Getting caught on the hard shoulder without breakdown cover this summer could cost motorists six times as much as paying for an annual policy.
Drivers could be in for an expensive shock this summer if their car breaks down and they don’t have cover in place.
New findings from the AA show that arranging one-off emergency assistance from a garage costs up to six times that of annual roadside assistance.
Last year, those without cover spent £172.67 on average calling out a garage and getting their car fixed. This compares to basic breakdown cover which you can get from as little as £30.
In total, around 12 per cent of the 6 million drivers without cover suffered a breakdown last year, collectively costing them up to £104 million more than if they had taken out basic roadside assistance.
Don’t put people at risk
Worryingly, many of those drivers who don’t have cover opt to take matters into their own hands when things go wrong on the motorway.
According to research from insurer esure, more than two thirds of motorists would call a relative or friend to rescue them, or even try to fix their own car on the hard shoulder.
“Anyone who does this is potentially putting three of four people’s lives into terrible danger,” says Asia Yasir from Esure. “The motorway is not the place for DIY.”
Benefits of breakdown cover
You may think breakdown cover is an expense you can do without, but however reliable your car might be, don’t think a breakdown won’t happen to you.
“Although in the current climate, with record fuel prices, it may be tempting to save a few pounds by going without cover, it’s a false economy,” says Keith Miller from the AA.
“With summer temperatures and congestion, breakdowns can rocket, so sooner or later your luck will run out and you’ll be hit in the pocket – not to mention all the time and hassle you’ll face when you’re suddenly stranded.”Yasir agrees that driving without cover is just not worth the risk.
“Breakdown cover is a very small price to pay for a service that can protect a motorist and their family when they are at their most vulnerable,” she says.
Recent research from the AA showed that 66 per cent of men have breakdown cover, compared to a slightly lower 58 per cent of women, while figures from Green Flag show its split of customers is 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female.
Julia Dayment from Cardiff got caught out when she broke down driving back to Wales from London in June this year, without having any cover in place.
The 26-year-old, who has been driving for eight years, pays around £350 for annual car insurance on her Ford Ka, but has never paid for breakdown cover.
“It felt like an unnecessary expense – especially as I’ve never had car trouble before,” says Julia. “It was only when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere in the dark, 150 miles from home, with no idea what to do, that I realised just how important it was.”
Julia ended up having to pay a £53 membership as well as a £90 emergency joining fee to the AA.
“I’ve definitely learnt my lesson, and will never risk going without cover again,” she says.
Prepare for the journey
If you are making a car journey in the UK this summer, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you stay safe.
Before setting off, make sure you check the tyres, oil, petrol, as well as the coolant level, and cooling fan.
Keep warms clothes, foil “space blankets”, umbrellas and high visibility tabards in the car, as these will protect you if you need to wait on a bank alongside a cold motorway; also take a fully-charged mobile, plenty of drinking water and food.
Plan your route carefully, and check the traffic reports to avoid unnecessary delays.
Stay safe on the road
If you believe your car has a mechanical problem on the motorway, pull over onto the hard shoulder before you begin slowing down.
As soon as you are on the hard shoulder, put your hazard warning lights on, and leave them on.
Given that you are more likely to be hit by another vehicle than fall victim to a personal attack beside a motorway, you should get out of your car via the passenger door and stay well behind the barriers while you wait for professional help to arrive.
Finally, if you’re planning to drive overseas in the coming summer months, check you are covered before you set off, as it could cost you thousands of pounds if your car has to be recovered and returned to the UK.
If you already have breakdown cover in the UK, don’t assume it will automatically extend to other countries; if you’re driving in Europe, you will usually need to top up your existing policy for an additional premium, or take out a standalone policy.