Differences in Policies
There are two main ways in which policies work. The first type is the more common approach that most people are aware of, this is the standard automatic service. The second type of breakdown cover is called 'Call on Pay-out cover' and does not have a yearly cost however payment is required upfront when you need to make a call out for recovery and repairs. After you have received an invoice for the work done on your car then you would need to claim back the costs of the repairs from your insurance company. This is time consuming and comes with many risks especially if you do not have an emergency fund of cash to pay upfront for the recovery, it is therefore important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options in line with your own personal circumstances.
Pay and Claim Cover
Pay and Claim, or Call on Pay-out cover as it is also known means that although you do not pay a membership fee you will be required to pay upfront when you need recovered or your car repaired. After you have paid for the repairs you will then need to contact your provider to claim back the money you paid. The main provider which offers a pay and claim service is GEM Motoring Assist.
Automatic Service Plan
The automatic service plan means you pay a yearly membership fee in order to get access to breakdown coverage. If your car happens to break down you simply need to call the recovery number and you will be attended to at the side of the road, free of charge. Some providers will only allow a certain amount of call outs per year to prevent abuse. The main providers of this type of automatic breakdown cover are The RAC, Greenflag and The AA.
The different advantages and disadvantages between the two types of breakdown policies which tend to be cost and convenience.
Breakdown cover for you or for your car
Once you have chosen the coverage level you would like you must then decide whether you would like your policy to cover your car or yourself.
Breakdown Cover for yourself
If you are the only driver of a car in your household or you have multiple cars then you it will be more cost effective if you purchase breakdown cover for yourself rather than two or more policies for the cars you drive. This means that no matter who's car you are using when you breakdown you will be able to use your breakdown cover policy to help you. There are also options to get cover for yourself even when you are just a passenger of someone else's car.
Breakdown Cover for your car
If you are a one car household and multiple people, such as a husband and wife both drive the car then it is more cost effective to purchase breakdown cover for your car. This means that if your car breaks down then no matter who is driving it you will still be able to get access to breakdown cover. This is often the cheaper option of the two though not very flexible however if you don't expect to change your car much, if at all then this would be the best option for you.
European Breakdown Coverage
When you take out your policy you should consider the likelihood of you travelling across the continent before ruling out the breakdown coverage levels specialising in European travel that are available. Many can rule this option out but if you might be taking a trip then it should definitely be considered an essential as breaking down in another country can be far more distressing and costly than breaking down in the UK.
If you are only expecting to take one trip to Europe then you should look at the short trip policy options, more regular travellers should however look at an annual policy that would cover you for all of your trips and could provide more cost effective.
Other considerations to make
All breakdown cover companies offer the basic levels of cover with extras you can add on if you feel you will require them. There will also be restrictions on the cover and you should compare the limits across the range of companies offering the policy to get something that will suit your needs.
Courtesy Car - Will you need a courtesy vehicle if your car needs to spend some time in the garage? The more comprehensive levels of cover tend to include a courtesy car free of charge.
Callout Limit - Most, if not all policies have a limit to the amount of recoveries you can have per year. Basic policies will have a lower call out limit so this could be considered against the low cost of the policy.
Excess - Lower level breakdown cover may require you to pay for any parts or towing needed to get your car back on the road which could prove expensive depending on the problem you may have. Alternatively a high level of breakdown cover can cover the cost of any parts and garage bills up to a certain amount each year. This is another factor where you need to consider the lower cost of the breakdown cover vs. the potential high cost of garage repairs.
Car Age - If your vehicle is over a certain age you may find you have lower limits on the amount of callouts you can make. You may also find you are not eligible for a level of cover which includes parts or garage cover; in this case you should look into covering the individual driving the car rather than the actual car.