What is the difference between personal and vehicle breakdown cover?

Personal breakdown cover applies to an individual, whatever car they use, while vehicle cover applies only to the specified car, or cars, on a policy. They each have their benefits and the best type of cover for you will depend on your driving habits.

Rhiannon Philps Published on 22 January 2019. Last updated on 18 May 2021.
What is the difference between personal and vehicle breakdown cover?

Breakdown cover is useful protection to have so you can call for help if your car stops working. But there is not just one type of breakdown policy. In addition to the different levels of cover, ranging from basic roadside assistance to more comprehensive onward travel, there is also a choice between a personal-based breakdown policy or a vehicle-based policy.

» MORE: What does a typical breakdown cover policy include?

The key difference between personal and vehicle breakdown cover is that personal policies cover an individual and vehicle policies cover a car.

Whether you’re buying a single breakdown policy or a group policy, the decision on whether personal or vehicle cover is right for you will depend on how many cars you drive, as well as how many people you live with and what cars they drive.

To help you decide what kind of policy to get, read our quick guide to understand the advantages and disadvantages of personal and vehicle breakdown cover.

What is personal breakdown cover?

Personal breakdown cover is a policy that covers you as a named driver instead of covering a designated vehicle or vehicles.

This means that if you break down, you will be able to call for help under your personal breakdown cover policy, regardless of what vehicle you are driving.

Most personal breakdown cover policies will even allow you to phone for assistance if you are just a passenger in a car that breaks down.

Sometimes you can put a named vehicle on a personal breakdown policy so that a specific car is covered even if you aren’t driving it, but this option varies between providers. Also, be aware that some cars may not be eligible for cover under a personal policy. Your provider will list any restricted vehicles, so make sure you are aware of these before taking out cover.

Personal breakdown cover is most useful if you regularly drive different vehicles, whether you own two or more cars or use hire cars, and if you often travel as a passenger in other cars.

» COMPARE: Top personal breakdown cover deals and policies

Advantages and disadvantages of personal breakdown cover

Advantages of personal breakdown cover Disadvantages of personal breakdown cover
  • You have cover when you break down in most vehicles, including motorbikes and campervans, sometimes even if you are just a passenger
  • You can often include several people on a single multi-person policy
  • You have the freedom to drive hire cars, work cars, family or friends' cars and still be covered
  • Personal breakdown cover is often more expensive than vehicle cover
  • You may not be able to claim on a personal policy if you’re travelling in a vehicle restricted by your provider
  • The policyholder needs to be in a car to get assistance

What is vehicle breakdown cover?

Vehicle breakdown cover is a policy that will cover a specific vehicle, regardless of who is driving it. The policy is linked to that vehicle alone - and anyone who is driving it - so you will only be covered when you drive that vehicle and not if you are driving a different car.

This kind of cover will typically be cheaper than personal cover as the provider knows what car they’ll be covering, so there’s less risk involved for them.

Vehicle breakdown cover is ideal if you mainly use one car. If one or more people also live in your house and use that same car, they will be covered under a vehicle policy too.

» COMPARE: Vehicle breakdown cover options from leading brands

Advantages and disadvantages of vehicle breakdown cover

Advantages of vehicle breakdown cover Disadvantages of vehicle breakdown cover
  • Vehicle breakdown cover is usually cheaper than personal cover
  • Suitable for drivers who only drive one car
  • Suitable for couples or individuals who share one vehicle
  • Anyone that drives the vehicle is covered
  • Only covers a particular named car
  • You are not covered if you drive, or are a passenger in, another car

Choosing a policy for multiple cars or drivers

If you want to take out breakdown cover for more than one person or car, you can choose between personal or vehicle-based policies.

For example, if multiple people share and use the same car, a standard vehicle breakdown policy will cover whoever is driving that car. But if you have two or more cars, you can take out multi-car cover that will include all vehicles under one policy.

If you and other members of your household regularly drive different cars, it may be worth taking out a family policy to make sure everyone is covered, whatever car they use. This would be a cheaper option than taking out several individual breakdown policies and you wouldn’t need to worry about whether you are covered to drive a particular vehicle.

Read more on how to choose multi-car and multi-person breakdown cover.

Finding the right breakdown cover for you

Once you have decided whether a personal or a vehicle breakdown policy is best for you, the next step is to choose the level of cover you need.

To help you make a decision, you can find out more about the different types of breakdown cover, which includes Roadside Assistance, National Recover, Home Start, Onward Travel and European cover.

Once you’ve got that sorted, you should be well-prepared to compare breakdown cover and find the best and most affordable policy for your situation.

» COMPARE: Car breakdown cover with our comparison table


About the author:

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more

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