Breakdown and Recovery Services – What’s Important to Know?
When you’re buying car insurance or even buying a new car at the dealership, you will sometimes be offered breakdown and recovery services as part of the deal. Some people get the basic idea behind that, but rarely know in any kind of detail what it entails. In today’s blog, we are going to try and shed some light on these services, what they are for, how they work and more.
Background: What is Breakdown Cover?
Let’s start with the basics: breakdown and recovery services are often simply referred to as “breakdown cover” or sometimes “vehicle recovery.” This is a type of prepaid cover that means if your car breaks down or gets into an accident, assistance will be sent to your location to help you on the spot.
Help can come in many forms. In the event of your car breaking down, the service might involve roadside repairs to get you back on the road and on track to your destination. On the other hand, it could be that on-the-spot repairs are not possible because of the condition of the vehicle, and so the car has to be towed to a nearby garage for more extensive repairs, or to be hoisted onto a lift where the mechanic can get a better look at the real problem.
The “recovery” aspect refers more to what happens after an accident occurs. If you get into an accident and your car is damaged to the point where it is not safe or even physically possible to drive it anymore, then a recovery service will send a tow truck or flatbed truck to collect the car and any debris and clear it from that location to a safe location like a garage.
Not All Breakdown and Recovery Services are the Same
While their operation is essentially as stated above, the way these services are distributed is not always the same. Broadly speaking, there are two types of breakdown and recovery service coverage: traditional coverage and insurance-style coverage.
Traditional Breakdown Cover
This is the kind of coverage you might get from a dealership when purchasing a car. Some OEMs like to sweeten a deal by offering breakdown cover as part of a package when buying a new car. A typical deal is usually 12 months of “roadside assistance” which typically includes breakdown and accident recovery services.
This type of cover is therefore paid for in advance. It could be that the first year is covered by whatever you’re paying for your car, and then you pay a subsequent annual fee to extend that coverage beyond that. Once the fee is paid, the coverage is yours 24/7 and there are no fees payable to the service provider when they come to collect your car or service your car at the side of the road.
Insurance-Style Breakdown Cover
This is the type of coverage that is usually offered as part of a car insurance policy. If you buy comprehensive car insurance, then it’s likely there will be some provision for breakdown and recovery. However, rather than paying any up-front fee, you first pay the service provider for what you use, and then claim it back from the insurance company.
Provided that what you have used was within the confines of your insurance policy provision, you should get the money back, but of course you might face an increase in premiums at some point as a result of making the claim. Don’t forget that claimants are automatically viewed as higher risk by insurance companies.
Key Offerings in Breakdown and Recovery Services
So, regardless of what type of cover you have, what exactly is the scope of these services? What do they do for their customers?
Each provider might offer something a bit different or unique, but the main 4 areas of service provided by breakdown and recovery services include the following:
- Roadside Assistance – Repairs at the location of your breakdown, and/or towing to a nearby mechanic. Your main provider might partner with smaller, local mechanics to ensure wider coverage of their service.
- Vehicle Recovery – Your broken-down or damaged vehicle is collected at the side of the road and taken to any nominated location in the country.
- At-Home Repairs – If you go to start your car in the morning and discover that the battery is dead, or something else is wrong and it won’t start, then you can call out a mechanic to come by and fix the problem there and then.
- “Onward Travel” – This refers to a more premium-level service whereby roadside assistance providers will offer you some help in getting you on to your destination while your car is repaired. They might provide a courtesy car, or free hotel accommodation while your car is fixed, and/or money to take public transport to where you need to go.
More comprehensive offerings might include specialist repairs like replacing your tyres, repairing your car if you’ve accidentally put the wrong fuel in there, repairs to trailers and caravans, replacement of your car battery, key replacements and more.
If you often find yourself driving abroad, especially in mainland Europe, you might find it useful to have additional coverage for that, which some providers offer. The lesson here is that there is huge scope when it comes to providing these breakdown and recovery services, so it’s important to tailor any policy to fit your exact needs, if you think you’ll need it. Let’s face it, anyof us might need it at some point.
Additional Tips for Breakdown and Recovery Services
To finish, here are some additional tips for dealing with these breakdown and recovery coverage questions:
Ignore “Auto-Renew” – Haggle!
According to moneysavingexpert.com, there’s no need to accept an auto-renewal of your coverage each year, because breakdown and recovery service providers are the easiest to haggle with. They report that customers haggling coverage rates down themselves with the RAC enjoy an 83-percent success rate, and 82 percent with the AA.
The Newer Your Car, the More Basic the Coverage
If your car is brand-new, then the likelihood of breakdown is greatly diminished. That being so, consider more basic coverage focused on accident recovery while the car is new, and add in more breakdown services as the car gets older and its warranties start to expire.
Look Into Joint Policies
Finally, you can sometimes get great deals on breakdown coverage if you cover more than one car under a single policy. If another person in the family has coverage on their vehicle, look into expanding that rather than getting a brand-new separate policy.