Differences between personal and vehicle breakdown cover?

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By Chloe Dickenson
Updated on Tuesday 20 June 2023

Car with flat tyre

Breakdown cover is an important thing to have as a driver as it helps to protect you in numerous circumstances while on the road. It enables you to receive help from a mechanical professional in the event that your car breaks down that could otherwise leave you stranded on the side of the road. Recognising its importance is a significant step, but then you need to consider the different types of breakdown cover to determine which one will be right for you.

When it comes to deciding what kind of breakdown cover you should get - personal or vehicle - there are a few things you should be aware of to help influence your decision so you know the difference between the two and their pros and cons.

In our guide below about the difference between personal and vehicle breakdown cover, we discuss whether you can get any car breakdown cover or whether there is a specific type of policy you need, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of both personal and vehicle breakdown cover.

What is personal breakdown cover?

Personal breakdown cover is a type of policy that covers you as a person (as the named driver of a car) as opposed to the car itself. Regardless of the vehicle you’re driving (providing that you’re insured to drive it), you will be able to receive roadside assistance or recovery help if you break down as the policy is covering you as an individual. 

The type of personal breakdown policy you have depends on the type of care and assistance you’ll receive. For example, some policies will allow you to call for help even if you’re just a passenger in someone else’s car that has broken down while you’re in it and some policies will also allow you to add a named driver to your personal breakdown cover.

One important thing to note about this type of breakdown cover is that each policy and provider differs in what is covered with your personal policy. Some policies have a list of restricted vehicles that won’t be covered under your personal breakdown policy, so it’s important to make yourself aware of all the inclusions and exclusions of your personal breakdown cover when doing research for a new policy.

Pros of personal car breakdown cover

Just like with any kind of car insurance or breakdown cover policy, there are of course numerous pros and cons to each type of breakdown cover available. Take a look at the pros and cons of personal breakdown cover that you should be aware of below.

  • You will be covered in most vehicles if break down while driving. This means you will be covered under most policies while driving your partner’s car, friend’s car or even a hire car. Some policies even include cover for vehicles such as campervans and motorbikes.
  • Some personal breakdown cover policies offer cover even if you’re not driving the vehicle and you’re travelling as a passenger.
  • Some types of policies will allow you to add a named driver to your personal breakdown policy so that they can benefit from the cover too.

Cons of personal cover

  • In order for the vehicle that has broken down to receive assistance, the policyholder needs to be in the car, even if they are only a passenger, which means your partner won’t be eligible for breakdown cover if they’re driving your car and it breaks down if you’re the policyholder of personal breakdown cover.
  • This type of policy is usually more expensive than vehicle breakdown cover.
  • You need to check whether your vehicle will actually be covered under your personal policy as some providers won’t cover certain restricted vehicles that they list in their terms and conditions.

What is vehicle breakdown cover?

As you may have guessed by now, vehicle cover is the opposite of personal breakdown cover in that it covers an individual vehicle, as opposed to the person driving it.

Unlike personal breakdown cover, vehicle cover is a type of policy that covers the broken down vehicle in question, regardless of who is driving it. As a driver, this means you will only be covered if you break down while driving the specific vehicle that is listed in your vehicle breakdown policy and if you break down while driving another car, you won’t receive assistance from the provider.

Vehicle breakdown cover tends to be cheaper than personal cover as the provider can see exactly which vehicle they’re covering, so they will usually be able to evaluate the risks involved with it and whether they think it’s more likely to break down. Of course, this means if you drive a really old car with a history of vehicle breakdowns, you could end up paying more for your policy.

This type of breakdown cover is usually better suited to people who mainly drive one car and if your partner or another person in your household share the car, they’ll be covered if they break down while driving too as the policy is attached to the vehicle, not each individual person.

You might like: Short-term Breakdown Cover Guide

Pros of vehicle breakdown insurance

Check out some of the pros and cons of vehicle breakdown cover below to help you decide which type of policy you need.

  • It is usually cheaper than personal cover as the policy is attached directly to the vehicle so the provider can assess the associated risks with the car breaking down.
  • As the vehicle itself is covered and not each individual person, more than one person will be able to call for assistance if the car breaks down while they’re driving it.

Cons of vehicle driving cover

  • You won’t be covered if you break down while driving another car other than the one that is covered under your vehicle breakdown policy.
  • Depending on how susceptible your vehicle is to breaking down, you could end up paying more if the provider thinks the vehicle is likely to break down.

Broken down without cover?

If your car or van has broken down on the motorway or even outside your home and you haven’t got breakdown cover, don’t worry. There are companies such as Assist-U that provide 24/7 breakdown assistance services. Their service works as a Pay-as-you-go so you will only be charged for the call-out and any mileage if your vehicle needs to be towed to a safe place such as a local garage.

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