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What is breakdown cover?

What you need to know about breakdown cover and how it works

Sara Newell
Written by  Sara Newell
7 min read
Updated: 27 Feb 2024

No one wants to be stranded by the roadside with a broken down vehicle – here’s how breakdown cover works and can help you when your car’s playing up.

Understanding breakdown cover

When you're out on the road, the last thing you want is for your journey to come to an abrupt halt due to a vehicle malfunction. Whether it's a dead car battery or an unexpected flat tyre, these incidents can be more than just inconvenient—they can leave you stranded. That's where breakdown cover comes into play, offering a safety net that ensures you and your vehicle are taken care of in such situations.

Lady looking into the engine compartment of a car

What is breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover is an essential policy for any driver. It's designed to assist you when your vehicle breaks down, providing services such as roadside assistance, towing, and even help when your car won't start at home. While some may overlook this coverage, considering it an unnecessary expense, the peace of mind it offers can be invaluable.

You have the flexibility to purchase breakdown cover as a standalone policy or as part of your car insurance package. Some insurers may include it as standard, but it's always wise to shop around to ensure you're getting the best deal for your needs.

Choosing the right breakdown cover

Breakdown cover isn't one-size-fits-all. There are several types to consider:

Personal vs. vehicle breakdown cover

  • Personal cover: This type of policy covers you as the policyholder, regardless of the vehicle you're in—whether you're driving or just a passenger. It can often be extended to others living at the same address, with a cap on the number of people included.

  • Vehicle cover: As the name suggests, this policy is specific to the vehicle, whether it's a car, van, or motorcycle. It may cover multiple vehicles under one policy, subject to certain limits.

Traditional vs. insurance breakdown cover

  • Traditional cover: This is the more common type, where you pay an annual fee for a service that includes a set number of callouts, roadside assistance, and towing.

  • Insurance cover: With this option, you pay for the breakdown services upfront and then claim the costs back from your provider.

What does breakdown cover include?

The specifics of what's included in your breakdown cover can vary widely depending on the provider and the level of policy you choose. Here's what you might expect:

  • Roadside assistance: The most basic level, where a mechanic will attempt to fix your vehicle by the roadside or tow it to a nearby garage if necessary.

  • Vehicle recovery: If your vehicle can't be fixed on the spot, this allows for it to be towed to a location of your choice.

  • At-home breakdown: Some policies offer assistance for breakdowns that occur at your home or close by.

  • Onward travel: In case your vehicle breaks down, this cover might include a courtesy vehicle, accommodation, or alternative travel arrangements.

Adding the extras

For those looking for more comprehensive coverage, there are optional extras that can be included:

  • Key replacement: Handy if your keys are lost, damaged, or stolen.

  • Battery replacement: For when your car battery gives up the ghost.

  • Tyre replacement: For those times when you encounter a puncture or flat tire.

  • Wrong fuel: Assistance if you accidentally fill up with the wrong type of fuel.

  • Family and multi-car: It might be more cost-effective to cover multiple vehicles or drivers at one address under the same policy, and some policies may extend to cover children at university.

  • Special vehicles: If you have a caravan, trailer, van, or motorcycle, you might need a policy that covers these specifically.

  • European cover: For those adventures outside the UK, you'll need separate breakdown cover for mainland Europe.

Watch out for exclusions

It's important to be aware of common exclusions that may apply to your breakdown cover:

  • Private land: Your policy might not cover breakdowns on private property, or there could be additional charges.

  • Pets and animals: If you're travelling with pets, you may need to give advance notice, and livestock often require separate cover.

  • Road accidents: Providers may need approval from emergency services before they can tow your vehicle.

  • Lack of maintenance: Breakdowns due to poor vehicle maintenance may not be covered.

  • Abroad: For breakdowns outside the UK, you'll need an additional policy.

Cost considerations

The cost of breakdown cover is influenced by several factors:

  • Type and level of cover: Basic local cover is less expensive than more comprehensive policies with added extras.

  • Extras: Any additional cover will increase the premium.

  • Number of vehicles: Covering multiple vehicles can be more costly, but it's often cheaper than individual policies for each.

  • Vehicle type: Different vehicles have varying repair times and costs; for example, vans might be more expensive to cover than cars.

  • Vehicle make, model, and age: Newer vehicles with modern features and older cars may have higher repair costs, affecting premiums.

Without breakdown cover?

If you find yourself without breakdown cover in a moment of need, don't panic. Some providers offer instant breakdown cover, although not all do, and there might be extra charges or restrictions for immediate callouts.

Finding the best deal

The easiest way to find a better deal on your breakdown cover is by shopping around, and when you compare your options on MoneySuperMarket and our preferred partner Comparison Creator, you'll get to browse through the best deals available to you. Just provide a few details about yourself, your vehicle, and your breakdown history to receive a list of quotes tailored to your requirements.

The road of life can be unpredictable, but with the right breakdown cover, you'll have the support you need to keep moving forward, no matter what bumps you encounter along the way.

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