The best breakdown cover (2013)

26 Aug, 2013 11:00am

Our results reveal which operator you can rely on for breakdown cover

Choosing a breakdown company to cover your car isn’t easy. Do you go for one of the big names? Or stick with what came free with your car or insurance policy?

Driver Power can help you ignore reputation and convenience and simply pick the best. Respondents to our survey marked their breakdown operator on key issues like how quickly it arrived and whether it fixed the fault, plus they rated value for money and the patrol’s presentation. Our strict criteria ensure a robust sample size, so only 13 companies made it into our 2013 chart.

Although 87 per cent of you have cover, only 43 per cent needed to use it. And as our table (above, right) shows, a huge 73 per cent of these call-outs were for mechanical faults, which could be due to a drop in reliability or the number of  ageing cars on UK roads.

Best breakdown cover providers 2014

Either way, makers’ reluctance to fit spare tyres in new models seems to be causing drivers trouble: 15 per cent of you made a call-out for a puncture.

Most motorists (57 per cent) told us it took a breakdown patrol between 30 minutes and an hour to arrive. And 22 per cent got help in less than 30 minutes – so most companies got a decent score in this area. This did vary depending on provider: 52 per cent of drivers with Tesco cover said their breakdown patrol arrived between 30 minutes to an hour after they’d called. But this figure rises to 74 per cent among respondents who have More Than cover.

After the amount of time it takes for the breakdown service to arrive, the next issue is whether the patrol is able to resolve the problem and get you moving again. More than a third of respondents (38 per cent) reported
that their car was fixed permanently at the side of the road. However, a similar number (36 per cent) said they had to be towed, with 16 per cent of these having to be taken to a garage for further help.

Again, the result of your call-out differed depending on which provider your cover is with, and motorists who use Rescue my Car were the most likely (46 per cent) to get a permanent fix by the roadside. But of the respondents using National Breakdown, 33 per cent had to be towed to a garage.

Respondents to our Driver Power survey gave wildly varying scores on the time it took breakdown operators to respond to a call-out and the outcome – so when their cover expired, did they look elsewhere to ensure they were getting the best deal? Apparently not, as 43 per cent of you still receive your breakdown cover free with another service. And for those drivers who do shop around, price is the key factor.

So, once all these things have been taken into account, how did your breakdown operator fare? Over the next four pages, we count down Britain’s best and worst services. And turn to Page 80 to find out which company came out on top.

1. GEM Motoring Assist

An almost perfect score from GEM Motoring Assist. The brand has dominated the Driver Power breakdown chart for years, and after being knocked off the top spot in 2012 by AutoAid, it’s had an emphatic return to form. Customers were glowing in their praise, with your comments including “excellent service and value” and “friendly, good range of services and doesn’t rip you off”. What more could you ask for from a breakdown operator?

2. LV= Britannia Rescue

There is a huge gap between the top two and the rest – LV= Britannia Rescue is almost three per cent clear of its closest rival, the RAC. And it was awarded top-five finishes in every category. The comments we received on the service were almost universally positive. “Reliable, helpful, quick to respond and good value,” said one customer. “Would recommend to anyone,” explained another. Still, it couldn’t take the top spot from an old Driver Power favourite...

3. RAC

Once again, the RAC has edged out its chief competitor, the AA. And this year it’s seized a podium spot, too. But, just like its arch-rival, it comes in for heavy criticism over pricing, with your comments ranging from “good as long as you keep a check on the price charged” to “average service at high cost”. There was plenty of praise for other areas of its service, but the RAC has to address customer dissatisfaction over premiums.

4. AA

The UK’s biggest breakdown operator has cemented last year’s two-position climb up our table with a repeat performance in 2013. It’s good to see a brand with the AA’s stature in the top five, but disappointing that it’s criticised for high prices. One customer told us: “I have to threaten to leave every year to get the AA to match its offer on comparison websites.” Another said: “It offers cheaper rates on the Internet than for existing members.”

5. More Than

The breakdown arm of insurance company More Than has registered an enormous improvement in 2013. It’s held on to its impressive third place for speed of recovery and improved its ranking in most categories. The only black marks are for prices, plus the fact its policies are no longer available as standalone products. Still, praise from customers included “always arrived within 40 minutes when used” and “it’s great that cover is valid throughout Europe”.

6. Autonational Rescue

Autonational Rescue came within a whisker of a top-five finish. And were it not for a lacklustre score for its staff’s general presentation, it may well have made it. This is a consistent gripe – it finished 11th in this category last year, and is ranked 10th here in 2013. Our readers seemed to be most impressed by Autonational’s premiums. One respondent said: “Probably not as good at fixing faults as the AA and RAC, but more reasonably priced.”

7. Allianz Global Assistance 

A Decent result for Allianz’s breakdown service – also known as Mondial Assistance. It’s risen four places up our chart. Many customers get free cover when they buy their car (or with their bank account or extended warranty), and feedback is mostly positive. “Has always delivered a good call-out service,” reported one respondent. Another said: “Great service on the road, but not very helpful at head office.”

8. Tesco

This year’s most improved operator is Tesco, which rises six places to 8th. Impressive, as it was ranked worst for friendliness and helpfulness and general presentation in 2012. This year you gave it reasonable ratings for both. The higher-ranked RAC provides breakdown services for the supermarket giant, but customer comments indicate people are largely happy to buy via Tesco. One told us it was “efficient and good value”, and another said it was “lovely”.

9. Green Flag

No change for the UK’s third biggest breakdown operator – even its overall score is near-identical to last year’s (81.02 per cent). As in 2012, Green Flag’s scorecard is consistently mediocre, with category rankings of eight, nine and 10. Your comments back this up: “Impolite but able to fix rudimentary problems,” said one underwhelmed driver. Plenty of others were satisfied with the service, but this result suggests Green Flag must try harder.

10. AutoAid

A devastating drop down the table for 2012’s number one breakdown operator. AutoAid still leads the way on value, but its service leaves a lot to be desired elsewhere. The company has a unique approach: drivers pay for the cost of recovery if they need it, and claim the money back from AutoAid. And despite the sharp fall, customers still appear to be impressed overall. Typical comments included “excellent value” and “very efficient, cheap and helpful”.

11. National Breakdown

A reasonable result for National Breakdown in Driver Power 2013: it moves up two places and sees its overall score increase by five per cent. The comments we received from its customers weren’t, on the whole, negative. “Adequate,” said one, while another told us National Breakdown “does the job”. This seems to sum up the company: while the service is acceptable, National doesn’t make much effort to go above and beyond the call of duty.

12. Rescue My Car

Two years ago, online operator Rescue My Car finished third in Driver Power. But it’s a very different story in 2013, as it plunges to 12th place. The company uses a network of local operators rather than its own employees, and tailors quotes to each customer. But while drivers tell us they love the low prices, service in
other areas is found wanting, with one respondent summing it up perfectly by telling us: “You get what you pay for.”

Best breakdown cover providers 2014

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