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Come on, admit it, how many of us have actually trawled through ALL the small print on our car insurance policy?
Most people, quite reasonably, assume that once they’ve bought cover, they will be protected if they have an accident or their car is stolen. But if you make any changes to your vehicle, however small, or if you start accepting cash in return for lifts, you could find any claims you make rejected.
Car insurance is rarely as straightforward as it seems, so you should always let your insurer know if your driving habits change, or if you’ve made any modifications, even if you can’t see why they would be relevant.
For example, if you’ve ‘pimped your ride’ by adding alloy wheels, or a state of the art stereo system, you’ll need to let your insurer know. Adding to the value of your car through modifications can increase the chances of the car being stolen and so will bump up the cost of premiums.
Motorists should also be aware that they need to inform their insurers of any changes to their personal circumstances as well as modifications to their vehicle – failure to do so could again lead to your policy being invalidated.
Even a change in job can have an impact. For example, research by MoneySupermarket.com found that a children’s entertainer can expect to pay around 48% more for their car insurance than a teacher, which seems odd, since I doubt many of them spend much time juggling behind the wheel. It doesn’t end there - lots of other things which you might think wouldn’t have an impact on your motor cover can also invalidate your insurance.
For example, have you got a named driver on your policy, and if so, have you disclosed to your insurer any claims they might have made in the past?
You’ll need to tell your insurer about any prangs they’ve had in their own car, as if they have an accident while driving your vehicle any claim might be refused if your insurer later discovers that this isn’t the only claim they’ve made.
Your cover can also be invalidated if you start accepting money for lifts. Although insurers don’t mind you driving friends and family around, once you start charging people - and if you’re making a profit from these payments - you’re heading into ‘taxi’ territory and will need to change your insurance to reflect this.
According to The Association of British Insurers, car-sharing only doesn't affect the insurance of their members provided the vehicle seats no more than eight passengers, and no profit is made from any payment by passengers.
The reason that accepting money could invalidate your cover is that most car insurance policies will only cover you for ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ use. This can even sometimes exclude commuting to work, which frankly seems a bit daft given that this is often the main reason for people even having a car.
Remember that you will also need to notify your insurer if you are driving abroad.
Even if you have comprehensive cover here, often insurers downgrade their cover to third party once you leave the UK, which could leave you seriously out of pocket if your car is involved in an accident.
It is therefore worth checking whether your provider will allow you to upgrade or add on European car insurance as an extra before you leave.
Finally – and although this one sounds obvious – don’t leave your keys in the ignition and expect your insurer to pay out if your car gets nicked. Even if it’s freezing cold, standing outside in the snow for a few minutes will be a lot less painful than having to fork out for a new motor.