Home assistance breakdown cover

Find out more about home assistance as part of breakdown cover and how it can help get you back on the road.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 18 September 2023  | 5 mins read

What is home start breakdown cover?

Breaking down is always a pain. But if it happens on your doorstep, home start breakdown cover can help get you going again.

Standard breakdown policies generally only cover you for breaking down away from home. But you can usually add home start cover to your policy as an optional extra.

This means you’ll also be able to get breakdown assistance at home or nearby - typically within a quarter of a mile of your address.

With home start as part of your breakdown cover, you can get help whether you’re stranded on your driveway or on a roadside far from home.

Key points

  • Standard breakdown policies don’t usually include at-home breakdown assistance
  • A home start policy add-on covers you for breaking down within a certain radius of your home
  • If your car can’t be fixed at home, you’ll usually be covered for it to be towed to a nearby garage
  • It’s possible to buy instant cover if you need urgent breakdown assistance, but it’ll usually cost you more

How does home start breakdown cover work?

Also known as home assist or at-home cover, this type of breakdown cover can help if your car breaks down at home or within a short distance of where you live.

Whether your vehicle is electric, diesel, or petrol, a qualified mechanic will come to your home address to get it back up and running.

And if your car can’t be fixed there and then, home start breakdown cover will typically include towing it to a local garage for repairs.

What does home start include?

Providers will offer different features and benefits with home start cover, so it’s worth comparing what you can get.

You’ll usually be covered for:

  • 24-hour professional breakdown assistance at home
  • Unlimited callouts
  • Towing to a local garage if repairs are needed
  • Engine issues
  • Battery replacement
  • Problems like misfuelling, flat tyres or lost car keys

What doesn’t it include?

While having breakdown cover at home can be very useful, it won’t cover you for every situation.

You typically won’t be covered for:

  • The cost of fuel or any spare parts needed to get your car working again
  • Any breakdown that happens in the first 24 hours after taking out cover for the first time
  • Loss or damage to any belongings you’ve left in your car
  • Lack of routine maintenance or continued failure to fuel or charge your vehicle
  • Breakdowns reported more than 24 hours after you become aware of the problem
  • Unattended vehicles - you’ll need to be there while your car is being worked on
  • A repeat breakdown that happens within 28 days of your car being attended for the same fault

Will my car get fixed at my home?

More often than not, a home start recovery service should be able to get your car up and running again. But if this isn’t possible, they’ll usually organise for your car to be towed to a local approved garage for repairs.

Is it worth having breakdown cover at home?

This largely depends on how often you think you might need to use it. For instance, if you have a new car, it should be less likely to break down than an older model.

However, a common cause of breaking down is a flat battery - something you might discover when you go to start your car at home, particularly on a cold morning.

If you need to get help from a mobile mechanic to fix the issue, it could end up costing you more than the annual premium for home start breakdown cover.

And because home start policies can also cover things like lost car keys and putting the wrong fuel in your car, you could find yourself saving money here too.

Different providers offer different benefits though, so it’s important to compare options before you buy cover.

What if I breakdown at home without cover?

If you don’t have any breakdown assistance at your home, it’s possible to buy cover online - however, this will usually cost you more than if you bought it in advance. And you may have to pay an emergency callout fee.

What should I do if I breakdown at home?

This depends on whether you already have breakdown cover and what the problem is. So to start with, it’s a good idea to:

  1. Check your fuel gauge

    Your car might just be out of fuel. In which case, you may need to walk or get a lift to your local petrol station to fill up a petrol can for a quick top-up.

  2. Pay attention to warning lights

    Check if any dashboard warning lights are showing and what these mean according to your car owner’s manual.

  3. Consider jump-starting your car

    If your car has a flat battery, you could try jump-starting it yourself using jump leads from another car that has a fully-charged battery.

  4. Try a spare key

    Sometimes a car won’t start because the battery in the key fob has gone flat, so it’s always worth trying a spare one.

  5. Listen for any unusual sounds

    If there’s a grinding or rattling sound when you turn on the ignition, this could indicate there’s a major problem that needs fixing.

  6. Call a breakdown service

    Unless it’s something easy, straightforward and safe for you to fix yourself, it’s usually best to get help from a professional mechanic.

Frequently asked questions

Some home start policies will cover misfuelling, when you accidentally put the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle, but others may charge extra for this or won’t cover it at all.

Misfuelling cover will cover the cost of draining and flushing your tank, but it won’t cover the cost of replacement fuel beyond the limit stated in your policy wording.

Many home start policies offer unlimited callouts, although some may have a cap on the number of times you can use the service during your 12 months of cover. So it’s best to check the terms and conditions.

However, be aware that you’re unlikely to be covered for getting help twice in a month for the same problem - that’s because it’s up to you to keep your car well-maintained and to fix any known problems.

Yes, if the recovery service can’t get your car started at home, you’ll typically be covered for the cost of towing your car to a nearby approved local garage for repairs. However, you won’t be covered for the cost of labour at the garage or any spare or replacement parts needed to get the car working again.

You’ll need to check your breakdown policy document, but standard cover usually won’t include home assistance - you’ll need to buy it as an optional extra.

No, there’s usually a 24-hour window before the home start policy becomes active.

If you find yourself having to buy this cover because your car won’t start at home, you’ll need to pay more for instant cover than if you’d already taken it out beforehand.

Generally, your home start cover should include the cost of repairing your car when it’s broken down. However, most policies don’t include the cost of replacement parts you might need - like a new alternator, for example.

So you may find there’s an extra cost depending on what’s required to get your car back on the road. To help with this, some breakdown assistance providers offer a parts and labour add-on you can buy to give yourself extra protection.

Most home start policies don’t require you to pay an excess, but it will depend on your provider. If an excess applies, you’ll typically need to pay this every time you need to use the recovery service. Breakdown policies with an excess are usually cheaper than those without.

Roadside breakdown cover can usually only help if your car breaks down further than a quarter of a mile away from your home address. Alternatively, home assistance or home start cover can help with any vehicle breakdowns that happen on your doorstep or very close by.

This is only possible if you’ve taken out vehicle-based cover. With this type of cover, your car will be covered if it breaks down regardless of who might be driving it. This type of home assistance cover is cheaper than personal breakdown cover, which covers the person rather than a specific vehicle.

If your home start cover is part of a personal breakdown policy, you’ll be covered for breakdowns in whichever vehicle you’re using. It’s also possible to add other people to your policy, so your whole family can be covered for breakdown assistance.

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