/ Motoring, Technology

Would you use an app to call for help?

Spare wheel lying in the road

Nearly one in five people who filled out our car survey had to call out a breakdown service. But if it was you, would you phone for help, or would you consider using an app instead?

Last year, my trusty little Toyota Corolla suffered a shunt. Whilst crawling along in slow traffic, the person behind me drove into the back of my car.

No one was hurt and there was no visible damage to (my) car. But just to be on the safe side, I called out my breakdown company to check the car over.

Now the problem – I was on a random layby on the A338. My describing of where I was stranded was awkward at best: ‘Erm… I can see trees, and a field…’. But I was found in a reasonable amount of time, and the mechanic soon deemed my car safe.

I didn’t even think to use my breakdown company’s app – and I certainly didn’t have it downloaded onto my phone. But if I had, my position would have been sent straight to the company, and I may have saved some battery life on my phone too. So is it the way of the future?

Start Rescue app’s on the up

In our reliability survey, of the 8,504 people who reported they’d had a breakdown, on average only 2% said they used an app to contact their breakdown provider. Whereas 97% phoned in like I did.

But there is a company bucking the trend – Start Rescue.

Start claims that last year, 12% of their customers reported their breakdown via an app (up from 2% when they launched the app in 2010). And that correlates with our survey – 11% of Start Rescue members we spoke to said they used the app rather than calling. Significantly above the average.

Advantages of the app

I spoke to Lee Puffet, Joint Managing Director of Call Assist, the company that owns and operates Start Rescue. He outlined three main advantages of using the app:

Pinpointing the customer’s location without the need to ask too many questions. Many customers can be a long way from home and not know exactly where they are located, therefore the app helps to provide an immediate initial bearing.

Policy details are inputted during the app registration. Claims are immediately detailed on our system as soon as the app assistance request is received.

Preserving the customer’s mobile phone battery charge as much as possible without them needing to make a phone call. Not all customers will be able to keep their phone charged due to the type of fault with the vehicle.’

It all sounds very sensible. But the downside as I see it is that I’d have to have an app downloaded that I may not use for years. I’ve still not downloaded my breakdown company’s app, but it is something I’ve been meaning to do – which puts it in the same category as re-painting the garage door and maybe actually writing that novel that I’ve been ‘working on’.

So despite my experience, I’m not a convert yet. But what about you? Would you use an app to call out your breakdown company?


Sounds like a sensible thing to have in your armoury; unfortunately my 10 year old Nokia won’t cooperate as far as I know. If your satnav still works that should give you a location or coordinates for when you telephone. I have only broken down where there are road names or road markers, never in the middle of nowhere, but I can imagine the confusion that sets in.

“Nearly one in five people who filled out our car survey had to call out a breakdown service.”

I can only suggest you make the surveys less taxing. Its not good to reduce people to this level of psychological damage.
: )

Wonderful! 🙂

Correction, I think the stats are 1 in 4 for people breakdowns. If only our health services were as efficient as the motor industry’s……………..

Apps may be fine in big towns and cities but an App usually requires a WiFi or 3G connection whereas a phone call can be made with a poor signal and a TXT can be sent with almost no signal. Apps such as “My GPS” can provide you with an accurate location without 3G or WiFi and the result can be sent with a TXT

Steve Mack says:
26 January 2017

I have the AA breakdown app on my phone but it needs an internet connection and, as I have a PAYG phone, I only have internet connection while I am at home so the service is pretty useless.