Vehicle breakdown cover

Find out what vehicle breakdown cover means, what's included and whether it allows you to drive another person's car.

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What is vehicle breakdown cover?

Vehicle breakdown cover is breakdown insurance that is tied to a specific vehicle. It’s the most common type of breakdown cover and is usually cheaper to obtain than the alternative option, personal breakdown cover.

How satisfied are Brits with their breakdown cover provider?

Response% of respondents
Very satisfied45.23%
Reasonably satisfied35.01%
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied14.85%
Moderately dissatisfied3.27%
Highly dissatisfied1.63%
Source: Finder survey by OnePoll of 750 Brits

What does vehicle breakdown cover include?

Most providers offer different levels of vehicle breakdown cover, which means you can pick and choose what to include in your policy.

Exact specifications will vary by provider, but usually include:

  • Roadside assistance. This is the most basic form of breakdown cover and should be included within all breakdown policies. Roadside assistance ensures that if your car breaks down further than a quarter of a mile from your home, someone will be sent to assist you on the road. If your car cannot be fixed on the roadside, it will typically be towed to a nearby garage.
  • National recovery. Also known as vehicle recovery, this type of cover is the level up from roadside assistance. National recovery means that, if your car can’t be fixed on the roadside, it can be towed to any location of your choice within the UK.
  • Home start. This provides you with cover should your vehicle break down at home or very near to it (usually within a quarter of a mile to a mile radius of your home). Home start cover is sometimes called at home recovery or at home breakdown.
  • European cover. As the name suggests, this type of cover protects you on the roads when you’re driving in Europe.
  • Onward travel. If your car can’t be fixed on the side of the road, then having onward travel cover means that you will be offered a way to continue your journey. Some companies offer to reimburse you for public transport costs, pay for an overnight hotel stay or offer a replacement car hire while yours is being repaired.

What doesn’t it cover?

With a vehicle breakdown cover, you will only be covered for the car specified in the policy. If you break down while driving a different car, you will not be covered (unless that vehicle has its own breakdown cover and you are authorised to be driving the car under it).

Other than that, depending on the cover you choose, there will be different exclusions to the policy.

For example, if you choose the most basic roadside assistance cover, you might not have the option to have your car towed anywhere if it can’t be fixed at the roadside. Other policies might include having it towed to a local garage, but no further.

If you want to make sure you are covered for all eventualities, you can get a breakdown policy that includes all the elements mentioned above.

Can I add additional vehicles?

In most cases, a vehicle breakdown policy applies to a single vehicle. However, some insurers will allow you to add additional vehicles, essentially creating multi vehicle breakdown cover or a family breakdown policy.

The number of cars you can add will usually be limited and will vary by provider.

Does it cover vehicles for commercial use?

Most providers will exclude commercial use from their cover. This is true of regular car insurance, as well as breakdown insurance.

If you need to cover a commercial vehicle, have a look at specialist insurers, like Zego, or specialist policies like commercial van insurance.

Can I add other people onto my vehicle breakdown cover policy?

As the policy covers your vehicle and not you as the driver, other people will usually be allowed to drive it and still be covered.

They will of course need to be qualified drivers and drive the car legally to be covered.

What happens if a registered vehicle breaks down?

If your vehicle breaks down, you need to call your insurer’s claim line.

Someone will then be sent out to look at your vehicle and attempt to fix it at the roadside. If it cannot be fixed, then the next step will depend on the cover you have. It will usually involve having your car towed to a local garage, or to an address of your choice within the UK if you have national recovery.

If you have onward travel cover, you will also get help to complete your journey, or be reimbursed the cost of an overnight hotel stay.

Do you have an age restriction on vehicles?

Most vehicle breakdown policies will only cover vehicles up to the age of 15. However, there are specialist providers that will cover older vehicles, so make sure you shop around.

Can I amend the vehicle on my policy?

Insurers will usually let you change the vehicle on your policy up to a certain number of times within the policy term. This will vary by insurance company, so check your policy documents for the details.

Note that temporary changes of vehicle are usually not permitted.

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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