Breaking Down On A Road Trip Across The UK: A Guide For American Expats

Breaking down on a road trip can be a real issue. You’re likely to be far from home, and depending on the fault with your vehicle, you may find your road trip funds depleted to the point that you need to cut the trip short.

It is critical that you know the proper steps to take when you break down on a road trip in the UK and ensure that you understand what to do to stay safe during and after the breakdown. The process and rules of the road a similar to those of the US, but with some critical differences. 

Being prepared is critical so you know the steps you need to take before you leave your home in the event of a breakdown emergency. You should have quality breakdown insurance that will cover the entire geographical distance of your trip and bring with you plenty of food, water, weather-appropriate clothing and other emergency supplies. 

Exit The Motorway If Possible

If you break down on a UK motorway, one of the most important safety measures you can take is to exit the motorway before you stop your vehicle. This may not always be possible, but if there is an available exit, it is always best to take it rather than stop on a live motorway.

If there is no way to avoid stopping on the motorway, ensure that you stop as far to the left of the hard shoulder as possible or at one of the emergency refuge areas on a smart motorway. 

Make Yourself And Your Car Visible

Regardless of where you break down, it is crucial that you are visible to other road users. You should put your vehicle’s hazard, side and headlights on to ensure maximum visibility.

It is also a good idea to bring a high visibility jacket for you and any passengers to give you the best chance of being fully visible. You could also use a warning triangle on non-motorway roads, which can be invaluable for alerting other drivers to your presence. 

Call Your Breakdown Insurer

You should ensure you have excellent breakdown cover before you set off on your journey. This should be cover that protects you throughout the UK, with no gaps in the cover. When you take out your breakdown cover, the provider should give you all the information you need to call for help.

It is worth keeping in mind that certain calls will be given higher priority based on things like the number of people in your vehicle, the time of day and where you have broken down. 

Move To A Safe Place

Once you’ve pulled your car over, it is important to assess the area and find a safe place to wait for the recovery vehicle.

If you are on the motorway, you should move as far from the roadside as possible, provided it is safe to do so. On other roads, you could look for a local café, pub or supermarket to wait out of the elements. 

Find Ways To Keep Entertained

As mentioned above, the time you have to wait for a recovery vehicle can vary significantly. It is a good idea to have something to do to keep yourself and your passengers entertained while you wait for your car to be towed.

A deck of cards could be a good option, as this gives you many different games to play, whether solo or as a group. You could also look for digital options, provided your phone is well-charged. Check out OnlineCasinos for some excellent digital games to play and keep yourself entertained while you wait. 

Preserve Your Mobile Phone Battery

If you are not somewhere you can easily charge your phone, such as at the side of a motorway, it is a good idea to conserve the charge on your phone. The breakdown company may need to contact you for a number of reasons, and you might need to contact other services while you wait.

Having a suitably charged phone is critical to ensure that you get help when you need it. It may also help to invest in a portable charger for your phone so that you can be sure you will have charge whenever you need it. 

Find Nearby Accommodation

If you break down at night, or the repairs will take some time to complete, it is a good idea to find somewhere nearby to stay.

Most towns and cities in the UK will have accommodation to suit all budgets, though your options may be more limited in more rural or remote areas. Finding an option close to where your vehicle is being worked on is ideal. 

Look For A Suitable Local Mechanic

Once your car is recovered, you will have the choice of where to take the vehicle. How far a recovery vehicle can take your car will depend on the level of cover, so you should read the fine print to know your options.

You could choose to get the car towed to your home or find somewhere locally that can fix it up. Choosing a local fix is the best option if you want to continue on your road trip with minimal impact on your itinerary. Look for mechanics with good reviews and availability to get your car moving again fast.

Get Something To Eat And Drink

Breaking down can be a shock to the system, so once you’ve got the practicalities covered, you should take care of yourself next.

Getting a good meal and a sugary soft drink can help you recover from your shock quickly and give you the energy to deal with the next steps after breaking down. 


Your car breaking down on a road trip can be a major headache, but if you’re prepared, it doesn’t have to fully derail your trip.

The important thing is to keep a cool head, assess the situation to identify any risks or dangers, and get your car looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to build some money into your holiday budget for emergencies like a breakdown so you can afford to carry on your trip.

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