Expert advice: why breakdown cover is a smart idea

why breakdown cover
Breaking down usually happens when you least expect it (Picture iStock/Andresr)

You might think you have a relatively new, reliable car and don’t need breakdown cover. You probably won’t be surprised when I reveal we attend thousands of calls every year from drivers who have broken down in relatively new, apparently reliable cars.

Here’s a classic example. It’s been a cold night, you go to start your car in the morning and when you turn the key you just get a click and nothing else. Flat battery.

Or you’re driving along when suddenly your car’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) sounds an alert. You pull over and see you’ve got a flat tyre. No problem, you can change it. Trouble is you can’t get the wheel nuts undone.

Both these examples happened to drivers with usually reliable cars who needed our help. And that’s the annoying thing about breakdowns: you never know when one might happen.

What goes on when you break down

You’re unlikely to be expecting your car to conk out. But if it does, it’ll probably result in one of two outcomes. Either your car will be fixed at the side of the road and the repairer will wave you merrily on your way.

Alternatively, they won’t be able to fix your car immediately and it’ll need to be taken to a garage for investigation and repairs. Of course once it’s there, even if you have breakdown cover, you’ll need to pay for the repairs.

But without a breakdown policy in place the whole process will cost you even more money. Just like plumbers or electricians, car technicians charge call-out fees. And that’s before they’ve got to work and diagnosed the problem, let alone fixed it.

why breakdown cover
Break down without cover and the first thing is to find someone to help (Picture iStock/LumiNola)

Breaking down can be expensive

Having a car that stops working won’t just be inconvenient. Let’s imagine that you don’t have breakdown cover and your vehicle conks out on a motorway a couple of hundred miles from home. If you ring the emergency number at the side of the carriageway, National Highways (which looks after the motorways in England) will help arrange your rescue.

You won’t have much choice over where your car is taken to be fixed or how much you pay. And depending on the time of day you break down, it could be a long wait.

Garages may even charge a premium for recovering cars that have broken down on motorways. Depending on where you are, it’ll likely cost anywhere between £120 and £250 just to have your car towed away. And that’s before you’ve had it repaired.

So, in short, breakdown cover could save you a fair bit of money in the long run.

Breakdown companies don’t just fix your car

If you’ve got breakdown cover, it won’t just attempt to fix your car at the roadside. Depending on the level of cover you’ve got, it could provide you with another car if your car can’t be repaired immediately. Or perhaps the cover will enable you to finish your journey by taxi and train. It might even put you up in a hotel.

Again, depending on your level of cover, it could recover your car to a garage of your choice near to home rather than where you are.

When is breakdown cover a good idea?

Think of it in the same terms as insurance. While breakdown cover isn’t a legal necessity that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

If you want the peace of mind that round-the-clock support delivers, breakdown cover is definitely the thing for you. If you take it out, you can be sure you and your family aren’t going to be left stranded whatever the time of day or night, or location.

It’s also well worth considering cover if you’re on a tight budget. You might not need rescuing, but if you do, the relatively modest outlay on breakdown cover could save you a fortune in repairs or recovery.

By John Price, a member of Green Flag’s automotive technical support team

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