Newest Review: ... in a dark remote part of Scotland!) I phoned the AA, after some annoying automated menu's the phone rang, and rang, and rang - I waited 3... more
The motorists' champion
The AA Breakdown Cover
Member Name: dmandrew
The AA Breakdown Cover
Advantages: Very reliable
Disadvantages: Not cheap
Which provider to choose? I've been a member of the AA for nearly three decades, and have been very happy with their service. I joined the AA rather than the RAC as my father was an AA member, and I trusted his judgement.
What you pay for AA membership in 2010 depends on what you want to cover. Breakdown cover means if the AA can fix it at the roadside, they will. If they can't, they will arrange a local repair for you, but you would have to pay for this. However, from 2004, the AA AA launched a breakdown promise - 'to fix a member's car by the roadside or get them another one' - that gives personal members a courtesy car for 24 hours if their broken-down vehicle cannot be fixed there and then.
If you have a car under 10 years old, you can cover it for breakdowns for just £28 a year. Alternatively, you can cover the driver for £39.20, two people sharing the same address for £59.15, or up to four people living together for £100.87.
If you are on a budget, then this option at least gets a reassuring AA patrolman to you, which could be very reassuring in difficult circumstances such as darkness, remoteness or bad weather. On that point, the AA do operate a sensitive priority system for attending breakdowns, so that lone ladies are reached first.
If you want a bit more, the there is the famous Relay service, which takes you and the car to a destination of your choice on the United Kingdom mainland. This could be perfect if you were going on holiday - the car could be taken to a garage near to where you were staying, and mended while you hired a substitute vehicle. Prices for this , when added to basic breakdown cover, run between £69 and £122.03 for one to four people.
Rolls-Roycing this option is called Stay Mobile. If the AA can't fix your car, then they provide you with alternative transport. You choose between a replacement car for up to 72 hours, public transport costs or overnight accommodation. Prices go between £62.65 and £132.37 when added to basic breakdown cover.
The final bit you can add in is Home Start. The AA's standard breakdown cover doesn't apply if you are at or very near home. I'm not quite sure why, but this has always been the case. Perhaps it's to stop people cheating on the system and buying a heap of junk, towing it home, and then hoping that the AA will fix it. However, it can be desperate if your bona fide jalopy won't play ball in the morning and you have to get in to work, or away on holiday. With Home Start, you're covered at home as well as away from it. This costs £70.35 to £159 when added to the basic breakdown cover.
£138.60 - to £218.62 is what it costs for having all the options.
My own experience of calling the AA with a car not going has always been positive. When you telephone, the call is answered promptly. You describe where you are, which car you are in, and tell them the problem. The AA used to say that you would be attended within the hour, and I have never known them come later than that. More recently, they have said that they will be with me in 45 minutes, and still managed that. Most problems have been fixed there and then: the only one that wasn't was a clutch on a VW Beetle that died in Gloucester on the way to a B and B holiday in Wales. Luckily we had AA Relay and they took us to Cheshire by request, where we stayed for a few days with family while the Beetle was fixed, before heading for Wales.
About five years ago, we had a very nice letter from the AA which thanked us for our loyalty to them, rewarding us with Complimentary Home Start, which is worth about £33 for the two of us.
There are other breakdown services. The RAC is the historical competitor and offers very similar products at very similar prices. The RAC claims to have more patrol cars per member than the AA, so is probably an equally good bet. Green Flag have arrived on the scene more recently. They claim an average arrival time of 30 minutes, and to fix 86% of breakdowns at the roadside. Their website takes a bit longer to get prices, some of which are lower than the AA and the RAC. Unusually, they give you £10 back if they don't get to you within the hour. I wonder whether this would still apply in remote areas of Scotland! ASDA does a breakdown service too.
The AA have had to move with the times quite a bit. Before the days of mobile phones, they supplemented the number of call boxes in the country by adding special ones of their own, which could only be opened with a special AA key. Sadly, these are now redundant, as is the AA patrolman on his motorcycle, as is also the original ornate AA members' badge, examples of which can still be found on Ebay. AA shops have closed down. Fascinatingly, they all used to called Fanum House - fanum being the Latin for temple. The HQ in Basingstoke still bears the name.
The AA is itself a good organization, which has supported the needs of the motorist for over a century. The website is excellent, and the route planners, which date back to the days when these could be ordered through the post by members, are helpful and accurate, especially regarding journey time.
And that concludes my 100th Dooyoo review!
Summary: Such a reassurance on a car journey
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