What is Breakdown Cover?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2019
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Also known as breakdown coverage or breakdown benefits, breakdown cover is a type of benefit or protection that provides motorists with access to services in the event that a covered vehicle suffers some type of malfunction or mechanical failure that leaves the driver stranded. Cover of this type normally includes benefits such as towing to a repair shop and assisting the driver in securing transportation home. Services of this type are sometimes provided through membership in motor associations, or may also be available as a benefit of the car insurance policy held on the vehicle.

The general concept behind breakdown cover is to aid motorists who become stranded when a covered vehicle experiences some sort of operational problem. For example, if the transmission in the car should fail while the motorist is on the way home from work, the cover will often provide towing services for free or at least at a discount. There are some forms of breakdown cover that will even provide on-the-spot repairs for minor issues, such as a tire blowout.


With most forms of breakdown cover, the covered party or vehicle has access to services that make it possible to deal with the unanticipated issue with the least amount of inconvenience. Along with towing, many will also provide the stranded driver with transportation to a hotel, or even help make arrangements for the driver to return home. Most plans of this type provide very specific details regarding what is included in the services offered, and what circumstances must apply in order to claim those different benefits.

The costs associated with breakdown cover will vary, often based on the scope of services provided. In some cases, cover that is provided within the terms of an insurance plan will be less than similar cover obtained from a motorist association. At other times, associations may offer plans that are competitive with the cost and scope of coverage offered by various insurance providers. It is not unusual for motorists to carry insurance that provides for at least a minimum of roadside assistance, then make use of membership in a motorist association to obtain access to additional benefits. This is a particularly helpful strategy for people who tend to frequently travel by car for business or recreation.

Not all forms of breakdown cover are the same. Since the roadside assistance provided by different plans may vary, consumers should evaluate the scope of coverage provided by membership in a given association or as part of the vehicle insurance plan. Doing so makes it easier to determine what type of events are or are not covered, and set reasonable expectations regarding how helpful the plan would be for a given motorist.


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