The 5 different types of breakdown cover

A road trip around Europe requires a different kind of breakdown insurance to your daily commute. So how do you make sure you’re covered for every eventuality?

A road trip around Europe requires a different kind of breakdown insurance to your daily commute. So how do you make sure you’re covered for every eventuality?

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 3 OCTOBER 2019

What is breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover offers support if your vehicle suffers a mechanical break down. Breakdown cover could help to get your vehicle back on the road, get you to a garage for repairs or take you to destination of your choice.

There are five main categories of breakdown cover, ranging from a helping hand at the roadside to full onward journey protection. We explain the different types of breakdown cover so you can understand what home start, roadside assistance, national recovery, onward journey and European cover all entail and pick the right type of cover for you and your vehicle.

1. At home

This type of policy, also known as ‘home start’, covers you if you break down at your home address or very nearby. The distance from home that you are covered for can vary between providers – but is typically between a quarter of a mile and a mile from home. As a flat or faulty battery is the #1 cause of breakdown issues, this option may be worth considering – particularly if you often do short journeys.

2. Roadside assistance

Covers you by the roadside if you break down during a journey. If your vehicle can’t be fixed there and then, this type of policy usually offers a tow to a local garage.

3. National recovery

As well as call-out and roadside repair, this type of cover includes a tow to any location in the UK. It might be worth considering if you often drive far from home. The AA estimates the cost of a motorway recovery without breakdown insurance at £250 or more.

4. Onward journey

This category of cover gets you where you’re going despite your breakdown, providing solutions such as a hire car.

5. European cover

If you’re taking your car on holiday, this type of cover is extended for the duration of your trip. European cover is usually bundled with other features, rather than offered as a stand-alone policy. But it is worth checking that your policy covers the country you are travelling to.

Could you already have cover?

Breakdown cover is usually separate from your vehicle insurance policy, although sometimes it does come as an add-on. It can also be packaged with bank accounts or credit cards as an extra, so make sure you haven’t already got cover before you start a quote.

What isn’t covered?

It’s always best to check the policy wording as some breakdown cover policies might exclude human errors, like:

  • Leaving your lights on
  • Running out of fuel
  • Misfuelling (filling up with the wrong type of fuel).

A new policy won’t activate for 24 hours, sometimes longer, and may only provide partial cover for up to 30 days.

Should you cover yourself or your vehicle?

You can apply breakdown cover either to yourself (personal cover) or your vehicle (vehicle cover). Personal cover is for you, no matter what car you’re driving, while vehicle cover applies to your vehicle, even if you’re not the driver.

How many times can you use your breakdown cover?

All policies will have different limits on the number of call-outs you can make while the policy lasts. They will also have other limitations like the weight your vehicle can be, and whether or not wheel changes are included. Check the policy documents carefully to make sure you’ve got the level of cover you need for your peace of mind.

Do you have to pay anything if you break down?

Most policies will automatically pay out for any service you need (though there may be an excess charge). However, some policies will contract out the recovery work and you may need to pay up front and claim back via your policy. Make sure you know which one you have.

Thousands of breakdowns happen every day across the UK – if you’re one of the unlucky ones, breakdown cover could make the difference between a total disaster and a temporary inconvenience.

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