A Guide to Breakdown Cover

Posted on August 18th, 2021 by GEM Motoring Assist

Whilst it’s possible to reduce your risk of breakdown, it’s an unfortunate reality that even the most expertly maintained and superbly driven vehicle may break down due to unforeseen circumstances. In these instances, comprehensive breakdown cover can make all the difference. In this article we’ll take a detailed look at why it makes sense to have breakdown cover in place, what kind of cover best suits your needs, what may or may not be included, how breakdown cover tends to work and how to navigate your way to the best prices to suit your individual needs.


What is Breakdown Cover?

Newer drivers may be unfamiliar with the term breakdown cover or may be unaware of exactly what it entails. In a nutshell, breakdown cover ensures that, should your vehicle break down while you are on the road, you can be repaired or recovered as safely and quickly as possible. There are different kinds of cover available (more on that shortly) and, depending on the circumstances and the level of cover you have in place, you could be repaired at the roadside, taken to a nearby garage, or taken home or to your onward destination.


Why Get Breakdown Cover?

So, why get breakdown cover? Perhaps a more worthy question is, why wouldn’t you get breakdown cover? While most drivers are sure to protect themselves with breakdown cover, there are many who don’t because they are labouring under one of several common misapprehensions:

  • They assume that it’s included in their car insurance (while some policies may include breakdown cover, it is most certainly not offered as standard).
  • They assume that their vehicle will not break down because they are confident in their driving ability.
  • They assume that their vehicle will not break down because they spend a lot of time and money on maintenance.
  • They are short on disposable income and assume that breakdown cover isn’t good value for money.

While each of these is fairly understandable, none of them will keep you safe, warm and dry if your car rolls to a stop on a dark and rainy night on an unfamiliar country road.

While we all hope that, when we sit behind the wheel of our cars, we will not need the services of a breakdown recovery firm, none of us (however knowledgeable) can guarantee with absolute certainty that we won’t need one. That alone should be sufficient reason to invest in breakdown cover.

What’s more, when you consider the monthly expense for breakdown cover, even the cost of a comprehensive policy of breakdown cover is negligible and manageable, especially when compared to the alternative.

Breaking down without cover is a potentially costly endeavour. The cost of getting your vehicle collected and towed to a garage alone could be very expensive, and any on-the-spot repairs a technician would have to make to your vehicle would likely be charged at a premium rate.

What’s more, even if you’re lucky enough to break down within easy reach of a garage, you may be in for a long wait before they can give your unscheduled vehicle a cursory inspection, much less a clean bill of health. A breakdown technician can ensure that you get home or to your destination.

If you’re going on a long journey or heading into unfamiliar territory, breakdown cover can offer real peace of mind. There’s no thought a driver dreads more than being stranded on a quiet road in the dead of night far from home. The best case scenario is that you pay a local towing firm to transport your vehicle to the nearest garage, but this can be an extremely expensive outcome. What’s more if you break down outside of normal trading hours or in an area where you don’t get the mobile internet coverage to be able to search for your nearest garage or towing service, it’s not an outcome you’ll be lucky enough to get. Thus, if you’re planning on going on a long journey, it’s a good idea to simply ensure you have breakdown cover in place.

Not only does purchasing breakdown cover save you money in the long run, it also ensures that you can drive locally and further afield with peace of mind. If you’re ever in any doubt as to whether or not you should get breakdown cover, simply take a moment to consider the alternative.


What Type of Breakdown Cover Do I Need?

With so many different policies on the market, it can be difficult to know which best suits your needs. Of course, nobody can make this decision for you, but there are several factors you should consider when choosing breakdown cover including:

  • The age and general condition of your car
  • How many people drive your vehicle
  • What other vehicles you drive e.g your partner’s car, a company car or a motorcycle
  • Where and how often you tend to drive
  • Whether or not you take your car overseas i.e. to Ireland or Europe

Some policies will charge you an annual fee which will entitle you to a certain number of callouts per year but these may not be appropriate if your vehicle breaks down often, so a policy with unlimited callouts would be a better option.


Personal vs Vehicle Breakdown Cover

You can choose to either get personal cover to cover yourself for any vehicle you happen to be driving, or cover for the vehicle regardless of who is driving it. Obviously, which cover is best for you will depend on your needs and circumstances.

Vehicle cover tends to be more affordable, while personal cover offers you greater flexibility and convenience if there is more than one vehicle in the household and you tend to drive more than one regularly. As with insurance, you can sometimes save money by buying a multi-car breakdown policy with a provider.

Whether you buy personal or vehicle breakdown cover, different providers have different accommodations and provisions. Some offer more comprehensive protection, while others may be fundamentally unsuited to your vehicle or circumstances, which brings us to…


What’s Included?

Did you know that some breakdown cover providers will charge you more for an older vehicle, or won’t cover vehicles over a certain age at all? Or that some won’t come out to you if your battery runs flat or you happen to put the wrong fuel in your vehicle? Or that some will charge you a premium or may not even come out at all if you break down half a mile from your home.

Different providers tend to package their services under different names with different levels of cover, which is why it’s hard to comprehensively detail what is included in breakdown cover.

Typically, roadside cover or its equivalent is the most basic form of cover and will get you a roadside repair or tow to your nearest garage where a roadside repair isn’t possible. The next step up is some sort of national cover where, if roadside or local repair is not possible, a technician will facilitate onward transportation to your home or your preferred destination. Some may also offer a home-start policy or provide home-start as an add-on, which ensures that your vehicle is still recovered if you break down close to home or even on your own drive. Providers may have onward travel cover automatically included, or listed as an optional extra, whereby the cost of unexpected accommodation or the hiring of a rental car is included in the cover. If you use your car for business, you will likely need specific business breakdown cover, which can cover an individual vehicle or a fleet.

Some policies also include parts and garage cover which covers the cost (or part thereof) of a repair when a trip to a garage is needed. In the case of business vehicles, however, such as taxis and limousines, this tends not to be applicable.

You can also get additional cover for driving throughout Europe. Let’s face it, the thought of breaking down in an unfamiliar town is scary enough, much less an unfamiliar town where you only speak a smattering of the local language and have to ask passers-by where you can find the nearest garage through the medium of wild hand gestures.


How Does Breakdown Cover Work?

In principle, breakdown cover is pretty straightforward. Once you have an active personal or vehicle breakdown policy, you can drive safe in the knowledge that your car has the appropriate breakdown cover for your specific needs.

In the event of a breakdown you will be given a number to ring, or some providers have a companion app. When you break down use the app or call your provider and they will usually have a technician out to you within an hour or so, although this may vary depending on your location and provider, as well as traffic and weather conditions.

As with insurance it may not always be the best idea to auto renew your policy. Keep an eye on the market and what breakdown cover policies are available. In most cases you can change or make additions to your breakdown cover without waiting for it to renew.


Comparing Prices

Of course, as with all things, consumers need to assure themselves that they’re getting the best possible value for money with their cover. Nobody wants to pay over the odds for basic cover and likewise nobody wants to pay for extras that they’ll likely never use. Thus, it’s essential to compare and contrast different policies to ensure that you’re getting the cover you need at a price that suits you.

Fortunately, GEM’s all-inclusive, award-winning Breakdown Cover spares you a lot of the legwork by giving you superior cover at a price that easily trumps that of leading competitors and we don’t try to sell extras to our customers.

We have two types of cover:

  • Recovery RECLAIM– Our ‘pay and claim’ package. Select this if you are happy to pay callout and labour charges yourself, and reclaim these from us later. Many of our customers who choose this option have their own preferred garage or mechanic.
  • Recovery EXTRA – This is our premium package. We organise everything including callout fees and labour charges.

So, how do these stack up against our competitors? Well, compare our cover to a a similar product from the AA or the RAC and you can save around 40% on your premium. Moreover, if you select our Recovery RECLAIM package you can reduce your up front costs, and you won’t find an equivalent product elsewhere as it’s exclusive to GEM!

Needless to say you’ll still get the great cover you’d expect including home assistance, help with onward travel and accommodation, cover for vehicles of any age and unlimited callouts.

So, the simple question is… Why pay more?