Motorcycle Breakdown Cover – What Are Your Options?

Motorcyclist broken down
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Breakdown cover for your bike is a bit like having no-claims protection on your insurance. You hope you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.

If a car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, at least the driver can sit in relative safety and comfort while they wait for rescue.

But if a bike breaks down by the side of a motorway, if it’s raining or cold there’s no escape from the elements – so you’ll want to know someone is coming out ASAP to tow you and your stricken machine to safety.

Depending on the level of cover you want, policies can be picked up for as little as £20-£25 a year, which is a negligible fee when you consider the peace of mind it can offer.

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What types of motorcycle breakdown cover are available?


Broadly, there are two types available, put simply: do you want to cover your person, or your bike?

 

Personal cover

Will ensure you can ring up and get some help wherever you are, whatever bike you’re on.

This is great if you have multiple bikes, because it doesn’t matter what you’re riding at the time of breakdown.

It also covers you if you’re riding pillion on someone else’s bike, which is a really handy bonus.

This type of policy is likely to set you back more than vehicle cover. Unless you spend a lot of time on other people’s bikes, or have more than one of your own, this isn’t the cheapest option.

 

Vehicle cover

This is a policy that looks after just one vehicle. If you only have one bike, this is a low-cost, sensible choice.

Vehicle cover also means the vehicle is covered if you’re not the one riding it – so if you lend it to a mate for the weekend and they run into trouble, it will still get picked up.

It’s worth shopping around for different quotes if you have two bikes. It can be cheaper to have two separate vehicle cover policies, than one personal policy – but if you’re getting into three, four or more bikes personal’s probably the best bet.

 

What levels of motorcycle breakdown cover can you get?


You’ll generally see four different levels of motorcycle breakdown cover, that run from a mechanic coming out to the roadside to have a look at your bike, all the way up to being given a hire car or a taxi to get you to your final destination.

The names may vary, but The AA categorises them as follows:

 

Roadside assistance (sometimes seen as ‘Rescue’)

This will generally be the lowest-cost, most basic level of assistance.

As long as you’re more than a quarter of a mile from home, a mechanic will come out to make roadside repairs. If they can’t fix it, they’ll take your bike – and you, plus any pillions to the nearest garage.

 

National recovery (sometimes seen as ‘Recovery’)

If your bike can’t be fixed by the side of the road, your bike will be taken to any destination in the UK you like – ideal if you’re far from home on a ride out and you break down, but want to use your home garage.

 

Onward travel (sometimes seen as ‘Recovery plus’)

Again, if things can’t be sorted at roadside, you’ll be given an alternate method of getting where you need to go, regardless of where your bike ends up. This could be in the form of a hire car, a taxi and even include hotel stays if it’s late.

Perfect if you’re en route to a holiday and don’t want to miss out. Your bike will then be taken to a garage of your choice.

 

At home

Every walked out to your bike in the morning to find it won’t start?

Often this is just due to a flat battery, but sometimes there may be a more tricky reason, and this is a great way to make sure you’ve got someone on the other end of the phone to come and sort it out. Can also be sued up to a quarter of a mile from home.

 

Real-world pricing test


According to AA pricing at the time of writing (June 2019), this is what you can expect to pay for a basic quote for motorcycle breakdown cover, showing the difference between personal and vehicle cover.

Personal cover

  • Roadside assistance – £55 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home – £119 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home /onward travel – £145 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home /onward travel/national recovery – £145 per year

Vehicle cover

  • Roadside assistance – £45 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home – £109 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home /onward travel – £135 per year
  • Roadside assistance/at home /onward travel/national recovery – £135 per year

For not much more money than vehicle cover, it could be worth getting the full works on a personal cover basis.

That would work out at just over £12 a month, money well spent to ensure that no matter where your bike conked out, you’d have rescue sorted.

 

What isn’t covered?


Motorcycle breakdown cover is meant to help you in the event of mechanical failure.

If you have an accident or an off – especially if other vehicles are involved – you should contact the police, as well as your insurance company, and between them you and your bike will be taken to its next destination.

There are other criteria you must fulfill in order for most policies to apply, most of them are common sense but make sure to check the small print before you sign up to anything.

Some common things that aren’t covered:

  • Bikes under 49cc
  • Puncture repair
  • Issues caused by using the wrong fuel in your bike (in many but not all cases).
  • An unroadworthy or modified (without declaring it) vehicle.

 

Best buys – budget options

There are many reputable motorcycle recovery companies, but we’ve picked four of the best here, and have taken quotes for basic vehicle cover on a five year old bike, with a 34-year-old rider, to show a comparison that gives the bare bones of what you might need.

These will get you going in the event of a breakdown on your usual commute, but aren’t what you need if you do much exploring at the weekends, or have multiple bikes.

ProviderLocal Recovery*National RecoveryHome StartExcessAnnual Cost
Green FlagYes NoNo£40£29.12
RACYes NoNoNo£45
AAYes NoNoNo£45
ETAYes NoNo£40.47

* Between ¼ and 10 miles from home.

 

Best buys – bells and whistles

If you’re looking to add things like onward travel – which could include hotels or taxis in the event of a breakdown, as well as personal cover that looks after you on any bike, then prices start to add up.

Here are the prices for the same bike and rider, with everything ticked ‘yes’.

This is the cover you want if you truly want peace of mind, knowing you’ll be able to get you and your bike picked up from anywhere, and be able to continue your onward journey – as well as home start, which is where many bike issues happen.

ProviderLocal Recovery*National RecoveryHome StartOnward TravelExcessAnnual Cost
Green FlagYes Yes Yes Yes £40£99.68
RACYes Yes Yes Yes None£135
AAYes Yes Yes Yes None£135
ETAYes Yes Yes Yes None£110

 

Pros and cons of each provider


  • The AA are known primarily for car breakdowns, but offer a great biking service too. With a solid reputation and widespread coverage they are a dependable choice.
  • The RAC are a huge juggernaut of a company, with the infrastructure to back it up. They’re likely to be with you quickly, with centres all over the country.
  • ETA describe themselves as ‘the ethical’ recovery company, and you can tell they really understand biking with thoughtful elements of their service – if they take longer than an hour to get to you, they’ll knock £10 off the price.
  • Green Flag offer a no-callout discount if you don’t need their services, and even include cover for things like snapped keys or running out of fuel. Their prices are low, but the excess brings overall prices up.

 

What about breakdown cover in Europe?


Your two-week moto tour might be the time you want breakdown cover more than any other point in the year – but you can easily come unstuck here.

Most policies won’t cover international riding, but you can usually tack on European cover to an existing policy (as long as it’s not the most basic of cover).

However, then you may end up paying for European cover you’re not going to use for 50 weeks of the year.

As with any insurance or cover, it’s best to play around with the sliders on each site until you find what’s best for you, but it’s possible to buy short-term, Europe-specific cover that will sort you out for the duration of your trip.

 

Conclusions


Motorcycling can be an expensive hobby, and breakdown cover is just one more expense – but unlike insurance or a helmet, it’s not something you absolutely have to have so it’s easy not to bother with it.

However, the peace of mind you get from having it really does make motorcycling more pleasurable, and after all isn’t that what this entire hobby is for?