Personal breakdown cover

Personal breakdown policies cover you, rather than a particular vehicle. Find out if this is the right type of breakdown cover for your circumstances.

Kim jones
Kim Jones
Updated 12 September 2022  | 3 min read

Key points

  • Personal breakdown cover can come to your rescue, no matter what vehicle you’re driving
  • It’s different from vehicle-based breakdown cover, which covers one particular vehicle
  • Many personal breakdown policies also cover you as a passenger in a vehicle that breaks down
  • It’s usually best suited to people who have more than one vehicle in their household or who regularly drive more than one vehicle

What is personal breakdown cover?

With personal breakdown cover, it’s you that’s covered in the event of a breakdown, rather than a particular vehicle.

That means if you’re driving - or are a passenger in - a vehicle that breaks down, your provider will send out a mechanic to help you get back on the road as quickly as possible.

What does it include?

Personal breakdown cover normally includes roadside assistance and local recovery as standard.

If you break down at any time of day or night more than a certain distance from your home (usually around a quarter of a mile), your provider will send out a mechanic to try to fix the fault.

If the repair can’t be done at the roadside, then you and your vehicle will be taken to a nearby garage.

You can usually add optional extras to your policy to give you more protection. These include:

National recovery

If your vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside, your breakdown service will take you and your vehicle to any destination you choose in the UK

Home start

Sends help if your vehicle won’t start at home or breaks down within a short distance from home

Onward travel

If you break down and a mechanic can’t solve the problem on the spot, this cover can pay for replacement transport or an overnight hotel stay to ensure you’re not stranded while your vehicle’s being repaired

European breakdown cover

Cover when you’re travelling in Europe that works in a similar way to UK cover providing roadside assistance and local recovery

Key, tyre and battery replacement

These replace:

  • lost, broken or stolen car keys
  • punctured or maliciously damaged tyres
  • a battery that can’t be recharged


Will pay for a fuel drain and flush, plus refuelling to get you to the next petrol station

Pros and cons of personal breakdown cover


  • You’re usually covered as a driver or passenger in almost any vehicle - cars (including electric or hybrid), motorbikes, vans and campervans up to a certain size and weight
  • You can usually include up to four or five people who live at the same address on one policy
  • You don’t need to buy separate policies for every vehicle you drive. And you can drive any eligible vehicle knowing you’re covered - including family members’ cars and hire cars (provided you have the right car insurance, too)
  • If you break down in someone’s car who doesn’t have breakdown cover, you can still get help


  • Personal breakdown cover is usually more expensive than vehicle breakdown cover because there’s more of a risk to the recovery company
  • You need to be in the car for it to be covered - even if the car is registered to you. So, for example, if a family member without cover breaks down in your car and you’re not with them, then they won’t receive assistance
  • Vehicles over a certain weight, length and width are excluded from a personal policy

Do I need personal or vehicle breakdown cover?

There are two types of breakdown cover - personal-based policies, or vehicle-based.

With a personal-based policy, you’re covered as an individual no matter what vehicle you’re driving. You’re usually covered if you’re a passenger in any vehicle that breaks down, too.

A vehicle-based policy, on the other hand, covers one particular vehicle, no matter who is driving it.

Personal breakdown cover is most suited to you if you have more than one vehicle in your household, or if you regularly drive more than one vehicle. Perhaps you own more than two cars, or you drive a lot of hire cars, for example.

Vehicle breakdown cover is a good option if you mainly drive one car. It also works well if other members of the family share the car, too. No matter who is driving the vehicle, it’s covered if it breaks down.

Can I add additional people to my policy?

Yes, you can usually buy personal breakdown cover for one person, two people (a joint policy) or up to four or five members of your family (a family policy), as long as you all live at the same address.

Everyone on the policy will be covered in most vehicles.

Alternatives to personal breakdown cover

If personal breakdown cover is not the best option for you, then you can consider:

Vehicle breakdown cover

Vehicle breakdown cover applies to a particular named vehicle, rather than to you.

This means you wouldn’t be covered if you drive any vehicle that’s not named on the policy

Business breakdown cover

A business or 'fleet' breakdown policy allows you to cover multiple cars, vans or motorcycles that make up your business fleet

Frequently asked questions

It depends on your provider, but many will allow you to pay for personal breakdown cover on a monthly basis

Your breakdown provider can come to your aid wherever you break down, as long as it’s over a certain distance from your own home - usually about a quarter of a mile.

So, if you break down at a friend’s house, a mechanic will be sent out to help you get started or will tow you to a garage if they can’t fix the problem there and then.

It depends on the provider and policy.

Some limit how many times you can use their service - perhaps six times a year, for example. Others allow unlimited callouts, as long as it’s not for the same problem occurring multiple times and that, if asked, you can prove you’re keeping your vehicle regularly serviced and well-maintained.

You’ll need to check each individual policy for which vehicles are eligible for cover.

But in general, most breakdown cover policies accept cars, motorbikes, vans, campervans and minibuses weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, and that measure no wider than about 2.55m and about 6.4m in length.

Because of these size and weight restrictions on conventional breakdown policies, if you’re towing a caravan, or driving a large motorhome, you’d need specialist breakdown cover.

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