Breakdown cover

Get your car, motorbike or van back on the road with the right policy

What is breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover is a type of cover for your vehicle that can come to the rescue if you break down. You can cover a car, van or bike so you don’t get stuck at the side of a road for long.

There are two main types of breakdown cover: personal and vehicle.

Vehicle cover

You specify the car, van, or bike you want to cover on the policy. It doesn’t matter who’s driving the car at the time, so it’s useful if more than one person drives your car or uses the van.

Personal cover

Personal breakdown cover is for an individual, no matter what vehicle you’re in – you can be the driver or passenger. If you’ve got more than one car to cover, it can be cheaper. The drawback is only you’re covered, so if anyone else drives the car they’d need their own cover.

Do I need it?

It's not a legal requirement, but it can bring peace of mind if you ever breakdown – whether that’s a major fault or a flat battery.

Being able to call a specialist 24-hours a day to come and help out is usually worth it. They’ll either try and fix your car at the roadside, or tow you to a garage for repairs.

Different levels of breakdown cover

The cost of your breakdown policy will depend on the level of cover you need:

Roadside assistance or recovery

Your breakdown provider will send their patrol to your location for roadside assistance.

Find out more

Vehicle recovery

If there's no chance of fixing the problem roadside, vehicle recovery will make sure you're towed to the nearest garage or your home. It's included along with roadside recovery on most breakdown policies.

Find out more

Home start

If your car breaks down outside your house, home start will get you back up and running again.

Find out more

Onward travel

If you're on the way to a destination when you break down, you'll be covered to get there by another means with onward travel.

Find out more

European breakdown cover

For road trips across the pond, you can get breakdown cover for Europe.

Find out more

Replacement of key, tyre and battery

This could contribute towards or cover the expense of replacement.

Misfuelling your car

Filled up your tank with petrol instead of diesel by accident? You may be covered by your breakdown policy for misfuelling your car, but also check whether it's included under your car insurance.

Find out more >

Breakdown policies aren’t all the same

Even if you’ve picked the same element of cover, like home start for example, each policy will have its own terms.

Look out for limits on call-outs in a year. Some are unlimited, others are free until you hit a cap. Then you’ll be charged for any call-outs after that. Some policies have an excess too. You’d pay this for a call-out, so keep an eye on it when you’re comparing prices.

It’s always worth reading reviews, especially for lesser-known providers. Check reported response times, and how many issues get fixed at the roadside too.

Compare breakdown cover in three simple steps

A bit about what you need

Things like the type of cover you want and when you need it to start

A bit about you and your vehicle

Name, email, date of birth and what type of vehicle you’d like to cover

Get your quotes

Compare prices and find the right cover

The RAC was called out to over 14,000 breakdowns caused by potholes in 2017, including damaged shock absorbers and distorted wheels

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Statistics from the 2017 RAC Pothole Index[†]

How do I make my breakdown cover cheaper?

We've got five tips to help you get those premiums down

  1. Watch for the cover level

    Only pay for features you need

  2. Multi-car savings

    Save money by covering multiple cars under one policy

  3. Don't pay twice

    Sometimes breakdown cover is included with your bank account or car insurance

  4. Don't rule out the lesser knowns

    The smaller breakdown companies often have good deals

  5. Compare breakdown cover

    It's the easiest way to save money on your policy!

A forgetful 133,000 drivers put the wrong fuel in their car every year. If this happens to you, don't start your engine.

According to data from AA in July 2017

Frequently asked questions

  • What should you do when your car breaks down?

    If your car does give up the ghost it's important to pull over so that you're out of the way of any traffic.

    Everyone must leave the car and move to safe place away from moving vehicles.

    Call your breakdown cover provider immediately and let them know where you're stranded.

    If you're close to a motorway phone, it's best to use it - the breakdown service will find it easier to locate you. Some of the larger providers use what3words now too, which lets you communicate your exact location. It might be worth downloading the app, just in case. 

  • Does breakdown cover apply to me or my vehicle?

    It depends on the policy you have chosen. Personal breakdown cover means you'll be covered whichever vehicle you're in, even if you're a travelling as a passenger.

    On the other hand, vehicle cover is soley for your car, van or motorbike. So, assistance will be provided, whoever is driving it.

  • What if I break down on private land?

    Broken down in your local shopping centre car park? What about on your mate's farm? In that case, your breakdown provider might charge you extra or not cover you at all if access is difficult or prohibited.

  • What if I breakdown while transporting animals?

    If you breakdown while transporting pets or livestock, onward travel for your pet is up to the discretion of your breakdown cover provider. Assistance for livestock is very unlikely under a standard policy, but you can get specialist livestock or horse trailer breakdown cover to avoid this.

  • Does breakdown cover include basic fixes?

    Got a flat tyre? Forgotten to top up the oil? Don't assume that the breakdown company will rush to assist you with basic maintenance.

    It's your responsibility as a driver to make sure your vehicle is roadworthy, and it's useful to have at least a basic grasp of how to make simple repairs.

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More on breakdown cover

Page last reviewed: 01 December 2020

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