What’s your car choice – reliable or impractical and always breaking down?

When you become parents, preparing everything you’ll need for the baby can become a bit overwhelming, and car decisions can play a part of this.   Do you sadly sell your cool Mini for a more practical family car that fits everything you could need and more in the boot?

Obviously such decisions are more important if you’ve got 2 kids and thinking of having more, although even with only 1 child, deciding on car seats and suitability on changing cars can be a nightmare.  We found moving from infant car seat to next stage problematic thanks to N’s car seat needing to potentially fit in about 6 cars over the farm.  (For information, if you have to fit car seats in Land Rovers, beware – even the pretty much universally fitting Maxi Cosi tobi we opted for for that reason, doesn’t fit in the Grandparents’ Range Rover although it did in their old Disco).

More importantly, have you had to move from your trusty, unreliable, but comfy favourite car which is always breaking down, to a more reliable (read boring) box on wheels?

Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance are running a competition to find out the worst car breakdown experience.  I have to admit my experience was a tad repetitive.

I used to do a lot of dancing and go to a lot of dance weekenders (ie lots of workshops in the day and then social dancing the whole night away before starting again the next day).  I was sharing a lift with friends down to Burnham-on-Sea, which meant a long trek on a Friday on the M4.  There’d been an accident, so lots of crawling traffic, until the car just stopped and wouldn’t restart.  Right where the M4 and M5 merged.

So a 1 ½ hour wait for the AA while all the holidaying people (and I’m sure lots of people heading to the same place as us) drove past, waving and jeering.  Of course, as soon as the AA arrived, the car started so we could get the car to park up at Cribbs Causeway where the AA man could check the car out and get us on our way again…until we ended up going via Bristol to avoid the stop start on the motorway.

And ended up breaking down again, and again.  Every time we rang the breakdown service, it was taking so long, the car would restart for a while.  We then got to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, got half way across before they closed it for the evening, and broke down on the bridge.  So the 3 of us had to push the car (along with some runners who were also crossing at the same time) off the bridge to wait for another breakdown van who then followed us to our destination to ensure we didn’t breakdown again.  By that stage we didn’t even want to look at the view of the city’s lights, we just wanted to get to our dance venue!

A very eventful journey, taking around 8 hours rather than the 4 it should have taken and not one I’d like to repeat, especially now I’ve got N.

child chauffeur
My little chauffeur

So do you think you can beat my breakdown experience?

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Disclosure: This post is run in conjunction with Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance.  See their tools and guides page for further motoring advice

95 thoughts on “What’s your car choice – reliable or impractical and always breaking down?

  1. I was on a motorbike on the M74 motorway in the north west in a quite desolate place when the engine cut out. Nothing would restart it so I call the breakdown company.
    They said it would be a couple of hours as I was miles from anywhere.
    Then it started raining. No cover anywhere so I got wet.
    Then a police range Rover pulled up to see what was happening. They had a good laugh that I was soaking wet and drove off.
    Eventually a small van pulled up, a guy gets out and says he’s been told to bring me some new spark plugs…but no room to get the bike in the back.
    Another couple of hours before an actual recovery vehicle arrives to relay me to a central depot..and then wait for onward transport the next day.
    And the bike dies and was scrapped.

  2. breaking down on country lane, in the dark, forgot my mobile,had to flag down driver to borrow phone to ring husband, so scary

  3. I broke down in the middle of nowhere late at night, in the days before mobile phones were the norm. I had to walk to along country lanes with no lighting to find a phone for about 1 hour and then the AA told me to to walk back to the car and they would meet me there. By the time I had walked back the AA man was waiting for me. As I often travelled alone a night I went out and bought a mobile phone the next day.

  4. I agree breaking down with children whilst your pregant is anyone nightmare, we had a blow out on a back tire and swerved across all 3 lanes, thanks the lord it was an empty motorway or it could have been so much worse!

  5. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere just before the Motorway with 2 toddler boys while 7 months pregnant with #3 – then waiting 4hrs for the AA & then another 2hrs for a tow truck! Truly awful!

  6. Our car broke down at Flamborough Head lighthouse last year, there was
    myself, my husband and our 2 children and we had to wait about 2 hours
    for the recovery vehicle to arrive.

  7. On our way to cornwall, We had the car loaded right up. With our two babies, and border collie dog. We heard a huge bang, and had to stop on the side of a road as the smoke was very thick and would have caused an accident with other cars. The AA rescued us and fixed the “broken seal”. Luckily we had water bottles for the little ones, so the dog didn’t get dehydrated! :) xx

  8. I was working a night shift at asda which was 10 miles away from where I
    lived, I was doing 70 down the motorway surrounded by lorries when my car
    started to slow down voluntarily. (I had blown the engine) I had no breakdown
    and didn’t know who to call for for help. Luckily I had a hubby who knew what to
    do. lol

  9. Had a terrible experience travelling to start at
    uni. The van overheated and blew the head gasket, leaving me stranded with all
    my belongings in the back. I didn’t have recovery membership either

  10. I broke down at some really busy traffic lights when my petrol gauge kept
    telling me I had petrol when in fact I didn’t! Very embarrassing!

  11. We had a flat tyre on a dual carriageway. A police car stopped and
    offered to help. The tyre wouldn’t pump up so we went to get the spare
    out of the boot.

    The spare was also flat so the policeman said he would take my partner
    to the nearest garage to pump it up, my partner then shut the boot with
    the keys inside it.

  12. An offside tyre blowout on a busy dual carrigeway meant that the police had to cordon off a lane so I could get the tyre changed

  13. When I was a student I was driving a old car ,the front bonnet opened up I could not see anything I hit a safety barrier then ending up in the hard shoulder safe and well ,…the car was badly damaged . I started in the outside lane of the motorway luckly it was quiet not an experience I recommend to anyone.

  14. As a child we broke down on the A1 in my dad’s old Vauxhall Viva; I remember it to this day, I must have only been about 6. I never let my dad forget it when we pass that particular stretch of road.

  15. Traveling from Southampton to Cornwall, got about half way there and the cam belt snapped. We were recovered back to Southampton and had to start the journey again in a different car :-(

  16. Broke down at night in torrential rain. Took 3 or 4 hours for the rescue service to arrive. I saw the van go past several times and each time I called I was told that they had been unable to find me and assumed I had got started and not called in to cancel. They took down the details incorrectly hence were looking in the wrong place.

  17. My accelerator pedal stuck down, on the motorway, in fog. I was in the
    slow lane, but couldn;t see the phones far enough ahead to go into
    neutral and stop by one. So scary!

  18. Breaking down on my own on the top of the pennines on the way to family in Yorkshire. It was a snowy day and very misty. What was worst was when I got out of the car to deal with the green flag. My dog started on the Christmas Turkey!!!! Was devastated at the time, but now we laugh about it.

  19. A memorable occasion when my son was about 8 months old and I got a puncture. Couldn’t reach anyone by mobile and couldn’t walk to get help because I’m disabled. It was a l-o-n-g couple of hours before I was rescued…

  20. We broke down in Cornwall, in the middle of nowhere, in the days before mobile phones. We had no idea where we were and had to walk for about an hour until we came to a caravan site. We had to be taken 250 miles home on the back of a breakdown truck!

  21. When we were kids, my Mum had an old banger of a Fiesta and it broke down whilst going round a roundabout! We had to stay put in the car in rush hour traffic. Luckily a passing firetruck stopped and the firemen pushed us to safety! x

  22. Last Friday (13th!), about 2 hours after getting the MOT done on the car (and passing, I must point out), Mum, Dad and I were heading down to our hometown to see my Granda in hospital. Dad thought the guy next to him was driving on the rumble strips, but when he’d pulled away, the noise was still there, and the car had started losing power.

    Turns out the silencer on the exhaust had broken off, was trailing the ground, and we couldn’t get above 35mph. We had to turn around and head home; they got sick of the noise, turned the radio on to the sounds of Lightning Seeds’ “Lucky You“. As we couldn’t drive on the motorway, we had to take all the wee back roads around Glasgow, driving at 35mph and looking behind us to make sure they exhaust hadn’t fallen off every time they hit a bump.

    As a fun added aside: Mum and Dad started dating on a Friday 13th. :)

  23. My sister was getting married to a guy (an idiot I must add) in a detention centre. We were on our way to the detention centre and it was pouring with rain and my dad’s car went all weird and made a few noises and stopped. Dad got out and did a few bits (God know what!) and we were still saying to my sister to rethink it. Well she ignored us and got married anyway.

  24. I was stuck for three hours waiting for recovery to come out after going through a massive puddle. Turns out my car had an automatic cut out when it anything at a certain pressure – recovery guy literally had to press a button to reset it and it was fine. Embarassing!

  25. We bought a car off ebay and about 2 weeks later as we drove from Ripon to Leeds the radiator broke and it started to overheat so we had to pull over and wait to be towed. I was pregnant and desperate for a wee too!

  26. About a week ago my dad had my daughter in the car he was driving down the dual carriage way and had a tyre blow out! They were so lucky not to have been involved in an accident. My dad had to change the tyre in a really dangerous place too.

  27. Luckily, haven’t had many breakdowns. Recently the car had a funny turn coming back from leeds – rather than stop, my husband drove 20 miles per hour on the hard shoulder all the way back to york!

  28. flat battery in a dark car park after Christmas shopping, minus 6 degrees, no electrics to lock myself in the car and a 1 hour wait on the breakdown man, scary and cold!!!

  29. We had planned a trip through Glencoe, we had got half way through when the gears stopped working. It was pouring down by then and the breakdown took 2 hours to get to us and four hours to tow us home. NIghtmare.

  30. We broke down once, only a mile or so away from home, but we didn’t have a pushchair for our (then!) baby. Walking that far carrying a very heavy baby was NOT fun!

  31. We broke down on a busy A road – managed to coast into a layby but cars
    were going past scarily fast. We were rescued by an AA recovery truck
    which happened to be passing while waiting for the AA to turn up and
    taken to a safe place. He then tried to fix it but we had to be relayed home.

    Hazel Rea – @beachrambler

  32. Calling out a well known rescue service to be told I was being a silly woman and there was nothing wrong with my car – then the engine seizing on the way home and the garage telling me it was beyond repair.

  33. After going to garage earlier in day to say the battery light kept coming on..Later I went to a friends house, pulled up outside and the car died. My friend wasn’t home and I had to trek over a mile down a dark road to a phone box with 2 young kiddies. (before the days of mobiles..)

  34. There was a fault with the bonnet catch and the
    bonnet flew up and smashed the windscreen while I was driving at 50 up
    in the hills. Instantly couldn’t see so had to do an emergency stop and
    hope I stayed on the road! There is no phone signal there so I tied the
    bonnet down with a bandage from the first aid kit and drove slowly home!
    It took a few hours for me to stop shaking!

  35. kids day out – got our son and niece with us and off for a day out to the zoo – started off fine and the engine overheated and broke down at the side of the motorway with two kids and it started to rain! then get a flat tyre later in the day! just ended up a whole nightmare!! x

  36. Luckily we were in a car park, so quite safe. However it was freezing cold and our breakdown service took ages to get to us! Thankfully just made it back in time for the pre-school pick up!

  37. A good few years ago now, I was driving back to my parents on a friday night over the Yorkshire Moors when I broke down and it took 5 hours for the breakdown truck to arrive! Plus it was my birthday the next day and I spent the first hour of my irthday, stuck in the cold in the middle of nowhere in my car!

  38. Driving over a manhole cover and the suspension going in my beautiful little Renault 5. My 3 year old son being his usual helpful self suggested putting some more petrol in might sort it out!

  39. breaking down on the motorway, in the rain, in the dark no clue of where I was, years ago before mobile phones and no emergency phone boxes for several miles.

  40. Flat battery at the train station after returning to university following a weekend home. In December. On a Sunday night.

  41. We broke down with a 2 week old baby in the middle of Winter. He was lactose intolerant and so had special formula milk which we didn’t have. Luckily his Grandad saved the day!

  42. On the M25 many years ago when we were heading to Gatwick for a flight to France the car overheated.By the time we got going again it was too late and we missed the flight by 5 minutes.

  43. I broke down on the approach to a busy four way junction. My brother-in-law kindly came out with a tow rope but we only managed to travel a few yards before the rope snapped – right in the middle of the junction. Needless to say we were very embarrassed whilst we pushed the car out of the way.

  44. When the car suddenly decided to die right on the entrance to the motorway
    a very nice lorry driver blocked the road to stop an accident and some lovely
    people pushed the car to a safe place until break down service arrived.

  45. Worst for me was when I was learning to drive and started to panic because the chap behind kept flashing his lights. Turn out the car exhaust was hanging off and dragging along the road!

  46. We went camping last year in Cornwall, which is 280 mile trip one way, on the way back we had just got onto the start of the M5 by Exeter and the car broke down, we managed to crawl to the services on the hard shoulder, then we waited 2 hours for the breakdown service, and they took us home but because they can only work 4 hours on their taco, the guy had to stop after an hour as he had done his maximum work and someone else took over, in total it took us 10 hours to get home, the worst ever breakdown and we had our 2 kids with us. But they were surprisingly good and patient.

  47. In the days before mobile phones I broke doen in the middle of nowhere and had to walk a couple of mile to find a house to borrow their phone

  48. When a wheel strut broke sending me into a spin from the outside lane of a motorway and stopping on the little triangle where the slip road joins the main carriage, facing the wrong way! – I could not get out the car as traffic roaring both sides of me! So scary – but thank goodness for the lovely RAC man who turned up very quickly!

  49. On my way to Coventry via the old M6 for some important training, I am coming down the M54 to join the M6 and the traffic is absolutely massive and its going to take me ages to get through (this is before they introduced the new managed motorways which are now a lot better).
    Just as I join onto the left lane from my junction, I notice steam coming out from my bonnet so I look down at my temperature guage which is now about 3/4 full and creeping up still!
    About a minute later and the guage is right in the red and I can barely see for steam/smoke coming out of the front end, so I pull over to the hard shoulder.
    This is when I realise that 1) about 100+ people are staring at me from the motorway, 2) its peeing down with rain, 3) I should have charged my phone more the previous night.
    I phoned for breakdown assistance as I didn’t have any (now I do!!), the man on the phone told me to call back from one of the orange phone boxes, so I hung up and went searching – there weren’t any for ages because I had just joined the M6, so I phoned back and ended up giving him my GPS co-ordinates from my Sat Nav! and then it took them ages to get to me because of the traffic.
    The problem was my water bottle bottom had leaked causing all my water used to cool the engine to empty out. It cost me £125 to be towed back home to a local garage, cost £250 to repair it and I missed my meeting.
    Its an experience I don’t wish to repeat so now my car has a full service plan which I contribute £8 a month towards to get a free service/MOT and health checks AND I am a member of the AA.
    I haven’t broken down since, but better to be safe than sorry as I don’t want to repeat that experience!

  50. Having a girly shopping day out, we decided to go down the motorway
    to Boundary Mill. I was in the middle lane, car started to lose power,
    rather unpleasant smell quickly followed by plumes of smoke coming
    from the engine. Managed to get over onto the hard shoulder and phone
    the RAC who were brilliant I have to say when they realised three females
    broken down on the motorway. The most scarey part was getting out of
    the car to get up on the embankment, the speed of the cars whizzing past
    nearly knocks you over! Oh and thank you so much to all the cars that beeped
    as we sat on our tesco bags on the wet grass. RAC took us home, got another
    car and went off shopping again so not a complete disaster.

  51. I didn’t break down but my wipes stopped working when I hit torrential rain on a motorway! I couldn’t see anything all of a sudden and I was travelling at 60mph. I had to use my indicators to pull over gradually and then I stopped. It was the most frightening experience ever and I had to call the mechanics to come out.

  52. I don’t drive, but I’ve been stuck in plenty of car breakdowns – the worst being in the middle of the night in the middle of the countryside with no mobile phone

  53. My gearbox got stuck in 4th gear going 70 mph approaching a roundabout! A lorry driver moved my car onto the verve for me luckily and then a police car sat behind me as there was an accident on the other side of the roundabout!

  54. I have only broke down once and I had my little boy with me who was only 1 at the time and carful of food including frozen stuff as I had just been to asda!

  55. I once broke down while crossing the tram lines in cleveleys Lancashire. I had to physically push the car off before a tram came. I was so scared

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