All good points - it is a fact that AA, RAC. Green Flag etc will only recover your car from an accident in exchange for money. It is not covered by the policy and it says so in the small print. They normally WILL supply accident recovery if you agree to pay the bill, which you should then claim back from your or other party insurance. That is how it works. You get an invoice, you claim it back.
As for breakdown service when you are at a branch of Kwik Fit - again this is not specifically covered. The repair service is described as ROADSIDE and is intended to prevent you being stranded at the roadside and get you to a garage if it can't be repaired at the roadside. Simple really. Andymac, you were fortunate the AA guy actually looked at your car - he wasn't obliged to do it and was a concession to you on the spot.
AA and RAC score when it comes to Recovery Services. Since they made recent changes, both services I understand will take you, your car and a given number of passengers from the breakdown to a destination of your choice - IF the car can't be repaired at the roadside or in the locality. AA used to relay your car - changing recovery vehicle at every other motorway service area etc, delaying your journey and increasing the possibility of damage. Green Flag and the other garage franchise services will still do this as Green Flag will not compensate a breakdown truck driver in say Bristol for his return journey from Inverness.
Also remember that breakdown services are NOT a substitute for normal maintenance and repair. Their terms and conditions do state they won't come out for repeats of the same problem and any major repairs carried out at a garage to which they may have taken you, are the responsibility of that garage and yourself and NOT the breakdown service. In other words, if your car won't start because the battery is flat, they will get you going once but they don't have to come and do it again if, in the meantime, you should have bought a new battery.
Be aware that garage franchise services are heavily in favour of towing your vehicle to their premises where their "specialised equippment" helps them to find the fault. This is because they get a much inflated labour rate for garage work compared with roadside and they have more chance of selling you essential spares from their stores.
In terms of fair usage - Normal personal based membership entitles you to 6 callouts without additional charge. (7 if it is family membership). If you have a basic membership (such as one provided through a bank account) you may only get ONE. If you are a member for 5 or more consecutive years you get an additional 2 callouts. If you chop and change every year to get cheaper membership from the competition - you don't. Seems fair to me. Both AA and RAC operate a fair usage scheme as I believe do Green Flag. The whole point of a fair usage scheme is to make it "fair" - ie the breakdown service is not an alternative to neglecting maintenance. You can be unlucky and get 6 unrelated faults - but then the fair thing to do would be to get a different car!
The RAC and AA patrols are generally very well equipped, competent and polite. They are trained, decently paid and CRB checked, so your wife/girlfriend should be safe if she breaks down at night in some remote spot. Not sure if Green Flag and the others do CRB checks as they are franchises rather than company employees and any GF vans you see are stickered-up discounted vehicles supplied to franchises rather than true company vehicles. AA and RAC may at their discretion use franchised garage breakdown services when a full patrol vehicle is not available in your area. These are checked and are subject to the same CRB checks and standards as full patrols. Imagine if "Fred's Tyres and Exhausts" RAC franchise breakdown service got called to a Kwik Fit branch? He probably wouldn't even have bothered to get in his van.
As for the "5th Emergency Service", some people wing it and only join up AFTER they break down and then wonder why the joining fee is more like £100 instead of the £30 online. These are services for MEMBERS - thats how it works. Try hiring an independent breakdown service on a weekend on the M5 and see what it costs you.
RAC have more patrols per member. AA have more members. Green Flag etc have a lot of members but no patrols of their own.
The AA is looking for buyers at the moment - invest in them if you want to make a difference. :-)
Everyone will have their favourites, but in truth there is very little to choose between them in terms of conditions on the policies and the prices.
All these services are, like insurance, expensive until you need them. The onus is on the customer to select a service appropriate to their needs and budget. For every bad experience you read about, there are hundreds of satisfactory reports. I have no connection with any of the Breakdown Services other than having been a customer of some of them.