“ Car breakdown recovery service „
Since first owning a car in the mid-90s, Ive always had breakdown recovery. My original choice was influenced by my parents, who had been members of the AA for years. Once Id joined, apathy took over and I simply renewed my subscription each year.
Last year, I realised that (once more) my subscription had increased horrendously and began to look at alternatives. Thats when I saw GEM Motoring Assist mentioned on the moneysavingexpert.com website and decided to give it a try.
GEMs website (http://www.motoringassist.com) is easy to navigate. Although it now offers lots of different services, breakdown recovery is easy to find via the tabs along the top of the screen. You can find out about levels of cover, see the terms and conditions, view frequently ask questions and even download a claim form. Cover can be arranged online , with the usual 10% discount for doing so. Its easy on the eye and very straightforward to find what you want. Top marks for the website, then!
Levels of cover
Prices are very competitive when compared with the big players like the AA or RAC. There are three levels of cover: (prices in brackets are the cost when ordered online)
** Roadside the most basic package offers simple roadside repairs or transport home/to the nearest garage. Costs £51.50 (£46.35)
** Recovery Extra offers roadside assistance, recovery within the UK, home start if your car breaks down at home, onward travel if you break down in the middle of a journey and emergency accommodation. Cost: £88.50 (£79.65)
** Recovery Reclaim the same as the Extra package, but operates like an insurance scheme. You pay the garage, then reclaim it from GEM. As administrative costs are lower, this package is cheaper, costing £67.50 (£60.75).
The cost to renew with the AA at the same level of cover was £171.25 (£128.44). Quite a saving! Not only that, but GEMs terms are a little more generous. There is no limit to how many times you can use them in a year. And, whilst the AA only guarantees to transport 2 people to their destination, GEM will transport up to 4.
Why is it so cheap?
The main reason GEM is cheaper than its rivals is they dont have a fleet of vans to maintain or mechanics to pay. Instead, they contact a garage close to where you have broken down and get them to come out to you. This means a cheaper service but in this case, cheap doesnt mean second best!
Becoming a member
Joining GEM was an absolute doddle - again thanks to their easy to use website. The online application took about 5 minutes to complete and that was it! Around five days later, I received my membership pack, which I stashed away until needed. An additional benefit (which I didnt realise at the time) is that they automatically give you membership of KeyCare (worth £18 a year). This means if you lose your keys and someone hands then in, they make sure you get them back.
Help! Ive broken down!
Of course, breakdown cover is one of those things you hope you never need but when you do, youre glad youve got it. Touch wood, Ive only had to call GEM once, but was really impressed. Heres my story.
A few weeks ago, I got in my car to go to work and it wouldnt start. I left it 30 minutes or so, in case it was just sulking and tried again. Same result. Time to get GEM on the case!
I rang the number and the phone was answered within 3 rings. I gave my membership number to the man who answered the phone, along with details of where I had broken down and what the problem was. He was very efficient and thorough, but friendly. I was advised that they would contact one of the local garages and that someone would be out within an hour. I was also asked how I wanted to pay the garage. This is important because if, for example, you only have a credit card on you, theyll make sure they contact a garage that accepts roadside credit card payments. All in all, the phone call lasted less than two minutes.
I was slightly cynical about the within the hour claim, yet less than 15 minutes later a lorry pulled up. This, of course, is the benefit of using local agents: GEM simply phone the one nearest to you, so you dont have to wait for one of their mechanics to be free. The mechanic was very efficient and fixed the car within 15 minutes. From breakdown to back on the road in around 30 minutes: excellent!
After he had gone, I suddenly realised I hadnt paid! Anyway, I just assumed GEM had a special arrangement with this particular garage and paid them directly. It turned out this was not the case! Two months later, I received a letter from GEM with an invoice from the garage stating I needed to pay it and reclaim the costs. This was the only part of the procedure that was a slight nuisance. GEM obviously hadnt explained the process to the garage, and, because it was the first time I had used them, I supposed the garage would know what to do. Although it was a slight inconvenience, though, it wasnt too much of an issue. The claim form was straightforward to fill in. Since it was a local garage, I didnt have to travel miles to pay the bill and the claim for was just a single side of A4, so didnt take a long time to complete.
Having blotted their copy book slightly, GEM returned to form with excellent service. I posted the claim form on Tuesday afternoon, thinking it would be a couple of weeks before the refund arrived. That Friday lunchtime, there was another letter. My first thought was that Id done something wrong and the form was being returned. But no! It was the refund itself. Hows that for service?
On the basis of my experience so far, I wouldnt hesitate to recommend GEM. They are far cheaper than their rivals and, if anything, more efficient. If your breakdown insurance is up for renewal, they are definitely worth considering.
Although Id never heard of them, GEM have actually been around since 1932, and have offered breakdown services since 1978, so theyre no fly-by-night company! You can find out more information below.
GEM Motoring Assist
East Sussex, RH18 5EN
Tel: 01342 825 676
Fax: 01342 824 847