Breakdown Recovery – is it worth it?

Advertisements for breakdown recovery services are a staple of our TV viewing. We probably all remember with some nostalgic fondness the “very nice man” AA campaign, or Patricia Routledge pre-empting her role as Hyacinth Bucket in an RAC advert styled on a classic British farce at the very end of the eighties. These days, though, advertising campaigns have taken a darker tone.

Picture the scene. A car is broken down at the side of a seemingly remote country road. It’s approaching dusk. Steam plumes from under the bonnet. The bonnet itself is slightly ajar, implying that the woman has bravely attempted to assess the problem but has perhaps been scared back into the car by the fading light around her. The woman frantically tells the operator, “I’m literally in the middle of nowhere!” Her children, apparently unaware of the danger they’re in, laugh and giggle in the backseat. In her panic, the mother drops her phone. Then suddenly, in a dazzling flash of AA-hued yellow not unlike a Star Trek transporter, a TARDIS-like box appears and an AA mechanic emerges. The family are saved.

Aside from the uncertainty of which intellectual property has most been compromised by the advert, it is interesting just how starkly this campaign is in contrast to its camper forebears. This was a recent AA campaign from 2012. Since it aired, the company has pushed it across their social media with straplines such as “As if by magic an AA Patrol appears and rescues a mother and her two noisy kids” and “2 noisy kids & 1 stressed mum break down on lonely country road”. The use of words like “rescue” and “lonely” are key here. This is a pretty clear appeal to fear, and perhaps it works – the company boasts 14 million members across the UK and Ireland.

car breakdown cover

Of course, you’re not just buying breakdown cover anymore. These days, breakdown cover can come with a raft of optional extras, from a free MOT to any number of free car washes. You can have roadside assistance, at home assistance, hire car options, onward travel, warranty options on garage repairs, cover for a single person in a single car, cover for cohabiting couples in multiple cars, replacement keys, replacement batteries – the list goes on. The cost goes up the more extras you include – or, more exactly, you’ll see the cost go down if you exclude these extras – so always consider if extras are actually worth the money.

Big Market

It is also important to remember that although the AA and the RAC are the big two, plenty of other breakdown services are available! Green Flag, for example, compensates for its smaller size by offering sizeable discounts – including 50% off your renewal price for your existing AA or RAC cover. As well as these three, you also have Start Rescue, QDOS Rescue Services, 2Gether, Drive24-7 and Breakdown Assist. They all offer comparable cover and most price comparison websites will help you see where the best deals are.

Beyond these, what other options are there available to you?



These days, it’s very likely that if your bank offers upgrades to its current accounts, those upgrades will include some form of breakdown recovery service as an added extra. If you already have breakdown cover, it’s worth checking with your bank about what cover they can offer you. You may already have the option of this service, so there’s no sense in paying twice for something.


Additionally, many car insurance companies can offer roadside assistance as a bolt-on for your cover. As an example, Direct Line works in partnership with Green Flag. Combining breakdown cover with your car insurance is likely to be more cost effective than getting these services from two different companies. They will probably also renew at the same time, making it easier for you to remember the all important pre-renewal price comparison!

Car Manufacturer

You may even be able to get recovery from your car manufacturer. For example, Ford offer free BlueService roadside assistance if you make use of their Scheduled Service or Motorcraft 4+ Service. Other manufacturers may offer similar deals, so it’s worth looking into.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of choice in the breakdown recovery market, so don’t get lumped with the same service year after year. Shop smart, and check you’re getting value for money. While this does mean shopping around, it doesn’t necessarily mean switching provider. Car insurance and breakdown cover companies are notorious for automatically renewing your policies – obviously under the pretence of saving you some inconvenience. You might find if you ring those companies up and tell you’ve found a better deal, those renewal prices will start to fall.

There’s no doubt that breakdown recovery is a good idea, and the gamble you’re taking paying out each month in case you breakdown is a better gamble than not having cover and only paying a local garage for recovery if you do breakdown. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck making the same gamble with the same company every year, and it doesn’t mean that gamble can’t be found for cheaper!

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