Car breakdown on roadside

When Do Most People Break Down In The UK?

Breakdowns always seem to happen at the very worst times, and when you least need it. They can also be the warning signs that your car is beginning to give up, and could even be on a one-way road towards needing to be scrapped.

But is there actually a day where you’re more likely to break down than another? We decided to find out, with data that we’ve gained from a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Transport, revealing that there is in fact an official ‘Breakdown Day’ for the whole of the UK.

Looking at the day which saw the most reported breakdowns in the whole of 2020, July 31st came out on top, with a total of 1,080 breakdowns taking place on the motorway during that day alone. Helping to confirm that late July is when you’re most likely to breakdown and not just a lockdown related anomaly in 2020, July 25th was also the biggest day for breakdowns in 2019.

Hinting that overheating during long summer holiday drives is in fact the biggest reason for breakdowns across the UK, all of the top five worst days for breakdowns were across the summer months, with four taking place in August.

A man stands in front of his broken down car which has the bonnet raised

Top 10 days with the most motorway incidents in 2020

  1. July 31st 2020 – 1,080 breakdowns
  2. August 7th 2020 – 915 breakdowns
  3. August 10th 2020 – 800 breakdowns
  4. August 21st 2020 – 775 breakdowns 
  5. August 28th 2020 – 768 breakdowns
  6. February 17th 2020 – 761 breakdowns
  7. August 12th 2020 – 753 breakdowns
  8. August 14th 2020 – 753 breakdowns
  9. February 19th 2020 – 750 breakdowns
  10. February 28th 2020 – 749 breakdowns

While the day you’re most likely to breakdown might take place in July, it’s actually August which  sees the most breakdowns across the entire year. A worrying 19,448 breakdowns took place on British motorways in August 2020 – the equivalent of just over 11% of all of the breakdowns that took place over the year (172,805).

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Top 5 months with the most motorway incidents in 2020 

  1. August 2020 – 19,448 breakdowns
  2. February 2020 – 18,529 breakdowns
  3. January 2020 – 17,498 breakdowns
  4. September 2020 – 16,504 breakdowns
  5. July 2020 – 16,383 breakdowns

While heatwaves do seem to be a big contributor to when your car might experience a breakdown, January and February ranking as the second and third worst months to break down also shows that winter can be just as troublesome for the smooth-running of any vehicle. The winter months also bring with them the added issues of snow, fog and heavy rain, so be sure to read our top tips for driving in winter before heading out during these months!

an orange emergency breakdown triangle in the road with a car behind it, bonnet open

What To Do If You Breakdown On the Motorway?

With our breakdown data coming solely from breakdowns that have taken place on the motorway, there is of course a different set of rules to abide by if you ever find yourself in the situation. First and foremost, the focus should be on ensuring that yourself, and any passengers are safe and away from traffic.

Here are four things to keep in mind if you find yourself broken down on the motorway:

  1. Try to get off the motorway if you can – if not, pull into the hard shoulder, turning as far to the left of the road as possible.
  2. Turn on your hazard warning lights- if it is dark or visibility is bad, keep your sidelights on as well.
  3. Get out of your car and wait in a safe place (eg. behind a barrier or up a bank). Stay upstream of any traffic and leave all animals in the car.
  4. Make yourself visible. Wait somewhere where you’ll be easy to spot and put on some high-vis clothing if you have it.

If you’re worried that July 31st will roll around and your car will inevitably break down once again, it might be time to consider scrapping it. Find out how much you could get for scrapping your car here.


Breakdown data relates to vehicle breakdowns on 49 of Britain’s motorways which occurred in the year 2020 and were sourced from a Freedom of Information request made to Highways England.

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