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The AA vs RAC – comparing these 2 popular breakdown cover brands to see which is best

If you’re looking for breakdown cover then there are lots of companies out there to consider, but 2 brands have emerged as the biggest and most trusted names in this space - the AA and the RAC.

We thought it would be useful to compare the AA and RAC to see which is better for breakdown cover. We’ll be looking at a number of factors including price and quality of service. Let’s get into it:

What do the companies say are the main differences?

Typically when we do our comparison guides, we have to conduct lots of our own research to see what the key differences are between the 2 brands that we’re comparing. But what’s really interesting about the AA and RAC is that both companies have a page on their websites which make comparisons between the offerings of the 2 companies, so we thought it would be interesting to look at what the AA thinks makes them better than RAC, and vice versa.

AA vs RAC comparison table

We noticed that the comparison page on the RAC website which compares RAC to the AA makes some very different claims which contradict some of what we read on the AA website. For example, RAC claims that both the AA and RAC have a "large fleet of uniformed patrols and vans", but on the AA website, it gives specifics in terms of numbers, with the AA website claiming that the AA has 2500 patrols, whereas RAC only has 1600. This is quite a significant difference as it means that the AA has almost twice as many patrols out there at any one time, meaning it should generally be quicker for AA customers to be reached by a support team versus an RAC customer to be reached by an RAC support team.

RAC also claims that they'll fix 4 out 5 breakdowns on the side of the road, with repairs carried out in less than 30 minutes on average. But the funny thing is that the AA claims exactly the same - 4 out of 5 repairs at the side of the road under 30 minutes on average - elsewhere on the AA website, despite RAC not listing that in its table.

 

There are a couple of points in the AA comparison which we think are a little misleading - for example, the AA states that its service includes a tow to the nearest garage, and states that this is the same as what RAC provides. But RAC actually goes a step further than the AA and provides a 20 mile taxi from the garage so you can get home, something the AA doesn't provide.

What do we find are the main differences between the AA and RAC?

Although we'd say that most of the differences between the 2 companies in terms of the services provided are quite insignificant, we'd definitely say that there are a couple of differences which are worth noting. For example, the AA has been voted as the Which? recommended breakdown services provider every year since 2018, whereas RAC has never had a Which? award.

When it comes to electric vehicles, there is very little to separate the AA and RAC. The AA claims that all of its patrols have received training in electric vehicles, but doesn't really specify how well trained they are and what issues they could realistically deal with at the roadside. Whereas RAC does specify that not only are all of its patrols trained to deal with electric vehicles, but the company also has a number of other tools and extras to effectively deal with EVs. For example, if your battery is flat then the RAC EV vans can immediately give you a 10-mile charge so you can reach the nearest garage or get home. The RAC also states that its patrols are "highly trained" when it comes to EVs, whereas the AA states just that the patrols are trained. RAC also claims that its the number 1 breakdown cover company when it comes to electric vehicles due to the company having more rescue vans equipped with 3.5kw+ Electric car charging capability compared to the AA and Green Flag.

What is the difference in price between the AA and RAC?

There are different tiers of memberships for both the AA and RAC, so it can be a little bit complicated to compare the services on price, but we'll try our best.

The Basic plan from RAC is £6.95 per month, whereas the AA starts at £12 per month, although sales are often held which brings the AA price down to just £6 per month. Both of the starter plans from RAC and the AA include roadside assistance, but it's the number of callouts which is really worth paying attention to - the RAC basic plan only includes 5 callouts per year, whereas you get unlimited call-outs with the AA basic plan, as long as it's not for a recurring problem with your vehicle. Both the AA and RAC will come out 24/7, which is great to see.

It's also interesting to note that the Basic plan from both companies states that if they can't provide roadside assistance then they'll take you to the nearest garage, but the RAC will only do this if you're within 10 miles of a garage, whereas it seems that there is no limit with the AA.

The next step up from the most basic plan costs £11.50 per month with RAC and £17 per month with the AA. At this price, you still only get 5 callouts per year from RAC, despite paying almost twice as much per month as you do with the Basic plan. The AA offers unlimited callouts again, which is impressive. At this 2nd tier, both companies offer a National Recovery option, which means that instead of just towing you to the nearest garage, both the AA and RAC will tow you and your passengers to any garage or destination in the UK. An important point here is that the AA specifies that they will tow up to 7 passengers, whereas RAC will actually tow you and up to 8 passengers, so it could be argued that the 2nd tier membership with RAC is actually better value than the 2nd tier membership from the AA.

The most expensive plan with RAC costs £16.50 per month, whereas the most expensive plan with the AA is £21. We'd say this is probably the price point where you start to notice the biggest differences between the 2 offerings - for starters, at this price point you get everything that we've already covered from both RAC and the AA. On top of this, you get 'At Home' assistance from both companies too - this is where you'll get assistance even if you're at home or within ¼ mile of your home. The main difference between the 2 companies at this level of membership is that the AA offers something called 'Onward Travel'. This is a really impressive benefit which means that If you break down and need repairs that completely stop your journey, the AA will help you arrange and pay for something like a taxi, a hire car, or even an overnight stay somewhere. You'll be given 3 options to choose from if you need to use the Onward Travel feature - 72 hours' car hire, an overnight stay in a hotel, or money towards public transport. Onward Travel covers you and up to 7 passengers, so everyone will get sorted.

It's also worth noting that both the AA and RAC cover electric and hybrid vehicles at no extra cost and that the prices we've shown might be higher at renewal - these prices are for new customers only.

What do third-party reviews say?

We love to refer to third-party reviews when doing our comparison posts, and we're delighted to see that both the AA and RAC are using Trustpilot, our most trusted third-party review platform. RAC is currently sitting with a rating of 3.9 out of 5 on Trustpilot, whereas the AA is sitting with a rating of 4.1 out of 5. So although both companies have very similar ratings, the AA is rated marginally better. However, it's also worth noting that RAC has almost twice as many reviews on Trustpilot compared to the AA.

Overall, reviewers seem pretty happy with both the AA and RAC, with reviews on both Trustpilot profiles full of very happy customers. People seem especially happy with the quality of service from both companies in terms of the patrols which are providing roadside assistance. However, one thing we did notice on the RAC profile is that some reviewers were not happy with how long it took for the assistance vehicles to turn up, with some customers claiming that it took as long as 24 hours which seems very long to wait.

Anything else to mention?

Aside from breakdown cover, it's also worth mentioning that with the AA you get a number of additional membership benefits that you won't get with RAC - for example, your AA membership can get you discounts at nice restaurants and on lots of travel, including flights overseas. You get some benefits with RAC breakdown cover such as free coffees and discounts on gym memberships, but generally, the extras seem to be better with the AA.

Final thoughts - which is better for breakdown cover, the AA or RAC?

So in conclusion, we'd say that the AA is a better option than RAC when it comes to overall breakdown cover for most types of cars. The AA has almost twice as many patrols as RAC, and it's also a cheaper service if you sign up during a sale. On top of this, your AA membership gets you some really nice extras that you don't get with RAC.

However, if you have an electric vehicle then you might actually be better off going with RAC, as the company seems much better prepared for providing roadside assistance for EVs compared to the AA.

Let us know what you think of these 2 breakdown cover brands and if you have any other thoughts on our comparison!

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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