08:49 29 May 2013
If you've ever blown a gasket, blown a tyre or just blown any self-respect you had by running out of petrol, then you'll know that being a member of a breakdown recovery service will get you back on the move more quickly - and is a more cost-effective option - than calling out a local garage.
The same is also true if your car conks out while on the Continent or even closer to home - such as right outside your house. But a basic breakdown plan won't provide for such eventualities, so you need to make sure you've adequate cover in place to suit your circumstances.
Here we'll motor through the options to help ensure that a breakdown doesn't drive you to breaking point...
Getting the right type of cover
The first thing you'll have to consider when choosing your breakdown protection is whether you want vehicle cover - which covers a particular vehicle, no matter who is driving it - or personal cover - whereby you are covered individually, irrespective of the car you are in or whether you are the driver or the passenger.
Vehicle cover is usually the cheapest option and will probably be the best type of cover to take out if you share a vehicle with someone else as it won't matter who's in the car when the breakdown occurs.
If, on the other hand, you have access to more than one vehicle, or regularly car share with someone who doesn't have cover, then an individual policy will work out best.
And once you've decided upon the type of cover, it's time to consider the level you'll need...
Finding your level
There are usually four levels of cover on offer to motorists, each more comprehensive, and therefore more expensive, than the last. However, it's vital that you get the right level of cover to suit your circumstances so don't be dictated to by price and make sure you shop around for the best deal.
The most basic level of cover is roadside. This means that, in the event of a breakdown, a recovery patrol will come out to your vehicle and repair it or try to get it going at the roadside. If this isn't possible then your vehicle will be towed to the nearest garage.
You can get roadside cover for as little as £20 a year, but a word of warning: your car might have to be at least a quarter of a mile away from your home address. And simply being towed to the nearest garage could still leave you stranded miles from home.
If you regularly travel far from home, then you may be better off opting for national cover which has all the benefits of a 'roadside' package but also ensures you and your vehicle are taken to a destination of your choice, be that back home or to your preferred garage.
When deciding upon your level of cover, consider the possibility that your car could breakdown right on your doorstep, particularly in winter. And that's why a home start service can be an attractive option - with this cover a patrol will tend to your vehicle if you suffer a breakdown or 'non start' at home (something excluded from cheaper policies).
This is the most comprehensive level of cover. It means a home start patrol will be sent to your address or your car will be recovered while on the road and taken to a garage of your choosing. In addition, both you and your passengers will be taken home or on to your destination, and you will also be covered for the cost of any unexpected accommodation and even car hire.
All of these policies will cover you if you suffer a breakdown in the UK. But if you're travelling to Europe, you will have to take out additional European cover.
Just as you would sort your travel insurance before going on holiday, it's important to consider your breakdown cover if you're taking your car to the Continent.
If you take out European breakdown cover you can either take out a policy that lasts for the duration of a single trip or a more expensive one for a period of 12 months, which makes sense if you'll be driving abroad more than once within a year.
These policies specify the territories where cover applies so, when taking out your European cover, make sure you're not just covered for the country you're travelling to, but also any you're travelling through en route.
What else to consider
There are also other factors to consider when choosing breakdown cover, such as the fact that the company offering the cheapest cover might not actually work out the cheapest in the event of a breakdown if it comes with a policy excess (an amount you are required to pay towards the cost of the claim).
Before taking out a breakdown recovery policy it's important to check you're not covered elsewhere, such as under the terms of your main car insurance or as part of a packaged current account.
And you should also make sure you pick the right level of cover from the outset as it often works out more expensive to upgrade your policy part-way through its term - remembering that your car can breakdown anywhere. And when you least expect it!
Trust me. I know of which I speak...
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