Are you really insured to drive?

While the number of uninsured drivers on Britain’s roads has soared in recent years, most drivers would not get behind the wheel without the proper cover in place.

But can you really say that you have never driven uninsured, even by mistake?

In fact, there are lots of potential ways that you can unwittingly invalidate your car insurance policy.

These include falling behind with your monthly payments, driving while over the alcohol limit while honestly believing you were sober (perhaps because you were drinking late the night before) and driving someone else’s car thinking your own cover provided the necesary protection.

Here, we highlight some of the situations that could put you, your passengers and anyone else on the road at risk due to a lack of insurance.

Under the influence

One of the easiest ways to compromise your car insurance policy is to drive while you are over the alcohol limit.

For anyone involved in an incident in such circumstances, however, the good news is that most policies will usually only be partially invalidated.

In other words, your insurer will still pay out for any damage caused to other drivers or vehicles, but usually not for any damage suffered by you or your car.

And that will also be the case if you are found to be under the influence of drugs.

However, a large bill could be the least of your worries if you do yourself or someone else a serious injury – or worse – as a result of driving while you are over the legal limit. As well as a 12-month ban, a hefty fine, a criminal record and a possible prison sentence, you will ruin your insurance profile.

Peter Harrison, insurance expert at MoneySupermarket, said: “An incident of this kind will make it very difficult to find car insurance at a reasonable price in the future – if at all.”

Paperwork problems

Most people pay for their motor insurance in a lump sum once a year, which is sensible given the double-digit interest charges that can be added to your premium if you pay monthly.

For cash-strapped drivers who are unable to find the cash to make an upfront payment, however, monthly instalments can be a godsend – as long as you do not forget to make them.

After all, if you fall behind with your payments, your insurer could easily refuse to pay out on any claims.

What’s more, even if you are up to date with your insurance payments, you could still invalidate your policy by failing to ensure that your MOT and tax are in order too.

It is now a legal requirement to have both insurance and road tax at all times, even if you have a vehicle that you never drive (unless you have filed a Statutory Off Road Notice).

Meanwhile, the moment you drive without an MOT, your policy is invalidated – and could stay that way even if you have an accident after passing the MOT.

Honesty is the best policy

When you apply for a car insurance policy, it is vital to give the insurer accurate information about you, the vehicle and how it will be used.

Essentially, it is your responsibility not only to get your facts right, but also to mention everything that could be considered as a ‘material fact'.

In other words, you must give details of anything that could reasonably have changed the insurer's decision to offer cover or the price it would have charged.

Otherwise, you could find yourself out of pocket when you come to make a claim, or even be mistaken for a fraudster who has deliberately misled the company concerned.

A particular problem is ‘fronting’ – which is when a car whose main driver is a teenager or someone in their early 20s is insured in the name of an older relative who is considered a better insurance risk. Read more on this in Kevin Pratt's article 'Millions break the law to get cheaper car cover.'

Research indicates that as many as four in 10 parents have illegally fronted their children’s car insurance during the first few years. As well as being against the law, this can cause all manner of headaches.

Harrison said: “In the event of an accident, insurers can refuse to pay out all or part of the claim, cancel the policy, and even prosecute for fraud to recover third party claim costs.

“And it is not hard for them to identify policies that have been “fronted” by looking at something as simple as whose credit card is regularly used to buy petrol.”

Cover limitations

While motorists with comprehensive insurance policies are often insured to drive other people’s cars, those with only third party or third party, fire and theft cover are not.

And if the vehicle in question requires a special licence, then your insurance will be null and void unless you have the required qualifications.

Before taking the driving seat for a friend who has had a few too many beers, you should therefore ensure that you have the right protection in place.

Staying within the confines of the cover provided – or contacting your insurer to alter your policy if your circumstances change – is also essential if you want to avoid sticky situations.

Aviva, for example, will not pay out on any claims that arise while a vehicle was being used other than for the purposes described under the "Description of use" section of the relevant Certificate of Motor Insurance.

So if, for example, you said that your car would not be used for professional purposes, but then started using it as a taxi, any resulting claims would be unsuccessful.

And the same may well apply if you fail to tell your insurer about any modifications made to your vehicle, either before or during your policy term.

This is particularly true if the modifications could be viewed as increasing the chance of you having an accident – perhaps because the vehicle can now travel faster – or being targeted by thieves.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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