History of car breakdown cover
In 1897 the RAC were formed (known then as the Royal Automobile Club) to provide advice and breakdown assistance to car owners. They also used to publish books about cars and lobby the UK government on issues relating to cars and transport.
In 1901 the RAC then added uniformed patrols who assisted members who’s car had broken down. It was a far cry from the Orange vans we see today. Patrols were often on foot or on peddle bikes as during this time, motor vehicles were simply too expensive.
In 1905 the AA was formed as a motoring advice group to assist those who drive cars and to help them avoid police speed traps. Due to the popularity of the motor car and that of the AA, their list of services would soon expand.
The AA started the erection of road signs throughout the UK, giving car drivers directions and warnings.
Due to the car becoming ever popular (although still an expensive luxury just for the rich), in 1908 the AA launched their first car handbook, listing appointed agents and car repairers throughout the UK.
In 1912 the AA and the RAC started installing roadside telephone boxes so that motorists who’s car had broken down could call for roadside breakdown assistance. The AA developed their car handbook further by including hotel and restaurant reviews, which are still well regarded to this day.
In 1930 local council authorities take over the responsibility from the AA for the erection and maintenance of the road signs through out the UK. AA funded road signs can still be seen today, and are often yellow in colour and point drivers in the direction of special events or tourist attractions.
1971 sees the introduction of the UK’s third major breakdown service – National Breakdown (later renamed to Green Flag breakdown). They introduced vehicle based breakdown cover rather than individual based as the AA and RAC has previously done.
Motoring group GEM (originally founded in 1932) starts to offer it’s own breakdown cover deals under the name GEM Motoring Assist. Gem use local breakdown recovery agents to help their members rather than owning their own fleet of breakdown vehicles.
The Environment Transport Association (ETA) was formed in 1990, offering it’s own breakdown service and promoting responsible and more environmentally friendly ways of enjoying your the use of your car. Major breakdown cover companies introduce the use of satellite navigation a way of finding stranded motorists and reducing their breakdown recovery response times.
National Breakdown re-branded itself to Green Flag breakdown recovery, continuing to offer their (at the time) unique vehicle based breakdown cover rather than individual based breakdown cover which was offered the the ‘big 2’ provers; The AA and the RAC.
In 1999 the AA is sold to Centrica. The major breakdown cover providers introduce high-tech roadside diagnostics computers in order to establish the cause of a breakdown more rapidly, making them much more efficient.
The AA is sold on once more in 2004, as it’s new private equity owners start cost cutting, which the company later admits went too far. The results of which are a lot of unhappy customers who suffer at the hands of the AA’s poor customer service and reduced response times (due to a significant reduction in the number of patrols). The company later reneged on some of these cost cutting measures and introduced more patrols.
In 2005 the AA is bought by the UK’s biggest car insurance company; Aviva.
Breakdown Cover Comparison