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What is a cover note?

Everything you need to know about cover notes and car insurance

Kim Staples
Written by  Kim Staples
4 min read
Updated: 15 Dec 2023

Sometimes a car insurance provider will send you a ‘cover note’ – temporary proof that you’re insured – before sending out the full documentation. Here’s what that means.

What is a cover note?

A cover note is a temporary certificate of motor insurance. It provides proof that you’re insured, even if the full documentation has not been sent to you yet, and means you’re covered while driving.

Cover notes aren’t offered very often these days, as documents tend to get processed and sent out very quickly, but in some instances they’re still used – especially by smaller providers.

The note states the basics of your insurance, such as your personal details, car model and registration number, and the level and type of cover provided in your policy.

Can I drive with a cover note?

Yes, you can drive with a cover note. You can use it as proof that you’re insured – for instance, if you’re stopped by police and asked to provide it.

You’ll still be covered by the same insurance policy you signed up for, including the level and type of cover. So there’s nothing to worry about if you get in an accident either.

Just be aware that your cover note will have an expiry date – you can’t use it beyond that date, and will need your full insurance documents instead.

Why would I be issued a cover note?

There are a few reasons why your insurance provider may have sent you a cover note, such as:

  • Your provider is a smaller firm, and will take a little longer to send out your documents

  • Your provider is having a system issue, and processing is taking longer than expected

  • You applied for insurance by phone or by post

  • Your policy has been amended, and the new documents haven’t been sent yet

  • Your provider wants to look more closely at the risks before offering a full policy

What’s the difference between a cover note and car insurance policy?

A cover note just gives proof that your vehicle is insured and your policy is paid for. It offers basic information on the level and type of cover you have (e.g. if it’s fully comprehensive). And, crucially, it’s only to be used temporarily – you can’t use it beyond the expiry date.

A full car insurance policy document, however, goes into much more detail. It includes the full terms of the policy, detailing everything that you are and are not covered for.

What if my cover note expires before my documentation arrives?

If your cover note’s expiry date is looming and you still haven’t received your full insurance documents, contact your provider. They will be able to help, such as by sending you a cover note extension to extend its life if your documents still aren’t ready.

Remember that it’s vital to have proof of insurance when you’re driving. Expired cover notes aren’t valid, so you won’t be able to drive with one.