‘RAC left me stranded on a highway all night’: how Lara had to make nearly 30 phone calls before being told there were no drivers around
Lara Gould, mother of two, was stranded alone overnight next to a highway after her car broke down, and assumed the RAC would prioritize her case.
But it would be seven hours before help arrived. And even then, it wasn’t in the form of the company paying the 39-year-old £219 a year to bail out in such circumstances.
Breakdown coverage is a £1.8 billion industry, with an estimated two in three drivers buying a policy, according to IRN Research.
Seven-hour wait: Lara Gould had to make nearly 30 phone calls to the company before being told there were no drivers around
According to the National Highways, about 5,000 cars break down every week on England’s A-roads and highways. And rising fuel prices, hot weather and holiday traffic will only increase the pressure on rescue companies.
Lara was “horrified” that the RAC had left her stranded for so long. Her Land Rover broke down on the M3 at 10pm two weeks ago.
She was on her way home to Buckinghamshire after taking her twin daughters to their grandparents’ home in Swanage, Dorset.
The RAC said help would arrive within 45 minutes. But Lara, a director of a PR agency, had to make nearly 30 phone calls to the company before being told there were no drivers around.
“Every time they told me someone would be with me in half an hour, call me back, or a tow truck was sorting,” she says. “No one has ever done that.”
In desperation, at 2:30 a.m., she called National Highways, a government agency, who booked a tow truck and sent a rescuer to take care of her.
Seven hours after her car broke down, at 5.15 am, a flatbed truck finally arrived, at a cost of £150 to Lara.
The RAC told Money Mail it had called National Highways shortly before Lara did, and has since tried to call her to refund her £150 bill.
Lara’s experience is not unique. Social media is awash with complaints and an IAM RoadSmart poll shows that one in five policyholders are considering canceling cover.
Last month, heavily pregnant Laura Jenkins, 38, had to wait seven hours in a parking lot on the hottest day of the year with her husband, Justin, and their nine-year-old daughter. They broke down while driving home to Newcastle after a family holiday.
Laura called the AA at 2:30 PM, but had to wait until 9:30 PM for help. “It was a nightmare,” she says, “with… [callout vehicles] continuously cancelled.’
An AA spokesperson has apologized for the delay, saying it covered the cost of the family’s overnight stay at a hotel – due to the late arrival of the salvage crew – and sent a goodwill gesture.
An RAC spokesperson has apologized to Lara, saying the company will refund the £390 she has spent on premiums since 2021 and waive the remaining £146 from this year’s policy.