Best breakdown car cover for students
Cars don't come cheap these days – with tax, car insurance and fuel to pay for, it can be tempting to skip breakdown cover. Here's how to get it for less!If you've ever broken down without the right cover, you'll know just how much of a nightmarish situation it can be. And with breakdown policies coming in at just a few quid a month (if you know where to look!) it really is a no-brainer.
Whilst your regular car insurance will cover you if you're in an accident on the road, it won't have your back if your car suddenly decides to pack in when you need it most (like when you're half way along the motorway, for instance!).
This guide to breakdown car cover for students reveals everything you need to know about choosing the right kind of policy, as well as some great tips for saving money while you're at it.
What's on this page?
There are a few different levels of breakdown car insurance that will cover you for different situations.
It's just a matter of assessing your situation and deciding which would be most useful in your time of need (although you can't exactly predict these things, can you!).
The three levels of cover include:
With basic cover, your car will be fixed at the roadside or towed to the nearest garage if it breaks down. It usually won't cover you if you break down less than a quarter of a mile from your home. In that case, you'll be needing…
Home start cover
Added to the basic cover, home start insurance will provide assistance if you can't get your car started outside your home. If your car tends to be a bit unreliable, this might be a sensible choice!
Onward travel cover
This more comprehensive service is best suited to those who do a lot of travelling, or are heavily reliant on their car for getting to work.
With onward travel insurance, you'll be provided with a hire car for up to three days if your car breaks down, as well as a night's accommodation and any travel expenses that you incur getting to your destination.
Personal vs. vehicle cover
Another thing to consider is that you can choose to cover a vehicle (most likely your own car, if you have one) or you can opt for personal breakdown insurance, which will cover you if you spend a lot of time driving other people's cars (if you get a lift to uni or work each day, for example).
Personal breakdown insurance will cover you even if you're just a passenger in a car, but it's worth noting that this type of insurance tends to be a fair bit more pricey than vehicle breakdown insurance.
Beware of exclusions
Some companies have exclusions on their policies, such as breakdowns due to human error – for example, running out of fuel or leaving the lights on all night and waking up to a flat car battery.
Others might have a limit on the number of call-outs you can have in a year. Moral of the story? Always read the small print!
Pay up front rather than monthly
Although paying monthly can be convenient if you don't have the cash to shell out in a oner, it's worth noting that if you choose to pay in instalments, you're likely to shell out a lot more overall.
As you can see from RAC's monthly payments versus up-front annual payments, you'll be paying £28.57 more over the course of the year (so almost double!) just for the privilege of paying monthly.
Never choose automatic renewal
When your policy is up for renewal, never feel pressured to stay loyal and never opt for automatic renewal!
Rates will probably have changed since the last time you researched them, so check that your policy is still competitively priced.
If not, don't be scared to go elsewhere (and remember that companies like Green Flag will offer you 50% what you're quoted to renew from AA or RAC, so this will be the cheapest option).
Don't be afraid to haggle
Similarly, when you call up to renew or cancel your policy, don't forget to get your haggle on – if you've not had a call out all year now is the time to mention it!
Breakdown insurance companies have been proven to be the most lenient when it comes to haggling, so now's your chance to strut your stuff – and here's a guide to help you master the art.
Use cashback sites
Using cashback sites when you take out your policy could substantially reduce the price of your breakdown cover.
Before taking out your policy, check if there's any cashback offers available. Both RAC and the AA currently offer really decent cashback on breakdown policies, so it's worth taking advantage of this.
For example, AA's basic cover comes with £15.40 cashback on policies over £30, which brings their basic cover down from £49 to £33.60!
Check you aren't already covered
If you've recently bought a brand new car (lucky you), there's a chance you might already be covered for the first year, as many manufacturers offer this as part of the package.
Some insurance companies also include a free breakdown service in their regular car insurance policies, so check that you aren't paying for something that you already have.
Some bank accounts (although not student ones, unfortunately) will cover you too, so it's worthwhile checking that your bank doesn't offer this service as part of your account package.
Only take the level of cover that you need
Don't be fooled into thinking you need the most expensive policy available.
If you're lucky enough to have a fairly new car, the likelihood of needing comprehensive cover is pretty slim.
Read the small print and only pay for what you really do need. It's also worth keeping your car in good nick with a visit to Halfords every now and then!
Try joint or family cover
Nearly all breakdown insurance providers will have a family cover option, or allow you to take out a joint policy with someone you live with. Although these joint policies will of course be more expensive, splitting the cost it will make it work out cheaper.
It's even possible in some cases to get joint personal coverage, meaning you'll both be covered in any situation as driver or passenger.
You don't have to drive the same car to be covered, but can still be on the same policy.
There are a lot of breakdown car insurance providers to choose from, but some offer better deals and levels of service than others.
Here's a selection of the best options available to students, plus perks to bring costs down!
Vehicle cover: £49/year
Personal cover: £59/year
The AA offers basic roadside cover for £49/year, with packages going up to £90+ for more comprehensive services.
This basic cover gets you unlimited call-outs in the year and free fuel top-ups.
Note that there is a cheaper coverage available from AA at just £29 a year, but this will only cover you for one call out a year (any additional call-outs costing £99 each!) so we think it's definitely worth shelling out the additional tenner.
Which? magazine voted the AA the best breakdown cover provider, and they have more dedicated vehicles on the road than any other breakdown provider, meaning you're likely to receive help quickly.
Vehicle cover: £29.99/year (or £4.88/month)
Personal cover: £48.99/year (or £6.46/month)
Cover with the RAC starts at £29.99, and goes up to as much as £138 if you need more options.
RAC offer good value for money and their average call out time is almost the same as AA (give or take a few minutes).
RAC claim that 4 out of 5 cars are fixed on the roadside within 30 minutes, and 92% of current members say that they'd recommend them to friends and family.
Whilst RAC allow you to pay for your coverage in monthly instalments, note that you'll be paying substantially more if you do.
Vehicle cover: £25/year
Personal cover: varies
Green Flag are a little different to The AA and RAC in the fact they will often sub-contract work out to local garages instead of using their own fleet.
They are still, however, a great option and well respected nationally.
Cover starts from £25 a year and they promise to give you 50% off your renewal quote from AA or RAC if you switch to them (and your car is less than 10 years old).
If you decide to go with a lesser-known provider, make sure you research them thoroughly before signing anything. You might regret saving a just a couple of quid a year…
Investing in some breakdown car cover will take away some of the worries of having your own vehicle, and could save you a fortune in the long term.
Without the fear of your car breaking down, you can drive around safe in the knowledge that if the worst does happen, it'll all be taken care of with the minimum amount of fuss. All that for less than the cost of a pint every month… result!
Have you had a particularly good or terrible experience with your breakdown cover? Please let us know in the comments.