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What you need to know about breaking down during the coronavirus pandemic
Breakdown services are responding to call-outs, but many have new rules in place in line with social distancing measures. There may also be delays when using phone lines.
For more information, see your breakdown insurance provider's website. You can also visit our coronavirus and motoring FAQ page.
What is breakdown cover?
Breakdown cover provides roadside assistance if your vehicle breaks down – with a trained professional on hand to fix your car and get you back on the road. If your car can’t be fixed, then you’ll usually be towed to a nearby garage.
When it comes to breakdowns there are two pretty safe bets – they’ll happen at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places. Having the right cover means when your car, van, motorbike or scooter fails unexpectedly, you’ll be able to get it back up and running quickly.
What are the different types of breakdown cover?
The best breakdown cover for you will depend on what you need it for. There are five levels of breakdown cover:
Roadside assistance: covers you if you break down during a journey. If your car can’t be fixed at the roadside, you’ll typically be towed to a nearby garage.
At home recovery: also known as ‘home start’, this provides breakdown recovery if you break down at home or very close by, typically between a quarter of a mile and a mile from your home address.
National recovery: In addition to roadside assistance, you’ll be towed to any location in the UK.
Onward journey: This will help you continue your journey and get to where you needed to be, if your car can’t be fixed at the roadside. This could include a courtesy car, overnight hotel accommodation or public transport.
European recovery: If you’re holidaying in Europe (in the EU) by car and need breakdown recovery, this will provide cover for your trip. At Compare the Market you can also compare cheap European breakdown cover for vans (for non-commercial use) and bikes.Different types of breakdown cover
What’s covered by a breakdown policy?
Breakdown policies will give you the peace of mind that help is at hand if you break down while on the road.
Depending on the policy you choose, it can also include cover if your vehicle breaks down at home, anywhere in the UK and in Europe.
All breakdown providers offer an emergency helpline and breakdown assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Does breakdown insurance cover me or my vehicle?
Breakdown insurance can cover you or your vehicle, it’s up to you.
With this option, you’ll be covered in any vehicle that meets the policy specifications, and you can claim whether you’re the driver or a passenger. You can also extend this kind of cover to people who live at the same address, usually up to a limit of four people.
Vehicle-based insurance is applied to a specific car, van or bike, and can cover up to four vehicles registered at your address.
What extras can I add to my breakdown cover?
There are several optional extras you might be able to add to your standard breakdown cover. These vary between breakdown providers, and you will usually need to arrange for these extras separately. These include:
- Tyre replacement cover - Ideal if you get a puncture.
- Battery replacement - Covers the cost of a replacement car battery if yours goes flat.
- Key replacement - Some standard breakdown policies will cover you if your keys are stolen, lost or damaged. But if not, this could be useful.
- Wrong fuel - If you’ve filled your car with the wrong fuel and it breaks down, you’ll need this cover.
- Special vehicles - You might need a specific policy if you’re driving with a trailer or caravan attached to your car.
- Family and multi-car breakdown cover - This covers multiple drivers sharing the same address as you. Multi-car policies allow you to add a specified number of different cars (at the same address) to the same policy.
Which breakdown cover providers do we compare?
We compare prices from the following providers, to help ensure you get a great-value deal. See the options available to you in one go and can get quotes in less than 2 minutes**.
|2Gether Insurance||Essentials by RAC|
|Cover My||Dynamo Cover|
|Eversure Insurance||Green Flag|
|Nova Direct||QDOS Breakdown|
**On average, it can take less than 2 minutes to complete a breakdown cover quote through Compare the Market, based on data in November 2020.
Frequently asked questions
Could I already have breakdown cover through another policy?
Breakdown cover might come as an added extra with your car insurance, or even with some current accounts or other financial products. It may also be included as part of a package, if you’ve recently bought a car from a dealership.
If you have breakdown cover through another policy, check the policy documents carefully to make sure it offers everything you need.
Should I buy the cheapest breakdown cover?
Price is a deciding factor when it comes to buying breakdown cover. But opting for the cheapest policy could be a false economy, as it may not be the best cover for you.
For example, if you’ve broken down far from home and don’t have national recovery, you’ll need to find a way to get your vehicle home or fork out for somewhere to stay while it’s being repaired.
Another consideration is your policy excess. For some people it’s worth buying a slightly more expensive policy with a lower excess, so they won’t be too out of pocket if they need a call-out. Approximately half the policies you can compare with us don’t have an excess charge.
Can I pay for my breakdown cover monthly or annually?
With the breakdown policies that we compare, you have to pay an annual membership fee. This covers you for a specific amount of call-outs each year. A small number of policies let you pay monthly, but usually it’s cheaper to pay annually.
What happens if I break down?
Using your breakdown cover is simple if you break down. Firstly, be prepared – keep your policy information in your vehicle or on your smartphone. When you contact your provider, they’ll take details of where you are and what the problem is, then send out a mechanic.
Some providers have an app you can use, to pinpoint your location straight away and keep you informed with updates on your mechanic’s progress, while you wait.
Can I claim straight after taking out a breakdown cover policy?
In most cases, cover will start 24 hours after your payment has been accepted. However, this can differ between breakdown cover providers, so check your policy conditions before you buy.
Can I cancel my breakdown cover policy?
When you take out a policy, you’ll have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period, during which you can cancel your breakdown cover without any charges. But be aware that if you’ve used the service within those 14 days and decide to cancel, you won’t be given a refund.
After the cooling off period, if you want to cancel your policy early, you might be charged a cancellation or administration fee. Check your policy details to see what charges there are for early cancellation.
What happens if my vehicle can’t be repaired at the roadside?
It depends on the nature of the problem and your level of cover. But if the mechanic can’t fix the issue there and then, your policy provider will usually arrange to tow you and your car to the nearest garage. This might depend on the age of the vehicle.
What happens if a family member needs breakdown recovery?
It depends on your policy. If you take out personal cover, you can have up to four members of your family covered on the one policy, if they live at the same address.
Will I be covered if my car breaks down at home?
If ‘home start’ recovery is included as part of your breakdown cover, you’ll be able to get assistance at home. Generally, policies that include home recovery will provide cover up to a quarter of a mile from your home. So if you break down just up the road, you’ll be able to get help.
How many call-outs can I make in a year?
It depends on the breakdown policy you choose. With some, you can make up to five call-outs in a year, while those that offer unlimited cover let you call as many times as you need.
Will I be covered if my van breaks down?
Most breakdown providers will also cover vans, if they’re under 3.5 tonnes. If you use your van to get to work, it’s worth taking out van breakdown cover. This could help you get back on the road sooner with minimal disruption to your working day.
Unfortunately, Compare the Market don’t currently compare van breakdown cover for business and commercial use. Breakdown cover compared with us is only for commuting and private personal use.
Will I be covered if my motorcycle breaks down?
Most providers will also cover motorcycles. You can also buy motorbike breakdown cover, which offers the same levels and features as a car breakdown policy.
What isn’t covered by breakdown insurance?
It’s always important to read your policy terms and conditions, to find out what exclusions there might be. For example, breakdown cover might not include the following:
- repeat call-outs for a recurring fault
- routine maintenance
- roadside assistance for an accident or break down that involves the emergency services
There may also be conditions attached if you break down on private land or with animals.
What if I break down with my pets in the vehicle?
If you’re travelling with a pet, it’s recommended that they’re secured to keep them, you and your passengers safe while you’re driving. If you break down with a pet in the vehicle:
- leave them inside the car if you’re on a motorway
- if you have to take them out, keep them on a lead
- most breakdown engineers will try to accommodate pets – if you have transferable pet travel carriers or restraints it will help make sure your pet is transported safely.
What happens if the breakdown company damages my car?
If your car is damaged during the breakdown service, you should point out the damage immediately. Then you should negotiate for the breakdown company to pay for repairing the damage.
If they dispute your claim, there are ways to take further action. Find out what your rights are on the Citizens Advice website.
What happens if I break down without breakdown cover?
If you break down and you don’t have cover, it’s possible to get instant cover with some breakdown insurance providers. However, this can cost more as you may be charged a one-off fee for instant membership.
Alternatively, you can call Green Flag, which offer a breakdown service, on 0845 246 1557. If you don’t have breakdown cover, they’ll charge an emergency call-out fee, which can be expensive.
Other ways to get help if you don’t have cover:
- Call a local garage to see if someone can come and tow your vehicle to the nearest mechanic. Be warned though, this could end up being very expensive. Also, bear in mind, this is only an option during opening hours.
- If you’re not far from home, you could call friends or family. But again, this might be an issue if you break down in the middle of the night.
Will I still be covered now that we’ve left Europe?
As long as you have European breakdown cover you’ll have the same level of protection as before Brexit (unless your provider has contacted you to tell you otherwise). Check your policy documents or contact your provider if you’re not sure.
If you don’t have breakdown cover and you’re planning a trip to Europe, it’s important to make sure you arrange cover before you leave the UK. You’ll also need a Green Card, which you can get from your car insurance provider. It’s advisable to apply at least a month before your travel – your Green Card will be sent via the post (although some providers will send a Green Card via email).
Can a vehicle be too old for breakdown cover?
Some breakdown providers will cover vehicles of all ages. When comparing breakdown cover, you should check the policy terms and conditions to see if there are any limits.
Will I be covered if I’m towing a caravan?
Most breakdown providers will cover you for towing a caravan, although weight and size restrictions usually apply.
Some breakdown providers offer specific breakdown cover for caravans and motorhomes if you’re a member of a caravanning club, such as The Camping and Caravanning Club UK. These policies often offer a number of extra benefits, including no weight or size restrictions.
How can I find a good deal on breakdown cover?
Compare breakdown cover with us and you could save a lot of time (and money). Just tell us some details about yourself and your vehicle, and we’ll give you a list of deals to weigh up so you can choose the cover that suits you best.
You can filter your results by policy type and include optional add-ons to find cover that suits your needs. When you find cover you’re interested in, just follow the link to the provider’s website to get your deal.
What you need to know about breaking down during the coronavirus pandemic
The UK government has introduced measures requiring you to stay at home, except for very limited purposes.
If you do break down during an essential journey, both AXA and Green Flag say they will still respond to call-outs. Their mechanics have been advised to keep two metres distance from drivers at all times, in line with the government’s social distancing advice, and you should aim to do the same. If you’ve been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, you should alert your breakdown service when making the initial call.
For more information, visit our coronavirus and motoring FAQ page.
See government instructions on social distancing.
Please note: This information was correct at the time of publication on 30 April 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but check with your insurance provider or potential provider directly to confirm any details.