The AA – What you need to know
Breakdown cover is a necessary evil; you buy it in the hope that you aren’t ever going to use it and when you do you want a mechanic there within minutes who can fix your car and get you on your way within seconds.
Well, we can’t guarantee service that prompt but if you are buying car breakdown cover, doesn’t it make sense to buy from the biggest? That’ll be the Automobile Association, or ‘AA’ as they are better known.
The AA was founded by a group of motorists in 1905 to warn motorists of a police speed trap (something that would be illegal now…). They famously saluted members as they drove past – unless the police were out and about on that stretch, in which case they would stand without saluting.
This system was developed in 1910 following a test case in which an AA Patrolman was found guilty of ‘obstructing an officer in the course of his duty’ for saluting to warn of a speed trap; the absence of a salute was not seen as a warning, per se. Clever, eh? This continued until the 1960s and was a valuable reason for joining the AA. Indeed, in 1939 they had 725,000 members, a staggering figure that represented 35% of all motorists.
Is there still a reason to join the AA even though they can’t warn you of speed traps? Absolutely!
The AA has always been on the side of the motorists. In fact, they were the first to erect road signs to warn motorists of speed limits, road conditions and other hazards and continued to do so well into the 1930s, when responsibility passed to the relevant local authority. They also launched legal cover for their members and were the first motoring organisation to develop a ‘Relay’-service.
Launched in 1973, it promised to take a motorist, their family and their broken-down car (and caravan or trailer) to any location within the UK if it couldn’t be repaired at the roadside. Groundbreaking stuff at the time.
They are also bang-up-to-date having issued their patrols with laptop computers and other diagnostic equipment, allowing them to interrogate modern cars’ computers to try and pinpoint the problem, something that won Autocar’s ‘Idea of the Year’ award in 2003.
The AA has 15 million members today, making it the largest motoring organisation and the one that employs more patrols than anyone else.
Vehicle Breakdown Cover
The AA has four levels of breakdown cover for the private motorist in the United Kingdom: ‘Roadside’, ‘Roadside and National Rescue’, ‘Roadside, National Rescue and Cover at Home’, and ‘Roadside, National Rescue, Cover at Home, and Parts and Garage Cover’.
Roadside cover provides roadside assistance by an AA patrol who will try to repair your car at the side of the road. If they can’t repair it then they will recover you and your car to the nearest garage. You must then arrange for your car to be repaired. This might interrupt your holiday or journey if they don’t have the ability to do so immediately or if your car breaks down at the weekend or in the evenings when they are closed.
The cover also provides help in the event of an accident.
Roadside and National Rescue builds on the level of protection given by Roadside cover and adds recovery of you and your car anywhere in the UK if they can’t fix it at the side of the road. This lets you get on with your journey or holiday safe in the knowledge that you can arrange repairs once you have arrived at your destination.
Roadside, National Rescue and Cover at Home does exactly what it says, adding cover at home. So if your car won’t start or you have other mechanical problems on your driveway then the AA will come out and help.
Roadside, National Rescue, Cover at Home, and Parts and Garage Cover is the most comprehensive and expensive cover. It provides up to five contributions of £500 a time towards the parts and labour bill if your car breaks down.
The AA also provides an ‘Onward Travel’ option at extra cost. This provides a hire car for up to 72 hours, or an overnight hotel stay or the cost of a return public transport journey.
Cover can also be provided for European travel, giving English-speaking assistance, recovery back to your home or onward to your destination and emergency accommodation and/or hire car cover in over 40 European countries.
The AA has a directory of discounts for members, giving special prices at over 50 retailers and service providers, including their own.
Don’t forget that the AA isn’t just there when you break down. They also provide:
- Hotel inspection,
- AA special event signage,
- Driving schools,
- An on-line shop,
- A range of accessories,
- Car, home, travel, life, and pet insurance,
- Motoring advice and news,
- Business cover,
- Loans, credit cards, savings, and a travel currency card.
So, if you want the reassurance of breakdown cover by the largest provider, then you need cover from the Automobile Association. Who knows, one day that big yellow van might just be your saviour too!
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