Breakdown cover is an insurance policy that provides assistance to motorists whose vehicles have suffered a mechanical failure that is significant enough to leave them stranded at their present location. It is traditionally provided by a country's national automobile association - the AA, but may also be made available as part of the service of a vehicle insurance company.
The term breakdown cover is most common in the United Kingdom;it may also be referred to as emergency roadside repair or roadside assistance. The service originated with the development of the first motoring organisations such as the Automobile Association in the UK and Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club in Germany, many of which were founded as membership bodies for motorists; services to assist members where often introduced later, with the creation of a fleet of patrolmen. In the case of the AA, these were traditionally motorcycle-mounted prior to the introduction of vans.
When communication technology and availability made it practical, a network of emergency phone boxes, placed at intervals by the roadside, was introduced. In recent years, the widespread ownership of mobile phones has, to a large degree, supplanted the need for an emergency phone network. With many more vehicles on the road, breakdown cover is now offered by a greater number of companies, particularly car insurers.
Links to the most popular such insurers is provided here.
Breakdown cover may include jump starting an automobile, towing a vehicle, helping to change a flat tire, providing a small amount of fuel when a vehicle runs out of it, pulling out a vehicle that is stuck in snow or helping people who are locked out of their cars.