Breakdown insurance - Vehicle damaged

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If you think that your car has been damaged by the breakdown mechanic, you should refuse to sign any documents and report the issue to the recovery company. It's crucial to do this as soon as you can, even if you're still at the roadside.

Get as much evidence as possible

Take photos and write a report of what happened as soon as possible.

Take notes as fully as you can, including the name of the recovery firm, times and dates. Then contact the firm to find out how it plans to rectify the issue.

What if they do not repair the damage?

If you aren't happy with the way that the company deals with the incident, you should submit a written complaint. The formal procedure for this will be set out in your policy terms and conditions. You will have been sent a copy of this after you took out the policy; if you can't find it, ask for another copy.

You should know

  • There are a number of types of breakdown policy. It is important that you understand exactly what your insurance policy covers.
  • You will generally be expected to keep your car roadworthy and in reasonable condition.
  • Following the start of your policy, there is often a period when you cannot make a claim.
  • If you have a breakdown, call the company immediately – do not email.
  • Breakdown insurance is covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service. It can help you resolve your issue after eight weeks.
  • If you’re making a complaint about making an insurance claim rather than a mis-sold policy, check your documents to see who the “underwriter” is. You’ll need to make a complaint to that organisation.

There are two types of breakdown cover. The first is a standard policy where you are charged an annual membership fee: this covers you for a certain number of call-outs per year. Your vehicle will be fixed and you will be charged no extra fee for the call-out. This is a convenient, no-fuss option, but it might not be the best choice if your car is on its last legs, due to the limited number of times that you can use the call-out service.
The second type of cover is often a cheaper option: it more closely resembles a traditional insurance policy. The breakdown cover company will use a local service, and you’ll have to pay upfront for the call-out and recovery. You then need to claim the money back from your breakdown cover provider. This could be a better, more economical option if you are able to pay for the call-out up front.

Types of breakdown cover

  • Roadside assistance. This will be included in all breakdown cover policies – a mechanic will arrive at the scene of the breakdown and attempt to fix the problem. If this isn’t possible, your car will be taken to the nearest garage or your home (usually whichever is closer). You will typically be entitled to up to an hour of free labour, but will have to pay for any car parts required.
  • Home assistance. Policies won’t usually cover you if you break down within quarter of a mile of your home, so if your car isn’t in the best of health and is likely to not start when parked on your driveway, home assistance could be a good option for you. 
  • Vehicle recovery. If your car can’t be fixed at the location of the breakdown, this level of policy will allow for your vehicle, along with any passengers, to be recovered either to a garage or your home.
  • Onward travel. This is the most comprehensive level of breakdown cover, but you will need to read the policy carefully because what it includes varies from company to company. It could include car hire, alternative transportation to your destination, or accommodation while your car is being repaired.

Who is covered?

Check whether your policy covers you – and therefore whatever car you are driving – or a specific vehicle. Understanding the type of policy will prevent you having issues if you need to make a claim.

A fair and reasonable complaint

If you have a complaint and cannot resolve it, you can escalate your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service via Resolver. The ombudsman will consider whether the policy’s terms and conditions are fair and reasonable, as well as whether you have been treated fairly. 

Your right to cancel

As long as you have bought your policy over the internet or phone, and not in a shop, you will have 14 days after purchasing it in which you can cancel.  The only exception to this is if you have an immediate need for the service, and you are asked to waive your right to cancel so that you can receive assistance straight away.

Cancelling your payment

If you intend to cancel your policy, contact your insurer: there might be a cancellation penalty if you have agreed to a specific contractual term. 

When you cancel your policy, you should also contact your bank and ensure that your continuous payment authority (payment from your credit or debit card) or direct debit is stopped.

Policy exclusions

All policies differ, so it is important to read the terms and conditions. In particular, you should keep an eye out for exclusions, or areas where you will not be covered.

For breakdown insurance, these could typically include:

  • A limit on the number of call-outs that you can make
  • A limit on the time between taking out the policy and making a claim 
  • A limit on the size of vehicle covered
  • Exclusions on issues that you might have caused, such as putting in the wrong fuel
  • Exclusions on parts of the vehicle, such as the wheels 
  • Exclusions on certain types of work because of security measures; for example if your car has a specialist locking nut and you do not have the necessary parts available.

Using wrong type of fuel

Recovery after you have put the wrong fuel into your vehicle is often excluded from your policy. If you are unsure, call your breakdown insurer and check. If such recovery is not included, the company should be able to recommend its own service or an affiliate service to help you resolve the problem.


It is normal for a policy to cover your vehicle even when you are towing. However, you should double-check your terms and conditions.  

Packaged bank accounts/car insurance

Before taking out breakdown insurance, check whether your bank account or car insurance already covers this service as part of any package.

If your issue is not resolved

If your issue is not resolved, you have the right to escalate your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The ombudsman will only accept your case eight weeks after you have raised the complaint with the insurance provider.

Resolver will help ensure that you have a fully packaged complaint to send to the ombudsman. It will look at your complaint and determine whether you have been treated fairly, and whether the company’s terms and conditions are fair and reasonable.

Any decision by the ombudsman is binding on the company, but it is only binding on you if you choose to accept the decision.

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