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What's the best breakdown cover for my car?

You’ll be glad to have an expert who can help if your car ever breaks down. We look at the options and find out which patrols do the best job...

Breakdown survey 2019
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Claire Evans
20 Nov 2018 17:02

Who is best at providing breakdown assistance? 

As part of the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey, we asked 18,119 car owners if they’d needed to call out a breakdown provider in the past 12 months. Only 13% of them (2320 people) had, and we asked each of them to tell us all about the experience to help us compare the performance of different breakdown service providers. 

The first area we focused on was how long it took for the patrol to arrive; the best charged to the rescue in less than 30 minutes and the worst sloped along more than two hours after the callout was made. 

The second area was how well the problem was resolved. The best outcome for car owners was to have their car repaired at the roadside so that they could carry on with their journey; the worst was the patrol not fixing their car or towing it somewhere for them. We used the scores for the two best outcomes in each area to rank the providers. 

How long did it take for assistance to arrive?

Time AA Green Flag Autoaid RAC LV Britannia Emergency Assist Allianz
Less than 30 mins 23% 22% 22% 17% 17% 14% 17%
30 mins to 1 hour 49% 51% 54% 42% 55% 39% 36%
1-2 hours 18% 19% 11% 22% 26% 18% 31%
More than 2 hours 10% 8% 14% 19% 2% 30% 16%
Average 0.9hr 0.9hr 1.0hr 1.2hr 0.9hr 1.3hr 1.2hr

The award for the speediest service went to the AA, which got to 23% of stricken cars in less than half an hour. Green Flag and Autoaid weren’t far behind, each reaching 22% of members within the 30 minutes. 

When it came to reaching the biggest proportion of members within 30 minutes to an hour, LV= Britannia Rescue was best, getting to 55% of people. Autoaid also performed well in this timeframe, reaching 54% of stranded vehicles. The latter was also the best at getting to breakdowns within an hour, reaching 76% of motorists in that time. 

Emergency Assist had the slowest response rate, getting to only 14% of people in 30 minutes and taking more than two hours to reach 30% of its members. It also had the worst average response rate of 1.3 hours. The RAC and Allianz Partners UK, which provides a specialist breakdown service to a number of car manufacturers rather than directly to customers, also lagged behind the best performers for overall speed of response, with an average arrival time of 1.2 hours. 

Problem resolved? AA Green Flag Autoaid RAC LV Britannia Emergency Assist Allianz
Car not fixed, not towed 7% 3% 3% 7% 2% 7% 7%
Car not fixed, but towed to garage 19% 25% 22% 19% 31% 39% 47%
Car not fixed, but towed to location 8% 14% 27% 9% 22% 14% 9%
Car fixed temporarily 27% 22% 16% 24% 21% 18% 21%
Car fixed permanently 38% 37% 32% 40% 24% 23% 16%
Overall score 69% 66% 62% 62% 59% 47% 45%

When it came to the standard of the work carried out at the roadside, the RAC had the edge. It had an impressive repair rate of 40% of cars fixed permanently, with 25% given a temporary fix that let them be driven. 

In response to our findings, the RAC said: “Our patrols pride themselves on fixing the vast majority of vehicles, as this survey confirms. This ultimately saves drivers time, inconvenience and money. When a fix isn’t possible, we’ve developed unique towing equipment that allows patrols to recover many more vehicles themselves, meaning drivers don’t have to wait for a flatbed.”

The AA and Green Flag wasn’t far behind the RAC, performing a permanent fix on 38% and 37% of cars respectively and temporarily repairing more than 20% of vehicles. 

In contrast, Allianz patrols only permanently repaired 16% of cars and towed nearly half (47%) to a garage instead. Allianz defended its position on recovering cars, saying: “Allianz Partners UK supports specific vehicle manufacturers and their products, so all repair processes must be in accordance with the relevant manufacturer standards and processes. Vehicles that are not permanently repaired at the roadside are recovered to the official repair network for full rectification under the manufacturer warranty.”

Breakdown survey 2019

While some providers using independent recovery agents didn’t fix as many cars at the roadside as those with in-house patrols, Green Flag and Autoaid bucked this trend with strong showings for permanent repairs. 

LV= Britannia Rescue did more than any other provider to assist all members; just 2% of respondents helped by this company said their car wasn’t fixed or towed anywhere for them, compared with 7% of AA, Emergency Assist and RAC members. 

What Car? says...

Overall, the AA provides the best breakdown assistance, according to owners, getting to them quickly and permanently fixing a good proportion of cars. 

Second-placed Green Flag is a good value-for-money choice, with its single-vehicle cover costing less than half what the AA and RAC charge. However, its patrols aren’t quite as good at fixing cars at the roadside. 

Breakdown survey 2019

If speed of response is your priority, it’s also worth considering one of the lesser-known providers. Our data shows that Autoaid is as good as the big players at getting to stranded motorists quickly, and its nationwide cover is good value. It only fixed just over half of cars at the roadside, though, so you’re less likely to be able to carry on with your journey after a breakdown. 

Meanwhile, Allianz was one of the slowest to reach stranded motorists and the least likely to fix their cars at the roadside.

< Previous: How do the breakdown providers compare? 

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2019 What Car? Reliability Survey

Reliability has always been a key consideration for buyers of new and used cars, and it remains so today. That’s because, while no modern car is going to test your patience as often as one from the 1970s would have done, there remains a significant difference between the most and least dependable motors on the market.

And that’s why we run an annual Reliability Survey. This year, we’ve examined information from 18,119 readers about their cars, including details of any problems they’ve had in the past 12 months, how long each took to be fixed and how much they had to pay out for repair bills.

It’s those last two factors that we take into account to create our unique reliability ratings for each model and manufacturer, the cars with a tendency to be stuck in the workshop for the longest and those which cost owners the most to fix are penalised most heavily – not simply those that suffer numerous faults.

With the cost of defects covered by the manufacturer’s warranty on all cars up to three years old and some right up to the age of seven, you’d expect most of them to be fixed for free. However, just half of the cars we were told about were repaired under warranty, with 13% of owners having to pay more than £500 and slightly over 4% shelling out as much as £1500.

Our 2019 results reveal the dependability of the widest range yet: 218 models from 31 manufacturers. We’ve divided them into 10 classes and two age groups: up to five years old and more than five years old. The results have been filtered here to reveal the best and worst performers among the newer cars.


City and small cars 

Average reliability score for class 94.7%

Suzuki Celerio reliability

Most reliable Suzuki Celerio 98.9%

What went wrong? Gearbox/clutch 7%

Suzuki Celerio owners don't have much cause to return to Suzuki dealerships. A mere 7% reported a fault with their car, and only the gearbox was affected. While that sounds serious, all cars could still be driven and all were fixed under warranty in less than a week. 

The Honda Jazz has a strong reputation for reliability and backed that up in our survey. Only 11% had a problem and all were minor issues with non-engine electrical systems. All remained drivable and were fixed the same day, although some repairs cost up to £50. 

The Dacia Sandero is based on an old Renault Clio, meaning it’s full of proven parts. Just 11% of owners reported a fault, most commonly with the battery, then the exhaust, interior trim and non-engine electrics. All Sanderos remained drivable, but some took more than a week to fix and landed owners with bills of up to £100. 


Seat Ibiza reliability

Least reliable Seat Ibiza 2008-2017

What went wrong? Air-con 7% Brakes 4% Engine 4% Interior trim 4% Non-engine electrics 11% Sat-nav 4% Steering 4% Suspension 4%

The previous Seat Ibiza isn’t ageing well. More than a quarter (26%) were faulty, with non-engine electrics the most troublesome area. A third took more than a week to fix; less than half of the fixes were done under warranty and some cost up to £500. 

More (35%) Peugeot 208s went wrong, with suspension, engine and non-engine electrics the main culprits. However, all cars remained drivable and most work was done under warranty; only a small percentage presented bills, with these costing up to £300.

The Nissan Note was even more prone to problems: 41% suffered a fault, with the suspension troubling nearly a quarter of cars. All cars were fixed in less than a week; three-quarters were fixed for free and no repair bill exceeded £100. 


Reliability for city and small cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1.  Suzuki Celerio 2015-on 98.9%
2. Honda Jazz 2017-on 98.3%
3. Dacia Sandero 2013-on 97.9%
4. Skoda Citigo 2012-on 97.7%
5. Hyundai i10 2014-on 97.6%
6. Toyota Yaris 2011-on 97.2%
7. Honda Jazz 2008-2015 97.0%
8. Toyota Aygo 2014-on 96.9%
9.  Volkswagen Up 2012-on 96.6%
10. Skoda Fabia 2015-on 95.8%
=11.  Hyundai i20 2015-on 95.7%
=11.  Ford Fiesta 2008-2015 95.7%
13. Renault Clio 2013-2019 94.4%
14. Mini Hatchback 2014-on 94.3%
15. Mazda 2 2015-on 93.9%
16. Ford Fiesta 2017-on 93.8%
17. Volkswagen Polo 2018-on 93.0%
18. Fiat 500 2009-on 92.5%
19. Seat Ibiza 2017-on 91.3%
20. Audi A1 2010-2018 90.0%
21. Volkswagen Polo 2009-2017 89.9%
22. Vauxhall Corsa 2014-on 89.7%
23. Nissan Note 2013-2017 87.8%
24. Peugeot 208 2012-on 87.0%
25. Seat Ibiza 2008-2017 86.0%

Next: Most and least reliable family cars >

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