You are of course legally obliged to take out car insurance if you drive a car on UK public roads, to at least ‘third party’ level (which means you're covered if you are responsible for injury/damage to another person or their property).
But does car insurance cover you for breakdown repairs?
In short, your car insurance does not cover you for breakdown repairs. It only covers you for things like injury or damage resulting from an accident (to another car, or public/private property), fire, theft and vandalism. What's covered depends on the policy itself; 'comprehensive' cover will cover all these eventualities.
So what if I break down and need repairs?
If you don't have separate breakdown insurance and you break down, you will have to pay for any repair or towing fees from your own pocket. But if you have breakdown insurance, your provider will send someone to assist you. Simple repairs are often provided free of charge, along with recovery to a garage or your home.
You may have to pay for more serious repairs yourself unless you have another applicable insurance policy. Exactly what's covered varies between policies.
Breakdown insurance is not a legal requirement, although for many drivers it is regarded as essential.
NB: some insurers offer specific Repair Cover, to help cover repair costs following a breakdown.
Breakdowns within your car's warranty period
If your car breaks down within its warranty period (included when you bought the car), you can usually claim for the cost of repair. But liability normally only extends to:
- Engine and transmission
- Fuel and ignition systems
- Air conditioning
- Steering and suspension
- Clutch and brakes
Most new cars come with a three-year warranty, although they normally stipulate a mileage limit (often 100,000 miles). Some new cars come with a five-year warranty, further allaying worries over future repair bills. Used cars normally come with shorter warranties (3, 6 or 12 months) because they are older and more likely to break down and need repairs.
If your car is no longer under warranty from the manufacturer (or the dealer in the case of used cars), you may be able to take out a special warranty insurance policy. What's covered varies between policies, and it may be more difficult to get insurance for older cars. Warranty insurance is similar to the warranty that originally came with your car (but has now lapsed).