Which is the best breakdown service provider?

If your car ever conks out, you’ll be glad you’ve got breakdown cover. We look at all the options and find out which providers do the best job...

Breakdown survey 2019

Which is the best breakdown service provider? 

As part of the most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, we asked 13,000 car owners if they’d needed a breakdown provider in the previous year. Some 12% of respondents told us their cars had broken down, and we asked them to rate the service they’d received. 

Our data includes information on eight breakdown providers, with the survey focusing on two main areas: how quickly assistance arrived and how well the problem was resolved.

The speediest operator was LV= Britannia Rescue, whose fleet of around 4000 independent recovery specialists reached 39% of stranded motorists in less than 30 minutes. It also reached 42% of drivers in 30 minutes to an hour, so overall it got to 81% of people in an hour or less. It also left the lowest percentage of people (3%) at the roadside for more than two hours. 

Although Emergency Assist got to 36% of broken-down vehicles in less than half an hour, it got to only 32% in 30 minutes to an hour, giving it an overall figure of 68% reached in an hour or less. That’s not as good as the AA and Green Flag, which reached just over 70% of motorists in less than an hour. 

Breakdown survey 2019

In contrast, Autoaid reached only 10% of motorists in less than 30 minutes, and it left one in 10 waiting for more than two hours. While Allianz and the RAC got to more people in less than an hour, they both made one in five wait for more than two hours. 

When it comes to the level of service provided, top honours go to the RAC, whose patrols carried out a permanent repair on almost half of the cars they attended and were able to temporarily fix a further 16%. The AA and LV= Britannia Rescue both permanently repaired more than 40% of cars, and although Emergency Assist wasn’t far behind for lasting cures, it lagged behind on temporary fixes and its recovery crews had to tow nearly half of the cars they attended. 

Autoaid had by far the lowest rate of roadside fixes and the highest rate of towing stricken cars for their owners. However, it did either repair or tow all broken-down vehicles, which is something that can’t be said for five of the other recovery operators, which didn’t repair or tow up to 10% of vehicles. 

To create an overall satisfaction rating for each breakdown service provider, we’ve taken into account the two best outcomes: what percentage of motorists were reached in an hour or less and how many cars were fixed permanently or temporarily at the roadside. LV= Britannia Rescue emerged as the UK’s best breakdown provider, with consistently strong scores in both areas. 

How the top four breakdown service providers performed

How quickly did assistance arrive?  LV= Britannia Rescue AA Green Flag RAC
Less than 30 minutes 38.7% 26.9% 25.9% 14.1%
30 minutes to 1 hour 41.9% 45.9% 50.0% 41.2%
1-2 hours 16.1% 20.1% 16.5% 24.2%
More than 2 hours 3.2% 7.1% 7.6% 20.5%
How well was the problem resolved?         
Fixed permanently  45.2% 40.1% 39.2% 48.1%
Fixed temporarily 19.4% 24.6% 19.6% 16.4%
Not fixed but car towed 35.5% 25.1% 36.7% 27.7%
Not fixed and car not towed na 10.1% 4.4% 7.8%
Satisfaction rating 72.6% 68.8% 67.4% 59.9%

How the bottom four breakdown service providers performed

How quickly did assistance arrive? GEM Motoring Assist Emergency Assist Allianz Autoaid
Less than 30 minutes 27.8% 36.4% 14.1% 9.5%
30 minutes to 1 hour 38.9% 31.8% 37.5% 47.6%
1-2 hours 27.8% 18.2% 28.1% 33.3%
More than 2 hours 5.6% 13.6% 20.3% 9.5%
How well was the problem resolved?         
Fixed permanently 33.3% 36.4% 34.4% 9.5%
Fixed temporarily 16.7% 9.1% 18.8% 33.3%
Not fixed but car towed 50.0% 45.5% 37.5% 57.1%
Not fixed and car not towed na 9.1% 9.4% na
Satisfaction rating 58.3% 56.8% 52.3% 50.0%

Top five reasons for breakdowns and how to prevent them

Most car breakdowns are caused by minor issues, and in many instances you could prevent your car from letting you down by doing some regular checks and maintenance. Here are some of the most common culprits... 

1. Battery failure 

Breakdown survey 2019

Number one on the list is a flat battery. This can either be due to a poor connection on dirty or corroded terminals, or the battery being drained because a car has done a lot of short journeys. Cold weather can also kill off an ailing battery. 

To prevent a breakdown, ask your garage to check the battery connections and its condition when your car is being serviced. If the battery isn’t holding a charge as well as it should, get it replaced before it lets you down. And if you use your car only for short trips, consider charging the battery overnight once every couple of weeks. 

2. Punctured tyres

Breakdown survey 2019

Breakdown patrols are called out frequently to help with punctures, and this has been exacerbated in recent years by the trend for new cars to dispense with spare wheels in favour of tyre repair kits that don’t work with all types of punctures. To lessen the likelihood of having a blowout, check the tread depth, pressures and condition of your car’s tyres regularly. 

3. Lost keys

The widespread fitment of keyless entry and start in cars, negating the need to put a key in the ignition, means it’s easier than ever to misplace your key fob. It’s also common for people to accidentally lock their keys inside the car. Ensure you have a spare key and keep it in a safe, easily accessible place in case you need it. To get a replacement, you’ll need to visit an authorised dealer, because they might need to calibrate the key to your car. 

4. Wrong fuel 

This can be a costly problem that damages your car’s engine if you don’t act immediately to drain the incorrect fuel from the tank and flush out the system. If your breakdown policy doesn’t cover this for free, check out the prices of misfuelling specialists, because they can be lower than those of recovery companies. 

Breakdown survey 2019

5. Engine cooling and air-con issues 

Problems with engine cooling systems are common, especially in hot weather. Check your car’s fluid levels regularly and keep them topped up, ensuring that you add sufficient anti-freeze to the coolant in the winter.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

<< Previous Read more: The most and least reliable cars >>

Page 3 of 3