Insurance and breakdown assistance.



A couple of days ago, I received my renewal invitation for the XJ insurance; £330.00, including £55.00 for full European breakdown cover. Reasonable enough to not bother shopping around, but it set my memory in motion.

Until around 25 years ago, I drove all over Europe including frequent trips to my French home without giving a thought to breakdowns, just carrying a can of oil, some premixed coolant, a few tools, bits of wire, insulation tape etc under the spare wheel.

In the early 1990s, I sold my last self built XJC convertible, and was running around in a BMW 735i, which I had been convinced by the motoring press, did not require basic breakdown precautions. In France for a couple of weeks, my then wife and I decided that a trip to Paris (about 200 miles from home) with the three children was the plan for the day. After around 140 miles, there was a loud bang, followed by clouds of steam, a rapidly rising temperature gauge and a halt on the grass verge. The head gasket had blown, taking out the plastic radiator top hose stub. All I had in the boot was the standard BMW tool kit. Soon, a Frenchwoman stopped, asking whether we were ok, and offering to drive me to a garage not too far back, so that I could get whatever I needed, and drive me back to the car (Would a woman have felt safe doing that in England, even back then?).

I was able to buy some fibreglass resin, matting and several litres of Evian, so an hour or so later, with a fibreglass bodge applied to the radiator and cured, the cooling system burbling quietly and on four cylinders, we turned around, limping home, wondering: "How the f are we going to get back to England, and in the meantime, being in the middle of nowhere, how can I even get to the supermarket for food?"

Then I remembered; my RAC MSA membership, also gave me, FOC at the time, full European breakdown assistance, so I called them from my mobile. The following morning, a camion depannage arrived at the house, carrying a brand spanking Mercedes C something or other, with a message from the RAC: "Sorry, this is the largest car we were able to find for you locally. When you wish to return to England, leave it at Cherbourg port, let us know what time your ferry docks in Portsmouth, someone will meet you with another car to get you all back to Colchester, and we will arrange to have your car delivered to your home, or another destination of your choice in Britain, as we have been unable to find a garage, local to you in France, competent to carry out repairs."

That was all abit of a pain, but it could have been a nightmare. Do I begrudge the £55.00 per annum for a little peace of mind? Hardly; even though I don't expect my car to die, it can happen.
Last edited: