Cheap Breakdown Cover

Basic cover £11/year, full from £48

Too many people auto-renew breakdown cover and pay over the odds. Know where to look and you can often get a cheap basic AA or RAC policy without paying the full price, or comprehensive cover for less than £50 a year.

This guide reveals the best ways to cut the cost of breakdown cover, including tips on how haggling can help.

Breakdown cover need-to-knows...

The days of mutual motoring clubs are long gone – roadside recovery policies are big business. So forget loyalty and focus on getting the top deal. Here are five need-to-knows to read before checking the best buys...

  1. Breakdown firms are among the easiest to haggle with

    When it comes to haggling, don't think you need to be in backstreet bazaars – haggling successes are high with breakdown cover. In our latest poll conducted in September 2018 (see our top 10 service companies to haggle with), RAC was rated the easiest to haggle with, with the AA a close second. 

    Our breakdown cover haggling guide will help prepare you in taking the correct steps to saving big. Here's how MoneySavers fared with the major breakdown firms.

    Haggling success with breakdown cover

    PROVIDER NUMBER OF RESPONSES SUCCESS FAIL
    RAC  144 90% 10%
    AA Breakdown 300 88% 12%
    Green Flag 47 81% 19%
    Other 44 71% 29%

    We hear of lots of successes of breakdown cover customers successfully getting a better deal with nothing more than a quick call and a bit of charm. Here's inspiration before you begin.

    Thanks for the haggling advice. Just spent five minutes on the phone to the RAC and got my renewal slashed from £252 to £151. Just over £100 for about five minutes work – that'll do nicely!
    - Graham, by email

    AA renewal came in at almost £200, final cost around £120, same price as new customers. Always haggle!
    - @Violet_Aurella

    Just this morning got twenty quid knocked off my renewal and onward travel added onto my RAC policy. Always worth a try.
    - @PSBWon

    Haggled RAC renewal down by 25%.
    - @deefer66

    Quick tips

    • Haggling is more art than science and we've a full how-to in our Breakdown Cover Haggling guide, but here are eight tips for starters... 

      • Benchmark the best deal. Research the deals and discounts that are available and use it as a basis for negotiation.

      • Timing is crucial. Haggling works best when you're near or beyond the end of your contract.

      • The haggling Holy Grail is the customer retention department. The key here is to ask customer services for the deal you want, then if it refuses, tell it you're going to leave. You'll then get put through to what it tells us is the "disconnections department", but internally is known as "customer retentions" – and it's here that it has far more discretion to give top deals. And of course if you don't get what you want, you should seriously consider leaving.

      • Use charm, chutzpah, cheek and a smile. Be polite. Aggression or anger will just put their back up.

      • Use the phrases that pay. You may find that your customer services rep will only offer a small discount at first, but if you don't agree with the price, use phrases like: 
        - I've worked out my monthly budget, and my absolute max is £[insert price here]/month.
        - [Insert other insurer] can do it for less.
        - I need to think about it.
        - I think my husband/wife will go bonkers if I pay that.
        - It's still a lot of money.
        - What's the very best you can do?

      • Don't panic if it calls your bluff and says it can't offer you a deal. My easy 'get out of jail free' card on this is the phrase: "Hold on, I'll call you back on that. I'd like to check with my wife/husband/dog/Aunt Fanny first."

      • Ask if it can throw in extras. If it won't slash the price, see if it can include any extras, such as upgrade the cover.

      • If you fail? Try, try and try again. I've heard rumours that different staff members have quotas of how many deals they can do. Even if it's not true, it feels like that to many. So you may have called the wrong person at the wrong time. Call back a few days later and speak to someone else. This works for some. In industries such as breakdown, companies grow by tempting customers from other firms, not by grabbing those new to that market (most drivers have breakdown already). So retaining custom is key.

      Remember that while haggling is good, you may save more with cashback, so check the rest of this guide too for more info on it.

  2. If your car's shiny and new, do you need the full works?

    If you've a modern, reliable car then you only need cover as an emergency backup plan, so basic cover is likely to be enough. If your car's older, or has a history of breakdowns, you should consider a more comprehensive policy.

    There are three main UK cover types. If a policy just has the first, we classify it as 'basic'. If it has all three, we call it 'comprehensive':

    • Basic cover. It typically means your car will be fixed at the roadside or towed to a local garage. But it won't usually cover you if you breakdown close to your home.
       

    • Home start. In addition to basic cover, you will be covered for a problem if your motor won't start at home.
       

    • Onward travel. If your car's kept in a garage for repairs, this generally means you'll get a hire car for up to three days, plus a night's accommodation. It also covers costs if you need to continue by public transport.

  3. Driving in Europe? Ensure you're covered

    If you're planning to go regularly, consider taking out an annual breakdown policy with European cover.

    If you'll only need it for a few days a year, a cheap UK policy which you can upgrade to cover Europe when you need it may be better. Always check the option is available before taking out the policy – and ask how long it takes to add before it come into effect – some impose exclusions against claims in the first 15 days from the start of the extension.

    See our Cheap European Cover section for the best deals for annual and single cover.

    Finally, don't forget to arrange travel insurance and notify your car insurer to get that extra protection while you're abroad.

  4. Always check whether you're covering a car or a person

    You can either opt for cover for a specific car, or you can take out personal cover which protects you no matter what car you're driving, or for travelling as a passenger. Buying personal cover is typically more expensive, so only go for this if you think you'll need it.

    If you never swap motors the pricier policy is pointless, but if you regularly drive other people's cars, it's worth thinking about. It's also worth pointing out that, if you're towing a caravan, your policy will usually extend to this as well.

    Most specialist caravan policies don't include breakdown cover so, as a rule, if your caravan hits a pothole and damages its chassis (so it can't move), then your car breakdown policy will cover you for being towed home or to a garage.

  5. A joint policy can be cheaper than two (or three or four) single policies

    Getting a husband and wife/partner policy (or one for the family) usually works out cheaper than buying individual policies for each person in the home. For example, AutoAid* will cover you and your spouse for £48, the same price as for an individual.

    Alternatively, the AA* offers basic cover for £59 for an individual, or £89 for a couple. The RAC* equivalent is the same price, £59 for an individual, £89 for a couple. You can often undercut these costs (whether buying as a single or joint policy) using cashback sites, but these examples show the principle that joint policies often beat two singles.

Best buys: Cover from £11/year

Once you know the basics, use our best buys below to find your cheapest policy. There are fully comp, basic and Euro policies, with options for each level of cover – see the tabs for more information.

Before getting a policy, always check the full terms to check they suit you. Please let us know if you've any feedback, or think we've missed anything.

Our overall top pick is AutoAid* for the price and the great feedback it receives. The cost for the year is £48.31.

  • It insures the person, so you’ll be covered in any eligible vehicle you’re driving at the time of the breakdown. Any vehicle age and mileage is accepted but it must have up-to-date tax and a valid MOT. Plus, caravans and trailers being towed are covered if attached to your car.

  • Free cover for a husband, wife, civil partner or common-law partner. The same cover applies to your spouse or civil partner, or for those with a common-law partner (though you'll need to provide proof of the relationship within seven days, eg, both names on a utility bill, shared ownership of residential property or joint lease or rental agreement).

  • It provides onward transport. Most budget policies only allow the car to be fixed at the roadside or towed to a garage. With AutoAid, you'll get transport to your chosen destination for up to six people in total (including the driver).

  • Home breakdown cover, limited to £65 per call-out. It pays for labour and recovery, not parts. So if you need help to get the car started at home, this £65 is usually enough to cover the call-out fee and any basic labour charge.

AutoAid's been our top pick for a few years and MoneySavers who use it mostly report great feedback – add your experiences.

For roadside assistance, cover at home and national recovery from the AA, a couple would normally pay over £100/yr.

IMPORTANT: AutoAid is in the process of updating the policy wording regarding common-law partners, to clarify that they are also covered, subject to proof being provided within seven days.

What's included? Home cover, onward transport, free cover for a spouse/partner
Average call-out time: 40 mins
Contract length: 12 months
Euro cover upgrade: Available on a separate policy

Cheapest cover from a big-name provider using cashback

Comprehensive AA* vehicle-only cover costs £125/yr. It includes 'At Home' and 'Onward Travel' with 'National Recovery' (which will take you, your passengers and the car to your chosen destination).

The personal cover equivalent, which will protect you as a driver or a passenger in another vehicle, comes in at £135/yr.

Want to get it cheaper? Buy the 'vehicle cover' breakdown policy via Topcashback* and get £63 cashback (this amount is given when the premium is between £114 and £143.99, as it is here). In effect this reduces the annual premium (after cashback has been approved) from £125yr to £62/yr.

Opt for the 'personal cover' policy, again via Topcashback*, and where the cashback is still £63. This in effect reduces the annual premium from £135/yr to £72/yr once the cashback has been approved.

Should you choose to use a cashback site, you must pay in full upfront and not on a monthly basis.

IMPORTANT: Cashback is never guaranteed. Cashback sites list retailers and product providers and get paid if you click through them, then give you some or all of this cash – though there can be issues with tracking (see FAQs for more).

What's included? At Home, Onward Travel and National Recovery
Deal: £62/yr after cashback with AA's vehicle-only cover
Average call-out time: 30 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro cover upgrade: Available

Another option for cheap cover from big-name provider using cashback

Comprehensive RAC* vehicle-only cover will set you back £124/yr (if you go direct). Cover includes 'At Home', 'Recovery' (which will take you, your passengers and the car to your chosen destination) and 'Onward Travel'.

The personal cover equivalent, which will protect you as a driver or as a passenger in another vehicle, is £134/yr.

Want to get it cheaper? Select the 'vehicle-only cover' policy with 'At Home', 'Recovery' and 'Onward Travel' via Topcashback* and get £60 cashback. Factor in the cashback and this reduces the cost from £124/yr to £64/yr. For personal cover it'll be £74/yr. 

To be eligible, you must pay in full upfront, and not monthly.

IMPORTANT: Cashback is never guaranteed. Cashback sites list retailers and product providers, get paid if you click through them, then give you some or all of this cash – though there can be problems with tracking (see FAQs for more).

What's included? At Home, Recovery and Onward Travel
Deal: £64/yr after cashback with RAC's vehicle-only cover
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro upgrade: Available on personal cover

Cheapest RAC non-cashback deal if you've got vouchers

If you're a Tesco shopper, hoard your Clubcard points then use them to slash the cost. Here, you can get 'Roadside' cover plus 'At Home' and 'Onward Travel' for £32/yr using Clubcard vouchers.

How does it work? Spend Tesco Clubcard vouchers on goods or services listed in its deals brochure, and you get back up to three times (previously four times) their face value. For more info, read Loyalty Points Boosting.

Which policies can I get? You can't get every single policy, so we've listed those available and their cost in Clubcard points in the FAQs below.

What's included? Varies
Deal: Cheaper RAC personal cover via Tesco points
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro cover upgrade: Varies

  • NAME WHAT DOES IT COVER? WHO RAC ONLINE PRICE COST IN CLUBCARD VOUCHERS
    RAC Roadside (1) Basic assistance Single £61 £20.50
    Joint £85 £28.50
    Family (2) £157 £52.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery (1) Basic assistance plus onward travel for passengers Single £110 £37
    Joint £134 £45
    Family (2) £206 £69
    RAC Roadside / Recovery & Replacement Hire Car (1) Basic assistance, onward travel including flight, replacement car Single £130 £43.50
    Joint £154 £51.50
    Family (2) £226 £75.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home Basic assistance, enhanced onward travel, breakdown assistance at home or within 1/4 mile Single £125 £32
    Joint £149 £50
    Family (2) £221 £74
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home / Replacement Hire Car Basic assistance, onward travel including flights, home breakdown assistance, replacement car, overnight accommodation Single £155 £52
    Joint £179 £60
    Family (2) £251 £84

    (1) Doesn't include home breakdown. (2) Based on cover for five people. 

    Note: Prices taken from RAC and Tesco websites on 13 February 2018. Packages offered can change, always double-check.

Cheapest basic cover from big-name provider using cashback

The basic vehicle policy from the RAC* is £40/yr. It covers breakdowns when you're more than a quarter of a mile from your home, towing your vehicle back to the garage and includes 24-hour assistance.

You can get personal cover too, which will protect you as a driver or passenger in another car, for £59/yr.

Want to get it cheaper? Go via cashback site Topcashback* and it's offering £29 cashback, in effect making the cost £11/yr for a vehicle-based policy.

Choose the personal-based policy and again you can also get £29 cashback, via Topcashback*. This reduces the premium to £30/yr once the cashback has been approved.

IMPORTANT: Cashback is never guaranteed. Cashback sites list retailers and product providers, and get paid if you click through them, then give some, or all, of the cash to you. There can sometimes be issues with tracking – read the FAQs below for more.

What's included? Covers breakdowns when you're more than a quarter of a mile from your home.
Deal: £11/yr for RAC basic vehicle cover, after cashback
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro cover upgrade: With personal cover only, price varies

Cheapest AA basic cover using cashback

The basic vehicle policy from the AA* costs £39/yr and covers breakdowns that are more than a quarter of a mile from your home.

If you want personal cover instead, which protects you as a driver or passenger in another vehicle, it's £59/yr.

Want to get it cheaper? Go via cashback site Topcashback* and you can get £15.75 back on policies costing £39 to £59.99. In effect this reduces the £39/yr vehicle-only policy to £23.25/yr (once you have received the cashback).

For the vehicle cover policy, it's £43.25/yr after cashback. 

IMPORTANT: Cashback is never guaranteed. Cashback sites list retailers and product providers, and get paid if you click through them, then give you some or all of this cash. There can sometimes be issues with tracking – read the FAQs below for more.

What's included? Covers breakdowns when you're more than a quarter of a mile from your home
Deal: £23.25/yr for AA basic vehicle cover, after cashback
Average call-out time: 30 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro cover upgrade: No upgrade on basic policy

Get RAC cover using your Tesco Clubcard points

If you're a Tesco shopper, hoard your Clubcard points then use them for ultra-cheap RAC breakdown cover, including basic personal roadside assistance for £21/yr using Clubcard vouchers.

How does it work? Spend Tesco Clubcard vouchers on goods or services listed in its deals brochure, and you get back up to three times their face value. For more info, read Loyalty Points Boosting.

Which policies can I get? You can't get every single policy, so we've listed those available and their cost in Clubcard points in the FAQs below.

What's included? Varies
Deal: Cheap RAC personal cover with Tesco points
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: One year
Euro cover upgrade: Varies
  • NAME WHAT DOES IT COVER? WHO RAC ONLINE PRICE COST IN CLUBCARD VOUCHERS
    RAC Roadside (1) Basic assistance Single £61 £20.50
    Joint £85 £28.50
    Family (2) £157 £52.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery (1) Basic assistance plus onward travel for passengers Single £110 £37
    Joint £134 £45
    Family (2) £206 £69
    RAC Roadside / Recovery & Replacement Hire Car (1) Basic assistance, onward travel including flight, replacement car Single £130 £43.50
    Joint £154 £51.50
    Family (2) £226 £75.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home Basic assistance, enhanced onward travel, breakdown assistance at home or within 1/4 mile Single £125 £32
    Joint £149 £50
    Family (2) £221 £74
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home / Replacement Hire Car Basic assistance, onward travel incl flights, home breakdown assistance, replacement car, overnight accommodation Single £155 £52
    Joint £179 £60
    Family (2) £251 £84
    (1) Doesn't include home breakdown. (2) Based on cover for five people. 
    Note: Prices taken from RAC and Tesco websites on 13 February 2018. Packages offered can change, always double-check.

Comprehensive European cover

European breakdown cover – which includes accommodation costs and travel expenses if your trip is disrupted – is available from the AA* and RAC* on a single-trip and annual basis.

An alternative is Compare Breakdown Cover*, which allows you to choose a variety of levels of cover (UK and European cover).

Buy a new policy via our MSE Blagged Compare Breakdown Cover* link by 30 September 2019 and use code MSE06, and you'll get 17.5% off in the first year.

IMPORTANT: We've limited feedback. This provider is new to our Car Breakdown guide and we have very little feedback to share. Let us know your experiences and how you get on in the forum discussion.

One-off and specialist policies

If you're looking for one-off or specialist policies, MoneySupermarket* allows you to compare roadside recovery tariffs.

It misses some of the best deals, so it doesn't always get the very cheapest, yet if you've specific needs it can quickly find a competitive quote.

Check special deals

A few companies have special deals and some car insurers bundle free breakdown with their car insurance cover (see our Car Insurance guide). These currently include:

Halve AA/RAC renewal cost

Provided your car isn't more than 10 years old, Green Flag*  promises to be 50% cheaper than your renewal quote from the AA or RAC if covering your vehicle only, whatever the price. If you want cover for yourself in any vehicle, it's 30% off.

Also, see this as a chance to haggle with the AA or RAC by quoting this deal.

  • There are no minimum or maximum price limits but it will only offer the discount on your renewal notice price, not any special deal you negotiate after.
  • It says you'll get its closest equivalent vehicle cover. So if your AA renewal includes home start, you qualify for Green Flag home start cover.
  • The promise applies to UK cover ONLY.

First get a Green Flag* quote online for an equivalent policy. If it's not at least 50% or 30% cheaper than the price of your renewal, call Green Flag on 0345 246 1558 to get it reduced further. There's no end date, but as it can be pulled at any time, you may as well do it soon if you want to try it.

It'll ask you to complete the purchase over the phone and then send in your AA/RAC renewal quote for confirmation within 14 days. You could in theory set it up for immediate cover, but you could be charged more or have the policy cancelled if you fail to prove the renewal quote.

Let us know your experiences and successes on it in the forum discussion.

Comprehensive European Cover

European breakdown cover, which will include accommodation costs and travel expenses if your trip is disrupted, is available from the AA* and RAC* on both a single trip and an annual basis.

An alternative is Compare Breakdown Cover* which allows you to choose a variety of levels of cover (UK and European cover).

Buy a new policy via our MSE Blagged Compare Breakdown Cover* link by 30 September 2019, when you use the code MSE06, and you will get 17.5% off in the first year.

NOTE – New addition with limited feedback

This provider is new to our car breakdown guide and we have very little feedback to share. Let us know your experiences and how you get on in the forum discussion.

Car breakdown Q&A

  • Nobody can predict the future – even the most reliable companies can fall into bad times. As with any purchase, you should consider if you've any protection should the company you buy the cover from go bust.

    We've checked with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and, sadly, you wouldn't be protected on breakdown cover if the worst happened.

  • While this is unlikely, it's still worth knowing the score. If your car's taken away, you'll usually be given a document to sign when it's returned to you.

    If you think the car's been damaged by the recovery company, refuse to sign the document and report the issue to the recovery company. It's crucial to do this as soon as you can, even if you're still at the roadside.

    • Get as much evidence of the damage as possible. Take photos – even a decent camera phone can be handy for this if there's no alternative – and write a report of what happened ASAP.

      Take notes as fully as you can, including the name of the recovery firm, times and dates. Then contact the firm to find out how it plans to rectify it.

    • What if it doesn't repair the damage? If you aren't happy with the way it's dealt with the incident, it's time to submit a written complaint. The formal procedure for this will be set out in your policy terms and conditions – these will have been sent to you but if you can't find them, just ask for another copy.

    • If it still doesn't resolve it... Even though you can't claim money back from the FSCS, if these companies are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). All companies we include are FCA-regulated.

      The independent free ombudsman service settles disputes between consumers and businesses, without costing you a penny. You need to leave eight weeks between registering your complaint with the firm and going to the FOS. See the Financial Rights guide for full info.

  • If you have recently bought a car you may already have breakdown cover as part of your package, as many manufacturers offer it for the first year. If that's the case, there's no point shelling out for a new policy. 

    If you already have a policy in place, and you've got free breakdown cover with your new motor, call your existing breakdown provider to ask if it'll freeze your cover till your freebie runs out or cancel the cover if you can.

  • Many motor insurance policies give the option to add breakdown or other freebies such as legal cover when you start your policy. These are usually only free for the first year, so use them as an incentive to switch when the year is up.

  • Many premium bank accounts, which you have to pay a monthly fee to use, come with a host of bundled products which can include breakdown insurance. So check you don't already have it in place before shelling out on a new policy.

    It is worth weighing up getting a current account with benefits instead of buying cover separately, but carefully do the maths and ONLY buy cover via your bank or building society account if you'll use all the features (which often include mobile phone and travel insurance too) and that it works out cheaper that way than buying it all separately.

    One of the better accounts is the Nationwide FlexPlus Account, which costs £156 per year and includes personal European breakdown cover with home start and onward travel, as well as mobile phone insurance and worldwide travel cover.

    For a list of other premium bank accounts which include breakdown cover, see our Bank Accounts with Benefits guide. Some of these accounts were mis-sold, so to check if you've got a claim, see our Packaged Account Mis-selling guide.

  • If you're unlucky enough to break down while your pets are with you, you'll still be able to receive roadside assistance. But transporting Fido and Tiddles is at the discretion of your insurer.

    RAC says it'll always attend vehicles carrying pets, but will decide on a case-by-case basis whether it's safe for the pets to travel in the recovery vehicle, or your vehicle if it's being towed.

    The recovery driver has discretion over whether the pet can travel in the vehicle. However, pets are usually allowed to travel with the recovery driver unless they are distressed or vicious, or the driver has allergies. Unless there's a safety risk, guide dogs will always travel with their owners.

    The AA says it'll transport any animal with its owner, unless it's not possible for health and safety reasons, at the risk of the pet owner. However, it does not offer transport for livestock and horses (for obvious reasons).

    If you have pets in the vehicle with you when you break down, let your insurer know when you contact it for assistance.

    For more information, check page eight of the AA's policy booklet and the RAC website.

How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free and offered by a firm called Resolver, which we like so much that we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

SPOTTED OUT OF DATE INFO/BROKEN LINKS? EMAIL: BROKENLINK@MONEYSAVINGEXPERT.COM