Whether you forgot to renew or just didn't think you'd ever need it, cover is still available if you your car or van breaks down.
Breakdown policies bought online are to cover future potential breakdowns, not something that has already happened. Buying a standard policy online now would typically exclude existing breakdowns and have a 24-hour waiting period before you can use it.
If you find yourself in need of roadside assistance or recovery after a breakdown, you'll need to contact breakdown provider to arrange a one-off instant cover service. It won't be cheap, but it could be cheaper than relying on a police-instructed service if your vehicle is blocking the highway.
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The breakdown provider may offer you an annual cover at the same as arranging your emergency instant cover. By all means consider accepting their offer if you're glowing with appreciation for them helping you in your time of need, but bear in mind a lot of the providers offer online discounts so it may be worth letting them sort out your breakdown situation now as the priority, then shop around for cover once you're safely back home or at your destination. You'll also have the opportunity to compare what the different providers can offer, as not all covers the same and costs can vary greatly. See our 'What is breakdown cover and do I need it' article for more help with this.