Insurance companies and competing with supermarkets to offer cover – but many use the same network of mechanics and recovery vehicles but charge widely different prices for the service.
Motorists should never make an instant decision to buy breakdown cover with the weekly grocery shop or because they bump in to a friendly RAC man outside the local DIY.
Here are some important points to bear in mind before buying:
How often do you breakdown?
Most modern cars are reliable and do not break down – especially if they are less than five years old. If you have recently bought a car, check the warranty to see if breakdown cover is already included as part of the deal rather than spending out for cover you don’t need and will pay for twice.
Breakdown cover for you or the car?
Car breakdown cover comes in two types – one for just a car, whoever drives, or another for the driver regardless of the car they drive.
If you have the one car and share shifts behind the wheel with your wife or partner, then consider insuring the car. If you have a family sharing a couple of cars, then consider insuring the driver.
Do you just cover the basics?
Insurers package their cover with different names to look different in the marketplace, but effectively offer roadside assistance – which normally starts when the car is 400 yards or more away from home – or home assistance – which covers a car that won’t drive or fails to start on the drive.
Towing the line
Ask if the policy covers caravans and trailers – many car breakdown and recovery insurers include this cover, but include rules about kerbside weight, length and height. A key rule is travelling with a serviceable spare tyre if the the caravan or trailer suffers a puncture – if you don’t the cover ism often void.
Watch your distance
Almost every insurer has a different rule over towing distances and where roadside assistance starts.
The points to watch are:
How far will the mechanic tow your car if the vehicle won’t start – the general rule is 10 miles to your home or an approved garage
Roadside assistance can start as far as a mile from your home.
If you do break down more than 10 miles from home, find out what the policy says about overnight accommodation, hire cars or fares for continuing the journey for you and your party.