Breakdown cover

Compare breakdown cover quotes for your car, motorbike or van

What’s breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover helps cover the cost of roadside repairs or recovery if your car breaks down.

For example, if your car battery died or a tyre was punctured it’ll mean you’re not stranded on the side of the road for long.

There are five levels of breakdown cover, ranging from roadside recovery to full onward journey protection.

Covid-19 and breakdown cover

Breakdown providers have continued their patrols, with responders wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing during call outs. If you have coronavirus, or have been in contact with someone who has, you must tell your provider when you call for assistance.

If you’re struggling to pay for your breakdown cover because of coronavirus, contact your provider to see if it can help.

What’s covered by a breakdown policy?

There are five main elements of breakdown cover that you can pick from to give you the level of cover you need:

Local roadside assistance

If you break down during a local journey, your breakdown provider will send their patrol to your location for roadside assistance. If your vehicle can’t be fixed at the roadside, they’ll tow to you to a local garage.

More about Local breakdown cover >

National vehicle recovery

If you break down far from home, national recovery will send out roadside assistance wherever you are in the UK. They’ll also tow you to a garage if they can’t repair your car at the side of the road. It's included along with roadside recovery on most breakdown policies.

More about National breakdown cover >

At-home breakdown

Also known as ‘home start’, it’ll get you up and running if your car breaks down outside your house. The distance from home that you’re covered for varies between providers, but it’s usually between a quarter of a mile and a mile from your home.

More about home breakdown cover >

Onward travel

This’ll cover alternative transport to get you to your destination. This usually includes solutions such as a hire car or covering the cost of a train, bus or flight.

More about onward travel cover >

European breakdown cover

If you’re driving in Europe, European breakdown cover will cover you for the duration of your trip. It’s usually offered as an add-on to other vehicle insurance policies, rather than as standalone breakdown cover so it’s worth checking whether you’re already covered.

More about European breakdown cover >

What’s not included in breakdown cover?

Each breakdown policy will have its own terms and exclusions. Look out for things like:

  • Limits on callouts in a year
  • Exclusions around leaving your lights on, running out of fuel and misfuelling

Most breakdown policies won’t cover:

  • Damage caused by neglect
  • Breaking down because of an accident
  • Breaking down on private land or somewhere with difficult access
  • Breaking down with animals or pets

More about breakdown cover exclusions >

Do you need breakdown cover?

It’s not a legal requirement, but it can offer you peace of mind to know that there’s help available to get your car moving or you back home if you break down.

What types of breakdown cover are there?

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 will be covered, so if anyone else drives the car they’d need their own policy.

Frequently asked questions

  • How many callouts can I make a year?

    This depends on your policy – some will offer a certain number of free callouts, but others will let you make an unlimited amount. You might be charged an excess for each callout you make, so check your policy.

  • What extras can I add to my breakdown cover?

    You’ll usually have the option to include replacement of keys, tyres and batteries, and misfuelling cover – although the latter might already be covered under your car insurance so check your policy first.

  • Is it cheaper to get breakdown cover with car insurance?

    Actually it might be cheaper to get breakdown cover separately to your car insurance.

    Compare packaged breakdown cover with the price of a standalone policy to find out what works best for you.

  • What do I do if my car breaks down?

    If you can, pull over so you’re out of the way of traffic and put your hazard warning lights on. If it’s safe to do so, everyone – except for pets – must leave the car and move to a safe place away from the road. If it’s not safe for you to leave the car, stay where you are and keep your seatbelts on.

    Call your breakdown provider and let them know where you are. If you’re on a motorway, you can use a motorway emergency phone to speak to an operator who’ll get you help.

    If you’re not sure where you are, an app like what3words can help your breakdown provider figure out your exact location.

  • What happens if I breakdown without breakdown cover?

    You could phone a local garage, who will usually charge a callout fee. Alternatively, you can sign up for breakdown cover when you break down, but you’ll likely be charged extra and not all providers will allow you to do this.

    If you can’t find a local garage and don’t want to get breakdown cover, you’ll need to get in touch with the highways agency who will recover your vehicle – this will likely be the most expensive option though and is mainly a last resort.

  • Can I cancel my breakdown cover policy?

    Yes – you’ll need to get in touch with your breakdown provider but check whether there’ll be a cancellation fee first.

  • What happens if a family member breaks down?

    If your breakdown policy covers your vehicle, then it’ll be covered no matter who’s driving it when it breaks down.

    If you have personal breakdown cover, some policies will include household members as standard, so check your documents.

    Alternatively, you can get family breakdown cover from some providers, or they could get their own breakdown policy.

  • What if my classic car breaks down?

    You can get breakdown cover for classic cars, although some providers might have a maximum age limit so it’s worth checking the policy details to make sure your vehicle isn’t too old for that particular provider.

  • Will I be covered if I’m towing a caravan or trailer?

    As long as your provider includes towing – and most do – then you’ll be covered for it.

    Some policies will cover breakdowns due to mechanical problems with your caravan or trailer as standard, or you could get a caravan breakdown policy.

  • Does breakdown cover include accidents?

    Some breakdown providers completely exclude recovery of cars involved in an accident. Those who will tow a customer's vehicle from an accident scene will usually only do so after authorisation by the police or another emergency service.

  • Do I already have breakdown cover?

    You might have breakdown cover alongside your car insurance, if you’ve bought a new car or if it’s a perk of your bank account, so check before you take out a new breakdown policy.

  • Can I get business breakdown cover?

    If you own a fleet of vehicles for business use, some breakdown providers will cover the whole fleet. But if you only use one vehicle for business, you can get standard breakdown cover for that. Vehicles that are provided by your company might already be covered under your employers breakdown policy.

  • Will I be offered a replacement vehicle if my car breaks down?

    Some breakdown providers will offer a courtesy car if you have onward travel cover, but this is usually an optional extra that you’ll need to add on.

  • Are pets and animals covered if my car breaks down?

    If you break down 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.

  • Are all named drivers covered?

    Breakdown cover doesn’t work the same way as car insurance when it comes to named drivers, instead it just depends what type of breakdown policy you have.

    A personal policy will cover you, no matter what you drive, and you can add up to three other people who live with you.

    But a vehicle breakdown policy will cover a specified car, motorbike or van no matter who is the driver. You can cover up to four vehicles kept at your address.

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Page last reviewed: 14 June 2021

Next review due: 14 September 2021

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