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How to Choose Breakdown Cover

By: Paul Geraghty - Updated: 26 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Breakdown Cover Breakdown Recovery

The first question to ask about breakdown cover is whether you need it at all. The average cost of yearly cover in Britain is around £35. A 2005 survey revealed that the typical cost for the recovery and repair of a broken down vehicle was about £70 so, based on simple arithmetic, having breakdown cover would pay off if you expected to need it more than once every two years. Of course, there are other things to take into account too. Repair prices can vary significantly from one part of the country to another. The North-East was found to be particularly cheap. So the cost of the cover may be a better or worse deal for you depending on which part of the country you live in. But, of course, it's not just a matter of simple sums. There is the convenience aspect to consider too. It can be comforting to know that you just have to make a telephone call to have help arrive rather than be desperately forced to try and find a garage out in the middle of nowhere one day, when a problem eventually occurs.

The Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) used to rule the roost in this market in Britain. In fact, they still dominate it, but recent years have seen many new entrants to the business such as Tesco's Green Flag. There are both good and bad aspects to this from the consumer point of view. On the plus side, the marketplace has become more competitive, maintaining a downward pressure on prices. But, against this, it can be harder for a customer to assess the quality of the coverage offered. Some of the new providers are essentially marketing operations. They have no real network of garages or recovery vehicles of their own, and are just selling someone else's services under a different brand. While this doesn't necessarily mean the coverage is poor, it does mean the customer has to be wary.

Breakdown Cover - What you get

The raw statistics about most of the major providers are surprisingly similar. Almost all quote an average response time of between 30 and 40 minutes, claim to fix 80% of problems at the roadside, and cost about £30-40 for a year's worth of basic cover. Most will give priority to single females or to anyone else who feels vulnerable.

A typical basic policy will cover the arrival of a recovery vehicle with a technician who will attempt a roadside repair. If this is not possible, your vehicle will be towed to the nearest garage or, usually, to another nearby destination of your choice. Some policies will cover the cost of basic repair work at the garage though you will usually be charged for parts.

Beyond this basic level, policies diverge. Most providers offer about half a dozen different options and it's worth spending some time thinking carefully about them to decide which of these best suits your needs.

Typically, the options available will include :

  • Whether the policy is vehicle or person-based. Vehicle coverage protects you no matter who is in the vehicle. Person-based coverage guarantees service no matter which car you are in, even one that's not your own. And you don't need to be the driver either. Even as a passenger, you can get full service.

  • Whether it includes a Home Recovery option. This covers you even if your vehicle breaks down at or near your home.

  • Whether or not the cost of alternative transport and/or accommodation is covered if the vehicle can't be repaired straight away, and whether this applies only to the policy holder or also to other people in the vehicle.

  • Whether coverage on the continent is included or is available by paying extra.

  • Whether the company will send messages to friends or relatives for you while you are stranded.

Breakdown Cover - Tip

Many providers offer discounts for purchasing online, and quite a few offer package deals which allow you to make savings if you buy your insurance and your breakdown cover at the same time.

Breakdown Cover - Conclusion

The World Wide Web had made searching for the right Breakdown Cover much easier. There are a number of price and feature comparison sites out there, as well as sites with personal reviews, both of which should help you make a decision. Do take time to read the small print and think, though. Breakdown cover isn't as much of a simple commodity item as car insurance. The differences between the protection offered by the various companies, and by the different policy options offered by the same company, are subtle and significant, and you should take the time to give them serious thought.

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