cheap breakdown cover

Cheap Breakdown Cover

Basic cover £23/year, full cover £60/year

With lockdown easing and more cars back on the road, breakdown callouts 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 £60/year. This guide reveals the best ways to cut the cost of breakdown cover, including tips on how haggling can help.

Six 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 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 February 2019, the AA was rated the easiest to haggle with, with the RAC 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
    AA Breakdown 373 88%
    RAC  189 85%
    Green Flag 59 73%
    Other 39 46%
    Poll carried out in February 2019

    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.

    check who you're covering

    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 £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. 

Best buys: Cover from £23/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.

£60/yr for cheapest fully comp cover in any car that you or your spouse/partner drives

Our overall top pick is AutoAid*, for its price and the mostly positive feedback we hear about it. The policy includes home breakdown cover (£65 limit per call-out) and onward transport. It covers you driving any eligible vehicle (must have up-to-date tax and a valid MOT). You also get free cover for your partner, though you'll need to prove the relationship. See FAQ for more.

It's worth noting a couple of things. The policy will auto-renew unless you cancel within the six weeks before your renewal (AutoAid will email or post you renewal documents). Cancel after the renewal date and you'll pay an admin charge.

It's also worth knowing AutoAid doesn't have its own recovery fleet. Instead, it notifies its network of recovery operators to help you instead. MoneySavers who use it have mostly reported positive feedback, but there have been reports of not-so-great experiences. Tell us about your AutoAid experience.

What's included? Home cover, onward transport and free cover for a spouse/partner
Average call-out time: 40 mins
Contract length: 12 months, but will auto-renew each year unless cancelled
Euro cover upgrade: Available on a separate policy
  • To get free cover for a husband, wife, civil partner or cohabiting partner, you'll need to provide proof of the relationship within seven days, and must provide a utility bill, evidence of shared ownership of residential property or joint lease or rental agreement showing both names.

    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.

£113 fully comp vehicle cover policy, though you can get it for £66 through a cashback site

Comprehensive AA* 'vehicle-only' cover, which includes home start, onward travel with national recovery (which will take you, your passengers and the car to your chosen destination) is £113 a year or £119 a year if you add personal cover (covers you as a driver or a passenger in another vehicle).

However, if you buy the vehicle-only breakdown policy via Topcashback*, you get £47.25 cashback. This in effect reduces the annual premium (after cashback has been approved) to £65.75/yr, or £71.75/yr with personal cover.

You must pay in full upfront to get the cashback, not monthly. Important: Cashback is never guaranteed. See FAQs below for more.

What's included? Home cover, onward transport and free cover for a spouse/partner
Deal: £65.75/yr after cashback for AA's vehicle-only cover
Average call-out time: 40 mins
Contract length: 12 months
Euro cover upgrade: Available on a separate policy

£140 fully comp vehicle cover policy, but you can get it for £80 through a cashback site

The pricing differs slightly here, depending on whether you buy direct from the RAC or you go through a cashback site. Here are the details on each...

  • Direct from the RAC, from £140/yr: Comprehensive RAC* 'vehicle-only' cover, which includes 'at home', 'recovery' and 'onward travel' (which will take you, your passengers and the car to your chosen destination) costs £140 a year. 

    The personal cover equivalent, which will protect you as a driver or as a passenger in another vehicle, costs £180/yr.

  • Via a cashback site, from £125/yr (less when cashback approved): If you go via cashback sites Quidco* or Topcashback*, you'll get the same cover as above for £125/yr, and £45 cashback once approved. This essentially reduces the premium to £80/yr.

    For personal cover, you'll pay £145 but after the cashback has been approved (also £45), it also essentially reduces the premium to £100/yr.

To be eligible, you must pay in full upfront, and not monthly. Important: Cashback is never guaranteed. See FAQs below for more.

What's included? At home, recovery and onward travel. Max five call-outs/yr and you'll get a 10-mile tow (to a garage or another destination)
Deal: £80/yr after cashback for RAC's vehicle-only cover
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: 12 months (via cashback site)
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 £50/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 £70 £24
    Joint £100 £34
    Family (2) £130 £43.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery (1) Basic assistance plus onward travel for passengers Single £130 £43.50
    Joint £160 £53.50
    Family (2) £190 £64
    RAC Roadside / Recovery & Onward Travel(1) Basic assistance, onward travel including flight, replacement car Single £150 £50
    Joint £180 £60
    Family (2) £210 £70
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home Basic assistance, enhanced onward travel, breakdown assistance at home or within 1/4 mile Single £150 £50
    Joint £180 £60
    Family (2) £210 £70
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home / Onward Travel Basic assistance, onward travel including flights, home breakdown assistance, replacement car, overnight accommodation Single £180 £60
    Joint £210 £70
    Family (2) £240 £80

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

    Note: Prices taken from Tesco website on 01 September 2020. Packages offered can change, always double-check.

Cheapest RAC cover from £23 – though you'll need to go via a cashback site

The cheapest – and only – way to get the most basic RAC policy is to go via a cashback site. There are two types of basic policy...

  • 'Vehicle-only' cover. This covers you in a nominated car. It costs £40/yr via Quidco*. But once the cashback has been approved, currently at £17, the premium's essentially reduces to £23/yr. If you do want 'at home' cover, you can add it for £35/yr.

  • Personal cover. This provides a level of additional protection as it covers you in any car you're driving. For this, also go via Quidco* and you can get the policy for £60/yr (£95 with 'at home' cover). Once cashback has been approved it will in effect reduce the price to £43/yr (or £65 with 'at home').

To be eligible, you must pay in full upfront, and not monthly. Important: Cashback is never guaranteed. See FAQs below for more.

What's included? Covers breakdowns when you're more than a quarter of a mile from your home. Max five call-outs/yr and you'll get a 10-mile tow (to a garage or another destination)
Deal: £23/yr after cashback for RAC basic 'vehicle' cover
Average call-out time: 34 mins
Contract length: 12 months
Euro cover upgrade: With personal cover only, price varies

Cheapest standard cover from £59/yr, or £32/yr if you go through a cashback site

A basic 'vehicle-only' policy from the AA* costs £59/yr and covers breakdowns that are more than a quarter of a mile from your home. The breakdown service will take you, your passengers and the car to your chosen destination. If you want personal cover too, which protects you as a driver or passenger in another vehicle, it's £69/yr.

However, go via cashback site Topcashback* and you can get £27.30 cashback. This in effect reduces the annual premium for vehicle-only cover (after cashback has been approved) to £31.70/yr. For personal cover, the premium's essentially reduced to £41.70/yr.

To be eligible for cashback, you must pay in full upfront, and not monthly. Important: Cashback is never guaranteed. See FAQs below for more.

What's included? Covers breakdowns when you're more than a quarter of a mile from your home
Deal: £31.70/yr after cashback for AA standard vehicle cover
Average call-out time: 30 mins
Contract length: 12 months
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 £24/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 £70 £24
    Joint £100 £34
    Family (2) £130 £43.50
    RAC Roadside / Recovery (1) Basic assistance plus onward travel for passengers Single £130 £43.50
    Joint £160 £53.50
    Family (2) £190 £64
    RAC Roadside / Recovery & Onward Travel(1) Basic assistance, onward travel including flight, replacement car Single £150 £50
    Joint £180 £60
    Family (2) £210 £70
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home Basic assistance, enhanced onward travel, breakdown assistance at home or within 1/4 mile Single £150 £50
    Joint £180 £60
    Family (2) £210 £70
    RAC Roadside / Recovery / At Home / Onward Travel Basic assistance, onward travel including flights, home breakdown assistance, replacement car, overnight accommodation Single £180 £60
    Joint £210 £70
    Family (2) £240 £80

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

    Note: Prices taken from Tesco website on 01 September 2020. Packages offered can change, always double-check.

    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 an annual basis.

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

Buy a new policy via our MSE Blagged Compare Breakdown Cover* link by 11.59pm on 30 April 2021 and you'll get 15% off in the first year by using code MSE108.

Bear in mind that we have little feedback to share on Compare Breakdown Cover. 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:

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.

  • 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

Compare Breakdown Cover – 15% discount code

Compare Breakdown Cover

Buy a new policy via our MSE Blagged Compare Breakdown Cover* link by 11.59pm on 30 April 2021 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 (UK and European). Also, you could use this deal as a benchmark to haggle with the AA or RAC.

Though bear in mind that we have little feedback on Compare Breakdown Cover 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.

  • 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 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 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…