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Blog / Buying Guides / Car Buyer's Guide - A Guide To Breakdown Cover

Written by : sshields

Published on:: 16/11/2015

Car Buyer's Guide - A Guide To Breakdown Cover

Although breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement, many motorists still consider it essential – because, let’s face it, the thought of breaking down in the middle of nowhere and being totally helpless isn’t appealing…

Here, we take a look at some of the wording you’ll come across when you’re shopping for breakdown cover to help make sure you select the right policy for you.

The two breakdown cover categories

Standard breakdown cover

This is the kind of cover that most breakdown companies offer, and is the most popular with drivers – you simply choose a level of cover that suits you and pay an annual fee.
You can either go for personal breakdown cover (which covers you as a passenger in any car as well as when you’re driving your own car) or vehicle-based cover (where just the nominated vehicle is covered).

Pay and claim cover

Usually cheaper than standard breakdown cover, pay and claim cover also involves paying an annual fee. Then, if you need to call out assistance, the breakdown company will send a local recovery service; you’ll need to pay the local service, and then reclaim the money through your breakdown company.

Due to the extra complications involved with pay and claim cover, it’s easy to see why it’s a much less popular option. But, if you’re trying to save on running costs, it’s worth investigating.

Levels of cover

Each policy comes with different levels of cover attached – here’s a quick rundown of the most common terms you’ll hear.

Roadside / Roadside assistance

This is the most basic level of cover, and breakdown policies usually come with roadside assistance as standard. It means if you have car trouble away from home, your breakdown company will send somebody to try and fix the problem.
If they’re not able to fix your car there and then, they’ll tow it to the nearest garage or your home – usually whichever one is closest.

Home assistance / Home start

This means you’re covered if you breakdown at home or within a set distance of your home (normally a quarter of a mile) too.

Vehicle recovery / Roadside & Relay / Roadside & Recovery

Policies including vehicle recovery offer more flexibility around where the car, driver and passengers can be taken in the event that the problem can’t be fixed at the roadside.
The car can usually be delivered to a local garage, a garage of your choice or your home – check the specific terms of the policy for further details and full terms.

Onward travel

The definition of onward travel varies depending on your policy, but can include car hire or accommodation to make sure you’re able to continue your journey.


All policies come with a set of terms that you need to adhere to, including exclusions that limit what’s covered.

The most common exclusion is any faults caused by human error, e.g. lost keys, running out of petrol, etc. You might also find that the policy stipulates a limit to the number of callouts, or that you need to carry a spare and a wheel nut key in order for them to be able to change your tyre for you.

Read the terms carefully and make sure you stick to them to avoid any problems.

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