Who'll be getting you going?

Working out which of the roadside-assistance deals is the best is a long, hard slog.

THE SO-CALLED fourth emergency service (otherwise known as the AA) and its closest rivals, the RAC and Green Flag - who really needs them? Well actually you might just find that they will come in handy at least once or twice during your motoring career.

Despite the fact that you could pay anything up to pounds 206 a year to a recovery service, and that cars are supposedly becoming more reliable, the peace of mind you get by having membership is incalculable.

Getting stranded with a stricken car leaves you at the mercy of local garages, which may have three-figure call-out charges. Then there are storage fees, having to hire a car, or arrange accommodation. Organising all that in the middle of Europe does not really bear thinking about.

Essentially, membership of a rescue service is a form of travel insurance. Trouble is, the marketplace is complicated and confusing. I know, because I've just spent a couple of days on the telephone asking questions and wading through tons of literature. So far I'm only slightly the wiser.

A good place to start is with the AA, the dominant organisation with 9.4m members. It has the world's largest fleet of recovery vehicles - 3,600 - and claims that it can fix nine out of 10 vehicles by the roadside without the need for recovery. Not only that, its average arrival time is just 35 minutes.

Levels of cover extend from the basic, pounds 43 "Option 100" which provides roadside assistance, and then recovery home or to the nearest garage, up to the comprehensive "Option 400": from pounds 128 for single membership to pounds 189 for family cover, this gives you roadside assistance, "Relay" to your home or ultimate destination, a replacement car, onward travel or accommodation if a fix isn't possible, "Home Start" for home visits, and 72-hour European breakdown assistance.

The individual nature of AA membership means that the cover attaches to the member and not the car, and also extends to one other person at the same address. Any family member under 21 is covered, so if your six- year-old is a passenger in the neighbour's car for a school run, they can call the AA.

Then there is the RAC. Although individual membership starts at pounds 39, its Standard Cover is pounds 109: as a driver, or passenger you'll get roadside and at-home assistance, plus relay. You can add extra services and cover for others for a set fee: pounds 25 for joint cover and pounds 75 for European cover. What might appeal to many is a sort of no-claims discount worth pounds 25 a year if you don't call the RAC out.

Not all recovery services operate big vehicle fleets like the AA and RAC. Green Flag, with more than 3.5m members, has a national network of 1,500 operators and 6,000 technicians. It offers five levels of service, starting at recovery-only cover for pounds 34. If its operators don't manage to get to you within the hour you get a pounds 10 rebate.

Britannia Rescue covers around 400,000 vehicles and its annual membership starts at pounds 37. The company has a loyal following amongst caravanners because it doesn't charge extra for recovery, and also has one of the fastest average response times at 33 minutes.

Several direct-insurance companies have joined the recovery-service bandwagon. Just like its insurance operation, Direct Line Rescue actually quotes on an individual basis rather than having a set fee, and operates a no- claims bonus scheme: the annual fee reduces by 10 per cent if you don't call them out.

For me, Direct Line quoted pounds 124.80 for its comprehensive Recovery Plus for two cars. Kwik Fit operates in a similar way, quoting for the person and car. For pounds 69 I was offered a scheme which also provided European cover, homestart and a pounds 10 rebate if its operatives failed to reach me in an hour.

Comparing prices is difficult, not only because the levels of service differ, but also because many organisations prefer you to pay by direct debit, which affects the amount, you pay. For instance, the AA charges a one-off joining fee if you don't want to use direct debit. That fee starts at pounds 5 for Option 100, and goes up in pounds 5 increments to pounds 25.

It is also important to establish whether the cover relates to the car, or the driver. The direct insurers seem to favour the former. Unfortunately there is no substitute for reading the small print.

To make things easy you could simply buy a brand-new car. Most have some sort of recovery package for a year, or occasionally more.

Mondial Assistance has a low profile, but is a major force throughout Europe, operating dedicated recovery services for Volkswagen, BMW and Land Rover amongst others. According to its research, the second most common reason for a call out was a flat battery, with running out of fuel at number nine. Maybe if we paid a little more attention to car care, we wouldn't need to rely on any rescue service. So just how lucky do you feel?

AA: 0800 444999; RAC: 0800 029029; Green Flag: 0800 000111; Britannia Rescue: 0800 591563; Direct Line: 0181-760 9933; Kwik Fit 0845 272 2200

Suggested Topics
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss