Immediate roadside assistance

Stranded on the side of the road? Here's how you get towed fast.

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From a flat tyre to an empty fuel tank, there are plenty of reasons why you might find yourself stranded at the side of the road. Thankfully, roadside assistance can help you get going again or towed to the nearest garage.

In this guide we look at how you can get roadside assistance with breakdown insurance – and without it too. Plus, we walk you through all the key bits of information, such as how you can get help fast and how much it will cost.

What is breakdown cover and can it help?

Breakdown cover is a type of policy that you often need to buy on top of your standard insurance deal. As add-ons go, it’s an incredibly helpful one should you find yourself standing on a hard shoulder or at the kerb unsure of what to do.

Why is it so useful? Well, it can offer you roadside assistance if your car is struggling for any of the following reasons:

  • Battery issues. With basic breakdown cover, a mechanic will come and try to fix or jump start your battery at the roadside, although you may need a higher level of coverage if your battery needs replacing.
  • Tow. If the mechanic is unable to get you going again, you’ll get towed to the nearest garage. With a premium policy, you can get dropped off at home.
  • Car lockouts. If you lock yourself out of your vehicle, it could cover a mechanic helping you break in or cover towing you to the nearest locksmith.
  • Run out of fuel. Stranded with an empty tank? Roadside assistance services bring you enough petrol or diesel to make it to the nearest station.
  • Misfuel. Ground to a halt because you put the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle? Breakdown cover can help you drain and refill the tank.
  • Flat or punctured tyres. Get help replacing a flat tyre with a spare or have your vehicle towed to the nearest garage.

Can I get roadside help without insurance?

Yes, you can even call the likes of AA or Green Flag if you don’t have a policy with them. However, it will cost you more than if you were a member.

Many people have breakdown cover without knowing it. With some bank accounts, you’re charged a monthly fee and get a host of benefits in return, such as roadside assistance.

Who can I contact now?

Compare popular roadside options and how you can get in touch. You can even get roadside assistance without membership from some of these towing providers.

How can I get help fast?

Roadside assistance is only a phone call away, but there are a few ways to speed up the process:

  • Work out your exact location. The mechanic needs to know exactly where you are, so use your phone’s GPS or use nearby street signs to pinpoint your whereabouts.
  • Pulling over. If possible, park your vehicle at the side of the road or in a safe place like a parking lot. If possible, get your car to a place a tow truck can easily access.
  • Explain in detail. Clearly outline your issue so the mechanic is prepared to fix your problem.
  • Have your member card or number ready. Most breakdown-cover providers will require you to show a valid membership card and proof of identity. They might refuse to help you or charge you if you fail to provide these documents.
  • Provide your vehicle information. When you call, include details such as your car’s number plate as well as its year, make and model. You should also highlight any modifications you’ve made to your vehicle. This makes it easier to find your vehicle.
  • Leave your phone number. When you speak with a roadside assistance service, leave your phone number so the company can contact you.
  • Increase your visibility. Turn on your hazard lights so that the mechanic and other cars can clearly see you.
  • Use an app. Some roadside assistance services offer mobile apps, which you can use to contact your provider if you breakdown and pinpoint your location too.

How much to tow my car?

It really depends on whether you have breakdown cover and what type of policy you have. Below, we look at how much you can expect to pay based on your level of protection.

No breakdown coverage. You could try to get a friend with a tow bar to get you to the nearest garage, or you could get a garage to come and collect it, which could potentially cost you hundreds of pounds.

Basic breakdown coverage. If you’ve bought a run of the mill breakdown policy, you will typically get a tow to a garage within 10 miles for free. After that, you’ll be charged for each mile you go beyond this limit.

National recovery. Pay more per month for this higher level of cover and the mechanic will tow you, your passengers and your vehicle anywhere in the UK.

European breakdown cover. Heading on a road trip around Europe in your car? It might be a wise idea to get European breakdown cover, so you can get help abroad without blowing your budget.

Can I get a tow if I have passengers or pets in my car?

Yes, you’ll still get exactly the same roadside assistance with kids or pets in the car. Make sure you tell the provider how many passengers or animals you have as they’ll need to make sure they have enough room in the tow truck.

If the mechanic is unsure about having your pet in the recovery vehicle’s cab, they may ask that you keep your pet in your vehicle while it’s being towed.

How long does it take for help to get here?

The big breakdown recovery providers all promise somewhere in the range of 35 to 40 minutes for help to arrive. Of course, waiting time will depend on your location and the damage to your vehicle.

When you call for roadside assistance, the nearest mobile mechanic will be sent to your location. You should be given a waiting time, but if assistance hasn’t come within an hour of you calling, you might want to call back to check if the recovery vehicle is lost.

Still waiting after two hours? Consider giving another breakdown company a call.

How long until I’m back on the road?

If your technician can fix your car right there, you could be ready to roll in as little as an hour. Here’s how long you can expect to wait for common roadside repairs.

  • Jump start: 15 minutes
  • Battery replacement: 1 hour
  • Emergency fuel: 5 minutes
  • Change of tyre: 30 minutes
  • Tow: 10 minutes to load up
  • Recover a vehicle stuck off road: 30 minutes or more

What should I do while I wait?

Waiting for roadside assistance to arrive can be incredibly stressful, particularly if you’re on a busy motorway and you have kids or pets in the car. Here are some key steps you should take:

  1. If possible, pull your vehicle to the side of the road or another safe area.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights.
  3. If you have cones or flares, place them 10 to 30 feet behind your vehicle as a warning to other drivers.
  4. Find your vehicle information and other key documents, such as your breakdown policy membership card.
  5. Gather your belongings in case your vehicle needs to be towed.
  6. Look up on your phone local repair shops you want your vehicle towed to.

Bottom line

Breakdown cover can offer you peace of mind and could even save you money in the long run. If you drive an older vehicle that is prone to having its dodgy moments, then a breakdown policy will mean you don’t have to fork out hefty fees to get it towed to a nearby garage.

Of course, prices vary depending on the location, type of breakdown, company and other factors. However, this service could be convenient if you travel often or commute to work.

To find the best deal, compare all the options out there, and look out for added benefits like “any driver” cover.

Frequently asked questions about urgent roadside help

Finder survey: What would Brits consider upgrading on their car?

Response
None of the above34.88%
Sound system17.54%
Personalised numberplate16.96%
Not sure16.18%
New alloys15.99%
Tinted windows15.02%
New paint job14.92%
New exhaust13.95%
New interior13.76%
Source: Finder survey by Censuswide of Brits, December 2023
The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.
*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (Mar ’24). 51% of car insurance customers could save £539.54
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Written by

Esther Wolffowitz

Esther Wolffowitz was a publisher at finder.com specialising in insurance. Esther holds an MSc in Media and Communication Governance from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). See full profile

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