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1 Oct 2021

Revealed: Which? car survey results show most breakdowns happen at home

If your current plan doesn't cover you at home, our expert advice will help you shop around for a superior alternative

As part of this year's Which? car survey, we quizzed over 50,000 motorists on their experiences with car breakdown cover. After crunching the numbers, we discovered that nearly half of recorded breakdowns, a hefty 47%, happen right on your doorstep.

With that eyebrow-raising stat in mind, you might be considering a car breakdown plan that has you covered at home. Choosing the right package means you'll be treated to a reliable service that doesn't take an age to reach you. However, we've also heard from unlucky drivers that have been forced to wait over 2 hours for assistance, which simply isn't good enough.

Below, we take a closer look at how home cover works, how to find out if you're already covered and, crucially, what to do if you're not.

We've compared 26 car breakdown cover companies to see how happy their customers are. Read through the results in our guide on the best car breakdown providers for 2021.

Home breakdown cover explained

The results of the latest Which? car survey show that most breakdowns happen at home. Sadly, breakdown providers are well aware of this, which is why they usually charge extra if your car won't start at home. If you're paying for at-home breakdown cover, you'll be able to call for assistance without that additional charge.

Major breakdown cover providers have different names for their at-home plans. For example, AA refers to it as Home Start, while Green Flag simply calls it 'Cover at home'. When shopping around, note that not every plan will include assistance at a home address - Green Flag's standard Rescue plan doesn't tick this box, but its Rescue Plus plan does.

Most new cars are sold with some form of breakdown cover included, although the length of cover (and what it offers) varies depending on the manufacturer. Usually, manufacturer cover lasts for between one and three years.

Do I really need home breakdown cover?

Considering the majority of vehicle breakdowns take place at home, investing in a plan that covers this isn't a bad idea. As part of our survey, we spoke to around 3,000 drivers who had dealt with a breakdown at home.

The results of our survey also show that a third of people with breakdown cover don't have a policy that includes home assistance. If you've purchased your breakdown provider's cheapest package, at-home cover might not be included.

As you can see from our graphic, far more vehicle breakdowns take place at home compared to in town or in rural areas. Only 12% of respondents said they had experienced a problem on the motorway or dual carriageway.

What happens if I break down without home cover?

If your vehicle decides to cause problems at home and you aren't covered by your current plan, you'll either need to pay a call-out fee or add home cover right away. Our pricing research shows that, in some cases, you could be expected to cough up £100 on the spot for this.

Third-party breakdown cover compared: which home cover plan is cheapest?

If your current breakdown policy is set to auto-renew, you might want to change that - it rarely pays to stay loyal to one provider, and shopping around can save you a tidy sum.

To help you compare costs, we've rounded up details for 12 third-party breakdown cover providers.

Annual cost: roadside assistanceAnnual cost: roadside assistance and home coverAnnual cost: roadside assistance, home cover and national recoveryProvided by
AXA (a)£19.99N/A (b)£56.99AXA
Start Rescue£19.75N/A (b)£30.80Call Assist
The AA£59£119£139AA
Admiral£44.95N/A (b)£90.45AA
LV Britannia Rescue£30£63£99LV Britannia Rescue
Autoaid BreakdownN/AN/A£59.99 (c,d,e)Call Assist
GEM Motoring AssistN/AN/A£96.66 (c,e,f)Call Assist

In terms of policies that include at-home cover as standard (with annual payment), Start Rescue 3 Star is the cheapest option at £30.80. This plan also includes national recovery, which includes a tow to any UK destination if you break down.

Buyers on a budget might also consider Green Flag at £38.08, or Allianz Assistance Silver at £52 per year.

For our in-depth reviews of plans offered by AA, Green Flag, RAC and Start Rescue, consult our car breakdown cover brand reviews.

Shopping for breakdown cover

Once you start looking around for a new car breakdown policy, you need to think about more than price. Have a read through each company's terms and look out for these key features:

  • Personal cover or vehicle cover - we've found that personal cover tends to be the pricier option. Personal cover is assigned to you, so no matter which car you break down in, your provider will be able to help. Vehicle cover is tied to the vehicle, so anybody driving it when it develops a fault will be able to call for assistance.
  • Callout limits - some providers will place a restriction on how many times you can ask for assistance if your car breaks down. In fact, we've seen some basic plans that only allow two or three callouts per year.
  • Misfuelling - putting the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle could be a particularly costly mistake as some plans won't cover engine draining. That process can cost anywhere between £150 to £300.

For more expert tips on how to find the perfect breakdown plan for you, check in with our guide on how to buy the best breakdown cover.