Few things are more distressing for a driver than seeing your car break down in the middle of nowhere when you don’t have a breakdown cover or have one that unfortunately does not cover your type of mishap. The only option you have left is to call a garage for a one-off recovery fee, and we all know how expensive that can be.
Quite often, many motorists fall into the second category. Although they have taken out a breakdown policy, they fail to read the fine print that details what kind of covers the policy provides and which ones it does not. Let’s have a brief rundown of the different service levels commonly provided by breakdown covers.
What Car Breakdown Covers are Available for You?
Breakdown services providers in the U.K. provide 2 main levels of breakdown services namely Roadside Assistance and Onward Travel.
1. Roadside Assistance
Basically, all breakdown cover policies provide roadside assistance. Roadside assistance cover means that the breakdown company will fix your vehicle by the roadside if it breaks down. Depending on the severity of the problem, the kind of fix provided might either be temporary to help you get to your destination or complete repair. If the mechanic is unable to fix your vehicle, they will tow it to a nearby garage usually within 10 miles of the breakdown scene.
Most providers offer one hour of free labour but charge the vehicle owner for any new replacement parts used in the repair.
2. Onward Travel
Onward Travel cover is provided when the problem is quite severe. The breakdown service company takes you and your passengers to a destination within U.K. mainland, which can be your driveway or your usual garage. There is, however, a limit to the number of passengers the patrol vehicle can take; so don’t expect them to rescue your entire football team. To access this cover, you will be required to purchase onward travel membership package prior to using the service.
- Home Start: Home start is service provided on your own driveway and can be really valuable if your car has a penchant to refuse to start during those bitingly cold winter mornings. Home start usually covers your vehicle up to a radius of one-quarter of a mile away from your home.
- Onward Travel: Onward Travel is a pretty comprehensive breakdown cover that includes things like alternative transport, car hire and in some cases accommodation for you and your passengers as your car is being repaired. The exact services provided by breakdown service providers under this cover vary quite a lot; so be sure to check and confirm what is covered and what is not.
- European Cover: European Cover is provided to U.K. drivers who travel in mainland Europe. You can either upgrade your existing policy to cover European travel or opt to take out a separate cover for trips within Europe. It’s also possible to purchase a policy that will cover you for a single trip to a European country. If you will be making multiple trips to countries within Europe then it’s advisable to purchase a policy that is valid for 12 months.
Reading the Fine Print
Perhaps the biggest mistake that vehicle owners make when taking out breakdown cover is failing to read the fine print until it’s too late. For instance, some policies cover the vehicle only while others cover the driver (ie personal cover). If you own several vehicles but have taken a policy that only covers the vehicle, then it means you’ll not be covered if you happen to be driving a different car. In such a case, it’s better to opt for personal cover. If, on the other hand, other family members drive your car as well, you will be better off buying a policy that covers the vehicle regardless of the driver.
You also need to check whether your policy covers things like your vehicle running out of fuel, filling your vehicle with the wrong type of fuel, losing your car keys and other novice mistakes that are far too common. Few drivers who have been on the road for some time can boast of never having run out of fuel when they least expected it. Yet, almost 15% of breakdown companies will leave you to grapple alone with your problem if your vehicle runs out of fuel.
What about filling your vehicle with the wrong fuel? A staggering 100,000 drivers in the U.K. fill their vehicles with the wrong type of fuel every year, and sometimes end up damaging a number of components in their vehicles. Yet, almost a quarter of policies do not cover this type of mishap.
There is also the thorny issue of providers charging considerably higher fees for older vehicles. At first this looks quite rational since the older the vehicle, the higher the probability of suffering a breakdown. There are, however, others that charge the same rate regardless of the age of the vehicle. My recommendations would be the award winning GEM for quality of service and pretty much covering everything.
You need to carefully check what exactly your breakdown cover policy provides before buying one. Quite often, you will discover that it’s the nitty gritty of the details you miss that leave you exposed when you least expect it.