When it comes to the cost of car insurance- it depends on a number of factors, from the car you drive to the level of cover you want, your age and accident record and the No Claims Bonus you have earned over the years.

Do you have breakdown cover?

When choosing your insurance company, it’s worth asking if the policy includes breakdown cover. While including roadside assistance in a policy is not mandatory, many comprehensive policies include it as standard or offer it as an extra at a small additional cost.  And for those taking out a third party policy – because their car is slightly older – it’s even more reason to ask for breakdown cover.

Roadside assistance will not only help you if you are involved in an accident and your car needs towing but also if you have a puncture, there is a mechanical fault, your battery runs flat or even if you simply run out of petrol.

In all of these instances, you will need a repair driver to either mend your car on the spot or tow you to the garage of your choice. And this assistance can happen wherever you are – from your home to the side of a road. When you break down, all you have to do is call the emergency number issued with the insurance policy and give the operator your location.

If you don’t have roadside assistance in place, then you will not only have to find a garage that will pick up your vehicle but you will also pay upfront for the service. However, before signing up for breakdown cover, here are five factors to consider:

Do I really need breakdown cover?

If roadside assistance is covered in your policy, the cost of calling out the repairman to restart a car with a faulty battery or if need be, tow it to the nearest garage, will cost you nothing.  If you don’t have it, you are looking at shelling out a few hundred dollars depending on the distance covered simply to tow the vehicle to the nearest garage and that’s before a mechanic begins to assess the cause of the problem.

What is actually covered?

Once you have breakdown cover in place, understand what is included i.e. the extent to which a repairman will fix your car. If you have a flat tyre for example, the cover will generally include the work it takes for the repairman to replace the tyre with the spare. You will still be liable for buying a new tyre, unless of course the tyres were damaged in an accident. Similarly, if your battery is flat, the repairman will jumpstart the car or tow you to the nearest garage for the battery to be replaced. The cost of actually replacing the battery falls on you.

What happens if I get stuck in the middle of the desert?

While roadside assistance should mean the breakdown vehicle will come wherever you are, it is wise to double check if this includes any off-road excursions, some policies have an exclusion clause for off-road accidents or incidents – therefore you may need to purchase off-road cover as another addition to the policy. And remember you don’t need to be in the middle of the desert to get stuck in sand. We all park in sandy car parks or take short cuts across sand-filled areas and some policies have very clear limits as to what they classify as off-road driving. If you get stuck a few metres too many from the side of a road – standard breakdown cover may not extend to you.

Who offers breakdown assistance?

If you have recently bought a new car it’s worth checking with your dealer.  Ford Road Assist, for example, offers complimentary roadside assistance for Ford, Mercury and Lincolin customers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Chevrolet offers a similar scheme.

A number of garages have roadside assistance schemes that their clients can sign up for and it’s also worth checking the benefits that come with your credit card as rewards can include roadside assistance.

However, always read the small print and the extent of this cover.  Car dealerships often limit cover to a period of time – usually the length of the warranty or 100,000 kilometres. There can also be limits on the cost of towing, often around $150, and while some schemes do recover the vehicle after an accident, others don’t.

Do your research, compare all auto insurance policies available in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and pick one which best suits your needs and saves you money in the long run.

What happens if I break down in another country?

If you’re heading to Oman for the weekend or around the GCC for a tour, then make sure your insurance covers the area you are travelling to and then check that your roadside assistance, if not tied to your car insurance policy, covers that area too. The costs of breaking down without cover in place could be excruciating.