Short term breakdown cover

Find out how you can take out temporary breakdown cover for the UK or Europe, what it includes and how to find the right policy for you.

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Breakdown cover is not a legal requirement to drive on UK roads, but it can get you out of an unpleasant situation. However, you may only need to take it out for a short period of time – if you’re going on a long trip, for example. We looked at the options available for short term breakdown cover and how it compares to an annual policy.

What is short term breakdown cover?

Short term breakdown cover is a breakdown insurance that only lasts for a limited time period – usually between one day and one month.

This type of cover can be useful for people who need to borrow a car from a friend, or are taking a long trip or driving to Europe (short term European cover is also available), and want to protect themselves in case something goes wrong.

How long am I covered for in a short term breakdown cover policy?

This will vary by insurer, but it is usually between one day and one month.

What is short term breakdown cover for?

You might not feel the need to take out an annual breakdown policy, if you don’t drive enough to justify it or don’t own your own car. A short term breakdown policy can be useful if you need to use a car for a limited period of time and want to protect yourself in case something goes wrong.

Some scenarios where you might consider taking out temporary breakdown insurance include:

  • Borrowing a car from a friend or family member
  • Borrowing a van when moving house
  • Embarking on a long-distance roadtrip or holiday (including driving to Europe)

Temporary breakdown cover vs annual breakdown cover

Whether you need temporary breakdown cover or an annual breakdown policy will depend on your circumstances.

If you don’t own your own car and just need to borrow a car from a friend or family member, a temporary breakdown policy can be much more cost-effective than an annual one. However, if you think you might need to borrow the car several times in the year, it might be worth your while paying for annual cover.

This is also true if you need to take out breakdown cover for a month. Temporary insurance is usually more expensive than standard insurance, so it might work out cheaper to take out an annual policy. Some providers offer annual breakdown cover for affordable prices, so shop around to find the best deal for you.

For European cover, this is not usually included in standard breakdown insurance, but can often be added for an extra premium. If you intend to drive out to Europe several times in the year, it might be better to add European cover to your existing breakdown policy, rather than keep taking out a temporary one.

What does short term breakdown cover include in the UK?

A temporary breakdown policy usually offers a similar level of cover to an annual one, only for a shorter period of time.

The exact features will vary by provider and the level of cover you need, but you should be able to choose from the following (or a combination of several of these elements):

  • Local roadside assistance. If your car or a car you’re travelling in breaks down, you’ll get roadside assistance and recovery to a local garage for any repair work that can’t be completed at the roadside.
  • National roadside assistance. Regardless of where your car or a car you’re travelling in breaks down, you can choose to have the car towed to any location in the UK for repair work, if the mechanic is unable to fix your car at the roadside.
  • Home breakdown. If you’re a certain distance from home (usually up to a mile) when your car or a car you’re travelling in breaks down, or the car won’t start outside of your home, you’ll get assistance with repairs.
  • Onward travel. This will ensure your journey can continue even if your car or a car you’re travelling in can’t immediately be fixed. You could get a replacement car or tickets for public transport. In some cases, you may be covered for an overnight stay.

What does short term breakdown cover include in Europe?

This will vary by insurer and the type of policy you choose, but European cover usually includes basic roadside assistance – sending someone out to look at your vehicle and towing it to a local garage if it cannot be fixed at the roadside.

Some policies also include onward travel, either immediately or if your car cannot be fixed within a certain number of hours. This means you and your passengers will be taken to your intended destination and, in some cases, be provided with a replacement car so that you can get around. If you prefer to stay with your car, the cost of alternative accommodation may be covered, depending on your original booking (mainly whether it’s paid for and if a refund can be obtained).

A good European breakdown policy will also include repatriation, meaning getting you, your passengers and your car back to the UK, if your vehicle is still not fixed by your intended return date.

What isn’t covered with short term breakdown cover?

Depending on the insurer and the policy you choose, some elements of cover may not be included as standard and require an extra premium. This is often the case for onward travel and European cover. Make sure to check your policy details to see what is and isn’t covered.

The policy might also come with certain conditions and limitations, which can include:

  • The car is not properly maintained. General maintenance of cars, such as oil checks and tyre checks, are important to ensure a vehicle is safe to drive.
  • The car breaks down on private land. The recovery vehicle may not be able to access the land you’re stranded on.
  • The car breaks down after a collision. Recovery may be delayed while emergency services tend to the scene of an accident. Some policies may also exclude breakdown recovery following a collision.

How much does short term breakdown cover cost?

As well as the usual factors, like your age, your driving history and the make and model you drive, the cost of temporary breakdown insurance depends on a number of additional details, including:

  • The age of your vehicle
  • Your vehicle’s breakdown history
  • The length of your cover
  • Your level of cover and any optional extras

A short term breakdown policy is likely to be more expensive than annual cover per day, but if you only require it for a limited period of time, it can still work out cheaper overall than paying for an annual policy you don’t need.

If you’re taking out a temporary car insurance policy, you should be able to add breakdown cover to this, and that might work out cheaper than taking out a separate policy.

Where can I get short term breakdown cover?

Many insurers offer short term breakdown cover, including some big names like RAC and the AA, and specialist providers like

The best way to find the best policy for you is to compare insurers. You can look at some of the top providers in our guide to the best breakdown insurance companies in the UK.

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