Breakdown cover for older cars in the UK

If you’ve got an older car, the chances are that you will make many more call-outs than someone with a brand-new car. If you have or want to buy a vehicle older than 20 years, it is good to know that this is too old for a breakdown cover, which can’t cover you.

The age of the vehicle is just one of the eligibility criteria mentioned in most policies. In the UK, the maximum age limit is 20 years, while in Europe, it is 15 years. 

Those who drive older cars than 15-20 years will have difficulty finding a breakdown cover provider, but some companies still offer them. People driving very old cars, such as vintage/classic cars, can get specialist breakdown cover, which is likely more expensive than the standard version.

To avoid a breakdown and ensure a safer journey, you must ensure the car is roadworthy by doing simple checks. Research shows that simple mechanical problems cause almost 50% of all breakdowns, and tyre problems represent nearly 25%. 

Highways England’s incident management system records details of events in which they have an awareness or involvement in. In January 2020 were 17.519 incidents, while in February 2020 were 18.546 breakdowns. In 2019, the figure was in the range of 16.308-22.961 events.

Types of breakdown cover for older cars

As you would expect, there are different situations, and the companies offering these services adapt to them. There are several options for a policy:

  1. Roadside assistance – this is the minimum for a breakdown cover. Usually covers calling out a repair technician who will come and try to repair your car by the roadside. He will get your vehicle to the nearest auto repair shop if he can’t fix it.
  2. National recovery – a bit advanced, offering extended or additional services: repairs to a garage anywhere in the country or driver, passengers, and car recovery to any UK address. 
  3. European cover – if you travel abroad, this level of assistance can offer peace of mind as it will allow drivers to call out roadside recovery wherever in Europe. It might even cover onward journey expenses for all the passengers or the car’s repatriation.
Breakdown - warning triangle

What to do if you break down 

Sometimes you think of the journey’s going smoothly until … it isn’t. We don’t know where or when an event will occur, but we can expect it to be at the wrong time or place.

If your car has broken down, stay safe before calling for help and follow the steps:

  1. ensure you find a safe place
  2. put your hazard lights on
  3. stay away from moving traffic
  4. wear a reflective jacket 
  5. put a warning triangle
  6. find your exact location
  7. call for roadside assistance

When the assistant arrives, they will always check your ok before checking the car. AA, for example, can fix 8 out of 10 cars on the side of the road. They will take you to a place (normally, a local garage) where someone can repair it if they can’t fix your car there and then.


Unlike compulsory insurance, which is required by law, the breakdown coverage for new or older is not mandatory. You can learn here a few tips and a Guide to Breakdown Cover, finding how this type of cover can save you a lot of money and hassle in case of an accidental breakdown.

I can say that I have seen several old cars on the UK roadside waiting for road assistance from my travels. The problem is that their number (between Manchester and Dover) is usually higher than those seen in Europe (from Calais to Budapest).

This proves one thing: cars (regardless of age) can break down in traffic anytime. Having a breakdown cover for older cars in the UK is not a fad but a must-have.