Best breakdown cover 2016

27 Jul, 2016 8:50am Martin Saarinen

If you’re stranded at the roadside, you need a breakdown service you can rely on. Our results reveal Britain’s best

Owning a car can be an expensive business, as running costs and insurance premiums soon add up. Yet many of us choose to spend that little bit extra and opt for breakdown cover, knowing that if we get stuck at the side of the road, help will only be a phone call away.

But which provider should you invest your money in, and is one type of cover that much different from the next? The results of our Driver Power 2016 survey will help you answer these questions, so you can find the perfect breakdown 
operator. This year we’ve ranked the top five breakdown providers in the UK, as voted by motorists.

Why did you call them out?

Mechanical fault 36%
Flat battery 24%
Other 20%
Puncture 16%
Misfuel  3%
Ran out of Fuel 1%

This year, most motorists found themselves on the roadside as a result of mechanical faults, with flat batteries causing a further quarter of all breakdown calls. Punctures are still responsible for nearly a fifth of call-outs, while a further three per cent were for misfuelling. Surprisingly, just one per cent of respondents ran out of fuel. 

How long did it take breakdown provider to arrive at your vehicle?

Less than 30 minutes 24%
30 minutes – 1 hour 52%
1 hour – 2 hours  17%
2 hours – 3 hours  5%
More than 3 hours  2%

Being stranded at the roadside isn’t fun, and the sooner a recovery service arrives the better. Nearly a quarter of drivers waited less than 30 minutes, while over half were seen within the hour – a step up from the last two years. Nearly 90 per cent of motorists were happy with how soon their providers arrived, showing patrols are doing a good job on the whole. 

Result of call out 

The problem was permanently fixed 32%
The problem was temporarily fixed 25%
I was towed to a garage of my choice 19%
I was towed to a garage of the provider’s choice 2%
I was towed to a location of my choice 17%
They couldn’t help me 5%

A quick response is great, but the problem still needs to be resolved; this is where the best breakdown providers stand out. The most convenient solution is to have the problem fixed there and then, as was the case for 32 per cent of our respondents. A further 25 per cent said their provider came up with a temporary fix. But roadside repairs aren’t always possible; in 19 per cent of cases drivers were towed to a garage of their choice. The provider couldn’t assist in just five per cent of breakdowns. 

Reasons for choosing provider? 

Price  33%
Came free when I bought the car 29%
Good service 24%
Reputation 23%
Used them in the past 17%
Came free with another service 16%
Range of services 13%
Recommendation 9%
Other 7%
Loyalty programme 6%

On top of speed and the quality of service, what do owners look for in a policy? Most of you cited price as the main factor. However, a large share of policies were bought on a good reputation and good service. Manufacturers and dealers clearly believe in breakdown cover, too; 28 per cent of respondents told us it came free with their new car.

So, next time your policy is up for renewal, which should you go for? Our rankings show the top five UK breakdown firms to help you decide.

5. Green Flag – 82.99%

Green Flag has dropped from third place in last year’s survey to fifth this year. The company was ranked second for value in 2015, but policyholders found the service more expensive this year, with one saying: “I think Green Flag are a good breakdown provider, but I’m disappointed with the annual premium increases.”

The main gripes, however, were the slow response times and lack of friendliness from staff. Green Flag was slowest to reach motorists, taking 64 minutes, with 16.9 per cent of our readers saying the recovery speed wasn’t quick enough to be acceptable.

Average arrival time? 64 Minutes   
Top result of call out? 30.7% permanent fix 

4. RAC – 84.79%

The RAC climbed up a place this year, largely thanks to an impressive second for general presentation. It continues to be praised for its ability to fix faults, too, with owners rating the company highly for its swift and knowledgeable repairs.

To keep up the momentum, bosses need to improve how they keep customers up to date on repairs, as well as boosting their policies’ value for money. One reader told us: “The RAC is very good, but expensive.” Another added: “The RAC increased my annual premium fee, which I had to negotiate down.”

Average arrival time? 61 Minutes
Top result of call out? 34.9% permanent fix 

3. Britannia Rescue – 87.57%

Britannia Rescue is also up a place this year, thanks to excellent scores in arrival times and keeping customers informed. In fact, it had the highest percentage of recoveries in under 30 minutes, at 35.1 per cent – that’s over 10 per cent up on the next best.

What could have been an even stronger overall finish was hampered by poor results in the ability to fix a fault and general presentation categories. Still, one reader said: “Superb, timely, courteous and response times are fantastic. I also get European cover which is important and hotel accommodation if required.”

Average arrival time? 42 Minutes   
Top result of call out? 32.4% Towed to location 

2. GEM Motoring Assist – 88.64%

GEM Motoring Assist has been your top breakdown service for the last three years, but slips down a spot this year. Policyholders still praise its great value for money, plus the way it keeps owners informed during repairs. It has the second quickest arrival time, at 51 minutes, and proves very capable of fixing the fault.

The brand has a loyal user base, as one reader told us: “I wouldn’t consider using anyone else.” But if GEM wants to get back to the top of the Driver Power chart next year, it needs to improve general presentation and hire some more friendly staff.

Average arrival time? 51 Minutes   
Top result of call out? 28.1% permanent fix

1. AA – 88.80%

One of the UK’s oldest and most famous breakdown providers is now also the best, as the AA has claimed top spot in Driver Power.

The ability to fix the fault is a priority for any company in this market, and the AA ranked first in the category. It also achieved the highest permanent fix rate – over 40 per cent of respondents could continue their journey without needing to visit a garage.

AA staff were found to be the most friendly and helpful, too. One reader explained: “The AA has always provided a very efficient and friendly service, whatever the problem.”

Average arrival time? 55 Minutes   
Top result of call out? 40.7% permanent fix

Now see the best cars to own in 2016, compiled from Driver Power data.

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