What is breakdown assistance cover?
It’s a type of insurance that covers repair or recovery costs if your vehicle breaks down. It’s also known as roadside assistance or breakdown cover.
Although breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement, it’s invaluable if your car gets a severe fault while you’re driving or if your vehicle simply gets a flat battery or a punctured tyre.
If you take out cover, you pay an annual or monthly premium in return for 24/7 stress-free breakdown assistance.
Breakdown assistance does not cover the cost of parts or garage labour if your vehicle needs to be towed from the roadside.
Which vehicles can you cover?
If you drive any of these vehicles on the road, you may want to consider breakdown cover:
- scooter or moped
What does breakdown assistance cover?
The level of cover you get from your breakdown policy depends on what type of assistance you choose. Here’s a summary of typical cover features:
- Roadside assistance: This is basic breakdown cover. Your provider sends out a mechanic and recovery vehicle to repair your vehicle at the roadside. If it can’t be repaired, they’ll usually tow it to a nearby garage.
- At-home assistance: This type of cover qualifies you for a call out if your car has broken down at home or within a short distance of your home.
- National vehicle recovery: This cover allows you to choose where you’re towed to if your vehicle can’t be fixed at the roadside or within a set time at a garage.
- Onward travel: If you break down you’ll have more options available to help you get to your destination, such as a courtesy vehicle, overnight accommodation, or alternative travel arrangements such as rail costs.
- European breakdown cover: This cover provides roadside assistance or repair at a nearby garage anywhere in Europe. If your car cannot be fixed you may be offered a courtesy car, onward travel costs or overnight accommodation.
What else can you cover?
Sometimes insurers provide additional extras as standard or offer them as add-ons, for which you pay more. Extra benefits can include:
- Lost or broken keys: Cover for callout costs, car hire or lock and key replacement.
- Misfuelling: Usually just covers callout costs but could include the cost of decontamination.
- Personal cover: Cover for any car you’re travelling in that breaks down, even if you’re not the driver.
- Theft of car: Cover in the event of reported theft; the insurer may offer a replacement car temporarily.
Who offers breakdown assistance cover?
There are many breakdown assistance providers in Ireland. Here are some of the most popular insurers:
- An Post Insurance
Some large insurers like AXA and Zurich don’t offer breakdown cover as a stand-alone product but as a standard benefit of their car insurance policies.
Smaller car insurance specialists like Liberty and FBD Insurance offer breakdown assistance as an optional extra.
Alternatively, the AA is a motoring association that offers membership that covers you, not just your car. AA members get roadside and at-home assistance for any car they’re in, plus discounts on other financial services and exclusive benefits.
Before buying a policy, check whether you’re getting breakdown cover on your car insurance or from another provider first.
How much does breakdown assistance cost?
The price of breakdown cover can start from as little as €30 per year for basic cover and cost over €300 for full European assistance.
Some insurers like the AA offer standard cover with the option to upgrade for extra benefits, but others offer different cover plans that rise in price as the level of cover increases.
Does the age of your car affect the cost?
Yes, some breakdown insurers will only provide cover for vehicles within a certain age. For example, Allianz only covers cars up to 15 years and vans up to 10 years old.
Others will increase the price of the policy as your car gets older, so be wary of the advertised ‘price from’ if your car is older than 5 years and shop around to find the cheapest quote for your specific car.
Older cars are more costly to cover because they are more likely to break down and they are more expensive to repair.
Is it worth getting breakdown cover?
Breakdown cover gives you peace of mind and ensures you won’t be stranded on the roadside for too long or faced with a large bill for rescue & recovery.
However, it can be an added driving expense, especially if you have an old car and choose a policy that’s priced on the age or model of your vehicle.
If you can’t afford to take out premium cover, you can buy basic roadside assistance from around €30 which, at least, protects you from unforeseen costs and feeling unsafe in the event of a breakdown.
It’s worth taking out breakdown cover if you:
- drive long distances often
- commute regularly
- use your car for business purposes
- are a lone female driver
- drive with children regularly
How to get the best value breakdown assistance
First, check if you get breakdown assistance as part of your car insurance or as a perk with another service provider.
If you need to buy it, use these tips to find yourself the cheapest breakdown cover:
- Weigh up costs and benefits: Work out how much you’ve spent on breakdowns or car problems in the past and compare it to how much breakdown cover is per year. Don’t spend more on cover than you are likely to use.
- Shop around and compare quotes: If your car is over 10 years old, some insurers won’t provide breakdown cover at all or they may hike the price. Others just offer one set price, regardless of vehicle age.
- Opt for car insurance that includes breakdown cover: Sometimes this can work out the cheapest way of getting quality breakdown cover. Consider this option next time you renew your car insurance.
- Check the small print for limits and exclusions: Some policies limit the number of call-outs or will only attend for certain car problems. They may not attend if on private land or will not transport pets if you need towing.
- Check the policy offers what you need: The cheapest cover is not necessarily the right cover. Think about what benefits are of most value to you and pick a policy that provides what you need at a price you can afford.
How to prevent breakdowns and car problems
To reduce the need for breakdown assistance or recovery from the roadside, consider what you can do to improve the way you drive and how you maintain your car.
- Keep your car regularly maintained: Think about what you can do to prevent car problems; for instance, check oil and coolant levels, keep your battery in good health and check your tyres regularly.
- Assess your driving habits: Think about what you can do to protect yourself from costly breakdown and recovery costs. For instance, drive smoothly and use gears, brake and clutch correctly, don’t overload your car and avoid potholes.
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Breakdown assistance FAQs
Are caravans and trailers covered?
It depends on the terms and conditions of the policy. Check with your provider before travelling with a caravan or trailer because some of the cheaper policies may not cover the cost of towing a trailer or caravan.
Any repairs to the caravan or trailer won’t be covered.
Can I use my breakdown cover straight away?
Yes, you can usually use your cover once payment has been taken or within 72 hours at the latest. There is no initial waiting period, but if you are going on a long trip it’s advisable to get it two or three days in advance.
Can I cancel my policy if I change my mind?
Yes, insurance policies have a ‘cooling off’ period where you can cancel without charge.
If you decide that the cover you have picked doesn’t meet your needs, contact your insurer within 14 days and they will cancel your policy.
Your premium will be refunded in full provided you haven’t made a claim or used the service. After 14 days, some insurers may offer a pro-rata refund if you haven’t used the policy at all, but you’ll be charged an administration fee.
Does using breakdown cover affect my car insurance or no claims bonus?
No, the number of times you use breakdown assistance, even if it’s part of your car insurance plan, does not affect the price of your insurance or no claims bonus.
Will I be covered for driving in the UK and Europe?
It depends on the level and type of cover you buy. You will have to pay a higher price for breakdown cover in the UK or Europe.
UK or European Breakdown Cover is either sold as a part of a Premium or Plus cover plan or as an add-on to a standard plan.
How many times can I request roadside assistance?
Most insurers limit the number of times you can use assistance per year. If callouts are limited, it’s usually to 3 or 5 per year, however, some providers like the AA have limitless callouts on the condition that it’s not a recurring fault.
Check the insurer’s policy documents for terms and conditions if the information isn’t available on the website.