Motor vehicle protection letters are the cheap alternative to ADAC

roadside assistance
Motor vehicle protection letters are the cheap alternative to ADAC

A silver car is lifted on a crane.

Roadside assistance: It doesn’t always have to be the ADAC

© IMAGO / PEMAX

If the car won’t start, often only a towing service to the nearest garage will help. Many Germans get roadside assistance by becoming members of the Automobile Club. But motor vehicle protection letters are usually the cheapest option.

Every driver is afraid of this: on the way to his well-deserved vacation, the vehicle suddenly makes strange noises. Another kilometer or two and the fun is over. Then it’s time to look for a towing service, explain the situation despite the language barrier and go to the nearest workshop. If the repair takes more time, accommodation is also needed. Such mishaps are always annoying, especially on vacation. But if you’re well prepared for the worst case scenario, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and money.

The first thing many drivers think of here is membership in a car club. This is demonstrated by the large number of members: The German General Automobile Club (ADAC) is the undisputed number one in the popularity rankings with 21.2 million members. Far behind is the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD) with 1.4 million members in second place, followed by the Auto Club Europe (ACE) with 630,000 members. There are also a number of other car clubs that charge significantly lower membership fees for breakdown and accident assistance than the industry leader ADAC. These include the Brother Aid Auto & Traffic Safety Club (BAVC) or Driver Protection (KS/Auxilia).

Cover letters offer assistance in case of accidents and breakdowns

If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, you don’t even have to be a member of the club. Depending on performance requirements, inexpensive motor vehicle protection letters are also an option. “If you just want to protect yourself against breakdowns, it’s usually better to get a cover letter from your own car insurance,” says Peter Grieble, an insurance expert at the Baden-Württemberg consumer advice center. With your own insurance, protection letters start at 5 euros per year. If you contract it with a third-party insurance company, you have to count on up to 50 euros a year.

The benefits of letters of protection are essentially identical to those of club memberships. The letters of introduction offer assistance in accidents and breakdowns and include towing expenses, according to the contract, both in Germany and in other European countries up to a certain maximum amount. “These maximum sums are usually enough for towing costs,” says Grieble. Only in exceptional cases did the costs actually exceed the maximum rate. Additionally, most insurers will cover the cost of overnight stays or car rental fees in the event of a vehicle breakdown, similar to the more expensive premium memberships of car clubs. Those who are insured under the letter of protection need not fear a reduction in performance: “I am not aware of more frequent complaints from letter of assistance insureds due to lower benefits,” says Grieble.

However, what policyholders should pay attention to is the geographic scope of roadside assistance. “Of course, cases where the driver believes that he enjoys pan-European roadside assistance, but is actually only covered in Germany, are fatal,” warns the expert. Protection letters may differ depending on the insurer. In addition, drivers must clarify in advance whether the cover letter only insures their own vehicle or the customer as a person. If the protection belongs to the insured, breakdowns with other vehicles or rental cars are also covered. While the services of the vast majority of car clubs are directed to the individual, letters of protection often only insure a specific vehicle.

There are also differences

In addition to financial performance, service quality also plays an important role. This includes phone availability and standby time in the event of a breakdown. The good news, according to Grieble, is that there are no notable differences between motor vehicle protection letter insurers and auto clubs.

One notable difference, however, is that some auto insurers don’t insure older vehicles because they are more prone to breakdowns. This is a clear plus point for being a member of the club. And even those who attach great importance to certain extras, such as technical advice, route planning or membership magazines, cannot avoid car clubs. “Depending on your needs, this may be interesting, but the benefits are not relevant to insurance,” says Grieble.

By the way, anyone who buys a new car has an additional alternative. Some vehicle manufacturers give what is known as a mobility guarantee for the first two years. This voluntary service for new car owners covers the cost of a tow truck, a replacement car and even overnight stays in the event of a breakdown. However, this requires regular maintenance at authorized workshops. For a surcharge, these mobility guarantees can also be extended after the expiration date.

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