Breakdown cover for older cars

Everything you need to know about breakdown cover for older cars and classic cars, and how to choose the cover that's right for you

Sam Naylor
Aug 30, 2021

If you have an older car, whether that’s a classic car from the era of carburettors and rust or even just a six-year-old trusted vehicle that you drive every day, you are likely to want some kind of breakdown cover.

After all, older cars are generally more likely to break down than something brand new. If they’ve been treated well over the years it’s less likely, but nearly all old cars have something that needs repair, restoration or replacement, and that thing can sometimes pick the exact moment to go that will ruin your day and leave you stranded.

This is where breakdown cover is a saviour, as you can just call up and get help - whether that’s taking the car home for you or fixing it at the roadside. You have the peace of mind of knowing that you won't be marooned in the middle of nowhere and you could be back on the road in no time, or if there is a bigger problem, there's oftne the option of being taken home or helped to complete your journey.

Yet the breakdown cover companies don’t make covering an older car easy, as they all have different rules about the cover provided including which cars are covered and what they offer to their customers. In this article, we’ll look at how breakdown cover works, the different types available, how to get covered on your older car, and more.

How breakdown cover works

If you’ve never had breakdown cover before, here’s how it all works. You pay the chosen company a fee, which is usually for a year’s cover - just like with car insurance - and it can range from £25 to more than £100 depending on the company, the vehicle you're covering and some other factors.

We’ll look closer at the different types of cover below, but what happens in the event of a breakdown is that you call the number given when you signed up, quote your membership number and help will be sent out to you to make sure you’re not stuck at the side of the road.

Breakdown cover can help with small issues like flat batteries - some levels of cover will even ensure that someone comes to your driveway to help you get going - as well as engine failure, misfueling, flat tyres and other malfunctions.

Which breakdown cover to choose for older cars

You can choose your breakdown cover based on price, but for older cars, this is a real minefield. Not all providers offer cover for older cars, so check the small print on that £25-a-year policy that looks so attractive. For example, certain policies exclude cars over 10 years old, so if you drive an older car even this inexpensive cover could be a waste of money.

The big brands, such as the RAC and AA, tend to be more expensive but have more to offer if you do break down. This can come in the form of offering a greater level of cover (see below for the different types) or even just the swiftness of response. The AA, in particular, has a huge fleet of assistance vans and mechanics, so the company trades on the promise that they’ll arrive swiftly at any time of day. Yet there are cheaper options that may offer just as much, depending what you're after, so check what each brand offers before you commit.

Types of breakdown cover

The first thing to look for in breakdown cover for an older car is whether it will cover your specific car. Some providers charge the same rate for any car, some won’t cover older cars, and some will, but might charge more for it. This is the key thing to check when you’re shopping around.

The next thing to look out for is what exactly is covered. Some providers don’t cover specific cars, but instead, you pay for personal cover, so you’re able to get help in any car you’re driving, whether you own it or not. This works well for people with more than one car. Some policies also allow you to add another person, such as a spouse or parent, for a fee.

Next, there’s what the company can offer you in the event of a breakdown. Some breakdown cover providers simply send a tow truck and take your car to the nearest garage - this is usually the lowest level of cover, and the cheapest.

Other brands will send a mechanic to help you fix the car at the roadside - this is good for flat tyres if you don’t have a spare or you're not confident doing it yourself - or if something has simply come loose. Usually, if your car can’t be fixed, they can tow it to a nearby garage to be repaired.

Some - usually the more expensive - breakdown cover firms offer onward travel where they’ll get you a taxi to take you to your destination, all included in the price. There’s also the option of having your car taken home or to a garage of your choosing instead of just the nearest place. You get what you pay for - the pricier options do tend to be more convenient if you do end up breaking down.

Other things to look out for

Check on your car insurance documents - you might be in luck, as many classic car policies include breakdown cover in the price. This can be a nice money-saver but be aware that they usually offer the lowest level of cover and you might end up stuck at a garage that can’t fix your car, especially if it’s a niche or classic model. Additionally, some bank accounts that charge a monthly fee also include breakdown cover, so it's good to check whether you have any cover already.

You should also check if you’re covered for international travel and also how far away from home you need to be - some firms won’t even come to you if you’re close to home (usually around 10 miles away). Yet some brands will come to your house if your car won’t start and get you on your way, which is often called 'Home Start' or similar.


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