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Roadside Recovery - Are you covered?

When you next renew your breakdown cover it might be worth checking the small print to make sure your trailer is covered too.

Thousands of boaters up and down the country rely on towing to get their boats to the water, whether it’s towing a RIB to the local slip way, or heading to a regatta with the dinghy in tow.  But what happens if your car or trailer breaks down?  Will you be covered for the recovery of both or will you end up having to leave your boat and trailer on the side of the road?

“A number of members have highlighted issues they have had getting roadside recovery when they have been towing their boats, with some having to leave their boat and trailer on the roadside due to the fact it wasn’t covered on their breakdown recovery”, explains Conor Swift, RYA Membership Development Manager.   “With that in mind we are reminding boaters to check their roadside recovery terms and conditions.”

We spoke to three breakdown cover providers, the AA, RAC and Green Flag, to find out what terms and conditions apply to their recovery policies.

If my car breaks down towing a trailer/boat will the trailer and boat be recovered?

AA - Yes it will be recovered, as long as it falls within our vehicle specification limits.

Vehicle specifications - Breakdown assistance is only available for cars, motorhomes, vans, minibuses or motorcycles (including quads and trikes) which meet the specifications set out below. Please note that “car, van, minibus or motorcycle” does not include, amongst other things, electric pavement vehicles, electrical wheelchairs, bicycles (including electric bicycles), any vehicle which cannot lawfully be used on the public highway and/or any non-motorised vehicle. Maximum Vehicle Weight: 3.5 tonnes (3,500kg) gross vehicle weight Maximum Vehicle Width: 7ft 6in (2.3m) which constitutes the overall width of the vehicle bodywork excluding mirrors, measured at the widest points. Assistance will also be provided for a caravan or trailer which was on tow at the time of the breakdown, provided that it falls within the above limits.

Green Flag - For annual UK policies, we include cover for trailers as standard and if we can’t fix the main vehicle or trailer at the roadside then we'd recover both, we won’t leave the trailer there and recover just the car.

RAC - We recover trailers as well as the vehicle that is towing them. Please note that the towing vehicle must be a car, light van, motorhome or minibus and need to be less than:

  • 3.5 tonnes
  • 6.4 metres long including the tow bar
  • 2.55 metres wide

The distance of the recovery will depend on the level of RAC cover chosen.

If the trailer breaks down but the car is fine will your policy cover a call out to fix / recovery the trailer?

AA - Again yes it will as long as it falls within our vehicle specification limits. For example if the trailer within these specifications suffers a punctured tyre we would attend to fix or recover.

RAC - If your trailer breaks down within the UK, we will attempt to repair it at the roadside. This could either be a permanent or temporary repair. However if the trailer cannot be repaired, we will not recover it.

If I’m covered, is this automatically part of the policy or do I have to inform you in advance?

AA - It is covered automatically, and you do not need to inform us prior to purchasing cover or prior to starting your journey. However please inform us when you contact us for assistance.

Green Flag - Not for annual cover, but on short term cover we ask the question and this may affect the price of the premium charged

Rules & caveats apply:

  • Trailers and caravans (including their load) must be:

            - Less than 7m long

            - Less than 3m high

            - Less than 2.55m wide

            - Less than 3,500kg in weight

  • When full loaded trailers / caravans must not weigh more than the car that's towing it weighs when empty
  • Trailers / caravans must be of standard make and connected to the car using an ordinary 50mm tow-ball when the breakdown occurs.
  • Recovery distances are dependent on the cover level chosen.
  • For short term cover in Europe, an additional premium may be charged if the customer will be towing a trailer / caravan.

RAC - Trailers are covered in the circumstances described above and we do not need to be informed in advance.  All responses apply to UK policies only. If you are unclear on what the RAC can provide cover for, please contact us on 08000 722 822. Our full terms and conditions (correct as of July 2017) can be found online at http://bit.ly/RAC-UKBD-terms. For details of our cover for trailers in Europe, please refer to our terms online at http://bit.ly/RAC-EBC-terms.

The team at the AA added: “We recommend drivers to do some basic car maintenance and checks before embarking on a long journey, including checking the condition of lights and tyres – not just the tread but also whether there is any damage such as cracks or bulges - and ensuring that the pressure is adjusted for a heavy load if necessary. This includes checking the spare wheel and the lights and tyres on any trailer you may be towing, particularly if it hasn’t been used for some time. For more information please see www.theaa.com/driving-advice/legal/tyres. It’s worthwhile checking your car every few weeks as it could help you to spot any problems before they cause a breakdown.”

As you can see terms and conditions of cover do vary, so before you head out on your next journey check your breakdown cover to ensure you meet the specifics of cover, giving you peace of mind should the unexpected happen.

Don’t forget the insurance!

As well as checking what cover you have if you break down you also need to make sure you have the right insurance in place if you are using a trailer.

First and foremost, it’s important to stress that you must notify your insurer if your car has a tow bar fitted in order to make sure that damage caused by your trailer or your car to third parties is covered. The towing vehicle should be insured for the purpose of towing and the boat / trailer should be separately insured. 

Liability for damage caused by the boat / trailer combination when it is attached to the towing vehicle, or when it has become accidentally detached from it, should be covered under the third party liability section of the vehicle’s insurance policy.  Damage caused to the boat/trailer should be covered under the boat’s insurance policy.

The exact cover however is a matter of contract between insurer and policy holder.  If in doubt as to whether you have the required cover, or what your cover includes, always check with your insurer. The RYA also provides detailed guidance for its members on the rules and regulations for trailing and roof racking. For more information, contact the RYA Legal Team on 023 8060 4223 or legal@rya.org.uk

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