How I saved £173 on breakdown cover: AA vs RAC

Picture of a blue VW camper van for my post on how to save on breakdown cover AA vs RAC

Save on breakdown cover before you get stuck

If you are a driver, you can save loads on breakdown cover – as long as you don’t let it auto renew!

This post is based on a frugal fail.  Last year, I got stung when I didn’t get round to sorting our cover before it renewed automatically. Our AA membership shot up from £109 as a new customer to £220. Ouch. I resented paying double the price. 

This year they wanted more – £270! That’s an increase of almost another 25%!

I really didn’t want to pay over the odds again, so I tackled it yesterday morning.

After checking quotes, cashback and a quick call to the AA, I ended up switching to the RAC. Our new premium cost £109 and I should get 11% cashback, just by clicking through from TopCashback before purchasing the policy. This brings the cost down to just under £97.

I reckon spending half an hour to save £173, compared to the renewal quote, is well worth doing. 

Here are my top tips if you want to save on breakdown cover.

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Picture of my breakdown cover renewal letter rising from £220.90 to £270.11

Painful price of auto renewing

Don’t auto renew

Don’t ignore your renewal letter! Check the new cost and when it’s due, then carve out time to cut it.

 The company might sound like they’re doing you a favour, continuing your cover without you having to a lift a finger. But you’ll pay an awful lot for the convenience. 

Check if you’ve already got cover

I’m not suggesting you might have bought breakdown cover in your sleep.

But do you already have cover, for example if you pay a monthly fee for a current account?

Some packaged current accounts such as Nationwide FlexPlus, Halifax Ultimate Reward and Co-op Everyday Extra offer a bundle of benefits including breakdown cover.  No point paying twice!

Compare prices

Before calling the company (‘you want to put it up by HOW MUCH???‘), arm yourself with the relevant info.

It doesn’t have to be a major hassle. I popped over to two websites, the AA and RAC, to see how much new customers pay for the same cover.  RAC quoted £108.51 and the AA £169.01 for a year’s cover. I’m sure there are other great options out there, but I focused on the big hitters to make life easier.

Weigh up your cover

There are various twiddly bits that make up breakdown cover. The more you add, the higher the premium, so choosing less cover will cut your costs.

UK vs Europe?

Where will you be driving? We opt for cheaper UK cover as we rarely drive in Europe.

Vehicle vs personal?

Do you want to cover you or the car? Vehicle cover applies to a specific car, no matter who’s driving. Personal cover applies to the individual,  no matter which car you’re driving, or even if you’re a passenger in someone else’s car.

Vehicle cover tends to be cheaper, but we go for personal cover, as we have two cars and sometimes borrow a bigger car to go on holiday.

Individual or as a couple?

If you’re a couple, it’s usually cheaper to buy breakdown cover for both people at the same time, rather than two single policies.

What’s covered?

Personally, we go for:

  • roadside assistance, to avoid being stuck by the side of a motorway
  • the bit about towing your car if it can’t be sorted on the spot
  • home start, in case our cars die in the drive

But no, I reckon we don’t need to pay extra for getting keys cut, legal expenses, a contribution towards repair costs or money for transport and accommodation after a breakdown while away from home. We have some emergency savings if needed.

Previous post: Where do you stash your emergency cash?

Annual vs monthly?

If you can afford to fork out for a full year’s cover,  it’s usually cheaper than the total from paying each month.

Check cashback

Always check cashback websites like TopCashback* and Quidco before buying breakdown cover – the discounts can be super generous.

Yesterday, TopCashback was offering 11% cashback on RAC* UK personal breakdown policies and a generous 33% on vehicle based policies. That’s a healthy chunk of cashback.

Meanwhile you could get a whopping 42% cashback on AA* UK breakdown cover.

Quidco offered slightly less – 30% cashback on RAC UK vehicle breakdown policies, 10% on RAC’s personal version, and 40% on AA UK breakdown cover.

After setting the TopCashback rates against my quotes, the cost of breakdown cover for new customers dropped to £96.57 at the RAC and £98.03 with the AA. 

Cashback isn’t guaranteed, but it usually does work out, and can be well worth it. The sites are free and all you have to is click through from them before buying online elsewhere! 

Picture of a phone box for my post on how to save on breakdown cover

Give ’em a call

Give your current company a call

I reckon it’s worth a quick call before switching elsewhere, to see if your current company can offer a better deal.

Previous post: Broadband: how to save without switching

So I rang the AA, pressed the buttons for the renewal option, and pointed out our renewal price was a lot higher than last year.

The nice man on the phone promptly offered to cut the cost to £224, pretty much what we paid last year, and to freeze for next year. Saving £46 a year compared to our renewal quote might have sounded quite good, if I hadn’t checked the premiums for new customers elsewhere.

Having the numbers for quotes and cashback to hand, and explaining politely that you can get cover cheaper elsewhere, works wonders. 

I was then offered £202.58, again frozen for two years. So £67 off the renewal quote just for a few minutes chat.

Once it was clear I really was thinking of switching, the final offer was £169.01 for one year. That’s a hundred pounds lower than our renewal letter, and the same as the premium for brand new customers. However, the guy on the phone couldn’t match the cash back, so I cancelled the policy when it runs out.

Be prepared to switch

Buying a new policy from the RAC only took a few minutes.

I clicked through from the relevant RAC page on TopCashback, ticked the cover I’d already looked at, filled in a few personal details, and set the new breakdown cover to start when our current policy stops.

At £108.51 the policy is already way lower than our renewal quote, even if the cashback doesn’t come through.

Name the first driver

One admin point: with joint cover, put the person who usually deals with money matters as the first named driver. 

With our AA policy, I had to hand the phone to my husband to finally cancel the cover,  as he was the first named driver. With the new policy, I’ve put myself down as first named driver. I don’t want to risk auto renewing just because we weren’t in the same place at the same time to call the breakdown company during working hours!

Thoughts on how to save on breakdown cover

It took me max half an hour to cut the cost of our cover by £173, and I reckon that’s money well worth having. 

But it worries me that such big savings are possible. Slashing £100 off premiums in a single phone call, and hefty cashback rates up to 42%, imply the original premiums have mega high margins. The two new customer quotes I got, after allowing for cashback, were surprisingly similar, with only a few pounds difference.

What about people who aren’t internet savvy, or don’t use cashback websites? Anyone who still thinks loyalty pays, or doesn’t like calling companies for a better deal? If you know anyone vulnerable or elderly, it might be worth asking if they have breakdown cover, and whether you can help cut costs.

So don’t get stung like I did last year. Never let breakdown cover auto renew – and hang on to more of your own money!

Now – over to you. Have you ever cut the cost of breakdown cover? What’s your top tip? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

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6 Comments

  1. Peter
    26th October 2019 / 10:30 pm

    Hi, I’m a new reader and like your blog but you are massively overpaying here still. Autoaid are far cheaper for equivalent personal cover at £59.99 (was around £40 until earlier this year). I was with them until this price increase before I jumped ship to Startrescue where I got vehicle cover for just over £30. AA and RAC are rarely the cheapest unless you manage to happen upon a ludicrous cashback deal.

    • Faith
      Author
      27th October 2019 / 8:08 am

      Hi Peter – Thanks for the top tips about Autoaid and Startrescue, I’ll check them out! No surprise that I might still be paying too much, given the over-inflated premiums so far.
      Can I ask if you’ve ever had to call either company for assistance? With insurance products and breakdown cover there’s always the fear of being let down when it comes to claim, so I’ve tended to stick with paying the price for known brands. Might yet persuade my husband to switch to someone like Green Flag next year…

      • Peter
        27th October 2019 / 10:05 am

        Autoaid have been featured on MSE for a long time and I picked up Startrescue from HUKD. They both make use of local recovery services rather than having their own fleet, one of the reasons for the cheaper cost I believe. It used to be the case with autoaid that you paid for your own recovery and then claimed it back but I believe they ended that when they were bought out recently. Startrescue were Which recommended this year.

        My wife has used autoaid for a flat before and they promptly sorted her out and got her on her way.

        • Louise
          27th October 2019 / 12:14 pm

          My husband and I have been with Autoaid for several years (now £59.99 for cover for both of us, with two elderly cars) and have found them to be pretty good. I think we’ve had to call them out three times and have been very pleased with the service each time.

          • Faith
            Author
            27th October 2019 / 12:59 pm

            Hi Louise – Thanks a lot for letting me know about your experience with Autoaid, great it worked so well for a good price!

        • Faith
          Author
          27th October 2019 / 12:58 pm

          Thanks Peter, that’s really helpful. Good to hear about the Which recommendation for Startrescue and your wife’s positive experience with the Autoaid call out, much appreciated.

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