Don’t skimp on breakdown cover – if you do, it could cost you dear

Insurance, tax, fuel, MOT: all unavoidable costs for Britain’s motorists and that’s even before you factor in Congestion Charge, ULEZ, car parking charges, servicing and maintenance.

So, what’s got to give?

Breakdown cover, for many, might be seen as an unnecessary luxury, particularly when the price cap for household energy is set to approach £4k and all manner of bills are piling up.

And for those who have a reliable runner that hasn’t given up the ghost for the past five years, you might consider it a worthy saving.

However, sod’s law tells you that the moment you decide to cancel your professional roadside assistance, the inevitable will happen, and you’ll find yourself stranded, and very possibly at the mercy of an unskilled recovery agent who will make you pay through the nose.


Unqualified breakdown operator

Unqualified breakdown operators

Unqualified and inexperienced recovery agents are a problem for a number of reasons.

Firstly, your vehicle is at real risk of damage because many of these traders simply haven’t undertaken any formal or appropriate training to do the job properly, or kept themselves up to date.

Many newer vehicles, particularly EVs, plug-in hybrids and those with modern-day automatic transmissions require considerable care and skill to recover. Repairing any drivetrain damage in these vehicles could run to many thousands of pounds and many operators have no obligation to pay for damage incurred.

Often, these unskilled traders lack the right level of professional insurance cover, so even bodywork dents endured during a recovery from one these individuals could cost you hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.

Worse still, these operators can pose a danger to you.


Breakdown Recovery Operator

Remember that bona-fide operators, such as Start Rescue agents, are required to clear a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Without affiliation, anyone and everyone can operate a recovery truck.

Let’s imagine you’ve broken down on the M1. It’s late, cold, raining and dark. With no breakdown cover, it’s likely a Traffic Officer will come to assist. Fine, but this comes at a cost – minimum £150, and that will only get you to the nearest safe refuge – possibly the nearest service station.

But the Traffic Officer could leave you outside a dealership or garage without any access to emergency accommodation. You are literally on your own. Even Start Rescue’s most basic breakdown cover includes emergency accommodation, so at least you will have somewhere comfortable to stay overnight.


Breakdown Cover for Flat Tyre

Tyre-some situations

Accidents happen, and they often immobilise a vehicle meaning you can’t drive to your destination.

A simple flat tyre can halt a journey, and it’s not a good idea to attempt a wheel change on the hard shoulder.

Indeed, many newer cars aren’t even equipped with a spare wheel. They have a ‘pump and goo’ tyre sealant system that might fix small punctures but won’t repair a torn sidewall or major blowout.

Reputable breakdown operators will get you to a tyre outlet or fit your spare wheel without exposing you to the danger of passing traffic.

For more serious incidents involving significant vehicle damage, a flatbed recovery is often the best option – or a tow recovery in certain cases – so it’s vital you get cover from a well-resourced company such as Start Rescue which is a strong supporter of the PAS 43 standard.


What is PAS 43 and why does it matter?

The British Standards Institute (BSI) ‘Safe Working of Vehicle Breakdown Management System Specification’ (known as ‘PAS 43’ in the trade) is a set of standards for professional recovery operators to work to.

It contains detailed operating procedures, recovery vehicle minimum standards, equipment requirements, training competence and behaviour and customer service guidelines.

Clearly, using operators who have the PAS 43 standard is hugely preferable and should provide drivers with extra confidence.

If they’re bothered to be PAS 43 compliant, you can be assured they've met a whole range of professional standards in order to carry out that work.


Breakdown recovery operator

Top breakdown recovery tips

  • Get covered! Having no breakdown cover leaves you at the mercy of rogue traders
  • Use a reputable breakdown assistance provider such as Start Rescue
  • Have the breakdown cover’s contact details stored in your phone
  • Check the recovery agent’s credentials. Reputable operators should show ID
  • Read your vehicle handbook to check for any special recovery instructions
  • Check for vehicle damage straight after recovery; report any problems immediately