Tips for choosing the right breakdown cover

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Running a car is an expensive business. There’s road tax, fuel costs, repairs and value depreciation to take into consideration, as well as one of the most costly elements; car insurance.iStock_000013048916XSmall

At the start of the year, the average annual premium for car cover stood at £531, according to AA figures, which is a major chunk of change for most households.

Going without breakdown cover is not worth the saving

Having breakdown cover as part of your policy is usually optional so it can be tempting to help keep expenses under control by deciding not to have it.

But if you don’t include it, you’re leaving yourself open to a whole host of potential problems and very large costs if you do end up by the side of the road in the middle of winter, kicking the carburettor and wondering how you’re going to sort it out before nightfall.

It’s affordable

Breakdown cover doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. A good number of cheaper, basic policies start around the £60 a year mark. For better, more comprehensive cover you’ll pay £110 to £130.

It’s often most cost-effective to buy breakdown cover as an ‘add-on’ to your main car insurance policy. However, this isn’t always the case and stand-alone cover might be cheaper, so ask your insurer how much it charges and compare deals.

What to take into account

If you do sensibly decide to take out breakdown cover, here are a number of points to bear in mind:

Pay less, expect less

On the whole, the cheapest cover is quite limited compared to if you pay more.

One car or multiple car insurance

You’ll usually be asked if you want to insure just one vehicle or be the driver, or in fact passenger, of any number of vehicles for breakdowns.

Many households now have two or even more cars and if you do, it’s generally the cheapest option to insure yourself to drive any of the cars rather than each car individually.

Family members

It goes without saying but, again, it’s easier and cheaper to insure family members together on one policy by simply adding them to the main driver’s insurance.

Response time

If you want fast, efficient response times you’re going to have to pay for better cover. Ask the insurer for average response times, they should know; if they don’t, or won’t tell you, be suspicious.

Breaking down at your home

The most basic policies set distance limits; they won’t come out to you if you breakdown within half-a-mile of your home for example. The better policies will come to your home.

Cars which can’t be fixed

The cheaper policies only offer to tow you to the nearest approved garage, or your home, depending on the situation and state of the vehicle. They won’t take you to where you’re going or any destination you choose, no matter how far away that is whereas the better policies will.

Cover which includes ‘onward travel’

As stated above, the better cover will take you anywhere you require and also include the hire of a car (usually for a limited period) if your vehicle can’t be fixed locally overnight.

Accommodation

Whether you’re travelling on business or pleasure, you may want the cost of additional accommodation included if your car can’t be repaired immediately, especially if you’re a fair distance from home.

Again, the better and usually more expensive policies include this.

How to tell which is a good provider

Check consumer sites and champions such as Honest John and Which? magazine and see what they say, as well as checking reviews on other car sites such as Autotrader.

The best recommendations are usually from friends and family, so ask around if you’re not sure who to go with.

Do you already have cover?

It might be that you already have cover but don’t know it! A number of financial products, including bank accounts and credit cards, now come with free insurance such as travel and breakdown cover.

If so, check how comprehensive the level of cover you get is. If you’re happy with it, you may save upwards of £100 a year compared with if you accidentally double up.

Call out restrictions

Policies often come with restrictions on the number of call-outs allowed in any one policy year. If you think your vehicle is prone to breaking down, you might want to check this figure carefully.

Driving abroad

‘Driving abroad’ usually refers to driving in continental Europe, rather than further afield, although this can be arranged.

If you take your car abroad in the summer holidays, or at other times, you’ll need to make sure a policy covers you for doing so.

Policy Expert

The customer service team at Policy Expert is always on hand to help – either online or over the phone. Whether you want assistance in finding the right policy or even handling a claim, we make sure it’s all handled by experts. For more information speak to one of our experts on 0330 0600 600 or email ask@policyexpert.co.uk

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.