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RAC left me stranded by a motorway all night long

‘RAC left me stranded by a motorway all night long’: How Lara had to make nearly 30 calls before she was told there were no drivers in the area

Stranded alone at night beside a motorway after her car broke down, mother-of-two Lara Gould assumed the RAC would prioritise her case.

But it would be seven hours before help arrived. And even then, it was not in the form of the company the 39-year-old pays £219 a year to provide rescue in such circumstances.

Breakdown cover is a £1.8billion 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 calls to the firm before she was told there were no drivers in the area

Around 5,000 cars break down on England’s A-roads and motorways each week, according to National Highways. And the soaring fuel prices, hot weather and holiday traffic will only increase pressure on rescue firms.

Lara was ‘shocked’ that the RAC left her stranded for so long. Her Land Rover broke down two weeks ago on the M3 at 10pm.

She was on her way home to Buckinghamshire after driving her twin daughters to their grandparents’ house in Swanage, Dorset.

The RAC said help would arrive within 45 minutes. But Lara, a PR agency director, had to make nearly 30 calls to the firm before she was told there were no drivers in the area.

‘Each time, they told me someone would be with me within half an hour, would be calling me back, or were sorting a tow truck,’ she says. ‘No one ever did.’

In desperation, at 2.30am, she called National Highways, a government agency, which booked a tow truck and sent a support worker to look after her. 

Seven hours after her car broke down, at 5.15am, a flatbed lorry finally arrived, at a cost to Lara of £150.

The RAC told Money Mail it called National Highways shortly before Lara did, and has since tried to call her to reimburse her £150 bill.

Lara’s experience is not unique. Social media is awash with complaints, and a poll by IAM RoadSmart revealed that one in five policyholders is considering cancelling their cover.

Last month, heavily pregnant Laura Jenkins, 38, was left waiting for seven hours in a car park 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 2.30pm, but had to wait until 9.30pm for help. ‘It was a nightmare,’ she says, ‘with [callout vehicles] constantly cancelled.’

An AA spokesman apologises for the delay and says it has covered the costs from the family’s overnight stay in a hotel — because of the recovery crew’s late arrival — as well as sending a gesture of goodwill.

An RAC spokesman ‘apologises sincerely’ to Lara and says the firm will refund the £390 she has spent on premiums since 2021, and waive the remaining £146 of this year’s policy.