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Beginner's guide to... Car breakdown cover

It's a busy time of year and lots of people are driving even more than normal as they do their Christmas shopping. But what do you do if your car breaks down?

There are a number of breakdown cover policies that will help you avoid getting stranded in the cold, so here's a quick guide.

What are you covered for?

Your car insurance is unlikely to include breakdown cover, although you can often add roadside recovery. Some providers offer a discount if you buy both car insurance and breakdown cover from them.

Most providers offer a range of policies providing different levels of cover. The most basic policy will cover you for fixing your car at the roadside, as long as you are at least a certain distance from your home, or a tow to the nearest garage if repairs cannot be carried out at the roadside.

There are more comprehensive policies that will provide cover if you break down at home, recovery of the vehicle and any passengers, and even onward travel to destinations within the UK.

Obviously the more comprehensive the cover, the higher the price, so give some thought to exactly what you want out of your policy. You will also need to consider what excess you will be happy with as some providers may charge an excess fee whereas others will not and this can affect premiums.

European cover

If you are planning to drive abroad then be aware that European travel may not be included in a standard breakdown policy. Most providers either sell this as an add-on to your cover or as a separate policy completely.

Remember that breakdowns abroad are not normally covered under your travel insurance or car insurance, so without the right cover, you could face a hefty bill – repatriation costs for your vehicle could run into the thousands.

Kate Murphy, moneysupermarket.com