Do I need Breakdown Cover?

Last updated by on October 29th, 2018

Breaking down on the road is one of the biggest worries for drivers in the UK.

It can ruin a holiday, is sometimes unavoidable and can be very expensive if you don’t have the right cover in place.

Breakdown Cover won’t stop your car from breaking down in the first place but it can help ease the pain if it does happen to you.

That’s why it’s always worth considering Breakdown Cover if you have a car but if you don’t, here’s what to do in the event of a breakdown at the side of the motorway.

1.    Leave the motorway

Ideally, your car will have enough life in it for you to be able to pull off the motorway at the next service station or junction and park somewhere safe, as the Highway Code tells you to.

Unfortunately, breakdowns have a habit of happening in the worst possible place and that next junction or services may be too far away.

If that’s the case pull into the hard shoulder and park your car as far to the left as you can.

2.    Turn your wheels and be seen

Once you’ve moved as far over to the left as possible, turn your steering wheel so that your wheels are facing to the left and away from traffic.

You should make your car as visible as possible to oncoming traffic. That means turn on your hazard lights.

If you have any high visibility jackets or vests, put them on, as you need to be seen by traffic too.

3.    Get out of your car and move to the verge

The Highway Code says that you and your passengers should get out of your car and head to the verge at the side of the motorway.

All passengers should leave the car using the left side doors to avoid getting too close to passing traffic.

Pets should be left in the car unless they can be properly controlled on the verge.


4.    Use the Emergency Telephones

Motorways in the UK are littered with Emergency Telephones placed one mile apart on the hard shoulder.

Emergency Telephones go straight to the Highways Agency or the Police and should be used where possible.

You should explain your location and situation and they will despatch help. You should face towards the traffic when making this call.

The Highway Code advises you to use Emergency Telephones instead of mobile phones as your location will be known.

5.    Return to your vehicle

Once you have made the call, return to your car and position yourself safely on the verge by your vehicle.

Do not attempt to make repairs to your vehicle and only return to your car if you feel threatened or in danger from another person.

Even then, only remain in your car for as long as you feel in danger and always enter and exit through the left side doors.

6.    Wait

You should wait for recovery again standing on the verge near to your car.

What happens then?

A recovery vehicle will be sent to aid you by the Highways Agency through the National Vehicle Recovery Service (NVRS). This vehicle will tow you to a local garage and you will be charged a flat fee for this service.

On a motorway this charge is around £150 but that does not include any repairs that you may have to pay for at the garage you have been towed to.

Are there any other alternatives?

There are two alternatives to the Highways Agency and their £150 charge.

1.    Contact a local garage

If you know where you are, you can call a local garage and you will be charged a call out fee to recover your vehicle.

Your vehicle will be towed to the garage with a flat recovery fee charged, usually around the £50 mark, and a surcharge for mileage covered whilst you’re being towed.

You’ll then have to pay for any mechanical repairs you want carrying out on your vehicle.

Broken down car getting repairs at the side of the road

2.    Get Breakdown Cover there and then

You can get emergency Breakdown Cover at the side of the road.

Phone up a Breakdown provider, like the RAC, AA or Greenflag, and arrange cover, you’ll then either get a roadside repair or be towed to a garage and your repairs carried out – you’ll still have to pay for these though unless you get additional cover.

You will face an inflated rate to start your Breakdown Cover policy if you’ve already broken down however you will get cover for the rest of the year if you plump for a 12 month policy.

3.    Get Breakdown Cover before it happens

The most sensible thing to do is to get Breakdown Cover before your car ever breaks down.

You can get Breakdown Cover when you get your car insurance policy and generally it costs between £30-£40.

You can also add extras, depending on your provider, to cover you for parts and repairs at the garage after a breakdown and to get onward travel.

How much is Breakdown Cover?

The cost of Breakdown Cover varies and can cost anything from £30 to around the £200 mark. It depends on your provider and the type of cover you’re after.

How much is the Highways Agency emergency recovery?

The Highways Agency charges a flat fee of £150 to recover vehicles from the hard shoulder of a motorway.

Can I buy Breakdown Cover after I’ve broken down?

Lots of people only think about Breakdown Cover once the horse has bolted, basically after they have broken down.

You can get immediate cover by calling a breakdown cover provider however you will have to pay an inflated rate as your car has already broken down.

This inflated rate isn’t as cheap as getting Breakdown Cover before your car goes kaput, but it can be cheaper than getting recovered by the Highways Agency.

Who provides the cheapest Breakdown Cover?

Legally you don’t need Breakdown Cover in the UK and it all comes down to whether or not you think it’s worth the money.

Lots of drivers add Breakdown Cover to their insurance policy while others add it when their car’s manufacturer warranty runs down.

If you buy it individually, the AA can provide Breakdown Cover from £39 per year while the RAC is cheaper again at £27.99 per year.

If you work that out by the week, it’s less than £1 a week.

Who provides the best Breakdown Cover?

An Auto Express survey in 2018 found that GEM Motoring Assist provided the best overall Breakdown Cover, based on Overall Satisfaction.

If the thought of breaking down at the side of the road doesn’t fill you with dread, maybe you don’t need Breakdown Cover but there’s a lot to be said for peace of mind when you’re on the road.

Once you’ve got insurance quotes from, you will be able to add Breakdown Cover on to your policy with your new insurer.

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