/ Motoring

Why being loyal drives up the cost of breakdown cover

Our latest research into car breakdown cover has found that renewal prices can leave you out of pocket. Is it right that existing loyal customers are asked to pay more for breakdown cover than new ones?

We have just completed our annual survey of car breakdown cover, comparing companies like the AA, RAC, Green Flag and Britannia Rescue to see if any of them have made the grade as a Which? Recommended Provider.

Our surveys cover waiting times, repairs, customer satisfaction and value for money – it’s this last one that I’m feeling slightly irked about today.

Put simply, I don’t think the costs of breakdown cover are transparent enough. Headline prices look tempting (just £23 for a year’s roadside recovery with Green Flag, for example), but many providers only offer a discount upfront if you agree to automatic, year-on-year renewal.

And your premium’s likely to go up quite a lot after that first year is up, unless you shop around.

Don’t just accept your renewal quote

People regularly contact us complaining that their breakdown renewal premiums are far higher than the previous year’s cover. So we used a real case of someone renewing with the AA.

Our case study had cover for two people and two cars, with roadside assistance, and AA’s ‘relay’ and ‘stay mobile’ cover. The renewal quote they received was £205 – £65 more than the £140 they would pay if they took out a new policy with the AA online. This quote was also £100 more than they would have paid with Aviva, and £85 more than Britannia Rescue.

So our case study called the AA and pointed out the discrepancy between the renewal quote for loyal customers and the price charged for new ones. After a short delay, the AA offered to cut the price to £135 – not quite as low as elsewhere, but a hefty discount nonetheless.

Shop around for the best deal

This problem of inflated renewal premiums isn’t confined to breakdown cover, of course. I recently saved money on my home insurance renewal by entering my details into a comparison website. I ended up insured by the same company, but saved £40 in the process – not bad for 10 minutes work.

So, always shop around and consider checking cashback sites, such as Topcashback or Quidco, for their latest deals.

Has your renewal price for breakdown cover gone through the roof? Let us know how much you were quoted, and whether you were able to make a saving after a bit of haggling.

Angela C says:
29 September 2015

My breakdown renewal was due in August but I never received the renewal price letter. I just saw on my bank statement that the renewal money was taken as usual by Direct Debit but it was 20% dearer than last year whereas earlier years’ increases were about 8%.
Whrn I rang to complain they said they had written to me in July and I was too late to get out of the renewal as the 14 days cooling off period was over. They could not explain why the price was such a huge iincreas other than to say they now charge a penalty of 1.35% for DD by Credit Card. Huh. If I had receied the renewal letter I would have jumped on it in time. As it is I am tied in at a rip-off price and they do not even care that I have declared categorically that I will be leaving them when the year is up.


I have been with the RAC for 25 or more years without ever having claimed. Renewal is due on 29th November. Today I received the renewal quote – an increase of 95.7% – yes I did type that correctly. I was gobsmacked and rang up to ask why before I left them. There was no reason advanced for the increase despite my loyalty and claim free record (“that doesn’t affect the premium” I was told!). The “agent” couldn’t do anything about the price but could offer a 3 month extension. I voted with my feet and got a better deal from my car insurer, LV. So the RAC lose out on my low risk income – serve them right is my thought.


I got my AA renewal yesterday for £204.02 up from the £145 odd that it was last year so I rang them and got my renewal reduced to £153.02. I’ve been with the AA for the last 8 years and I can’t fault the service I’ve had but I did check out the RAC and Green flag for quotes who offered similar packages for £146 & £135 respectively. I used this information in my negotiation and it helped. It does seem daft that they get us to jump through hoops or hope that we won’t notice that we are being shafted with the initial renewal.


My AA renewal has also just come through at £267. The annual brief discussion has reduced it to £178, even though in the last year I did have 3 call outs. 2 were broken belts; the AA no longer keep the plethora of belts needed to be able to repair. The other was a failed vacuum brake pump. So all resulted in transport to our local repairer.


“Get 25% off a Which? gift subscription
Give someone the gift of Which? this Christmas by treating them to an annual magazine subscription. Choose from five magazines and buy as many subscriptions as you like. If you order by 31 December 2015, you’ll save 25% off the normal price of every one.”

From the introduction to this convo:
” Is it right that existing loyal customers are asked to pay more for breakdown cover than new ones?”
Do some existing loyal customers of Which? now need to negotiate a reduced price for their renewals?


I suppose with Which? it’s a sprat to catch a mackerel, and we all benefit from economies of scale.

I think the AA’s conduct in your renewal case was deplorable, however. It shows that they think you need them more than they need you and will fall for the first renewal quote. Some people are not up to dealing with things as capably as others and could get ripped off. It used to be an honourable association but is now just a branch of commercial low-life.


The AA’s subscription for a new subscriber online for my cover was £150 (excluding. I admit, free things they have added for loyalty over the years, but essentially things I would not buy and don’t use) . I go through the same process each year. So like Which?, a spraat to catch a maackerel.

My son renewed his RAC cover and got 25% discount when he rang them up,

Which? is just joining in the same game, aren’t they? Presumably the recipient of the gift subscription will pay 33% more next year if they wish to continue, on what is already, apparently, one of the most expensive consumer association subscriptions in Europe (I haven’t checked this but I seem to remember a respected contributor making this comment).


My AA auto-renewal quote came through at £223.99 including Roadside, Home Start and Relay. After checking pricing as a new customer with other organisations, the best quote was RAC at £128.99 with a £30 Amazon gift card (£98.99 without the gift card). After some gentle haggling with the AA, the price was reduced to £140. After pressing a little more , the customer service agent spoke to his manager and this was then reduced further to £128.99, matching the RAC figure, but as a Silver Member, this includes various benefits and discounts (restaurants, tyres etc), where I might receive more savings than the RAC’s Amazon voucher offer. All in all…£95 (almost 42%) cheaper than the auto-renewal fee and I retained my Silver Membership benefits!