Coronavirus Travel Rights
14 June 2021
Breakdown call-outs are on the rise now many people using their cars – because of lockdown being eased. Yet many of us are paying over the odds for breakdown cover as we auto-renew it year after year. This guide reveals the best ways to cut your cover costs, including for AA and RAC policies, plus other tips to really drive the savings.
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 in our last poll.
|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!
Just this morning got twenty quid knocked off my renewal and onward travel added to my RAC policy. Always worth a try.
Haggled RAC renewal down by 25%.
If you've recently bought a modern, reliable 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, but do check if the policy is what you need.
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.
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, Eversure Gold* and AutoAid* will cover you and your spouse for under £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.
Many premium bank accounts, which you have to pay a monthly fee for, 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's worth weighing up getting a current account with benefits instead of buying cover separately. But do the maths and ONLY buy cover via your bank or building society if you'll use all the features (which often include mobile phone and travel insurance too) and if it works out cheaper than buying separately.
One of the better accounts is Nationwide FlexPlus*, which costs £156/yr 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 that include breakdown cover, see our Packaged Bank Accounts guide. In the past, sometimes this type of account was mis-sold, so to check if you've got a claim, see our Packaged Accounts Mis-selling guide.
While it's not a concern at the moment due to lockdowns and travel bans, it may be an issue in future. If you're planning to travel to Europe regularly, consider taking out an annual breakdown policy with European cover.
Yet if you'll only need cover for a few days or a couple of weeks each year, a cheap UK policy that 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.
Important – please read first: Cashback and these policies. You can usually get a decent saving on breakdown cover 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 the closest comparable policy).
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.
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.
|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|
|AA||Breakdown recovery from the AA for £113/yr, or get it for £68 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 £113/yr||Buy it via Topcashback for £68/yr* (2|
|RAC*||Breakdown recovery from a big brand for £135/yr for 'vehicle' cover going direct, or £75/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 'vehicle' cover direct from RAC for £135/yr||Buy 'personal' or 'vehicle' cover via Topcashback for £75/yr*|
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.
|Cheapest RAC cover for £24/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 £24/yr through Topcashback*, once the cashback's factored in. Personal cover's £34/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).|
|Buy it direct from the RAC for £100||Buy it via Topcashback for £24/|
|AA||Get the AA's cheapest policy direct for £59, or through a cashback site for £33, 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. Cashback can reduce this to £33/yr (£43/yr for personal cover).|
|Buy it direct from the AA for £59/yr||Buy it via Topcashback for £33/yr*|
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.
|Let us know how it went if you use this option.ervice will be like.|
|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|
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.
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:
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.
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.
Newbies who use this MSE Blagged Rescuemycar.com* link and enter code MSE20 get 20% off their annual premium in the first year. The cover is competitive for modern vehicles, as it's calculated on the car's age.
You can choose vehicle cover (where it covers you in any eligible vehicles that you own, and have specified on the policy), or personal cover (covering you in any eligible vehicles you drive or are a passenger in). You'll be covered for breakdowns at home and recovery anywhere in the UK. There's a £40 excess per claim, though you can pay extra to get this down to £0.
Buy a new policy via this MSE Blagged Startrescue.co.uk* link and you'll get a 17% discount in the first year (the discount will be displayed before you check out).
The cover available can be competitive for modern vehicles, as it's calculated on the car's age. You can choose vehicle cover (where it covers you in any eligible vehicles that you own, and have specified on the policy) or personal cover (covering you in any eligible vehicles you drive or are a passenger in).
If you want your policy to cover breakdowns at home, make sure you select the policy that includes 'Home Assist', as without this, breakdown assistance will only be provided if the car's more than a mile away from your home.
Finally, Startrescue.co.uk is a new addition to this guide, so we have little feedback on it. Let us know your experiences and how you get on in the forum discussion.
Buy a new policy via our MSE Blagged Compare Breakdown Cover* link by 31 May 2022 and you'll get 15% off in the first year by using code MSE108.
It allows you to choose a variety of levels of cover for UK-only and Europe. Or use these prices as a benchmark to haggle with the AA or RAC.
Compare Breakdown Cover is a broker, and offers a range of policies with different assistance providers. Let us know your experiences and how you get on with it in the forum discussion.
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…
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'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.
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