I have been paying this company for over EIGHT years and never made a claim. Today for the first time ever in over 30 years of driving I accidentally locked the keys in the car. I could not ring the AutoAid control centre as the paperwork was also inside the car. I rang my local garage, secure in the knowledge that I could pay the garage and then claim the money back. I had to pay £30, but no damage was done to the car and it didn't take long.
I got home and phoned AutoAid to claim. They asked the usual endless security questions, put me on hold, and then said that keys locked in the car were excluded from the policy. To me, having a car that you cannot move without help from a skilled garage or locksmith is identical to a breakdown. They would not have it and were indifferent to the fact that I had been paying them for years with no claims. I cancelled the policy on the spot and would advise anyone to read the AutoAid small print really carefully. Yes they are cheap. But I paid peanuts and got NO monkeys! So to me now, they are not cheap in that I have been paying out for years, yet they would not pay out when I needed them to, and unfit for purpose.
The only good thing about this company that they do not charge an admin fee is you cancel your policy!
Let's be honest, it's never pleasant to breakdown and some sort of breakdown cover is essential to ensure that if it happens to you, you are not stranded in the middle of nowhere. Most people are aware of the big motoring organisations like the AA or RAC, but alternatives do exist and are often a lot cheaper. AutoAid is one such company.
AutoAid came recommended via the Moneysavingexpert.com website and at first, I was somewhat cynical. AutoAid charge just £38 per year for full cover and I wondered how they could possibly offer the same level of cover as the AA or RAC premium packages that cost well over £100. The fact is that they do. The cover you get includes repair at the roadside (if possible) or towing you to a garage, getting you to your destination if your car can't immediately be fixed and even cover if you break down at home. If you break down when you are a passenger in someone else's car, you can call them out on your cover and you can add cover for a spouse for free. In other words, you get exactly the same cover as the top level AA/RAC prices for around a third of the cost.
The one major difference is that with AutoAid, you have to pay the recovery garage upfront and then claim the money back. This is because they don't actually maintain their own fleet of vans, but use local garages as their agents. In practical terms, this makes very little difference - you just need to make sure that you have the means to pay the garage. When you ring to report a breakdown, they ask how you would like to pay (cash, credit/debit card etc.) and then make sure they contact a garage that accepts your preferred method. This means you don't need to panic about not having enough cash on you or having left your credit card at home.
If you break down in an area where you already know a reliable garage, you don't even need to call AutoAid. You can simply call the garage direct, pay them and then send AutoAid a copy of the receipt for reimbursement. This is just another small example of how AutoAid have designed their service to minimise the delay to the customer.
If you are unlucky enough to break down, AutoAid try and make the recovery process as simple as possible. You simply phone a Freephone number with your membership details, report where have broken down and what the problem is and they will arrange for one of their agent garages in the area to come out to you. You usually receive a follow up text or phone call providing a rough estimate of how long it will be before they get to you, which is handy.
Recovery time can depend on different things (where you have broken down, how busy the local garages are etc.), but in our experience it's comparable with the waiting times of the bigger motoring organisations. The longest we have had to wait is an hour, but on most occasions, it's been 30 minutes or less.
The process for claiming your money back is also easy. There is just one short (A4) form to complete which is downloadable as a PDF document from their website. Unlike many claim forms, this is pretty straightforward to fill in, requiring just basic details about you, your car and the journey you were undertaking at the time of the breakdown. You then send this, along with the original garage invoice and wait for the cheque to arrive. Claims processing is also very efficient and we have found that we usually receive a cheque within 10-14 days of submitting the claim and there have never been any quibbles over the invoices sent.
The one weak link about AutoAid used to be their website. Although it contained a lot of helpful information about their services and various downloadable documentation (including the claims form), it wasn't terribly user-friendly when it came to some of the basics. For instance you couldn't join or renew your membership online - you had to phone them up to do this. Recently, however, it has undergone a bit of an overhaul. It retains a nice, clear layout that makes it easy to use, but has had a lot functionality added to it so that you can now manage your membership online.
I have to confess that when I initially saw the price offered by AutoAid, I wondered how on earth they could provide a decent level of service. Breaking down is stressful enough, without having to deal with a poor recovery service. AutoAid are anything but poor. We have used them on a few occasions and have always found them highly efficient. The membership fee of £38 for complete cover is an absolute bargain, and nor do they go for stealthy increases when you renew. We have been with them now for three years and the price has not risen in that time.
Forget the AA and the RAC and join AutoAid instead. There might be the slight inconvenience of having to pay the money up front and claim it back, but when you consider how much you save on the premium, this is a minor inconvenience. Given the high quality service you also get, there's just no reason for paying the inflated prices of other organisations.
© Copyright SWSt 2012