Breaking down breakdown services

Which one is best for you?

There’s nothing worse than when your car breaks down, especially in the middle of a journey. Waiting at the side of the road can leave you feeling stuck, isolated and vulnerableespecially if you’re on a rural backroad, far from civilisation or on the hard shoulder, watching everyone else zoom past you.

That’s why breakdown services are such a godsend. They’re there in a pinch to help you get back on the road with any repairs, or ferry you back home if it’s not a quick fix. But with so many available to pick from, and different levels of cover, how do you choose the right one?

With day trips and staycations on the horizon now the weather is brightening up, you don’t want to be caught out should the worst-case scenario occur. So, let’s explore what the different types of breakdown services offer, and what the best option for you is.

What are the different types of breakdown cover?

In the UK, there are three main types of breakdown cover. If the policy has the first, it’s often referred to as ‘basic cover’ and if it has all three then you might see it called ‘full service’.

Basic cover – typically means your vehicle will be fixed at the roadside or towed to a local garage. If you breakdown close to home, though, you probably won’t be covered.

Home start – as well as basic cover, you’ll be covered if your vehicle won’t start at home.

Onward travel – if your vehicle is kept in a garage for repairs, you’ll have access to a hire car for a short period, overnight accommodation or alternative public transport fees covered, depending on the provider and level you opt for.

If you’ve got an older car or have broken down before, you might opt for the full-service option, to cover all bases. Equally, if you travel frequently or make several long journeys, you might want to have onward travel in your policy, so that any unexpected overnight stays are accounted for.

And if you’re planning to travel to Europe, check if it’s included in your policy. If you’re there a lot, you might consider taking out an annual breakdown policy with European cover. But if it’s just one or two trips, a UK policy that you can upgrade when you need European cover might work out better in terms of value.

Read the fine print – understanding your breakdown cover

As with any policy or service, it’s important to understand what’s included – and what’s not. With breakdown services, you can opt to cover a specific vehicle, or you can cover a person. That way, whatever car you’re in, sometimes even if you’re a passenger. It’s usually pricier to cover a person, not a vehicle, but if you are swapping cars a lot, it’s worth a think.

What’s more, if you have multiple drivers in your household, a husband and wife/partner policy or one for the family could work out cheaper overall.

Another point of contention is if you have a caravan or horsebox, to check if it’s included in your breakdown cover. Some specialist caravan policies don’t include breakdown cover, but it could be included within a breakdown policy that means you can get it towed home or to a garage for repair.

Which is the best breakdown service?

So, with all that to take on board, can we definitively decide the best breakdown service provider? Value for money all depends on your circumstances and driving habits, and the level of cover you need. And it also depends on what you measure

What Car? Polled over 14,000 drivers in its Reliability Survey and found that Green Flag reached 28% of motorists in less than half an hour, pipping the AA, which got to 22% of members within 30 minutes. But in terms of consistency, Start Rescue had the best overall response times, reaching 77% of stranded driver in 30-60 minutes, and didn’t leave anyone waiting for more than two hours.

And although Emergency Assist has slower response times, reaching only 56% of people within an hour, and taking more than two hours to meet 22% of customers, it took the top spot for providing a permanent fix at the roadside, with 44% of vehicles repaired. The AA, Green Flag and the RAC all fixed more than 40% at the road.

How are breakdown services changing?

Even if you go back just 10 or 20 years, the UK’s car market looks very different to what it is today. There’s a whole new set of challenges for mechanics and roadside repair services.

Standard breakdown service trucks can only tow vehicles weighing 2.2-2.5 tonnes. But as SUVs become more popular, and with the uptake in hybrid and electric cars with weight battery packs, the RAC estimates around 10% of cars are too heavy for a standard recovery truck. That’s why they’ve introduced new heavy-duty vehicles to their recovery fleet.

On the topic of EVs, patrol staff are required to have extra electronics knowledge to work on them, as more drivers find themselves running out of charge during journeys. The AA reports attending around 3,000 EV breakdowns a year, with this figure on the rise.

Battery failure is the top reason for callouts, but our cars are getting smarter with extra devices like dashcams, seat warmers, and entertainment systems. That means there’s a bigger strain on the battery. If you’re not charging the battery on longer drives, a quick trip to the shops or for school pick-up could result in a breakdown.

Save on your insurance, not the service

When you pay for a product or service, you deserve great support in return. At Howden, we’re firm believers that every client is a VIP. And in a world where costs are rising, it couldn’t be more important that you receive personal, tailored service, at a price that works for you.

And if the worst does happen, you want to know that there’s someone by your side who isn’t afraid to do the heavy lifting – whether that’s progressing your claim or advocating for your best outcome.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, why not speak to your nearest Howden Insurance branch? Our team of experts can help you get the cover you need – and can also share our new Money Savings eBook, filled with meaningful savings tips for your shopping, energy bills and more!

Sources: What Car?, MoneySavingExpert, The Car Expert

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