Boiler breakdown cover: what to look for

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Central heating boilers normally have the annoying habit of breaking down when you least expect it and when you can least afford it. So is it a good idea to get boiler breakdown cover? If so, what should you look for?

Boiler breakdown cover

If you’re considering a boiler breakdown cover, here are some things to consider:

  • How much of the system is covered. Find out whether your entire boiler will be covered (including controls) and/or whether the pipes and radiators are included in the boiler breakdown cover. Some policies only insure the boiler and controls. But other boiler breakdown cover policies offer more extensive cover at a higher cost. Most policies only cover gas boilers and won’t insure oil-fired boilers.
  • See how well the boiler breakdown cover is rated or reviewed. There’s no point in buying the cheapest policy if the company offering it has a terrible reputation for service. If you are going to buy boiler cover, it’s worth looking at review sites to see how it measures up.
  • Be aware of the different types of contract. There are two main types of boiler cover; one is insurance-based, which covers the costs of repairs, the other is a service contract that usually includes an annual service or check-up in the price.

SAVVY TIP: Insurance-based contracts are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, which means you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service if there is a problem. Service contracts aren’t similarly covered so you’d need to contact a consumer organisation such as Citizens Advice if you’re not happy. If they can’t help, you’d have to go to court.

  • Check the boiler manufacturer. The boiler manufacturer may offer you an extended warranty and/or a boiler breakdown cover contract. These can be cheaper than standalone contracts.

SAVVY TIP: The advantage of going with the manufacturer is that they’re likely to continue to cover the make and model of your boiler. Independent providers of insurance or service contracts often change the list and range of models of boiler that they’ll cover.

  • Find out about replacement/repair policies. Boiler breakdown cover won’t generally cover your boiler if it’s over a certain age (some limit this to seven years). Others will cover older boilers but won’t replace your boiler if it’s uneconomical to repair it once it’s older than, say, seven years. Some contracts will replace boilers up to ten years old as long as they’ve been continuously insured from the date of purchase and if the company installed them.

SAVVY TIP: If you take out boiler cover with a company other than the installer, usually they’ll ask for evidence of its age, so don’t throw away your purchase receipts or invoices. Bear in mind that some contracts may give you very little costs towards a replacement if it’s beyond economic repair. This could be as little as £250.

  • Watch out for the no claims period. Most policies have a period of between 14 and 30 days in which your boiler isn’t covered. The clause is there to stop people from taking out the policies when they know their boiler is on the way out. However, problems do spring up out of the blue so check that you’re comfortable with the no claims or exclusion period.
  • Check what counts as an ‘emergency’. Policies don’t generally make claims about how quickly they can get to you, although most say they will prioritise emergencies. This normally means winter boiler breakdown problems, but read the terms and conditions or ask the company before you sign up.

What you won’t be covered for

It’s worth knowing that many policies won’t cover you for damage resulting from the build up of limescale. If you live in a hard water area, this could be a real problem. Nearly all the policies I looked at also excluded damage resulting from the build up of sludge in the central heating system. If you have a sludge build up, you normally need to get the central heating system power flushed. This can cost hundreds of pounds.

SAVVY TIP: I’ve been told that some people have called out an engineer via their boiler cover only to be told that nothing can be done until it’s been power flushed. The central heating system may in fact need a power flush – or may not. Either way, the average homeowner who’s not a boiler expert will struggle to argue against this recommendation.

Do you need boiler breakdown cover at all?

I quizzed my plumber about boiler service contracts and his advice (which seems to make sense) is that you’re much better off buying a reliable boiler in the first place and getting it serviced every year than buying a cheaper one and paying extra for a service contract or warranty.

SAVVY TIP: Vaillant and Worcester Bosch are the boiler manufacturer names that most of the plumbers I’ve spoken to recommend. According to my plumber, an annual service is a worthwhile investment. Why? Because modern boilers tend to have more rubber and plastic parts. These can crack and corrode over time. But an annual service should spot when these are worn, which means you can replace them before there’s an expensive disaster.

Some home insurance policies include cover (which you may have to pay extra for) that equates to payment for a few hours of a plumber’s time; this service may or may not fully cover the costs of emergency repairs to your boiler. Many policies have an upper limit of between £300 and £500, although some will pay up to £1,000 of emergency repair claims.

SAVVY TIP: Some packaged bank accounts also include home emergency cover, so, if paying a monthly fee for your bank account, you should check whether this is included and, crucially, what the limits and restrictions are.

Boiler breakdown cover providers assessed:

24|7 Home Rescue –Policies start from £4.95 a month, with a £95 excess, but you can change this if you prefer. Cover starts 14 days from the day you take out the policy. There is no limit on the amount you can claim or on the number of claims. There’s also no call-out charge providing your boiler isn’t assessed as being beyond economical repair. They have a 24-hour UK helpline and say they will attend within 24-hours of your call. Their webchat is available between 8am-9pm Monday to Friday.

If you have a boiler that’s 11 years, you’ll have to pay a £75 excess. Policies do not cover the removal of sludge or hard water scale from the system, pressure issues (it costs £75 for an engineer to attend to re-pressurise your boiler) or any repairs to boilers that have not been serviced in the last 12 months before the start of the policy.

Trustpilot rating: 8.3 out of 10.

Terms and conditions: terms and conditions are here.

British Gas –  Cover starts from £12 per month, with a £60 excess. You can’t claim within the first 14 days of taking out the policy. If you cancel partway through the year, you may be charged £115 for each repair that’s been carried out on your boiler. There’s a limit of £1,000 on repair costs each year. British Gas won’t cover you if your boiler isn’t on their approved list. Their UK call centre is manned 24 hours a day.

Trustpilot rating: 2.7 out of 10.

Terms and conditions: terms and conditions are here.

Domestic & General —  Cover stars from £17.50 with no excess. You can’t claim within the first 30 days of taking out the policy. There’s a limit of £1,500 for repairs and/or towards replacement. The call centre operates 24 hours a day but engineers work during normal office hours, Monday to Friday. The terms and conditions don’t make any promises about how quickly you’ll be seen. You’re not covered for scale damage or repairs resulting from sludge or blockages.

Trustpilot rating: 7.4 out of 10.

Terms and conditions: terms and conditions are here.

EDF Energy – boiler protect cover terms and conditions are here. The cover is provided by Intana for EDF. Cover starts from £9.95 per month with a £50 excess and starts 30 days after you take out your policy. It is for homeowners with boilers up to 11 years old and covers your boiler, controls and thermostat. They also provide an initial service to ensure your boiler is eligible for cover and is in good working order.

If your boiler costs more to repair than replace, they will contribute towards the cost of a new one. If it’s between one and six years old you will receive £300, if it’s over seven years old you will receive £150.

You can contact them 24 hours a day and if they can’t help resolve your problem over the phone, they will arrange for an approved contractor to visit you. You have to pay the excess before they arrange a visit. They don’t specify how soon an engineer will be sent out.

Trustpilot rating: 1.4 out of 10 (but this is for EDF Energy overall, not just the boiler cover).

Homeserve – Boiler cover starts from £5 a month, but there are different policies with different levels of cover. You have to pay the first £95 of any claim. Under its ‘exclusions’ section, it says it won’t cover sludge, scale or rust within the system or damage caused by any other chemical composition of the water. If the boiler is deemed beyond economical repair and is seven years or older, they will source, replace and install a new boiler but you have to pay the installation costs.

Trustpilot rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Terms and conditions: terms and conditions are here.

npower –  Cover starts from £10.92 per month with a £99 excess. It includes unlimited engineer call-outs, and will pay up to £1,500 of cover towards labour costs (including call-out charges, materials and parts) required to repair or replace covered parts. Where your boiler is deemed beyond economical repair, the policy contributes £150 towards a new boiler.

Boiler and heating policies are provided by Allianz Global Assistance, in association with npower. You cannot claim on your policy until 28 days after the start date, unless you have renewed it.

Trustpilot rating: 0.6 out of 10 (but this is for nPower as a whole, not just the boiler cover).

Terms and conditions: The boiler breakdown cover policy handbook is here.

Scottish Power – Cover starts from £6.71 per month, with a £50 excess fee payable for each call-out. Cover starts 21 days after your contract start date. You can contact them 24 hours a day with unlimited call-outs. Cover is for the boiler and controls. Provided they can source the parts, for every call-out they’ll meet the cost of any necessary repairs up to a limit of £500. If you choose a more expensive policy, they will meet the cost of repairs to your boiler and controls and look after your radiators too.

Cover does not include de-scaling, de-sludging or any mineral build up in the system, which results in corrosion.

Trustpilot rating: 0.4 out of 10 (but this is for Scottish Power as a whole, not just the boiler cover).

Terms and conditions: boiler repair insurance terms and conditions are here.

SSE –  Cover starts from £4.95 per month – or £12.40 per month with a £50 excess if you want an annual boiler service and an initial inspection in the first year to ensure your system is suitable for cover. The cover protects your gas boiler and heating controls against breakdowns.

Also included are parts, labour and unlimited call-outs. They have a 24-hour emergency helpline and a 24-hour call-out service for emergency repairs. If they are unable to source parts for your boiler and it is less than seven years old, they will replace it with one of a similar specification.

They don’t include repairs due to sludge, limescale or corrosion, pre-existing faults or system deficiencies or problems caused by blocked or frozen condensate pipework.

Trustpilot rating: 2.2 out of 10 (but this is for SSE as a whole, not just the boiler cover).

Terms and conditions: boiler cover terms and conditions are here.

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