There are five national motoring organisations in the UK: the Automobile Association/AA (0870-085 2721, www.theaa.com), Britannia Rescue (0800-591 563, www.britanniarescue.com), Green Flag National Breakdown (0845-246 1557, www.greenflag.co.uk), Mondial Assistance (020-86812525, www.mondial-assistance-group.co.uk) and the Royal Automobile Club/RAC (08705-722 722, www.rac.co.uk). By far the largest organisation is the AA, followed by the RAC and Green Flag. All organisations offer continental cover as an option and a sixth company, Europ Assistance (0870-737 5720, www.europ-assistance.com), offers continental cover only. Other companies also offer breakdown cover through contractors. There are few essential differences between the services provided by British motoring organisations, although membership costs vary. Free gifts and discounts are usually offered to new members.
All organisations offer a range of membership levels (e.g. individual, couple and family) and different levels of service which may include roadside assistance, relay (get you home), 72-hour European breakdown cover, home start and relay plus (which provides a free replacement car for up to 48 hours). Some organisations cover the car (for any driver), while others cover the driver (in any car). Organisations charge from around £40 a year for recovery only, up to over £200 for the premium service, which includes European recovery. Direct Line Rescue (0845-246 8702) recently introduced a new roadside-rescue service (using a network of 1,500 contractors), which undercuts the rates charged by motoring organisations, and some insurance companies offer membership of a motoring organisation for a low fee, e.g. from £35 a year. Most organisations offer inducements to new members such as free mobile phones, free or reduced-cost MOT tests, free safety checks and 50 per cent off windscreen replacements.
All motoring organisations waive the enrolment fee (if applicable) or give a discount when you pay by direct debit (from a current account) or continuous payment via a credit card. Associate membership is usually available and applies to your spouse (or partner) and dependent children under the age of 25 up to a maximum of three people. Some organisations provide personal cover for an extra charge, so that you and your spouse can drive any car. Most organisations charge an extra fee for older cars (e.g. those over seven or ten years old). If you use the breakdown service a large number of times (e.g. ten) during a year, you may find that your premium is increased dramatically or you’re expelled from the organisation (they prefer members who never use their services).
Although a relative newcomer compared with the AA and RAC, Green Flag National Breakdown deserves a special mention and is highly rated for its customer care, not just against other motoring organisations, but against all comers. It guarantees that all customers will be seen within one hour of reporting a problem (an average 35-minute wait is claimed) and pays a £10 penalty if it fails. Green Flag offers a continental European service for an additional £16.
Members of British motoring organisations who break down anywhere in the UK can call their organisation by phoning a 24-hour service telephone number for assistance. Keep your membership card in your car and quote your membership number when calling for help. Most organisations have reciprocal arrangements with motoring organisations in other European countries. Non-members can also get assistance, but it can be expensive (although you may be able to join on the spot and save the fee). Emergency SOS roadside telephones are provided on motorways, connected to police control rooms. Beware of having your car repaired after it’s towed away by a garage ‘approved’ by a motoring organisation. Always get a quotation first and make sure it’s competitive.
Some motoring organisations will carry out an independent inspection of a car, for example before buying a second-hand car. It usually takes around a week to arrange an inspection, which can be carried out at your home or office. The fee depends on the organisation and the make and model of car.
This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.