RAC plc (better known as just the RAC) is a breakdown company in the United Kingdom supplying products and services for motorists.


The RAC was formed in 1897 as the associate section of the Royal Automobile Club to assist members with roadside assistance and to provide motoring services.

The RAC introduced uniformed mobile patrols around the roads of Britain during 1901 with the patrolmen wearing a uniform not unlike the military police of the day, including tailored jodhpur trousers. The patrolmen had an army-like rank structure with corporals, sergeants and officers. Mounted on Matchless motorbikes with sidecars containing a tool kit, fanbelts, engine hoses, and metal cans of spare petrol they were usually located on standby at laybys and major road junctions. Until around 1930 control could only contact the mobile patrolmen by telephone, so they waited by public telephone boxes for the callout. From 1957 onwards they were equipped with radio sets for two way contact with their local headquarters.

In 1912, following the lead of the competitor organisation The Automobile Association (AA), the RAC installed roadside telephones on laybys and junctions of the main trunk roads in the UK for members to summon help. Although they were never as numerous as AA boxes there was a measure of cooperation between the two motoring clubs - keys fitted both types of box and members' messages were passed on. The telephones were installed in locked boxes painted in royal blue with the RAC logo badge mounted on the top of the box. Members were provided with a key to the boxes when they joined the club. Members' cars were identified by a metal club badge usually affixed to the radiator grill and the patrolmen would come to attention and salute as a member drove past. The RAC ceased this practice in 1963.

The RAC issued an annual 'Guide and Handbook' that contained road maps of the UK with the location of all RAC telephones marked on it, together with lists of local RAC approved garages and hotels. To give members an indication of the quality of each establishment the RAC was one of the very first organisations to provide an easily recognisable grading system. Their inspectors assessed each hotel and garage and awarded between one and five stars in the case of hotels and one to three spanners to garages. The RAC disbanded its hotel inspection team in 2004.

Motorcycle patrols gave way to small vans during the 1960s and by 1970 the last motorcycle patrols had been phased out. RAC telephone boxes were withdrawn from service when they were eclipsed by wider telephone ownership and by the 1990s only a handful still operated on holiday routes in the West Country. The advent of mobile phones made the need for roadside telephones redundant and the last of the RAC telephones were removed from service. Roadside assistance is now provided by vans and recovery vehicles.

Until the early 1970s the RAC did not have a formal "onward to destination" service for members. If the patrolman was not able to complete the repair at the roadside, arrangements were made for an RAC approved garage to tow the vehicle and repair it at the owner's cost, with the owner being responsible for making their own arrangements for travel by public transport or hired vehicle. This changed in the 1970s with the first of the low-loading vehicle transporter fleet and the introduction of a higher membership tier of the Recovery service. Similarly, until the early 1980s the roadside assistance service was limited to locations away from home, which only changed with the addition of an At Home level of service.

In September 1999, the RAC was sold by the members of the Royal Automobile Club to another motoring service company, Lex Service plc, who renamed themselves RAC plc in 2002. During March 2005 Aviva plc acquired RAC for around £1.1 billion.[1] The main competitors to the RAC are The AA and Green Flag.

Products and services[]

RAC Rescue[]

United Kingdom[]

The RAC has around 2,000 patrols that attend 2.8 million breakdowns each year, this includes overseas breakdowns with RAC Europe. The RAC cover 7 million roadside assistance customers with 2.2 million individual members and 4.5 million corporate customers. Their breakdown assistance centres operate 24/7 and deal with approximately 4 millions calls a year. They have introduced, for trial, two hybrid vehicles, to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions[2]. The RAC has won the prestigious JD power award for the last three years for the best roadside patrols in the UK.


RAC Europe is breakdown cover for U.K. customers that travel to Europe. RAC Europe covers 47 European countries and provides English-speaking Incident Managers available 24 hours a day to assist. The office is based in Lyon, France.


RAC Autowindescreen was sold by the RAC in 2008.

RAC Direct Insurance[]

RAC Direct Insurance provides car, motorcycle, van, home and travel insurance.

RAC Legal Services[]

RAC legal services provides advice and representation to customers involved in personal injury claims.

RAC loans[]

When Aviva plc teamed up with the company it began to provide loans through the RAC brand name. On 1 January 2008, RAC ceased providing loans and are dissolving their partnership with the Co-Operative Bank, with whom they had provided the loans.

RAC Vehicle Checks and Examinations[]

RAC Vehicle Checks and Examinations conduct vehicle checks that show if a car has been stolen, written-off, has outstanding finance or previous plates, is at risk of being sold illegally, and that its number plate and chassis number correspond. RAC Vehicle Checks are conducted by HPI.

HPI provides a check on a car's status - assessing whether a car has been stolen, written-off, clocked, has outstanding finance or previous plates, is at risk of being sold illegally, and that its number plate and chassis number correspond. It will also check whether the car's documents are genuine.

RAC Examinations Inspectors make physical checks on the car to make sure it is mechanically and structurally sound.

Travel and traffic information[]

RAC provides travel and traffic services including online route planners, in-car navigation, traffic information via phone or the internet and help with travel documents.[3]


BSM is the UK’s largest driving school, with over 3,400 driving instructors. It is also one of the largest driving instructor training providers. RAC's parent company, Aviva, sold BSM to a German company in January 2009.[4]


J.D.Power and Associates ranked the RAC the best in satisfying emergency roadside assistance customers in 2008, this is the third consecutive year the RAC has held this title. They also have a Greenfleet Breakdown/Recovery Company of the Year 2006 award for the most environmentally friendly roadside patrols.[5]

Team RAC[]

In 2006, RAC teamed up with WSR (West Surrey Racing) to form Team RAC and to race in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) with two MG ZS cars. The racing cars are liveried in RAC's corporate orange and have achieved a number of wins.

See also[]

  • The AA
  • Green Flag
  • Vehicle recovery


External links[]