Owning a car is expensive, and you won’t see much return on a lot of your outlay. Take breakdown cover: according to Driver Power, 94 per cent of you have it, yet only 30 per cent have used it. But which provider is best? We’ve taken data from the 50,000 responses to our 2014 survey to name the top five.
Remarkably, 81 per cent of you think you’re getting good value even though you don’t use the service very often. When drivers do have to call on their provider, the most common reason is a mechanical fault (41 per cent), but a quarter put it down to a flat battery.
One of the most important factors when considering a breakdown operator is the speed of recovery. The majority of drivers think between 30 minutes and an hour is an acceptable time to wait.
And breakdown providers are doing a good job of meeting expectations. More than half of Driver Power 2014 respondents had been reached in this timeframe, while one in five had assistance within half an hour.
It’s all very well being attended to quickly – as you’ll spend less time on the side of the road – but just as important is what the mechanic does for you when they arrive. Ideally, you want the problem fixed there and then, so you can head on your way. Only about a third (30.2 per cent) of drivers experienced this, while a quarter got a temporary fix; the next best outcome was to be towed to a garage of the motorist’s choice.
Bearing all of this in mind, what do our Driver Power respondents say is the main reason for selecting breakdown cover? Last year, it was the fact it came free with another service, but price has now taken over as the key factor, suggesting drivers are more interested in getting a bargain.
So when your policy is up for renewal, which operator should you plump for? Our ranking lists the UK’s top five – so if you’re not happy with your existing provider, why not try one of these?
Was there really any doubt which company would claim top billing in the Driver Power breakdown operator charts? GEM Motoring Assist has blown away the competition once again, and its latest overall score is higher than ever. GEM won every category this year, and its arrival time is superb – 60.5 per cent of patrols turned up within 30 minutes to hour. Good service breeds loyalty, with one reader saying: “First-rate service. No plans to change.”
Another impressive showing for Britannia Rescue as it stays in second, but improves its overall score to break the 90 per cent barrier, and keeps well clear of third. Customers were full of praise for their cover, with one saying: “Good, efficient, professional and capable – exactly what is needed.” And the quality of service is matched by a competitive premium. It cleaned up in the phone ordering category, and that’s why it’s stormed into second place.
It's been a great year for Green Flag as it climbs six places in our chart to third, with its overall score rising by six per cent. Last year it scored consistently around 10th position in all categories, and now it’s closing in on first. Customers were pleased with Green Flag’s “fast and polite” response, plus its decent value. High scores for online and phone ordering help bump its overall rating to third – in fact, it finished ahead of the AA in these categories.
One of the biggest names in motoring, and the largest breakdown operator in the UK, the AA holds on to fourth place in our chart. And it edges its arch rival, the RAC. What impacts the overall score and stops the company from moving above other operators is its online and phone ordering services, which were significantly below rivals. Premiums were another sticking point. One owner told us: “I think the AA has become a bit pricey in recent years.”
After the RAC made it on to the podium in 2013, it’s fallen by two places this year. This is despite the fact its score has increased by one per cent, implying it’s maintained standards, but that rivals have upped their game. The biggest criticism was the telephone experience. And while the overall service scores highly, it comes at a price. One motorist said: “Expensive, but reliable.” Another added: “I may pay over the odds, but service is excellent.”
Is your breakdown cover provider good, bad or indifferent? Click here to take part in the 2015 Driver Power survey and tell us.