What is fully comprehensive car insurance?
Comprehensive motor insurance offers the highest level of cover and provides protection for yourself and for others if you injure another person or damage another vehicle or property in an accident. It also includes cover if your own car is stolen, or damaged in a fire or accident or vandalised.
With fully comprehensive car insurance, you will in most cases be insured to drive another car with the owner’s permission. Your own car is also insured against the following:
- Accidental damage
- Loss of personal effects such as sat nav systems
Buying the right insurance
It’s against the law to drive a car without motor insurance, but there are various levels of cover, so it’s worth finding out about the different types of policy on offer. You can then buy the right insurance for your car and your budget.
What does comprehensive insurance cover?
Third party insurance is the minimum legal requirement and provides cover if you cause damage or injury to another person, vehicle or property in a road accident.
Third party insurance is pretty basic in that it provides no cover for you or your vehicle, so you could opt instead for third party, fire and theft (TPF&T), which also covers your own vehicle if it is stolen or damaged in a fire.
But even (TPF&T) will not pay out for any damage to your own vehicle in an accident, which is why many people take out comprehensive, sometimes called fully comprehensive, insurance.
Comprehensive insurance covers third party, fire and theft, plus any damage to you or your own vehicle in an accident. Comprehensive policies also usually come with a range of additional features, such as:
- European cover up to a certain number of days
- Personal injury
- Audio equipment
- Personal belongings
- Windscreen repair
- Courtesy car
In some instances, these will be built into the policy itself, while in others you might have to pay an additional premium.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that no two policies are identical. If, for example, you intend to drive your car abroad, you should check the policy details to make sure you have appropriate cover.
Similarly, if having access to a courtesy car is a deal breaker, read the small print before you sign up.
Comprehensive insurance is not always more expensive than third party, even though it offers more generous cover. The reason is simple: people who take out third party insurance tend to be riskier drivers, and the cost of their claims pushes up the cost of premiums.
It’s therefore a good idea to compare various types of policy because you might be able to buy comprehensive cover for the same price, or cheaper, than third party insurance.
Can I drive another vehicle?
Many people assume they are covered to drive another vehicle if they have comprehensive insurance (and permission from the vehicle’s owner). But it’s a risky assumption. Some policies provide cover for another car, but it might only be third party insurance. So again, check the terms and conditions before you get behind the wheel of another vehicle.
Cut the cost of cover
The cost of motor insurance varies according to a number of risk factors such as your age, experience and address. Basically, a 21-year-old who has been driving for two years and who lives in the inner city will pay more for cover than a 50-year-old with more than 20 years’ experience behind the wheel and a house in suburbia.
However, there are a number of ways you can drive down the cost of motor insurance.
Avoid claiming: If you don’t claim on your insurance, you are usually rewarded with a discount. The size of the discount varies from insurer to insurer, but you could knock 70% or more off the cost of cover if you don’t claim for five consecutive years. It’s therefore a good idea to pay for any minor damage out of your own pocket to preserve your claim-free record.
Increase the excess: All motor insurance policies come with a compulsory excess, which is the amount you have to pay towards any claim. For example, if you put in a claim for £500 and the compulsory excess is £200, the insurer will pay out only £300.
Policies also have a voluntary excess, which can be used to lower the premium premium. You might for example agree to a voluntary excess of £100. Combined with the £200 compulsory excess mentioned above, you would therefore have to pay the first £300 of any claim you made.
You should make sure that whatever total excess you arrange is affordable. And insurers will only accept voluntary excesses up to a certain level.
Limit your mileage: The more miles you drive, the more likely you are to have an accident and make a claim. So, if you are prepared to limit your mileage you should pay less for cover. Just make sure you agree a realistic annual mileage because you could invalidate the policy if you breach the limit.
Choose your car carefully: Insurers assign cars into 50 groups according to various factors including their engine performance and likely cost of repairs and parts. On a sliding scale, cars in low-numbered groups are cheaper to insure than cars in groups with higher numbers, with group 50 cars having the highest premiums (all other things being equal).
This means it’s worth checking out a car’s group rating before you buy. Also, try to resist modifying your vehicle because insurers tend to bump up premiums for modified cars.
Stick to the rules of the road: If you have any driving convictions, your insurance costs will accelerate. Penalty points on your licence also mean higher premiums. So, drive carefully and abide by the rules of the road.
Keep your car safe: If possible, keep your car in a locked garage overnight, or at least on a drive way. You will pay more for your insurance if your car is parked on the street when it’s not in use.
Compare premiums: Many people stick with the same insurer year after year, but loyalty rarely pays. You could save hundreds of pounds on your motor insurance premium if you compare prices across the market. It’s also quick and easy with MoneySuperMarket’s free, car insurance comparison service.