and there, at a local garage. It will also cover the cost of bringing you and your car back to the UK if it cannot be repaired before you leave the continent. Depending on how frequent your car trips to Europe are, you can usually choose between a single trip breakdown cover or, if you drive abroad more often, an annual multi-trip cover.
Watch out for restrictions and exclusions on your car breakdown policy
As with any kind of insurance policy, breakdown cover won’t necessarily protect you against all eventualities, so it’s important that you read the full terms and conditions of your policy with care to make sure it’s covering you for everything that you need. Always check the small print for limitations and exclusions as it will give you a better understanding of what is included in your breakdown cover and what is not. This can save you a lot of problems, stress and money in the future.
Which breakdown cover provider should I choose?
The key to finding the right breakdown cover for the right price from the right provider is to shop around and compare a number of different providers and the packages they offer. Don’t go for the first breakdown cover quote you receive. Take your time, search the market, do your research and compare the offers to get the best possible deal for the level of cover that specifically matches your requirements and your budget.
You should always remember that whatever breakdown cover you choose it’s incredibly important you read the small print before signing up to anything as terms and conditions of policies from different breakdown cover providers can significantly differ from one another.
Here’s a list of the top UK Breakdown Cover Providers
- RAC (Recommended)
- QDOS (Recommended)
- ETA (Recommended)
- Breakdown Assist (Recommended)
- GEM Motoring Assist
- LV= Britannia Rescue
- Green Flag
- AutoAid Breakdown
- Direct Line
Is breakdown cover for my car really worth buying?
While it’s not a legal requirement to have breakdown cover, it’s strongly recommended that you do. It may save you a small fortune and hassle in the long term.
With all the costs related to owning and running a car (road tax, car insurance, servicing, maintenance, fuel etc.), it can be really tempting to go without breakdown cover, but it’s not advisable. It’s not worth the saving. Cars break down. It happens all the time. Chances are at some point your car will break down too, no matter how reliable it might seem to you right now. When it happens, the last thing you’ll want is to be stranded by the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, and not knowing what to do next.
The right cover in place gives you the peace of mind that if anything does go wrong with your car while you’re on the road, help is at hand. If you don’t want to leave yourself open to a whole host of potential problems, high costs and stress, you need to be proactive and prepare for the unexpected. Now.
A Guide to Breakdown Cover. NDP2017
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