Everything you ever wanted to know about Car Insurance but were afraid to ask
By law, any driver or owner of a car, motorcycle, van, lorry or any other kind of motor vehicle must be insured.
- Third Party, Fire and Theft Car Insurance
- Comprehensive Car Insurance
- Uninsured Loss Recovery
- Motorist’s Legal Protection
- How Much Will Car Insurance Cost?
- Reducing Your Car Insurance Premium
- No Claim Bonus or No Claim Discount
- Car Insurance Abroad
- What To Do If You Are Involved In An Accident
- What To Do If Your Vehicle Is Stolen
The minimum car insurance you can buy is known as ‘Third Party Only’. This covers you if you damage somebody else’s property or injure them. There are not many insurance companies that will provide Third Party Only insurance on its own.
The next level of car insurance is ‘Third Party, Fire and Theft’ which also provides cover against loss of your vehicle or damage caused if it is stolen or burnt. It will not cover damage caused to your vehicle if you are involved in an accident or damage caused by vandals. (back to top)
Comprehensive Insurance provides cover against damage to your vehicle caused by accidents, fire and theft. Other benefits are sometimes available including personal accident protection, medical expenses and cover against items stolen from your vehicle. Comprehensive Insurance always includes some exclusions and limitations which should be checked carefully. (back to top)
Uninsured Loss Recovery provides cover for legal expenses and often includes access to free legal advice. Uninsured Loss Recovery will cover the cost of a solicitor if required to chase a guilty third party and recover uninsured losses as well as the cost of a personal injury claim if relevant. Uninsured losses include the policy excess, costs of a hire car and other expenses caused by the negligent third party.
Uninsured Loss Recovery is particularly useful for policyholders with Third Party, Fire and Theft cover as it will endeavour to recover the costs of repairing vehicle damage caused by a negligent third party in addition to the uninsured losses detailed above. (back to top)
Motorist’s Legal Protection provides cover for the cost of defending any court action that may be brought as a result of an incident. Motorist’s Legal Protection will include access to a free expert advisory service. (back to top)
Costs vary hugely and a good price comparison site or insurance broker will be able to help you select the best policy for you. There are various factors that will contribute towards the final premium you pay for your policy:
- What type of vehicle do you drive? The premium you pay will take in to account how powerful the engine is, how likely it is to be stolen or broken into and how expensive the vehicle is to repair.
- Where do you live? Where do you park your car? What do you do for a living? The answers to these questions will all influence the car insurance premium you pay. If you live in a city centre and are more likely to have your vehicle stolen or be involved in an accident then your car insurance premium will be more than somebody who lives in a village in the country. Somebody who parks their vehicle on the street will pay more for than somebody who keeps their vehicle garaged at night. You will also pay more if you use your vehicle for work.
- How old are you? How long have you been driving? Older people are more inclined to be careful drivers and young drivers are statistically more likely to have an accident. Insurers know this and drivers under 30 will pay more for their car insurance. Drivers over 49 could be eligible for a discounted premium. Including drivers under 25 on your policy will also have an effect on your premium. Any disabilities will also be taken into consideration.
- Have you been convicted of a motoring offence? Do you have a bad history of accidents? If the answer to either of these questions is yes then you are likely to pay more for your car insurance.
Any insurance company will take all these factors into account when calculating your premium and it is vital that you provide accurate information otherwise any ensuing claim may be rejected. (back to top)
One way of cutting the cost of your premium is by agreeing to pay the first part of any claim, otherwise known as an ‘excess’. A compulsory excess may already apply but discounts are usually available in return for taking out an additional voluntary excess.
Restricting the drivers to you, or you and your partner only, can help reduce the car insurance premium. Including a driver under 25 will increase the premium. However, you should take care that somebody is insured to drive the vehicle if the regular driver is incapacitated or in the case of an emergency.
Other ways to get cheaper car insurance include:
- Reducing your annual mileage – most providers will give discounts for a lower-than-average mileage figure
- Have safety features such as a Thatcham approved alarm or an immobiliser fitted by a professional
- Find somewhere secure to keep your car overnight – preferably in a garage or parked off-road
- Drive safely and build up a No Claim Bonus
- Avoid after-market modifications to your car as these must be declared to the insurance company and they may charge more
- For young drivers insurance – add a parent to the policy as a named driver
Young drivers who have passed the ‘Pass Plus’ exam may qualify for a discount on their first year’s car insurance policy. (back to top)
After having a car insurance policy for one year without making a claim, you should qualify for a discount or ‘No Claim Bonus’. After the first year this is usually 30% and increases annually up to a maximum of 65%
If you make a claim, your No Claim Bonus will be reduced or you may lose it. Once you have accumulated a higher No Claims Bonus, most insurers will often reduce it by one or two years rather than taking it away altogether or may offer a ‘Protected No Claim Bonus’. You may find it is cheaper to cover the cost of minor repairs yourself rather than losing your No Claims Discount.
If you make a claim but the accident was the fault of a negligent third party then you may find that your No Claims Bonus is reduced until the claim is resolved and reinstated once recovery has been made from the third party. If you have a Protected No Claim Bonus then it should not be affected following an incident. Remember that your No Claims Bonus should not be affected if your insurer is successful in making a full recovery from the guilty third party.
You must inform your insurer of all incidents, even if you do not make a claim. Insurers have rejected claims because the driver had failed to notify them of previous incidents. (back to top)
Your UK car insurance policy should provide cover that meets the minimum legal requirement in EU countries but if you have an accident, this may not be enough. Your UK insurance may not provide cover for your legal liabilities to other people nor will it provide cover against theft or damage to your vehicle. Some companies will require you to pay an additional premium to provide comprehensive cover although others might include it at no extra cost.
If you drive your vehicle abroad regularly then you may need to advise your insurance company of any journey out of the country. If in doubt you should check your policy wording carefully.
If you have an accident abroad and have not told your insurance company then you may be liable for additional costs. When applying for a new policy, ask if it comes with an EU certificate and whether or not you need notify the insurer about any trips to Europe that are less than 30 days.
If you are planning to travel outside the EU or do not have an EU certificate, you will need to contact your car insurance provider for a green card and should allow plenty of time to do this. The green card will provide evidence that your policy meets the minimum legal requirements in the country or countries you will be visiting.
Always make sure when you are travelling outside the UK that your policy will provide the same cover in the country or countries you are visiting as it would in the UK. If your policy only provides the minimum legal requirements in that country then you may not be covered for damage to or loss of your vehicle. (back to top)
If you are involved in an accident which causes damage or injury then you must provide your name, address and details of your car insurance policy to anybody can reasonably claim to need it.
- Do not admit liability. Take the name and address of the other driver and details of their policy. Take the name and addresses of any witnesses. Call the police if anybody has been injured. If the police do not attend the scene of the accident, or if somebody else’s property has been damaged, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours
- You must report the accident to your car insurance company, even if you do not intend to make a claim
- If you do intend to make a claim, you must contact your broker or car insurance company. Wait for confirmation from your insurance company before having your vehicle repaired. In some cases your insurance company may ask you to supply estimates before the work can be carried out or they may want to send a damage assessor to look at it. Some companies have their own approved repairers which will mean work can be started immediately
- Depending on the value of your vehicle and the estimated cost of the repair, the insurance company may decide it is not worth repairing and declare it a ‘total-loss’ or ‘write-off’. They will then offer you a lump sum for it and the damaged vehicle then belongs to them
- You may incur expenses that are not covered by your policy such as car hire or personal injury compensation. You may be able to claim these expenses from a negligent third party and should seek advice from your insurer or broker
Car Insurance always includes some exclusions and limitations which should be checked carefully. If in doubt you should check your policy wording carefully. (back to top)
If your vehicle is stolen you should notify the police immediately. You must also inform your car insurance company or insurance broker as soon as you can.
Some companies will take up to six weeks to settle a claim for the loss of your vehicle. This will allow the police sufficient time to carry out an investigation into the theft and hopefully recover your vehicle. However, many companies work within shorter timeframes.
If your vehicle is located, you must advise your car insurance company and notify them of its location.
Comprehensive car insurance policies may cover personal property that has been damaged or stolen from your vehicle but only up to a specific limit – this is usually about £150. If in doubt you should check your policy wording carefully. (back to top)