As a child I remember my parents proudly displaying what can only be described as a big square metal badge on the front grill of our car with “RAC" written on it. Of course the RAC was called the Royal Automobile Club in those days and would come to your rescue should we have broken down, which of course we did on several occasions. The Automobile association or the AA, was another motoring club set up to help motorists, originally to monitor speeds and then progressed in to breakdown cover.
From the early 1900’s right up through the “Golden Motoring Years" these motoring clubs would employ patrolmen, to reach their members in the quickest time. Before mobile phones, emergency phone boxes, that looked like old police phone boxes, would be strategically placed along major roads, so as to be the most convenient to motorists who had a breakdown. Emergency call outs were often done by a patrolman on a motorcycle, as it wasn’t until later years they started using, cars vans and then recovery vehicles. These motoring clubs offered more than just breakdown cover, you were a member of a club and with that came privileges with motoring advice and maybe even a bit of prestige. Just like my parents, motorists were proud to display the badges of their motoring club on their cars. In fact in the fifties, it was the norm for any patrolman who saw their club badge on a car to stop and salute their members as they drove past, could you imagine that happening today?
The names of the RAC and the AA are still around today and still offer breakdown cover but without the banner of being a motoring club. In fact the RAC separated itself from its breakdown cover operation and its motoring club function, so now we have the RAC and the Royal Automobile Club, which still has its base in Pall Mall in London and is an exclusive club to join.
The RAC like the AA are now both insurance providers and are owned by insurance companies. It is true that breakdown cover, really is an insurance policy, that delivers insurance that matches the cover you have bought. It seems that the modern motorist does not want to pay that extra premium to be part of a motoring club but would prefer the cheaper option, delivered by large organisations that can use economy of scales to deliver cheaper breakdown cover polices.
As you can but a breakdown cover policy from under 30 pounds a year, it is quite remarkable how a service of any kind can be delivered for that. Even one call out from a garage could be considerably more than an annual policy where you will get unlimited call outs as part of your cover. If you pay some more and be cover to be transported home should you breakdown, then the savings could be even greater.
There is something missing with the demise of these motoring clubs, but like everything else in life, it comes down to priorities and lower costs and more profits.
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