Find out why some breakdown firms won’t protect you if your car vehicle isn’t properly maintained.
As the hard frosts and icy weather kick in, you might think shelling out on car breakdown cover means automatic peace of mind if your car plays up over the winter.
However, the harsh reality is that if you’re driving a car that’s not been serviced regularly, or one that is over ten years old, you may be caught short.
Some breakdown companies have strict limits on the number of call-outs you can have each year - in some cases as low as five.
Furthermore, if you've got a joint policy you can run the risk of having to cough up around £100 in emergency call out charges if your partner has 'used up' your share of the cover on their car.
Get your car serviced first
Up to 50 per cent of breakdowns could be prevented by regular servicing or weekly checks on tyres, coolant and oil levels, says the AA’s Gavin Hill-Smith.
And as policies from the AA RAC and More Th>n all have a strict five call out limit (seven on joint ones from the AA and RAC) you wouldn’t want to waste these by calling someone out to top up the radiator or pump up your dodgy tyres.
Having your car serviced may also be a condition of your policy - both the AA and Tesco Bank insist on this to ensure the vehicle is in roadworthy condition. In practical terms, they may not insist on seeing the full servicing history, but if it’s clear the car is in bad condition this could jeopardise your cover.
It’s also important to ensure you get any recurrent or intermittent faults checked out and fixed; Churchill’s breakdown cover, for example, won’t extend to fixing recurrent faults.
Even the age of your car makes a difference; some insurers such as the AA and Tesco won’t cover vehicles over ten years old, unless you’re renewing an existing policy with them.
Are you limited on call-outs?
Before signing up for cover, be sure to check if the breakdown policy imposes a maximum number of call-outs, and ask what happens if you go over this limit. Go beyond your five call outs with the AA and you’ll face a bill of £95-a-time, while this is upwards of £59 with the RAC. providers like Tesco Bank and Churchill, offer unlimited cover with no restrictions on call outs.
There are ways to get round these limits without paying through the nose, but you’ll have to stay loyal to the same breakdown company and forfeit your right to ‘shop around’. After a year with the AA you’ll get an extratwo call-outs, while you’ll receive the same number if you stick with the RAC for five years.
Others, like Gem Motoring Assist, don’t have fixed limits, but may just refuse to reinsure you on renewal if they feel membership hasn’t been cost effective for them.
How soon can you claim after joining?
Broken down and not got breakdown cover? In some cases, you can join on the spot and get immediate ‘roadside’ assistance but with most breakdown providers the full range of benefits like ‘home start’ and ‘relay’ won’t kick in for at least twenty-four hours, so it does pay to make sure you’re always fully covered.
How do breakdown providers compare?
If you’re looking to get breakdown cover, you might want to read about the major providers first. We’ve researched and compared the small print of breakdown policies offered by the AA, RAC and Greenflag. So see what we found out.
If you want a quick answer to whether or not breakdown cover is a good idea, see our ‘I’m Confused.com blog’.