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Car insurance FAQs

The most frequently asked questions about car insurance

 

    

   

   

General car insurance FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about car insurance.

 

You can find out whether your car shows up as insured or not through the motor insurance database (MID) – you just enter your vehicle registration number. However, it’s important to be aware that the MID takes around two days to update from when you take out cover.

Yes, if you are driving your car on UK roads you are legally required to have at least third-party car insurance in place. This is due to the continuous insurance enforcement rules (CIE) introduced in 2011 as part of the road safety act.

If you’re the registered keeper of the car it’s your job to make sure it’s insured – even if you aren’t driving it. This is also true even if you keep it parked on the road for the majority of the time – it still needs to be insured while it’s parked.

If you’re caught without insurance you may receive a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence – and if you’re taken to court you could receive an unlimited fine, and even be disqualified from driving.

The only exception is if you declare your car off the road with a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN). 

The cost of car insurance varies hugely, as it depends on a multitude of factors – including the kind of cover you want, the car you’re insuring and your own driving and claims history.

However, you can generally rely on a few consistent trends:

  • Fully comprehensive policies are, as a general rule, the cheapest out there – and they also offer the most coverage, so it’s usually a no-brainer

  • Certain car makes and models are cheaper to insure owing to factors like their size, power and safety – you’ll usually find these in lower insurance groups  

  • Unfortunately young drivers always pay more for car insurance – their experience (or lack of) counts against them, and statistically drivers under 25 make up a high proportion of road accidents considering they are one of the smallest groups

  • If you have a history of driving convictions or car insurance claims, this also shows you are a high-risk driver and you’ll therefore likely pay more for cover

  • Certain jobs are also seen as higher-risk, sometimes just because insurers assume you are likely to be on the road more as a result of your occupation. There can be room to adjust your job title slightly in an effort to reduce costs, but keep in mind that lying to your insurer will void your policy completely 

  • There are a few ways you can take out car insurance. You might choose to go directly to providers themselves and get individual quotes, or you could even get it as a perk or benefit alongside another financial product, like a bank account.
  • However, the best way to get a real picture of what your options are, and to find the best price for the cover you want, is to compare quotes from multiple providers. Using MoneySuperMarket’s comparison service, you can see and compare deals from over 100 of the UK’s top car insurers, helping you find the best policy for the best price available. 

Apart from comparing quotes, there are plenty of ways to get cheaper car insurance – both when you buy a policy, and when you’re already covered and keeping your renewal in mind. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Pay more voluntary excess: Offering a higher voluntary excess payment shows insurers you won’t bother making small claims that aren’t worth the cost – the reduced claim risk brings your premiums down

  • Avoid claiming unless you need to: If you can avoid making small claims completely, you’ll have a better chance of building your no-claims discount – which should be applied next time you get cover 

  • Drive less: Simply, the fewer miles you drive the lower your chances are of being involved in a road accident – and again the lower risk results in lower premiums

  • Improve safety and security: Ensuring your car has adequate security and safety features, like alarms and immobilisers, as well as being kept off the street at night if possible, can also help bring down the cost of cover

You can take out cover that starts on the day, or you can take it out in advance – for example, if you’re insuring a new car.

You should be able to log into your online account and find your policy documents – and your insurer should have also emailed them to you. You can always request a copy of your policy documents from your insurer, just get in touch with them via phone, email or through their website.

   

   

Car insurance groups

Car insurance groups are how insurers sort different makes and models, based on a variety of factors, as a way to decide your premiums.

 

You can find out which group your car is in with our handy car insurance group checker tool – just input your registration number or look up your car’s make and model.

Insurance groups are based on things like the car’s performance, safety, security, cost of parts, and difficulty of repairs. The groups are named from one to 50 – starting from one, the cheapest cars, and ending at 50 with the most expensive cars to insure.

   

   

Car insurance claims

No one ever takes out insurance with the hope of one day having to make a claim, but unfortunately accidents and incidents do happen. Here are some frequently asked questions about the claims process, so you can be confident you’re taking the right steps if the time comes

 

Deciding whether it’s worth claiming on your policy means considering a few things. Ask yourself if the amount you’re claiming for is worth covering yourself – if so, avoiding a claim and preserving your no-claims bonus might be the better option.

However, this won’t always be the case – for bigger and costlier accidents it’s better to claim on your policy so you don’t have to face costs that go into the thousands or even tens of thousands.

Most insurers should have a straightforward process for claiming – generally you’ll able to do so via a paper or online form, or via phone or email.

You’ll usually be given a specified time frame for letting your insurers know about an incident, and in most cases this will be 24 hours. While you don’t need to let them know immediately, it’s worth contacting them as soon as you can so you don’t forget.

It’s a common question and an important one too, but there’s no solid answer – the time taken to settle a claim can depend on how soon you report the incident to your insurer, if there is a dispute over whose fault it was, how severe the damage is or how much evidence there is.

In most cases making a claim on your car insurance policy will lead to an increase in premiums. Insurers will see a past claim on your record as a sign that you may claim again, while as mentioned before they often give discounts to those who go without making a claim for one or more years.

You don’t have to claim on your car insurance policy, and avoiding claiming can help you build your no-claims bonus.

You should always inform your insurer about an accident or incident involving your car, even if you aren’t claiming. It’s important to keep your insurer fully informed and up-to-date, otherwise your cover may be void.

If someone makes a claim against you, this will likely be after you’ve exchanged insurance details following an accident that was your fault. 

Even if you weren’t at fault, if someone tries to make a claim on your insurance your provider will contact you for more information – and both your provider and the third-party’s provider will investigate the issue before making a pay-out.

   

   

Car insurance no-claims bonus

Your no-claims bonus, also known as a no-claims discount, can be a hugely beneficial thing to build up – here are the most commonly asked questions on the matter.

 

A no-claims bonus is a discount you earn on your premiums when you go for a long time, normally a year or more, without claiming on your car insurance policy.

You build a no-claims bonus by doing just that – not claiming on your policy. This means it can be a good idea to avoid making small claims for damage you can tolerate or fix yourself – this will give you a better chance of earning the discount.

You’ll usually only be able to use your no-claims discount on one vehicle at a time, even on a multi-car policy – but this isn’t always the case, so it’s worth asking your insurer. There may be restrictions on who is able to apply their no claims bonus over multiple cars or policies – for example, you might have had to be driving for a certain number of years, or be of a certain age.

You should be able to transfer your no-claims bonus to another car or provider, so long as you have proof. Your insurer should be able to provide proof of your no-claims bonus at the end of your policy term.

If you’ve built up a no-claims discount from abroad, you might be able to transfer it to a UK car insurance policy – but this isn’t guaranteed. It will be entirely up to your insurer whether they accept, so the best thing to do is to ask them directly.

You can protect your no-claims discount by paying a little extra on top of your car insurance premiums. Depending on your insurer, this will usually allow you to make a claim – or possibly two or more – on your policy without affecting the no-claims bonus you’ve gathered.

Whether it’s worth taking out this extra protection is up to you – consider how big your bonus is and whether the extra cost is worth paying to protect your discount.

It’s worth noting that protecting your no-claims discount won’t stop your car insurance premiums from going up – the cost is still likely to increase if you’ve made a claim on your policy, even with your discount applied.

   

   

Car insurance and excess

Excess is a term often thrown around with insurance products – here’s what you need to know about voluntary and compulsory excess for car insurance.

 

Excess means the amount you pay towards the cost of a claim before your insurer picks up the rest. It’s split into two parts – the compulsory excess that you cannot change, and the voluntary excess you can change.

Compulsory excess is set by your insurers based on a range of factors largely to do with your risk. The voluntary excess amount is chosen by you and you’ll normally be able to pick from £50 to several hundred. 

The greater amount you volunteer, the cheaper your premiums are likely to be. This is because volunteering a higher excess amount indicates to your insurer that you’re unlikely to bother with small or frivolous claims, because it wouldn’t be worth having to pay the high excess. 

The perceived lower claim risk means you should pay less for cover.

You’ll either get the excess amount deducted from your pay out, or you’ll be required to pay the excess up front when you claim before being reimbursed. 

However, it’s likely you won’t need to pay excess if you’re claiming as a result of an incident that wasn’t your fault – it will usually then be recouped from the party that was to blame.

   

   

Paying for car insurance

When it comes to deciding how to pay for your car insurance, you'll have a few different options. Here are the most common questions people ask about paying for car insurance.

 

If you’re able to, paying annually for your car insurance is almost always the better option. It’ll usually work out cheaper overall, as insurers tend to charge ‘interest’ on your premiums in return for spreading the cost over monthly instalments.

You should be able to pay via direct debit, but check with your insurer to be certain.

You should be able to pay online for your car insurance, but it can differ between insurers so check beforehand to be sure.

   

   

Types of car insurance

Car insurance comes in many different shapes and sizes, depending on who you are and what you need. Here are some commonly asked questions about main types of cover available.

 

When you take out car insurance, you’ll be able to choose from either:

  • Third-party only: The minimum legal requirement to drive on UK roads, this only covers you for damage done to a third party, their vehicle or their property

  • Third-party, fire and theft: The next level up, third-party, fire and theft also offers cover for your own car – but only if it’s stolen or damaged as a result of a fire or explosion 

  • Fully comprehensive: The maximum level of cover you can take out, fully comprehensive car insurance adds a range of extra cover for your vehicle  

When choosing from the above, it’s likely that fully comprehensive will be the best option for you. It offers the most coverage, and usually for the lowest price too.

However, there are other types of cover you might need to consider:

  • Telematics insurance, where your driving is monitored through either a black box, a plug-in device or your mobile phone. You can earn cheaper cover through driving well

  • Driving abroad cover, if you’re taking your car overseas you’ll need cover specific to the place you’re visiting  

  • Short term or temporary cover, which can be a useful alternative to annual cover if you only need cover for a few weeks, days or even hours 

  • Business car insurance, offering cover for those using their car for work/business as a standard policy doesn’t insure you for this

  • Track day cover, designed to provide specialised cover for driving your car on a racetrack as part of an organised track day 

Fully comprehensive car insurance is usually the cheapest option because it’s been associated with fewer high-risk drivers, but it didn’t used to be. 

Historically, prices were as you might expect – fully comprehensive was the most expensive, while third-party only cover, offering the least protection, was also the least costly. However, this meant that high-risk drivers, like young drivers or those with convictions, would take out third-party as the cheapest option.

This led to more claims being made on third-party policies, so those policies were associated with a higher claim risk – reversing the trend and eventually making them the most expensive.

Given that third-party cover is usually the most expensive policy, you might be wondering why it even exists. Well, it can come in useful if the car you want to insure is old or of particularly low value – in cases where it’s not worth covering the car against damage to itself.

In these situations a third-party only policy may in fact be cheaper, because the claim risk attached to the car won’t be as high. The insurer won’t be worried that they’ll need to pay out for repairs to a car not worth fixing.

   

   

Car insurance extras

Car insurance usually offers a set level of coverage, depending on the provider and type of policy you take out – however, you’ll also have the option of adding extra features to your policy. Here’s what you need to know:

 

Car insurance policies come with a raft of extra options to bolster your cover. Some of the most common extras are:

  • Breakdown cover, which helps pay for roadside assistance if you break down. It can also include cover for a courtesy car, though you can buy this separately

It’s entirely up to you to decide whether you need any extra features added to your car insurance policy. They can be useful, but they do usually increase the cost of cover, so bear that in mind before adding multiple extras to your car insurance.

If you buy a third-party car insurance policy it’s unlikely it will come with any extras as third-party is the most stripped back type of car insurance you can take out. However, your provider may give you the option to add cover for an extra cost – it’s always worth asking if it’s something you think you’ll need.

   

   

Multiple cars and drivers

If you’re sharing a car with a few drivers, or if you or your household owns more than one car, you may want to consider adding all your cars or drivers to one policy – this can keep things simpler to manage, and you may be eligible for a discount on your premiums.

 

Your car insurance policy won’t insure you to drive other peoples’ cars but you can be insured on another person’s policy as a ‘named driver’. This means the car’s owner will add you to their own car insurance policy, and you’ll be covered for all the same things they are.

You can also add other people to your own car insurance policy as ‘named drivers’ – they’ll be covered for everything you are, but keep in mind this is likely to affect your premiums.

Adding a young or inexperienced driver to your car insurance policy is likely to increase your premiums, as you are adding a high risk motorist who is more likely to make a claim or be involved in a road accident.

Conversely, adding an experienced driver to your car insurance policy, particularly if you are a young driver, can help reduce premiums as it shows insurers you won’t be solely responsible for the car.

Fronting is an illegal and fraudulent practice where an experienced driver is stated to be the main driver on a car insurance policy – however in actual fact the person doing most of the driving is a young or inexperienced motorist. The reason for this lie is to get cheaper premiums by claiming the experienced driver is the main driver – but being caught can lead to a fine and criminal record.

Multi-car insurance allows you to have two or more cars on one single car insurance policy with one provider. It can be useful for individuals, families, and households with more than one car as it gives you one company to contact and one set of policy documents to deal with -some insurers even offer discounts.

In some cases it will be cheaper to get all your cars on one policy. However if you’re insuring a car that requires specialist cover then you may find that adding it to a standard policy will cause a big jump in premiums – for example, classic cars, kit cars or modified vehicles.

   

   

Car insurance and business

Using your car for business or work-related reasons is something you’ll need to tell your insurer, as you’ll require a different type of cover to be fully protected.

 

If you use your car as part of your job, then you’ll need business car insurance – otherwise you may not be able to make a claim on your policy if you’re involved in an accident when you’re working. You may even be committing an offence by driving without being legally insured.

Whether or not your car insurance policy will be more expensive with business usage will depend on a range of factors – as well as the fact that the car is used for work, your insurer will also consider:

  • The nature of your occupation and the risks it might present

  • The actual car make and model you’re insuring 

  • Your estimated mileage

If you’re using your car as part of volunteering work, you should inform your insurer so you can find out if you need to take out extra cover. Some insurance providers offer protection as standard with a basic car insurance policy, while others might require you to pay more in premiums or excess fees.

If you’re driving a vehicle provided by the organisation you’re volunteering for then they should have the appropriate insurance in place – but check with them to be sure.

   

   

Car insurance abroad

If you’re travelling overseas with your car, you will likely need to take out an extra level of cover from your provider to be fully protected.

 

You should be able to drive abroad if you’re over 18 with a full UK driving licence, but in some places you might need a certain amount of driving experience beforehand to bring your own car. If you’re hiring a car to drive on holiday then you may need to be 21, sometimes 25, with three or more years of experience on the road.

It’s always useful to check in advance to avoid disappointment and help yourself plan.

Most UK car insurance policies will offer third-party cover for driving in the EU, including Ireland. But it may be different for countries outside of the EU, so you may have to pay a little extra to get the right insurance in place.

You should always check with your insurer before travelling, and fully inform them of where you’re planning to go and for how long, as they may have a limit on how long you’ll be covered for.

   

   

Specialist car insurance

Sometimes an ordinary car insurance policy doesn’t provide the right level of cover for your vehicle, so you may need to look for specialist protection.

 

You might need a specialist car insurance policy for a variety of reasons – your car might be over a certain age or location, or it might have rare parts that are harder to repair or replace. Some specialist policies also provide cover for certain activities that a standard policy won’t.

You may be able to get a standard insurance policy for your classic car – they’re defined by the HMRC as over 15 years old and valued at over £15,000, which is a broad net. 

However, if you have a vehicle that’s particularly valuable or sentimental, you might choose a specialist provider who can offer more affordable cover. 

If you’re having a car imported from overseas, you should be able to get cover for it – but it will depend on what kind of import it is. A parallel import is a car that’s been manufactured inside the EU, which conform to the same standard as UK vehicles so are relatively simple to insure.

Grey imports are a different story – they’re built outside of the EU and don’t conform to European standards, so cover is usually more expensive and sometimes harder to find. 

Whichever type of import it is, you’ll usually need to answer a fair few more questions about the car before your insurer will agree to cover you.

If you’re planning to modify your car, or you have your eyes set on a customised set of wheels, it’s important to let your insurer know all the details about any modifications to the vehicle. It’s likely to affect your premiums, as modifications and customisations are generally harder and more expensive to repair.

However, if you don’t let your insurer know, it may void your cover so you won’t be able to make a claim.

   

   

Car insurance and car accidents

It’s every driver’s nightmare, but unfortunately car accidents do happen – which is why we have car insurance. Here are the most common questions about car accidents and how they affect your cover. For advice on what to do after an accident read our guide to car insurance claims.

 

Yes, you should always report a car accident to your insurer, even if you don’t want to make a claim. Not doing so can invalidate your cover.

You will be able to get car insurance after an accident – you can’t legally drive a car without it. However it is likely to be more expensive after making a claim or getting a driving conviction.

Insurers will usually ask you to declare all accidents you’ve been involved in over the last five years – even if you weren’t at fault.

Unfortunately yes, your car insurance premiums will go up if you’ve previously been involved in a car accident – even if it’s not your fault. This is because there may be other circumstances around the event that make a repeat accident likely – for example, if you travel on the same busy or poorly lit roads or regularly drive at night.

   

   

Changing my car insurance policy

Car insurance policies aren’t set in stone – in fact, quite the opposite. If there are changes to your circumstances, if you’re getting a different car or you’re adding another driver, you’ll need to let your insurer know – so they can update your policy and if needs be your premiums.

 

You’ll need to inform your insurer of changes to your circumstances, including:

  • If you’re changing your address, or the main location the car is stored overnight

  • If you’re changing or adding new drivers 

  • If you’re changing or adding new vehicles  

  • If you’ve changed your job or commute 

  • If you’ve modified the vehicle 

You’ll be able to change your car insurance policy at any point during the term of cover.

It’s normally as simple as contacting your insurer and letting them know what your circumstances are – then they should be able to update the information on your records and let you know if your policy needs to be changed. 

If your change in circumstances requires your policy to be changed, there may be an amendment fee – this will be set out in your policy documents, but your insurer will be able to tell you this too.

It may be possible that changing the details of your car insurance policy will affect your premiums. Minor changes shouldn’t have much of an impact, but your job, your car and whoever is driving are major factors. 

It won’t always be one way or the other – some changes, like parking your car in a garage, installing an immobiliser, or taking a job that involves less commuting could all lower your premiums. However adding a young driver to your policy, buying a car in a high insurance group, or getting into an accident are likely to increase your costs.

   

   

Car insurance renewals

Towards the end of your car insurance policy term you’ll need to either renew your cover or take out a different policy – here are the big questions.

 

When your car insurance is coming to an end, your insurer may offer an automatic renewal of your policy. This can be a convenient way of ensuring you always have cover in place, but it may mean you miss out on potentially better deals.

You should always compare car insurance quotes before renewing with your current provider – it’s a quick and easy way to find affordable cover for your car.

If you aren’t signed up for auto-renewal with your provider and you want to renew your cover, you’ll just need to get in touch with them and ask – they should be able to take care of it for you.

When you renew your car insurance you may find your premiums to be different – this may be because: 

  • You’ve made changes to your policy, for example adding another car or driver 

  • You’ve made a claim on your policy 

  • Your own circumstances have changed, such as your address or occupation 

  • The market conditions have changed