How comprehensive is fully comprehensive car insurance?

Competition in the car insurance market has resulted in the level of cover being diluted as insurers battle to offer the lowest premiums.

Man driving a car
Things that used to be included as standard in comprehensive car insurance policies are now, in many cases, optional extras. Here, we highlight the key areas which you may not be automatically protected against so that you can ensure you have the right level of cover in place.

Check the small print

When a car insurance policy is described as ‘fully comprehensive’, motorists could be forgiven for assuming they are automatically ‘fully covered’. But, recent research from has found that – along with the cost of a policy – its details can vary significantly.

Some fully comprehensive policies for example, may not include a courtesy car – a crucial requirement for many drivers. As a result drivers might have to ask for this to be added onto their policy as an extra, loading up to around £50 onto the quoted premium.

Peter Harrison, car insurance expert at, says: “Motorists shopping around for just the cheapest fully comprehensive insurance policy will find that exclusions are commonplace.

Drivers should scour the small print with a fine-toothed comb to ensure they don’t get caught out.”

What should I be covered for automatically?

As well as third party damage, theft and fire, fully comprehensive car insurance covers accidental or malicious damage to your vehicle, personal accident and medical expenses to a stated limit, loss of (or damage to) personal property carried in your vehicle – also to a stated limit – and new-for-old replacement of this in the first year. 

A fully-comp policy will also pay for glass replacement such as windscreen, sunroof and windows. Anything above and beyond this skeleton cover may well be deemed as ‘extra’ by the insurer – and charged as such.

For example, according to, the cheapest fully comprehensive car insurance policy (based on a 40-year old male teacher driving a 2006 Ford Focus and living in ME15) is currently from Swiftcover and priced at £427.97 a year.

However, to have the option of a courtesy car, the driver would need to slap on an extra £19.99 to this quote – as well as an additional £26.99 for legal cover and at least £39.99 for breakdown cover. Emergency accommodation in the event of being stranded is simply not available under the policy.

For all of the above to be factored upfront into the annual cost of your policy, the cheapest deal for the same driver is from Kwik Fit Platinum and comes to £819.82 – nearly double the Swiftcover premium.  Drivers will need to work out what they need from their insurance deal and then do the sums accordingly.

Alternative types of policy...

If your car is not worth much, it might be the case that you do not need fully comprehensive insurance at all and third party cover may be more cost effective. This is the minimal cover required by law and ensures that only any third party, their vehicle and/or property are covered in the event of an incident.

One step up is third party, fire and theft which – as the name suggests – covers drivers on this third party basis and also if your vehicle is stolen or damaged or destroyed by fire.

In other words, with either type of third party policy, if someone drives into the back of you on the road, you’ll have to fork out for the damage to your car yourself or get used to a dented bumper.

Peter Harrison says: “Anyone on the hunt for a new car insurance policy should look in detail at what is offered from the various policy types available; comprehensive, third party and third party fire and theft all offer differing levels of protection as you’d expect.”

Other ways to keep car insurance down

There are other ways to keep your car insurance premiums down too, for example, agreeing to pay a higher excess, which is the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself. However, drivers must be certain this higher excess remains affordable at all times, otherwise it may prevent you from making a claim.

Driving carefully and building up your No Claims Discount is also a bone fide means of driving down premiums with any insurer. Five years’ NCD can entitle drivers to up to 75% discount on car insurance premiums.

Parking your car in a garage, if you have one, or even just off road will also lower your motor insurance premiums.  Or you could even go the whole hog and swap your vehicle for one with a smaller engine.

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