Are you covered if your 4x4 breaks down in the bush?

Remote recovery insurance is worth it, but always check what it covers before it is too late.

4x4 winch recovery

Talking Points

  • Why it's critical to check what your policy covers
  • Don't be left stranded with a massive bill

EMERGENCY Recovery Insurance is a good thing I reckon. And I should know – I’ve been on the receiving end of it on three different occasions in the last 12 years or so.

However, there are limits on what’s included and what was once covered by your insurance may not be covered nowadays.

A hell of a lot of travellers rely on their state auto association for emergency roadside assist and recovery and I’ll be talking about RACV Emergency Roadside Assist Total Care which I’m most familiar with. Other state automobile associations (NRMA, RACQ, etc) have very similar packages with similar benefits, although there may be minor differences – best to check.

Some years back the ol’ Patrol broke down on a remote Aboriginal road north of the Tanami Road some 700km northwest of Alice Springs.

While I won’t go into the details of the adventure – the recovery truck broke down on a flooded Tanami Road was just the start – the expensive recovery back to Alice and subsequent 11-day motel bill and hire car costs were all taken care off by RACV Total Care. The costs would have been in excess of six to seven grand as the recovery itself was near 4000 bucks.

Nowadays, the Total Care package isn’t quite so extravagant!

Just recently I shredded a serpentine belt on a bush track northeast of Orbost in some very remote forested country. With no spare (lesson learnt there) I limped back to a main dirt road taking particular care for the engine not to get overheated.

Without embarrassing myself too much with the nitty gritty of organising a recovery through the nearest RACV agent, later that evening the recovery truck pulled up, with Matt, the recovery mechanic jumping out of his vehicle exclaiming, “What the hell are you doing up here?”

He then explained my recovery mightn’t be covered by RACV … not even by Total Care. I got a little bit agitated at that, which was further increased next day back at the agents-come-repairers who also said the same thing. I pleaded my case saying the road we were recovered from was a through road and a continuation of a country bitumen road, the blacktop only finishing less than 10km from where we were stuck. “We’ll see how we go!” was the not so reinsuring reply.

In the end the recovery was covered by Total Care as were a couple of nights in a motel while waiting for the Cruiser to be repaired, but it got me thinking about what we were actually covered for …

On checking, Total Care states that recovery/towing will be provided:

• In Country Areas, the first 100km in any direction, from the point of breakdown is free of charge, or back to the attending Service Centre.
• Service will be provided on private property or on any public road, provided they are trafficable to normal two-wheel drive vehicles. This excludes areas such as open fields, beaches, creek beds, recreation ovals, bicycle paths, bicycle tracks, logging or forest service roads and roads which do not allow oncoming traffic to safely pass.

I rang the RACV to clarify what they meant by a ‘public road’ and after much toing and froing I accepted their definition as any ‘designated road’ but not a track. As an example, I mentioned the Tanami Road and the Great Central Road, both of which they were happy with, while the tracks across the Simpson or the Canning, they weren’t.
In another major change from a few years ago Total Care now only covers approved benefits up to a total of $2400, stating:
• You may claim a combination of the following benefits up to $2400 for you and your Travel Party (in total per incident) until the End of the Incident:
• Accommodation ($170 nightly limit); and/or Rental vehicle ($88 daily limit); and/or alternative transportation; and/or taxi fares (maximum of 3 trips, at $100 each).

So, there you have it. I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy with the RACV Total Care package and won’t be dropping it anytime soon. If you are not, it may pay to have a look at Club 4X4 Insurance and opt for its extra premium cover which has up to $30,000 coverage for off-road recovery. That will surely cover your costs from being dragged out of the Simpson or some remote part of the Canning!


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