Breakdown cover, like car insurance, is one of those financial products you spend money on in the hope that you will never need it.
However, should one of your tyres blow-out on the motorway, or your engine cut out on a remote country lane, you will be relieved to have a breakdown service ready to come to your aid.
Here, we explain the different types of breakdown cover available and look at ways to keep the cost down, while ensuring that you and your car have the protection you need.
The different types of breakdown cover
When buying breakdown cover, the first decision to make is whether you want to protect your car or you as an individual.
The first type, known as vehicle cover, entitles you to assistance in the event of a specific car, van or motorbike breaking down, regardless of who is driving it.
Personal cover, on the other hand, means you can call out the breakdown service whether you are the driver or a passenger in the vehicle concerned.
Vehicle breakdown cover is the cheaper option because less protection is afforded to the policyholder. However, it might be worth paying more for personal cover if you drive more than one vehicle regularly, for example.
Other factors to consider when searching for a breakdown policy include whether the provider uses local garages or has its own dedicated patrols, and whether there is a cap on the number of call-outs you can make in a given time period.
The different levels of cover
The cheapest and basic level of breakdown cover is called 'Roadside' and provides breakdown patrol assistance should you suffer breakdown at the side of the road.
Cover of this type can cost from just 20 a year. However, the cost of any replacement parts will not be covered if your vehicle cannot be repaired at the side of the road.
The second option is 'National' or 'Recovery' cover, which includes onward transport for you, your passengers and your vehicle in the event of a breakdown during a journey.
'Home Start', meanwhile, includes assistance at your home should your vehicle refuse to start.
'Onward Travel', which is the most complete package available, also covers the costs of any unexpected accommodation and car hire.
You pay a lot for the extras, though; with 'Onward Travel' cover often coming in at more than 100 a year.
**European breakdown cover
If breaking down by the side of the road is stressful in the UK, the same experience while overseas can be a lot worse especially if you do not speak the local language.
Because the expense incurred can also be huge, European breakdown cover could prove a wise buy if you are planning a Continental road trip.
Policies of this kind can usually be bought either to last for the length your trip or as a 12-month add-on to a UK breakdown policy.
The best option for you will depend on how long you are planning to be away and whether you expect to take your car to Europe again within the next year.
Keeping costs down
As described above, you can limit the cost of breakdown cover by choosing a basic package.
However, other ways to reduce costs include avoiding making claims unless they are really necessary. This is because many breakdown insurance providers offer cheaper renewal deals to existing customers who have not made a claim during the previous 12 months.
However, the easiest way to ensure you are not paying over the odds for breakdown cover is to shop around for the best deal.
Whether you are buying it for the first time or looking for a cheap renewal quote, MoneySupermarket can help you find the best value policy for your needs.
This article has been researched and written by whatcar.com's car insurance partner, MoneySupermarket**