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Small firms in vehicle breakdown risk

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Small businesses are putting their daily productivity at risk by failing to protect themselves against one of their vehicles unexpectedly breaking down.

Data from the RAC’s small and medium enterprise (SME) team shows there is a three-in-10 chance that one of a small firm’s vehicles will break down every year.

Of the hundreds of thousands of small business vehicles protected by the RAC, 31% are expected to suffer a breakdown this year, based on an analysis of call-outs in the first quarter of 2019.

What’s more, among all the small businesses with RAC breakdown cover, each is predicted to have an average of two breakdowns in their fleets this year.

With new data showing SMEs making up 99% of all UK business – or 5.66m businesses, the consequence of every breakdown in terms of lost time, missed appointments and delayed deliveries is frightening, says RAC.

The amount of time a business without pre-arranged breakdown cover in place would lose when one of its vehicles breaks down could range from an hour or two to a day. This would depend on how easy it is to get a mobile mechanic to attend or whether the vehicle would need to be transported to a garage for repair. 

The most common RAC SME call-out relates to batteries, whether that’s simply a flat battery or one that’s reached the end of its life. In total battery issues equate to 18% of all RAC breakdown jobs for small businesses.

Tyres are responsible for generating the second biggest volume of call-outs, making up 13% of all breakdowns. And, with many vehicles now not having a spare wheel, a significant number of these will be ‘puncture no spare’ jobs which would typically be very difficult for a business to get fixed without the support of a breakdown company.

Clutch problems complete the top three most common SME vehicle breakdowns seen by RAC patrols. While only 5% of RAC small business call-outs relate to clutch faults they usually require recovery to a garage for repair – an issue that would cost a small business without breakdown cover dear.

Nicky Brown, of the RAC’s small business team, said: “Our analysis of the types of breakdowns our small business customers experience shows vehicles are breaking down all too frequently, no doubt at some very inconvenient times and in some very inconvenient places.

“A flat battery may not seem like the worst problem, but if it happens miles away from home or a garage, and its reached the end of its serviceable life, then it starts to become a much bigger issue.

“Then there’s the increasingly common ‘puncture no spare’ breakdown which can easily leave you stranded scratching your head.

“The cost of not having a breakdown policy set up for every vehicle a small business has is so much greater than the cost of taking out in the first place. It really is better to be safe than sorry with business vehicle breakdown cover.”


Top RAC SME breakdown call-outs















Engine mechanical



Starter motor



Fuel – diesel contamination



ECU – engine management



Road traffic accident



Gearbox - manual


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