Am I Covered If My Car Breaks Down?

Last Updated on April 18, 2022

Auto insurance covers unexpected events, but it doesn’t cover most vehicle repairs.

Routine maintenance is part of owning a vehicle. Over time, vehicles break down and need repairs. Auto insurance covers accidents, collisions, theft, and other damages, but it does not cover most repairs.

However, depending on your insurance policy and coverage options, you may be covered or partially covered against car breakdowns.

Ordinary Car Insurance Does Not Cover Vehicle Repairs

An ordinary car insurance policy does not cover vehicle repairs. If you have a standard auto insurance policy, then you cannot make a claim for vehicle breakdowns, transmission replacements, or other mechanical failures.

The only time car insurance covers vehicle repairs is when you have mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI). Mechanical breakdown insurance is optional, extra coverage is available for new vehicles. It functions like an extended warranty: in exchange for an added fee, your car insurance covers certain breakdowns.

Some drivers also carry roadside assistance. If you have roadside assistance, then car insurance could cover the cost of towing your broken vehicle to a repair facility, or the cost of replacing your tire with a spare tire. However, roadside assistance will not cover the cost of repairing your vehicle.

Coverages Included with an Ordinary Auto Insurance Policy

A typical car insurance policy includes all of the following:

Liability Insurance: Most states require drivers to carry two types of liability insurance, including bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. If you damage someone while driving, or if you injure another person, then your liability insurance covers the cost of making the other person ‘whole’ again. It covers medical bills, vehicle repair costs, and other damages for which you may be liable after an at-fault collision.

Collision Coverage: Optional in all states, collision coverage covers the cost of repairing a collision to your own vehicle after an accident. If you collide with another driver and were at-fault for the accident, for example, then you make a claim through your collision coverage. You pay your deductible, and your insurer covers the remaining costs of repairing your vehicle.

Comprehensive Coverage: Also optional in all states, comprehensive coverages covers damage to your vehicle that occurs outside of an accident, including theft, vandalism, broken windshields, and collisions with animals. If your car is stolen, for example, then you make a claim through comprehensive coverage, and insurance compensates you for the full value of the stolen vehicle.

Other Coverages: Some states also require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection, and medical payments coverage, among other coverage options.

None of the coverages above will cover mechanical breakdowns, maintenance-related costs, wear and tear, and similar vehicle repair costs.

What Does Insurance Cover?

Most drivers carry full coverage car insurance, which includes liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage.

If you have a full coverage car insurance policy, it covers all of the following:

  • Single-vehicle and multi-vehicle accidents
  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Natural disasters
  • Collisions with animals
  • Falling objects

What Does Insurance Not Cover?

A typical car insurance policy does not cover:

The purpose of car insurance is to protect drivers against unexpected events – like collisions with other drivers or vehicle theft. Maintenance is an ordinary part of owning a vehicle. When you buy a car, you expect to pay for maintenance and similar costs. Because these costs are anticipated, insurance does not cover them.

Optional Car Insurance Coverage for Vehicle Repairs

There are two types of car insurance that cover or partially cover vehicle breakdowns, including:

Mechanical Breakdown Insurance: Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) is optional car insurance coverage available on new vehicles. It’s only offered by select insurers. Typically, your vehicle needs to be relatively new (within the last two or three model years) to qualify for mechanical breakdown insurance. With MBI, your insurance covers certain breakdowns on a newer vehicle.

Roadside Assistance: If you have roadside assistance, then your insurance covers certain costs related to vehicle breakdowns, including towing, spare tire changes, and fuel delivery, among other costs. If your vehicle breaks down 50 miles from home, for example, and you need towing to the nearest repair facility, then roadside assistance will cover the cost of towing and dispatching a technician. However, roadside assistance does not cover the cost of repairing your vehicle.

How Mechanical Breakdown Insurance Works

Ordinary car insurance does not cover vehicle breakdowns. However, if you have mechanical breakdown insurance, then you are covered for certain vehicle repairs.

Mechanical breakdown insurance functions similarly to a vehicle’s extended warranty offered by a car dealership or places like CarShield. Unlike an ordinary car insurance policy, mechanical breakdown insurance does cover certain breakdowns and repairs.

Some key points about mechanical breakdown insurance include:

  • Covers many vehicle repairs
  • Optional car insurance coverage is available on newer vehicles
  • Similar to an extended warranty offered by a car dealership
  • Not available from all insurance companies
  • It may be unnecessary if you already have a warranty or extended warranty on your vehicle

Typically, you need to have purchased your vehicle within the last 1 to 3 years to buy mechanical breakdown insurance. Insurers do not want to cover a 10-year-old vehicle with 200,000 miles, as it’s likely to need significant repairs in the future. Instead, insurers want to cover a low-risk, newer vehicle with fewer miles.

What Does Mechanical Breakdown Insurance Cover?

Mechanical breakdown insurance covers many crucial components of your vehicle, including common repairs that may be required on newer vehicles.

Mechanical breakdown insurance covers repairs to all mechanical parts of the car except for maintenance and wear and tear. It includes all parts and systems covered by most dealer warranties.

Mechanical breakdown insurance does not cover routine maintenance, nor does it cover damage caused by your poor maintenance habits.

How Much Does Mechanical Breakdown Insurance Cost?

A typical mechanical breakdown insurance plan costs $50 to $200 per year with a deductible of $250 to $500.

The greater the value of your vehicle, the more you’ll pay for mechanical breakdown insurance.

Some insurers offer mechanical breakdown insurance, while others do not. GEICO is one of America’s largest insurers offering mechanical breakdown insurance. Progressive and 21st Century also offer mechanical breakdown insurance, but most other large insurers do not.

Does My Vehicle Qualify for Mechanical Breakdown Insurance?

Not all vehicles qualify for mechanical breakdown insurance. Typically, you need to have a new vehicle with few miles to qualify for mechanical breakdown insurance.

Once you have mechanical breakdown insurance, you can continue renewing it for a certain period of time, up to a maximum number of miles or years.

Here are GEICO’s mechanical breakdown insurance qualification requirements, for example:

  • GEICO offers mechanical breakdown insurance on new or leased vehicles that are fewer than 15 months old and have fewer than 15,000 miles
  • Once you’ve purchased MBI from GEICO, you can renew it for up to seven years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first)

Check Your Warranty or Extended Warranty

Ordinary car insurance does not cover you when your car breaks down. However, you may be covered through your warranty or extended warranty.

Factory Warranty: All cars have a warranty from the manufacturer, also known as a factory warranty. This warranty covers your vehicle during the first 3 to 8 years or a certain number of miles, whatever comes first. Vehicle breakdowns are unlikely during this period, and manufacturers provide a warranty for added peace of mind. If your vehicle breaks down during this warranty period, then you can file a warranty claim, and the manufacturer covers the cost of repairing your vehicle.

Extended Warranty: Car dealerships may offer an extended warranty. In exchange for an added fee, the dealership extends the warranty past the original warranty. You get extra coverage for more years and more miles, giving you added protection against vehicle breakdowns. If you have an extended warranty and your vehicle is within the extended warranty period, then you can make a warranty claim for certain breakdowns and repairs.

Most older vehicles are not covered by a warranty or extended warranty. Once your vehicle is more than 3 to 5 years old or has more than 70,000 miles, it’s unlikely to fall under any warranty coverage. This is also the point where vehicles may start to need repairs.

Most car manufacturers provide a basic warranty of 3 to 5 years and 36,000 to 50,000 miles.

Most car manufacturers also offer a powertrain warranty of 4 years to 10 years, or 50,000 to 100,000 miles. A powertrain warranty covers the powertrain of your vehicle, which includes the engine, transmission, axles, driveshafts, seals, gaskets, transfer case, and other components.

What Does a Car Warranty Cover?

A car warranty compensates you for the cost of repairing or replacing certain parts of your vehicle. If your vehicle is relatively new and has a relatively low number of miles, then it may be covered by a warranty.

A typical car warranty covers:

  • All major vehicle systems
  • Air conditioning and heating systems
  • Electrical components
  • Steering
  • Safety features
  • High tech systems
  • Select emissions components

Specific coverages vary based on the type of warranty – like a basic, powertrain, or bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Mechanical breakdown insurance covers a similar list of items.

What Does a Car Warranty Not Cover?

Car warranties do not cover certain damages. A typical car warranty or mechanical breakdown insurance plan excludes all of the following:

Wear and tear to most parts of your vehicle

  • Damage to your exterior or body panels, including dings and scratches
  • Damage caused by poor maintenance (like skipping oil changes or driving dangerously)
  • Damage to the interior, including holes or scratches in the seats
  • Damage from an accident
  • Damage from the environment, including hail damage or wind damage

Warranty coverages vary slightly. Check your vehicle’s warranty to verify coverage.

Final Word on Being Covered for Breakdowns

No, you are not covered if your car breaks down.

An ordinary car insurance policy covers accident damages and similar costs, but it does not cover wear and tear, maintenance-related issues, or general vehicle repairs and breakdowns.

However, you may be covered through your vehicle’s warranty or mechanical breakdown insurance, both of which cover vehicle repairs.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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