Choosing the right car breakdown insurance policy

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What You Need to Know

  1. Breakdown Insurance policies cover you if you are unlucky enough to break down. Policyholders are able to call for expert roadside help and be on their way again as quickly as possible
  2. Unlike car insurance, Breakdown Insurance is not compulsory by law. Nevertheless, most British drivers choose to be covered and many will claim on their policies on at least one occasion
  3. You should especially think about getting covered if your vehicle is old and unreliable or if you don't know much about car maintenance and would struggle to fix even the smallest of problems
  4. You can choose to insure either yourself or your vehicle. Insuring a single car is cheaper, though not as flexible as insuring yourself
  5. Things to bear in mind when choosing a policy include whether or not you will get a courtesy car and whether you will be covered if you breakdown on your own driveway
  6. Upgrading a policy to cover you when if you are driving in mainland Europe is quick and easy, and most insurers will allow you to pay a daily rate to cover your time overseas
  7. Be sure to make full use of online comparison tools to ensure you get the very best price on your breakdown insurance policy.

What is Breakdown Insurance?

As the name suggests, Breakdown Insurance covers you if you or your car breaks down and you need help getting started again. Calling out an emergency mechanic to come and help you by the side of the road can be an expensive business, and it can take a while for someone to turn up. With proper insurance in place, not only will this assistance come for free, but it will often turn up a lot quicker since most big employers have close partnerships with mechanics.

Unlike standard car insurance, you are not legally required to have Breakdown Insurance in place, though plenty of people choose to do so. If you're unsure over whether or not you should get covered, read the guide below and then consider your own circumstances before making a decision.


Why Do I Need It?

Again, you are under no legal obligation to have Breakdown Insurance. Additionally, with most people now paying not only for car insurance, but also for mobile phone insurance, travel insurance and many other types of cover, you may not be ready for fork out for another set of monthly premiums.

However, most drivers feel that the monthly premiums you pay for Breakdown Insurance are worth the money. In fact, according to Auto Express magazine, 87 per cent of UK motorists are covered if they breakdown, and a good proportion of these motorists have made a claim on their policies on at least one occasion.

Here are just a few of the main reasons you should give serious thought to getting Breakdown Insurance:

  • If you break down, you need to get on the road again as quickly as possible: Whether you need your car for work or simply for family commitments, the chances are you can't afford to be stuck by the side of the road for any length of time. One key advantage of being covered, then, is that, should you get into difficulty, expert help is usually only a phone call away, and going through your insurer is always quicker and easier than trying to arrange assistance on your own.
  • Your car is old and unreliable: Unsurprisingly, owners of older cars are more likely to make use of Breakdown Insurance than drivers with brand new vehicles. Quite simply, if you feel that there is a risk of your car dying on you at any time, you should definitely get covered.
  • Your knowledge of how cars work is limited: The reality is that most callouts for breakdown assistance are for minor problems. In fact, Auto Express has reported that one in five call-outs are for punctures. Relatively few motorists actually know how their car works and would struggle to fix even the smallest problem. If you're one of them, getting Breakdown Insurance can not only save you time, it can also take a weight off your mind.   
  • You're worried about the costs of breaking down: Having to pay premiums for yet another type of insurance may cause short-term financial worries, especially for young drivers, but, in the event of a breakdown, this extra cost will more than pay for itself. Getting roadside assistance, especially if you need it in a hurry, can be very costly indeed, as countless uninsured drivers have found out to their cost.  

The Differences Between Personal and Vehicle Breakdown Cover

Just as with normal car insurance, with Breakdown Insurance, you can choose to either cover yourself or cover your vehicle. This is probably the biggest decision you will have to make when you're shopping around for the best deal, so it's worth taking the time to work out which option will be right for you:


Advantages of Personal Breakdown Cover

As the name suggests, with Personal Breakdown Cover, it is you rather than your car that is covered. This means that you will be able to claim on your policy even if you are not in your own car. So, when is this the best option? In short, you should go for this if:

  • You own and drive more than one vehicle. By insuring yourself, you will only have to pay one premium rather than paying several times.
  • You tend to driver other people's cars. Note, however, that some insurers will not cover you if you breakdown in a vehicle that is registered to an employer.
  • The cars of your friends and family tend to be old and potentially unreliable: This could be a great reason to choose this type of cover.

Note, however, that, while Personal Breakdown Cover offers extra flexibility, it is almost always more expensive.


Advantages of Vehicle Breakdown Cover

Alternatively, you could choose to take out a Vehicle Breakdown Insurance policy. Again, this type of insurance is self-explanatory. All you need to do is register one vehicle to be covered and, if this breaks down, you can get expert assistance to get it moving again. This will be the best deal for you if:

  • You only own and drive one vehicle, or if you drive someone else's car, you aren't concerned about that breaking down and leaving you stranded.
  • You want to be covered but spend as little money as possible on monthly premiums. Vehicle Breakdown Insurance is the cheapest option, though it offers much less flexibility than if you were to get yourself covered instead.


What to Look For in a Policy

Whether it's for yourself or for your vehicle, there really is no one-size-fits-all type of Breakdown Insurance policy. As with all types of insurance, different insurers offer different things, and you will almost always have to pay more for extras and add-ons.

So, before you sign up for a policy, you need to consider what you need to be covered for. Here are just a few key things that some policies will cover but others may not:

  • Petrol accidents: Known in the business as 'misfuelling', some insurers will happily come and rescue you if you accidentally put the wrong kind of petrol into your car and it then won't start. At the same time, however, some will not cover this. For instance, Green Flag only covers this if you pay a premium. So, consider if you, or somebody else using your car, is likely to make this mistake and then think about whether it's worth paying extra to guard against it.
  • Courtesy cars: If you really can't be without a vehicle for any real length of time, then you should make sure that your Breakdown Insurance policy offers a courtesy car, as most cheaper policies will not. Should you wish to pay extra, you will often benefit from a courtesy car be brought to the spot where you have broken down, with you free to drive this away while the mechanic gets on with fixing your stricken vehicle.  
  • Driveway assistance: One other key thing to look out for when choosing a policy is whether or not an insurer will send a mechanic out to help you if you've broken down on your own driveway. These days, most major insurers do offer this, but some still refuse to without payment of an extra up-front charge, so be sure to check, especially if your car is old and potentially unreliable.
  • Caravans and motorbikes: Specialist policies are available to offer help for broken down motorcycles, while you may also have to get a specialist premium to cover you if you're driving with a caravan in tow. As always, you should real the policy terms and conditions carefully and be sure to look out for any small print.

European Breakdown Cover

As a rule, standard Breakdown Cover polices won't cover you if you leave the UK. The good news, however, is that it's usually very easy to get covered for when you're driving in Europe.

If you are just travelling to the Continent for a short holiday, then most insurers will let you upgrade your policy to include cover abroad. This is available on a pay-as-you-go-basis, often on a daily rate. For instance, the RAC offers a 'European Rescue' option that will cover you in 20 countries and make sure you get help if you breakdown.

Alternatively, if you regularly drive through Europe, you can get more comprehensive cover. Green Flag, for example, lets you upgrade your standard account to include 90 days' worth of cover while overseas.

Again, it's worth checking what European cover includes. Is it just roadside breakdown? Will you be offered alternative transport or a hire car? Could you even claim for overnight accommodation if your vehicle can't be repaired on the same day?


Finding the Best Deal

As with all financial products, the key to getting the best deal on Breakdown Insurance is to take the time to shop around and compare the different options available to you. Make use of UK Net Guides top breakdown insurance offers comparison table.


Further Reading

  • If you want to reduce the likelihood of you needing to call for help, try learning some basic car maintenance. Auto Skills offers courses for complete beginners.

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