Beginners Guide To Car Breakdown Services

In this guide

Getting your head around breakdown cover can be tricky if you’re a new driver. Plus, getting breakdown cover can become an afterthought for many and fall to the wayside. 

Many beginner drivers will usually focus on getting their road tax or insurance sorted as a priority, forgetting to sort what is a crucial element of car maintenance. 

Breakdown cover is a type of insurance policy. With it, you’ll be able to get help from mechanics to assist you if your car breaks down. For example, if you get a puncture in your tyre, you’ll be able to call for roadside assistance to have that tyre repaired or replaced. 

There are many options when it comes to car breakdown policies, and the choice may overwhelm beginner drivers. When choosing a cover, it’s important to evaluate and compare many different services to find one you trust. 

Is it worth paying for breakdown cover?


Unlike other types of car insurance, breakdown cover is not a legal requirement, meaning you don’t need to pay for it if you don’t want it. However, getting a breakdown cover can help prevent future headaches as it gives you peace of mind that you’ll be able to easily access help when you’re in a pinch. 

If your car breaks down and you don’t have cover, you’ll have to find a recovery service yourself. Not only does this create added stress, but it can also be far more expensive than a car breakdown policy. 

If you need roadside recovery to tow your vehicle, you can expect to pay upwards of £300, and you’ll also have to pay for the cost of servicing and repairing your car. All this is covered in a car breakdown service. 

Plus, many – although not all – breakdown services will offer a hire car that you can use if your vehicle needs to remain in the garage for a long time. This can help keep you mobile and prevent you from not having the transport needed to live your daily life.

What are the types of car breakdown cover? 

If you choose to get breakdown cover, you need to be aware of the two main types: personal breakdown cover and vehicle breakdown cover. Both of these types of cover will help protect you and your car if it breaks down, but there are key differences that you should know before choosing the best policy for you: 

Personal breakdown cover

When you get personal breakdown cover, you’re covered in any vehicle, both as a driver and a passenger. This cover extends to any type of vehicle, so if you’re in a car, hybrid, motorbike, or truck, you’ll be covered no matter what. Plus, if you’re a passenger in a friend’s car who doesn’t have breakdown cover themselves, you’ll still be able to call for help. 

Personal breakdown cover may not suit people who share a car, such as families or those in a relationship. This is because each individual who drives the one car will need to get their own personal cover, which can be more expensive. Also, if you’re not present when your car breaks down, it won’t be covered, and you’ll be unable to get assistance for the vehicle. 

Vehicle breakdown cover

Vehicle breakdown cover means that a specific vehicle is covered, and it doesn’t matter who’s driving it. This breakdown cover is usually a much cheaper option and suits those with one car. It’s also great for families who share a vehicle, as no matter who’s driving it, they’ll benefit from breakdown cover. 

Do be cautious with this type of cover, though. You won’t be able to get cover if you break down while driving another car or if you’re a passenger in a broken down car. 

What type of breakdown cover is the best?

The best type of breakdown cover will depend on your personal circumstances and will be different for everyone. 

If you only drive a single car and don’t share it with anyone, then vehicle breakdown cover will likely be the best choice for you. If you drive multiple vehicles, such as one for work and one to ferry the family around, then personal cover may suit you as you’ll be covered no matter what you’re driving. 

When choosing breakdown cover, be sure to select an option that fits within your budget and that suits your own personal circumstances.

What are the different levels of breakdown cover?

When you choose a type of breakdown cover, that cover will be further broken down into different levels. These levels dictate in which situations you’ll be able to use your cover and also detail what specific services you’ll be eligible for. 

Each car breakdown cover provider will have its own levels and tiers of service. Still, you’ll likely find the following levels of breakdown cover: 

Roadside Assitance 

This is a basic level of breakdown cover. With roadside assistance, you’ll be able to call out a patrol car to come to you and attempt to fix your car on the roadside. 

If the mechanic cannot fix your car, they’ll tow it to the nearest garage, where repairs can be done. There’s usually a limit of 10 miles, so if the garage is further away than this, you may not be able to get towed there without paying extra. You’ll only be eligible for roadside assistance if you break down over a ¼ mile from your home. 

At home breakdown cover

This type of breakdown cover means you’ll be able to access help if your car breaks down on your driveway or if you’re within a ¼ mile from your home. This type of cover can be beneficial if your car has a flat battery and is struggling to start. 

The best breakdown cover policies will include home assistance as standard, although some will make you upgrade to get home breakdown cover. When looking for the best UK breakdown cover for you, check to see if at home cover is a basic feature. 

Roadside recovery

Roadside recovery is where you’ll be able to have your car towed to the garage if it can’t be fixed on location. Most breakdown cover policies include roadside recovery for up to 10 miles as standard. However, you’ll likely have to upgrade to be towed further than this. 

It’s possible to get national recovery, where you can be towed an unlimited distance to any garage or destination in the UK. This allows you to take your vehicle to a garage of your choice or have it delivered to your home. 

Onward travel

This level of cover concerns how you’ll be kept mobile after your breakdown. When you get this tier of cover, you’ll be able to get a hire car that you can use while yours is getting fixed in the garage. 

Most breakdown cover policies will have a maximum number of days you can have the hire car, meaning that if your car is out of action for a while, you may have to pay extra to have the hire car for longer. 


As well as these regular levels of cover that you’ll find with most breakdown cover providers, you can purchase add-ons to make your cover more complete. 

One major add-on is European breakdown cover. This ensures you have the same amount of cover in any European nation as you would in the UK. 

You can also get key replacement added to your policy to help you if you lose your keys, or you could also add tyre replacement to cover your tyres if they’re damaged.

When does breakdown cover start? 

Typically, your cover will kick in as soon as you sign up and pay for your policy, meaning you can have peace of mind immediately. However, it’s common for many breakdown cover services to not include any extras in the first 24 hours. After this period, any extras you’ve added to your cover will be included. 

Do be aware that if your car has already broken down before you take out the breakdown cover, it’s unlikely that you will be covered for that breakdown. You may still get assistance, but the breakdown cover provider may charge for it, which could be more expensive. 

Final words

Although not a requirement by law, breakdown cover is crucial in ensuring you’re protected when driving. As a beginner driver, getting cover that doesn’t suit your needs can be easy. With the information in this guide, you should know what you look for when getting cover, as well as what makes the best breakdown cover for you. 

From selecting the level of cover you need to the type of breakdown cover that’s more suited to you, knowing these basics should help a lot. 

Getting a breakdown cover is the cheapest way to repair your car when things break. Regardless of how careful you are as a driver or how new your car is, you can never know when you’ll need roadside assistance. Because of this, breakdown cover can really improve your driving experience. 

Mark Williams
Mark Williams
Editorial Manager at Car Adviser. I'm responsible for leading a team of talented writers and editors who create high-quality automotive content for our audience. Previously Car and Driver Magazine and AutoExpress.
We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.
Cookies settings
I agree
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active

Privacy Policy

What information do we collect?

We collect information from you when you register on our site or place an order. When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your: name, e-mail address or mailing address.

What do we use your information for?

Any of the information we collect from you may be used in one of the following ways: To personalize your experience (your information helps us to better respond to your individual needs) To improve our website (we continually strive to improve our website offerings based on the information and feedback we receive from you) To improve customer service (your information helps us to more effectively respond to your customer service requests and support needs) To process transactions Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested. To administer a contest, promotion, survey or other site feature To send periodic emails The email address you provide for order processing, will only be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order.

How do we protect your information?

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access your personal information. We offer the use of a secure server. All supplied sensitive/credit information is transmitted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and then encrypted into our Payment gateway providers database only to be accessible by those authorized with special access rights to such systems, and are required to?keep the information confidential. After a transaction, your private information (credit cards, social security numbers, financials, etc.) will not be kept on file for more than 60 days.

Do we use cookies?

Yes (Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computers hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the sites or service providers systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information We use cookies to help us remember and process the items in your shopping cart, understand and save your preferences for future visits, keep track of advertisements and compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interaction so that we can offer better site experiences and tools in the future. We may contract with third-party service providers to assist us in better understanding our site visitors. These service providers are not permitted to use the information collected on our behalf except to help us conduct and improve our business. If you prefer, you can choose to have your computer warn you each time a cookie is being sent, or you can choose to turn off all cookies via your browser settings. Like most websites, if you turn your cookies off, some of our services may not function properly. However, you can still place orders by contacting customer service. Visit Google's Privacy & Terms site to learn more: Google Analytics We use Google Analytics on our sites for anonymous reporting of site usage and for advertising on the site. If you would like to opt-out of Google Analytics monitoring your behaviour on our sites please use this link (

Do we disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others rights, property, or safety. However, non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.


The minimum information we need to register you is your name, email address and a password. We will ask you more questions for different services, including sales promotions. Unless we say otherwise, you have to answer all the registration questions. We may also ask some other, voluntary questions during registration for certain services (for example, professional networks) so we can gain a clearer understanding of who you are. This also allows us to personalise services for you. To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared. You can choose not to have such data shared with the Guardian from these sources by logging into your account and changing the settings in the privacy section. After you have registered, and with your permission, we may send you emails we think may interest you. Newsletters may be personalised based on what you have been reading on At any time you can decide not to receive these emails and will be able to ‘unsubscribe’. Logging in using social networking credentials If you log-in to our sites using a Facebook log-in, you are granting permission to Facebook to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth and location which will then be used to form a Guardian identity. You can also use your picture from Facebook as part of your profile. This will also allow us and Facebook to share your, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings. If you remove the Guardian app from your Facebook settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a Google log-in, you grant permission to Google to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth, sex and location which we will then use to form a Guardian identity. You may use your picture from Google as part of your profile. This also allows us to share your networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Google account settings. If you remove the Guardian from your Google settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a twitter log-in, we receive your avatar (the small picture that appears next to your tweets) and twitter username.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Compliance

We are in compliance with the requirements of COPPA (Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act), we do not collect any information from anyone under 13 years of age. Our website, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years old or older.

Updating your personal information

We offer a ‘My details’ page (also known as Dashboard), where you can update your personal information at any time, and change your marketing preferences. You can get to this page from most pages on the site – simply click on the ‘My details’ link at the top of the screen when you are signed in.

Online Privacy Policy Only

This online privacy policy applies only to information collected through our website and not to information collected offline.

Your Consent

By using our site, you consent to our privacy policy.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes on this page.
Save settings
Cookies settings