Our lastest Driver Power survey reveals the best car breakdown cover providers for coming to the rescue in a roadside emergency
It may be a legal requirement to take out car insurance, but there is no such mandate for breakdown cover, which is arguably a form of insurance in itself.
While you could bank on your car not breaking down in the first place, or just sign up with a firm should this happen, finding good cover is a time-consuming process, and it’s tough to do when you’re stranded at the roadside.
However, even if you do your homework and buy in advance, this is a product that is all too often bought and then forgotten about; ultimately you’ll only find out how good the service is if you have to call on your chosen company in your hour of need.
Unless you read Driver Power, that is. We’ve asked thousands of readers about their experiences with 25 breakdown firms, and the five detailed below represent the best of the best.
How long did it take the breakdown provider to arrive at your vehicle?
Breakdowns can be dangerous and unnerving, particularly if you come to a grinding halt on a single-carriageway road, or a motorway with no hard shoulder.
The sooner a breakdown truck gets to you, the better. Not only will the technician hopefully get you on your way quickly, but the presence of a highly visible van with flashing amber lights should make you safer.
• Best car insurance companies 2019
It’s good news that most of you report that your breakdown firms arrive within the hour when called upon, while almost a fifth say a roadside technician arrived within just 30 minutes. The bad news is almost 40 per cent of respondents had to wait more than an hour, while a frankly unacceptable one in eight were stranded for two or more hours.
Result of callout
More than two thirds of drivers who suffered a breakdown said their rescue firm was able to get them moving again, either with a permanent fix or a temporary patch.
While most repairs were permanent, a significant proportion weren’t, and would have required remedial work to be carried out.
Nonetheless, on average seven out of 10 drivers said they were got moving again by their breakdown company, while those who had to be towed away from the roadside were almost always taken to a garage or a location of their choice, rather than being at the whim of the breakdown technician.
Reason for choosing provider
Price, unsurprisingly, is a major motivator for choosing a roadside rescue company, but more than half of all buyers were drawn to their firm for another reason.
Almost 40 per cent of customers said a previous experience with their current rescue firm prompted their decision, while over a fifth were drawn by their company’s reputation.
Most drivers pay for their cover, but a canny 19.3 per cent received the product free of charge when buying a new car, or by banking with a specific firm, for example.
Top 5 best breakdown cover providers 2019
1. GEM Motoring Assist – 90.66%
GEM Motoring Assist wins for the seventh year in a row – perhaps the longest winning streak Driver Power has seen. A whopping 67.8 per cent of you say help arrived within the hour, plus GEM is excellent at keeping you informed, staff are very friendly and the firm offers strong value for money. Customers can choose conventional breakdown cover, or an alternative that sees broken-down drivers pay before claiming costs back from GEM.
Customer’s view: “Contact was quick and smooth. Unable to fix at roadside, so the car was taken to a location of my choosing. GEM kept in touch from start to finish.”
Arrived within an hour? 67.8%
Top result of callout: Towed to garage of choice 29.9%
2. Green Flag 89.39%
Green Flag is excellent at keeping broken-down customers informed, and no other firm is better-value. Continuing those impressive results is a first place for friendliness, and second for the speediness of recoveries. A low-ish proportion of drivers are recovered within the hour, but they’re more likely to get help within 30 minutes than members of any other service, with almost a quarter receiving assistance within half an hour.
Customer’s view: “Brilliant chap who came out recommended a nearby garage. The repair was completed within my lunch hour for a good price.”
Arrived within an hour? 55.7%
Top result of callout: Permanent fix 36.9%
3. Britannia Rescue – 88.79%
Britannia Rescue impresses with its bronze medal, but we shouldn’t be too surprised: the rescue company is owned by LV=, who finished fourth in our insurance rankings. Britannia’s placing is helped by a super-simple purchase process, while the firm’s technicians are well presented, and the staff are judged to be friendly and helpful. Technicians could fix more faults by the roadside, but these are still strong scores.
Customer’s view: “Incredibly helpful when my alternator belt broke. They said to call to have my car towed to a garage; I did the next day and they came at the agreed time.”
Arrived within an hour? 61.9%
Top result of callout: Permanent fix 34.9%
4. AutoAid – 88.60%
AutoAid customers are more likely to be attended to within the hour than AA members, and the firm is rated as friendlier. You’re not too taken with how likely technicians are to fix a fault by the roadside, while the number of cars receiving a permanent fix (38.4 per cent) is slightly below average. Seven out of 10 customers can continue their journey with a permanent or temporary fix, while technicians are well turned-out and friendly.
Customer’s view: “I’ve used both the AA and the RAC in the past, but AutoAid is much more competitive, both in terms of price and service.”
Arrived within an hour? 68.5%
Top result of callout: Permanent fix 38.4%
5. AA – 87.72%
Members rank the AA fifth, a good result for the UK’s largest provider. They say no other firm keeps you better-informed, while buying cover is easy and good value for money. With the majority of breakdowns being attended to within an hour, and a large proportion of faults permanently fixed by the roadside, AA customers are happy. The firm says it fixes eight out of ten vehicles by the road, but our readers have this pegged at 70 per cent.
Customer’s view: “I was kept informed of when the engineer would arrive at every stage. When he got there, he offered every possible service; I was very impressed.”
Arrived within an hour? 65.6%
Top result of callout: Permanent fix 44.8%
UK breakdown cover providers 1 to 25
Now see the best cars to own in 2019, compiled from Driver Power data…
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