When it comes to breakdown cover, we’re never too sure what to look for. It seems every company offers the same types of cover under their basic coverage. Many breakdowns can be fixed roadside or if it can’t be fixed roadside you should be able to pick up a tow to a close by a garage and have it fixed there. Even if these aren’t fixable, many companies now offer onward travel, the ability to carry on your journey in a hire vehicle so that your trip is hardly interrupted. With so much being offered by every company, it makes you believe that no matter where you go you will receive the best care. This doesn’t seem to be the case, with many having horror stories of how they were treated by breakdown companies warning new customers to avoid them at all costs.
Since its founding in 1905, the AA has been known as a strong member of the Automobile industry. Formerly known as The Automobile Association, the company used to be owned by the customers, for the customers. However, in 1999 they changed to private ownership. With the customers still at heart, in 2002 they introduced the AA motoring trust. This ensured public car safety and helped the environment. After so many years in the industry, they’ve become the biggest breakdown cover provider in the UK with their team reaching around 7454 employees in 2017.
The Royal Automotive Club was founded in 1897, making it one of the oldest breakdown companies in the UK. Since then the company has gone through quite a few changes in ownership, in 2005 the RAC was acquired by Aviva for 6 years before selling the company to Carlyle Group in 2011. Over 2014 and 2015 the company was sold off to GIC Private LTD and CVC Capital Partners, selling the shares 50/50. With their new owners they have expanded their subsidiaries as they now also help with financial services and insurance.
The breakdown of the AA and RAC breakdown covers
When it comes to basic cover, both companies follow similar routines. Both offer 24/7 roadside assistance for yourself or a specific vehicle, with the ability to tow your vehicle to the closest garage if you cannot have your problem fixed on the roadside. They do differ in price, however, for new customers, the basic package price with AA is £49 for the year whereas RAC starts at £60 for the year.
A step up from the basic coverage is the national recovery. This allows you to be taken to any garage of your preference around the UK. This is mainly used so that you can be taken close to your destination or your home to have your car fixed. When using both companies it can take more than one recovery vehicle to get you to your destination. These can develop problems with many having to wait at county lines for the next recovery vehicle to arrive. With the RAC it’s important to sort out your recovery whilst they’re at the scene. This extra service costs an extra £76 a year with the AA or an extra £55 with the RAC.
Under regular breakdown cover if you’re at home or within ¼ mile of your home then you’ll not be covered for repairs. At home simply covers you for these instances, they’ll help try and get your vehicle up and running for your journey, however, if they’re unable to fix the problem then they’ll tow it to a local garage for them to repair. With the AA having this service along with national recovery allow you to be put into their popular cover bracket where they will charge you £125 for the year overall or £12.50 a month. With the RAC you’ll be looking to add an extra £20 for the annual total in your first year.
Onward travel is designed to keep you on the go even if your car isn’t. If, after attempting to fix your car on the roadside and at a garage, both are unsuccessful then you’ll have the ability to reach your destination courtesy of these companies. Both offer the same options for you to reach your destination. Option one is to have a hire car for 3 days, this allows you to reach your destination and return the car by the time yours is fixed. If you’re not needing to travel but are willing to wait for your car to be fixed, then you have the ability to charge the companies a one-night stay at a hotel with a limit to 3 people or less the £500. The final option is to have public transport paid for to reach your destination, ideally, this would be used for short distances however the limit once again is £500 to reach the destination. With the AA you’ll only be paying an extra £10 for the year for this service whereas with RAC you’ll be paying £20 on top of the annual sum.
With the RAC’s smart cover builder you have the option for many smaller coverages. This covers things such as lost car and house keys, the allowance of 5 tyre changes each year. They also offer battery replacements with this cover they will help fit you a new battery in the car if you have a battery to replace it with. If you don’t have a battery then they’ll supply you with a new one given it costs less than £600. This service is available with the AA if you have home cover, however, you’ll have to purchase the battery yourself.
Overall these companies are very similar in size and in service. With the RAC costing less per annum and with more detailed coverage it seems that they just take the lead at face value. It is worth mentioning that other competitors such as Green Flag who are a smaller company, however, offer great service to their customers is worth looking into for future breakdown cover.