cheap breakdown cover

Cheap Breakdown Cover

Basic cover from £30/year, full cover from £57/year

With more cars back on the road, breakdown call-outs have shot up. But many of us are paying over the odds as we auto-renew our breakdown cover year after year. If you know where to look, you can usually get a cheap basic AA or RAC policy without paying full price, or comprehensive cover for under £60/year. This guide reveals the best ways to cut the cost of breakdown cover, including tips on how haggling can help.

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Breakdown cover: the six need-to-knows

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

  • 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 November 2020, the RAC was rated the easiest to haggle with, with the AA a close second. For more, see the top 10 service companies to haggle with.

    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
    RAC 401 83%
    AA Breakdown  833 82%
    Green Flag 199 67%
    Other 221 47%
    Poll carried out in November 2020.

    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 to 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 available and use that 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. Ask customer services for the deal you want, then if it refuses, tell it you're going to leave. You'll then be put through to what's called the 'disconnections department', internally known as 'customer retentions' – which has far more discretion to do 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. The '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. It's rumoured 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 for more info on that.

  • spanner

    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.

  • 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 comes into effect – some impose exclusions against claims in the first 15 days from the start of the extension, so planning is key.

    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.

  • 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 if you're 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.

  • 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 usually £60/yr, the same price as for an individual.

    Alternatively, the AA* offers basic cover for £59 for an individual, or £99 for a couple. The RAC* equivalent is similarly priced at £60 for an individual, £115 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.

  • You may already have car breakdown cover, or even travel insurance, without knowing. Many bank accounts which charge a monthly fee have extra benefits such as car breakdown cover. If you think you get insurance as a sweetener with your bank account, check the terms to see if it is appropriate for your needs.

    For accounts that may offer car breakdown cover (and other perks), see our Top Packaged Bank Accounts guide. 

Top-pick breakdown cover

We've split the deals into comprehensive and basic policies, plus we've a section that covers you for European travel, with options for each level of cover. Use our best buys below to find the policy for you.

Important – please read first: Cashback and these policies. Breakdown insurance is one of the markets where you can get a decent saving if you go via a cashback site, so where it's available, we include the best cashback offer for each of these policies (or at least a closely comparable policy from the same provider).

Where we quote a cashback price, this is the equivalent price assuming the cashback's paid. However, you should budget to pay slightly more upfront, as cashback can take a few weeks or months to be paid out. Always treat cashback as a POTENTIAL saving rather than an actual saving until the money's in your account, as things can go wrong. 

illustration

Top-pick deals with comprehensive cover

We're classifying policies as 'comprehensive' if they cover breakdowns at your home, plus have roadside assistance and onward travel (which usually includes a hire car, overnight accommodation or public transport costs). 

Yet as we say in the need-to-knows above, always put a diary alert in for one month before your cover auto-renews, to benchmark the cheapest prices out there. Then, switch providers or use the benchmarked prices to haggle with your existing provider.

Let us know your experiences with these providers in the forum discussion.

PROVIDER HOW GOOD IS IT? + COVER COSTS
Eversure* Fully comp cover for any car up to 16 years old costs £57.50/yr via this Eversure Gold* link. This policy gives fully comp cover in any car you or your partner drive, or are passengers in. It also gives mis-fuelling cover. But Eversure doesn't have its own recovery fleet – it notifies local recovery operators. As Eversure is a new addition to MSE, do tell us your experiences.
AutoAid BreakdownAutoAid* Get fully comp cover for £59.99/yr with AutoAid* (or £74.99/yr if your car's more than 15 years old). The policy covers you and your partner in any car you drive. It also gives mis-fuelling cover and help if you're stuck, eg, in snow/mud. Like Eversure, AutoAid doesn't have its own recovery fleet – it notifies local recovery operators.
RACRAC* (1) Breakdown recovery from a big brand for £140/yr + get 3 extra months free, or get it for £81/yr through a cashback site, though remember this sort of cashback's never guaranteed. Prices below are for vehicle cover, but you can usually add personal cover (covering you in any car) for £10/yr. You can also pay extra to get a joint policy to cover you and your partner. RAC has its own recovery fleet.

Buy it direct from RAC (before 7am, 29 Jan) and get 15mths for the price of 12 for £140*

Buy it via Topcashback for £81/yr* (2)

AAAA* Breakdown recovery from the AA for £169/yr, or get it for £98 through a cashback site, though remember this sort of cashback's never guaranteed. Prices below are for vehicle cover, but you can add personal cover (covering you in any car) for £10/yr. You can also pay extra to get a joint policy. AA has its own recovery fleet.
Buy it direct from the AA for £169/yr* Buy it via Topcashback for £97.60/yr* (2)

(1) You can also get RAC fully comp cover for £50's worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers. (2) For the cashback price, we've assumed that you get the cashback, so this is an equivalent price. You'll pay more upfront. But remember cashback is never guaranteed. Do read our Top Cashback Sites guide before doing this.

Top-pick deals with basic cover

Basic policies are typically a lot cheaper, but do have exclusions. You usually won't be covered if you break down at home or close by, and your provider has no obligation to get you to where you were going. However, you are covered for roadside assistance, or if it can't be fixed there, you'll usually be towed to a garage near to where you broke down.

But as we say in the need-to-knows above, always put a diary alert in for one month before your cover auto-renews, to benchmark the cheapest prices out there. Then, switch providers or use the benchmarked prices to haggle with your existing provider.

Let us know your experiences with these providers in the forum discussion.

PROVIDER HOW GOOD IS IT? + COVER COSTS (1)
RACRAC (via Topcashback)*
 (1) (2)
Cheapest RAC cover for £30/yr, though you'll need to go via a cashback site (and remember cashback's never guaranteed). The RAC only sells its most basic cover via cashback sites, not direct. Vehicle-only cover costs £30/yr through Topcashback*, once the cashback's factored in. Personal cover's £32.76/yr. The policy allows a max of five call-outs/yr and you'll get a 10-mile tow (to a garage or other destination).  
AAAA* Get the AA's cheapest policy direct for £59, or through a cashback site for £32, though remember cashback's never guaranteed. The AA's most basic 'vehicle-only' policy costs £59/yr (£69/yr for personal cover) and covers breakdowns more than 1/4 of a mile from your home. But cashback can reduce this to £31.70/yr (£41.70/yr for personal cover).
Buy it direct from the AA for £59/yr* Buy it via Topcashback for £31.70/yr* (2)

(1) You can also get basic RAC cover for £24's worth of Tesco Clubcard points. (2) For the cashback price, we've assumed that you get the cashback, so this is an equivalent price. You'll pay more upfront. But remember cashback is never guaranteed. Do read our Top Cashback Sites guide before doing this.

Top-pick deals with European cover

While many of us won't be driving to Europe this year due to the coronavirus crisis, if you do still need this cover, it is available. If your vehicle breaks down when you're driving on the Continent, it'll be repaired at the roadside, or perhaps at a local garage.

We've done the prices below for a trip of three weeks in France in a five-year-old Audi A3 to give you an idea of how the providers compare. If you're going for longer, or to more countries, the price will tend to be higher. You'll also pay more if you have an older car.

If you're going two or more times, or you regularly drive to Europe (eg, if you live in Northern Ireland and regularly visit the Republic) then it's worth getting an annual European breakdown policy (or checking if cover via a packaged bank account is worth it). 

However, as we say in the need-to-knows above, always put a diary alert in for one month before your cover auto-renews, to benchmark the cheapest prices out there. Then, switch providers or use the benchmarked prices to haggle with your existing provider.

Let us know your experiences in the forum discussion.

PROVIDER HOW GOOD IS IT? + COVER COSTS
Compare Breakdown Cover* This comparison site zips your car's details off to a few breakdown providers to help you get the best price. Cover starts from £24.18* for three weeks in France, once the 15% off code MSE108 is used (1). However, as we don't vet the companies it features, we don't know what their service will be like. Let us know how it went if you use this option. 
 AA*
Gives roadside assistance and pays for a hire car or hotel if needed. The AA* wanted £100.33 to cover our example three weeks in France. This policy gives you 24/7 access to an English-speaking helpline, plus you can pay extra to get a contribution towards the costs of getting the car fixed at a garage.
RACRAC* (2) Gives roadside assistance and will pay for a hire car or hotel if it can't be fixed there. The RAC* charged £101.81 for our example three weeks in France. The policy gives you 24/7 access to an English-speaking helpline, and a contribution towards costs if it needs to be fixed at a garage (the amount depends on which level of cover you go for).

(1) We have little feedback to share on Compare Breakdown Cover. Offer available till 11.59pm on 30 April 2021. (2) You can also get RAC Europe cover using Tesco Clubcard vouchers worth £55+, depending on the level of cover you want.

car on the back of a towtruck graphic

Looking for one-off or specialist policies?

If you're looking to cover a one-off journey, or need something more specialist, 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:

Green Flag

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.

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

  • 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.

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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.

  • breakdown repair guy

    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*, 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 Accounts 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 16 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 small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then…

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