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The Automobile Association (AA) motor breakdown service has been in operation for almost 100 years. Today, it provides a much larger network of services together with an effective breakdown and recovery service. Even though the Centrica Group has bought the AA exactly 3 years ago I have not noticed any change in handling of customer breakdown calls and patrol operation.
I have been a member of the AA breakdown service for a few years now under the AA’s most basic policy with joint cover for 2 people living at the same address. During my time as a member, we have called out the AA on several occasions for breakdowns ranging from a puncture, blown exhaust and a failed water pump on the second car in our household. With each incident, the time taken for the AA to reach us after the making the call was approximately 30 - 40 minutes and we have been satisfied with the service received. Although our policy is the most basic one known as ‘Roadside’, which is only meant to transport you to the nearest garage within 10 miles but on 2 occasions previously we had broken down more than 10 miles from home. The last time was on the A50 Stoke at about 9.30p.m. and we were towed about 30 miles to home where the nearest garage was. I guess it depends on the time and nature of your call, as one cannot expect garages in the UK to stay open after 6p.m. So, the AA so far always seem to have the customer’s safety and well being at heart!
Recent Breakdown & Handling of calls by Customer Service
Recently, however, I have had to call the AA out for breakdown of my own car (alfa romeo – they must be more reliable!) so its given me time to re-assess the level of AA service offered and received in current times.
I was about 2 miles away from my local area on route to my new house to take delivery of a new electrical household product, whilst stuck in stationary traffic on a High Street on a busy Friday lunchtime. When the traffic started to move, my car failed and lost all power. I tried the ignition and no power, all cut out. I called the AA on the 0800 breakdown number using my mobile to report the breakdown at 12.00. A friendly female operator logged my call. I didn’t know the name of the street I was on but did know the name of the town. I also pointed out that I was on a busy street and blocking all the traffic and that a backlog of traffic was building up. I also mentioned I was 8 months pregnant. She told me not to worry and that the AA would stay in touch with me using text messages. Within 2 minutes, I received a text message informing me that the AA were on its way and would be with me by 12.40.
So, I stayed in the car waiting and watching the miles of backlog of traffic building up…there was nothing I could do. Then at last a male pedestrian came to my rescue and pushed me further down the road (out of the bottleneck) so cars could pass me. Then within 5 minutes, the police arrived, pushed my car into the next side street away from the main road, and advised me to go for a coffee. By now, it was 12.25 so I left my vehicle…just as I got to the coffee shop I saw the AA truck arrive before their quoted time, they got to me by 12.30, which is 30 minutes after I reported the call.
The AA soon found the problem, which I thought might have been either a failed ECU unit/ engine management or failed battery…but no, it was a broken cambelt!! (It so happens it was already booked for a cambelt change in 2 weeks time due to my local alfa garage being so busy!). Then comes the next problem, the tow bar is missing from my alfa. So, the AA cannot tow the car. So, they had to call a large pick-up truck that can lift my car. In the meantime they asked me where I would like towing to…I explained I was desperately trying to make it in time for a delivery of household goods at the new house (which is not yet registered with the AA and is about 10 miles from where I broke down). It was better that the car was shipped to my old address (less than 2 miles away) as that is nearer to all the garages.
My Policy (Roadside) only allows shipping/rescue to one address, as I didn’t have the extended version of ‘Relay’ that tows cars to anywhere in the UK. As a large truck had to be ordered which was to take 60-90 minutes, the AA driver drove me to the new address and my vehicle was sent to my old address (as I could not establish contact with the local alfa garage).
Finally, the next day I was stuck again trying to get the car to a garage, establishing contact once more with the AA they agreed to tow me for a second time from home to a garage of my choice. This was because I could not get through to the Service Department of the local alfa dealer (Reg Vardy –for 5 hours on day of breakdown!) and, as the AA knew I was pregnant. I have now left the vehicle with the local alfa dealer who will investigate if there is any further damage beyond cambelts (e.g. valve damage etc). (If there is damage to valve or cylinder heads I am looking in hundreds of pounds for the repair! –lets hope not!)
The AA were so helpful on this second trip that the driver even ran me home again. So, I have no complaints against the AA’s helpfulness in ensuring they transport both the car and driver to the safest place of their choice.
I have the cheapest option the AA offer known as Roadside Option 100. This basically means the AA will assist you in the event of a breakdown and if they cannot fix the problem temporarily on the spot will take your car either to the nearest garage within 10 miles or to your home whichever is nearer. This level of cover starts at £40. You can make this a joint cover, like we have, and the cost is £63. The disadvantage of this type of cover it does not give unlimited breakdown transportation. For example, lets say you broke down in Edinburgh and had to get to London, they will not tow you 300 plus miles! Though as can be seen in my situation all this is flexible based on circumstances.
If you want an extended cover you need Option 200 which is ‘Roadside + Relay’ which will take you to any address in the UK. This starts at £79 for single cover. There are various other upgrades one can add to this that include a replacement courtesy car or overnight accommodation in a hotel etc. Remember with this type of cover though it is only if you breakdown away from home. If you find your car will not start from home one needs to add an option known as ‘Homestart’ to the policy. I plan to add ‘Homestart’ to my policy, so Roadside + Homestart costs £96 for 2 people.
Overall, in addition to efficient patrol service and helpful customer call centre staff I find AA’s service reasonably priced with single cover starting at around £40, which is quite reasonable and most definitely in line with other motoring breakdown organisations such as Green Flag who’s cover (Roadside Assistance) starts at £53. I have no hesitation in awarding the AA a 4 star rating based on my personal experience.
Note: This opinion is just based on my personal experience of the AA over the last few years and my recent call out..it may be your experience has not been so good. The product rating takes into account the service I received and the AA's charges i.e value for money.
Very helpful - I think you've swung it for me! Sorry RAC!
christina44 27.02.2003 08:56
Very good op. We are with the AA too.-my husband would be lost without them.It is really handy to get directions from aswell,wales and back was helpful..They are good,if a tad expensive,but worth it,you do get what you pay for!see ya chrissie x