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Breaking down on the road need not be a nightmare if you have the best breakdown cover to help repair your car and get moving again.

While you don’t have to have breakdown cover by law, it can be very useful if your car breaks down when you are travelling or at home and you have no means of fixing it at the roadside.

What is car breakdown insurance?

Car breakdown cover acts as a form of insurance, so you can have peace of mind that you’re covered if your car breaks down or refuses to start.

The best car breakdown insurance will cover you for any time that your car breaks down, whether that is outside your house, or 100 miles away on the motorway.

If your vehicle breaks down at night far from home, you can still call your car breakdown company to help you. If you don’t have car breakdown cover, garage call-out fees can be high, especially after hours and on weekends.

If your car won’t start outside your own house, a mechanic from your car breakdown insurance company can come out and diagnose the problem, fix it, or tow it to a nearby garage for further repairs.

Most car breakdown policies cover the cost of towing your vehicle to a garage where it can be repaired if it can’t be fixed at home or at the roadside. Some will also cover the cost of accommodation and onward travel.

How to compare car breakdown cover

When you compare breakdown cover, there are a few different types and features you can choose from. The main considerations are price and convenience. To find the best breakdown cover for your needs you could think about how and when you might need your breakdown insurance. Then run a breakdown cover comparison. You can do this using our comparison tool.

Some policies cover you and some cover your car, so when looking for cheap breakdown cover it pays to decide which option is best for your needs.

Personal breakdown cover

This can provide breakdown cover if you’re the driver or passenger in either your own car or another vehicle. Personal breakdown cover can be valuable if you regularly travel in different cars or you have several cars in your household. Some breakdown insurance companies won’t cover you if you drive cars over a certain age, as they are more likely to break down.

Vehicle breakdown cover

Here the policy applies to the car, not the driver. Anyone driving the car will be covered. This could be a good option for a family car which is shared by two or more drivers.

If you only ever travel in your own car, vehicle cover can give you the policy you need and may work out cheaper. You can also get vehicle breakdown policies that cover more than one car, which could be a good alternative to personal breakdown cover if you have more than one car in your household.

Levels of car breakdown cover

Levels and features of car breakdown insurance vary greatly between different companies – some of the main features are:

Roadside assistance cover

This covers you if you break down anywhere in the UK, typically at least a quarter of a mile away from home. A mechanic will come and try to fix your car at the roadside, or tow it to a garage.

Home assistance/home start cover

This will also cover you if your car breaks down at home or less than a quarter of a mile away from your address. Your car will either be fixed at home or taken to a garage for further repairs.

Vehicle recovery

If your car can't be fixed at the roadside, vehicle recovery means it will be towed to a garage or your home.

Parts and labour cover

This covers the cost of any parts and labour needed to fix your car.

Onward travel

Onward travel breakdown cover can get you where you want to go. It covers you whether it's a lift home or dropping you off to the destination you were travelling to, as long as it's in the UK. Onward travel UK breakdown cover can even be more comprehensive, like a courtesy car or even accommodation while your car is being repaired.

European breakdown cover

While most policies only include breakdown cover for the UK, European cover will come to your aid if you break down elsewhere in Europe. Some standard policies allow you to upgrade to European breakdown cover at a later date if needed. It is worth checking the terms and conditions of your car breakdown insurance to see if you are already covered, or if you are able to upgrade.

What optional extras might I be offered for my breakdown cover?

Different providers can offer additional extras such as battery cover and replacement key cover, so it's worth comparing lots of different policies. You might also get cover if you fill your car with the wrong fuel.

There are also different levels of vehicle recovery, and onward travel. The best car breakdown insurance is the one that will most suit your lifestyle. If you travel regularly away from home, you might want a comprehensive policy that includes accommodation if you are stranded while your vehicle is being repaired.

If you don’t go on long trips, a cheaper option would be car breakdown insurance without emergency accommodation included.

How to choose the best breakdown cover

Finding the best breakdown cover for your needs will depend on many different factors. The cheapest breakdown cover may not have all the features you need, so it's important to take a minute to consider what's important to you.

  • How far do you travel, and how many miles do you drive in a year?
  • Do you use your vehicle mainly for short trips, with the occasional long drive for a holiday?
  • Will several people use the vehicle, or are you always the driver?
  • Do you ever use your car abroad?

Always check the terms and conditions to make sure you are getting the level of breakdown insurance you require.

How can I get cheap breakdown cover?

The best way to find cheap breakdown cover is to shop around and see what options are available at different prices. The cheapest cover may not always be the best, or the one that best suits your needs.

What is included in my breakdown insurance?

There are different levels of cover:

  • Roadside assistance is the most basic, meaning a mechanic will try to fix your car where it has broken down.
  • You can add on vehicle recovery (being towed to a garage) and home start.
  • Other options such as accommodation and onward travel are included as part of a comprehensive package, or you can add them on.

How many callouts can I have?

These will vary from policy to policy. Usually the cheaper policies limit your call outs to four or five a year. Some comprehensive policies don’t have a limit.

Is there any excess to pay?

Most car breakdown insurance policies don’t charge an excess. Instead, you’ll be charged for the parts you need. So if the mechanic needs to fit a new tyre or battery, you will just be charged for the cost of the replacement.

Do I get a courtesy car?

Some car breakdown policies do provide a courtesy car, either while your car is being repaired, or for onward travel. However, this is usually an extra that you will need to add on.

What vehicle types are covered?

When you buy car breakdown insurance cover you can choose whether you want a van, car, or motorcycle to be covered. If you are looking for breakdown cover for special vehicles, such as a large campervan or a car with a trailer, you will need to make that clear.

Is breakdown cover included in my car insurance?

Some car insurance policies may include a level of breakdown cover. However, it may not be comprehensive cover.

You can find out more about car insurance here.

How to get started

It is simple to get started with car breakdown cover. You just need to decide what level of cover you want, whether it is for you or a specific vehicle, enter some details about you and your car, and then compare quotes.

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