Roadside assistance

Learn all about roadside assistance cover, such as what's included, whether you need it and what to do if your car breaks down at the roadside.

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Name Product Personal Price (from) Vehicle Price (from) Roadside Assistance National Recovery Home Start Onward Travel Key Benefits
RAC Roadside
The AA Roadside & Home
RAC Roadside and Recovery
Rescue 1
Quote based
Motor Easy Local Recovery
Motor Easy Local Recovery
Vehicle only
The AA Roadside, Recovery & Home
The AA Roadside, Recovery, Home & Onward travel
Cover My Breakdown
Cover My Breakdown
Quote dependent
Quote dependent
RAC Complete
RAC Extra

What is roadside assistance?

Roadside assistance is the basic level of breakdown cover. Having this kind of cover in place means your insurer will send out someone to help you if you break down on the side of the road. If your car cannot be fixed at the roadside, it will be towed to a nearby garage to be fixed.

Does roadside assistance mean the same thing on every policy?

It’s likely the level of cover on offer with a roadside assistance policy will be similar no matter which provider you go with, but some differences can exist.

For example, the number of times you can get someone to help you can vary by provider, as can the distance to which they’ll tow your car if it cannot be fixed at the roadside. Some policies might include cover for an overnight stay if your car needs to be kept overnight at a garage far away from your home.

It’s important never to assume something is included in a policy. Always check the small print and contact your insurer directly if you have any doubts.

When can roadside assistance be useful?

Having some kind of breakdown cover is highly recommended, as even very well maintained vehicles can suffer mechanical breakdowns.

It can be extremely useful if your car breaks down on the side of the road, as it means a professional will be sent to try and fix it. In many cases, they will be able to do that and you will be able to carry on with your journey. In case where they are unable to fix the car, it will be towed to a nearby garage.

Higher levels of breakdown cover include the option to have your car towed to any part of the UK and provide help for you to continue your journey or return home. If these are things that are important to you, you should consider taking out a higher level breakdown cover policy.

What does roadside assistance cover?

The specifications of the policy will vary by provider, but all roadside assistance policies should include sending someone to look at your vehicle if you break down on the side of the road.

Most policies will also include having your car towed to a local garage if it cannot be fixed at the roadside, but some might not include cover for your car to be towed anywhere at all, and you will have to pay for this yourself.

The variants in policy features also include:

  • How far away you must be from home. Some policies will require you to be within a mile of your home.
  • How long it will take someone to come out to you. Depending on the policy, this can be immediate or within a certain number of hours.
  • How long the engineer will spend trying to fix your vehicle. Some policies might specify a cut-off point for trying to fix your car at the side of the road before it’s towed to a garage.
  • Where your car can be towed. For a roadside assistance policy, this will usually only include a local garage, but can sometimes be further away.
  • Labour and parts cost at the garage. Some policies may limit the amount that your repair can cost at the garage and you might have to pay extra for some repairs.

Some insurers might offer extra cover you can add to your policies for an additional cost. These might include things like cover to have your car fixed at home, money towards garage repairs and hire car or travel costs.

That said, you should be able to get these cover elements with higher levels of breakdown cover, so make sure you compare prices and get the best deal available to you.

What doesn’t it cover?

Exclusions will also vary by provider, but most roadside assistance policies won’t include the following:

  • The option to have your car towed to your home or to a garage of your choice
  • Money towards an overnight stay if your car cannot be fixed on the same day
  • Cover for alternative modes of transport for you to continue your journey
  • Someone coming out to fix your car if it’s parked outside your home

If you require these elements as part of your breakdown cover policy, you should be able to get them with higher levels of breakdown cover, such as national recovery, home start and onward travel.

When might roadside assistance not be useful?

If you don’t drive your car very often and tend to stick to your local area when you do, you might not need this type of cover.

Additionally, if you have the skills to fix your car yourself if it breaks down, or if you have someone local you can call if that happens, you may not benefit from roadside assistance cover.

That said, should you break down and not be able to fix the issue, you can be left with a large bill to pay if you don’t have breakdown cover.

Note that cars older than 15 years are often excluded from breakdown cover policies, so if you drive an older car, make sure it can be covered before paying out.

Can I get roadside assistance without taking out a policy?

If you break down without insurance, one option you have is to call Green Flag, which offers a breakdown service, on 0800 400 600. Another option is to call the AA, which offers instant cover, on 0800 88 77 66.

These options will likely involve paying an emergency call-out fee, which can be expensive, but might still be more economical than trying to make your own arrangements.

Frequently asked questions

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Written by

Ronny Lavie

Ronny Lavie was a deputy editor at Finder, specialising in insurance content. She has almost a decade of experience writing about financial topics, including five months spent as the interim managing editor for the Fintech Times newspaper. Ronny has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from London Middlesex University. See full profile

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