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Everything You Need to Know About Car Insurance

Car insurance doesn't have to be a complicated concept. Ultimately, car insurance is a solution designed to protect you from issues that you can't always prevent with your vehicle. Like home insurance, which defends you against financial issues when something in your property is damaged or stolen, car insurance pays a certain amount of cash into your account if your car happens to be harmed, stolen, or damaged in any way. Car insurance can also protect you against the cost of damages if you end up in an accident.

Car insurance is specifically designed to protect you from financial problems when an accident or issue involving your car is your fault. This means that if you end up in a crash where another driver is to blame, it will be up to them to claim on their insurance and pay for the repairs on your car.

Here, we're going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to choosing the perfect car insurance coverage for your vehicle.

  • Does Everyone Need Car Insurance?
  • When Do you Not Need Vehicle Insurance?
  • How Do I Choose the "Named Driver" for My Insurance?
  • What are The Different Types of Car Insurance?
  • How to Choose the Right Car Insurance Policy
  • How Can You Make Sure your Car Is Insured?
  • What Happens If You Need to Claim on Your Car Insurance?
  • What is Excess and What's the Difference Between Compulsory and Voluntary?
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Does Everyone Need Car Insurance?

The first thing you need to know is that drivers in the UK are required by law to have car insurance. It is illegal to drive on the roads of the UK without insurance set up in your name. This means that if you own a car and drive it without insurance, you could end up in serious trouble.

There are specific times when you might not have to insure your car. For instance, if you officially declare your vehicle as "not in use" through a SORN or Statutory Off-Road Notice, then you will be exempt from car insurance.

Anyone who breaks the rules laid out by the Continuous Insurance Enforcement Act or CIE can be subject to a £100 penalty notice, followed by prosecution with fines of approximately £1,000. You may also have your car clamped. Even if you have a vehicle that you only use occasionally, you'll need to get it insured. Any car that you drive will require insurance.

Additionally, if you're involved in an accident when driving without insurance, you will be required to cover all the costs associated with the damage to your car and public property yourself. If you are responsible for damages to other people or cars, then you could end up spending tens of thousands of pounds on damages.

When Do you Not Need Vehicle Insurance?

As mentioned above, the law in the UK dictates that you'll need at least a minimum level of coverage from a third-party insurance policy to drive a vehicle. You will also need an insurance policy if you're leaving your car parked on the street or in your garage unless the car is declared as being off-road.

Police and insurance enforcers will be able to check instantly whether your vehicle is insured, as they can look it up on the Motor Insurance Database. If an officer finds that your vehicle isn't insured and you're driving it anyway, they can seize your car, and stop you from driving it - even if you use your smartphone to set up insurance on the side of the road. You will need to pay charges to get your vehicle returned to you and show a certificate of insurance to the police. If you do not provide a certificate of insurance within fourteen days, the police can dispose of your vehicle.

In most cases, you will definitely need insurance for your vehicle. However, there are situations where it may be legal for you to maintain a vehicle that is uninsured. For instance, you won't need motor insurance if:

  • Your vehicle is being held by an authorised dealer or is between dealers.
  • Your vehicle has been stolen, scrapped, or written off.
  • Your vehicle hasn't been on a public road for the last 20 years.
  • You have a valid SORN certificate (Statutory Off-Road Notification).

If your vehicle seems as though it isn't insured, you may receive a letter from the Motor Insurance Bureau warning you of this fact. If you don't insure your vehicle following this, you may be given a notice that is followed by your car being seized, destroyed, or clamped.

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How Do I Choose the "Named Driver" for My Insurance?

When you're choosing your car insurance coverage, you'll need to select a named driver for the policy. Typically, the named driver will be the owner of the car or the person that drives the vehicle most often. You can also add other more-experienced drivers to your insurance to bring down your premiums.

Because younger drivers are often perceived as more of a risk on the roads, they can often reduce the cost of their car insurance by adding parents and guardians to their policy. However, a more experienced driver cannot front a policy to get better coverage. The practice of putting another person as your primary named driver is illegal and could invalidate your cover.

What are The Different Types of Car Insurance?

As mentioned above, when you own a car, insurance will be a legal requirement unless you register your vehicle as being off the road. Car insurance can protect you from a number of financial problems, including having to find the money to pay for damages after an accident takes place. However, your insurance can only cover you to the extent of your policy.

There are various types of car insurance available on the market, and each one gives you a unique level of cover. Let's examine some of the main types of car insurance:

Third Party Car Insurance

Third party car insurance is the most common form of car insurance, and the minimal requirement for drivers according to the law. Third-party insurance will cover injuries to other people who you might injure with your car, including animals and people. This insurance also covers damage to the property of other people and accidents that might be caused by passengers or named drivers on a policy.

Third party insurance can also offer protection to any passengers in your vehicle that might be injured during a collision or accident which you are responsible for. However, third-party insurance will not cover the cost of repairs for your own car or an injury to you. Additionally, this insurance will not cover replacement costs for your car if it is damaged, stolen, or destroyed.

Third Party Fire and Theft Insurance (TPFT)

Third party fire and theft policies cover all of the same things as a third-party car insurance policy, with a few added extras. These policies are designed to provide you with additional cover if your car is damaged, stolen, or destroyed by fire. In certain cases, the insurance will also cover damage caused by an attempted theft.

Alongside third-party car insurance, fire and theft car insurance is the second cheapest option for most drivers, and it also provides a higher level of protection and peace of mind. However, not every insurer will offer third party fire and theft cover, so you might have to look for standard third-party coverage and add extra options to your policy.

Comprehensive Coverage

As the name probably suggests, comprehensive car insurance is a policy that covers absolutely everything that could damage or destroy your vehicle. Comprehensive car insurance policies cover all the elements included in a third-party fire and theft insurance policy and then provide some added extras too. Some polices might provide coverage for your windscreen, as well as personal contents in a car like your sat-nav.

Comprehensive coverage can also offer coverage for trailers fixed to your car, as well as medical costs up to a certain amount. With comprehensive coverage, you can sometimes get access to a courtesy car when your current vehicle is out of commission, or you're waiting for a repair. Of course, not all policies include the same things, so it's important to compare your options carefully before you agree to anything.

Other types of car insurance might include:

  • Multi-car insurance
  • Black box insurance
  • Temporary insurance
  • Learner car insurance
  • Young driver insurance

How to Choose the Right Car Insurance Policy

Selecting the right car insurance policy can be quite the challenge - regardless of what kind of vehicle you're trying to find cover for. As with most things today, the best way to make sure that you're getting the right deal is to compare your options in advance. Ideally, you'll want to collect quotes from a host of different insurance providers in your area and compare various things such as:

  • What kind of things the policy covers.
  • The amount of compulsory excess you'll be expected to pay.
  • Whether you can access any discounts or offers.
  • How much your no-claims bonus is worth.
  • Whether there are any restrictions on your policy.
  • Whether you can add additional coverage to your policy.

Remember, while it's important to learn as much as you can about your insurance provider, the company you choose to work with will also need to know something about you too. Do what you can to give your insurer as much information as possible about your vehicle, and yourself. There's a good chance that they'll ask you about things like:

  • Previous claims with other insurance providers.
  • Driving convictions and accidents.
  • Medical conditions that may affect your driving.
  • Whether you plan on adding other people to your policy.

All of this information will have an impact on the premium you end up paying, and how much your insurer is willing to cover you for. Additionally, when your insurance provider asks you for additional information about changes to your circumstances, you should be willing to offer details as quickly as possible. Other elements to be aware of when you're choosing an insurance provider include:

  • Any vehicles purchased on finance need to be insured in your name.
  • Policies can run for a year at a time, and your insurance provider doesn't have to remind you to renew (although most will).
  • When you need to renew your policy, you should be provided with a cover not, which covers you for a period of up to 30 days while the insurance is being set up.
  • Make sure you check the conditions and terms of your coverage when you sign up for your insurance. You may be agreeing to have your policy renewed automatically after a year. This could mean that you have to pay extra to cancel your policy if you want to switch.
  • You should be able to cancel your insurance if your vehicle is written off, stolen, or sold. Make sure that you check your policy in advance to find out whether you can get a refund on your premium.

How Can You Make Sure your Car Is Insured?

If you're not sure whether your insurance is still active, the best thing you can do is run your plates through the motor insurance database, which hold the insurance information of every vehicle that has been insured within the UK.

The search is free, and it will tell you whether the car is insured. However, if you want to find out details about your policy through the service, then you will need to pay for the additional information. You can also simply look at your credit card and bank statements for additional information. Once you find details of who you're paying insurance fees too, you can contact them for additional information.

It's also possible to look through your emails and see whether you've had any updates from the insurance provider on a digital basis. Remember, even if you do have insurance for your car, it won't cover you for everything. Your insurance may not cover you if:

  • Someone not covered by the policy was at the wheel at the time of an accident.
  • You charge passengers for taking them somewhere
  • Your car isn't safe enough to be on the road (it didn't pass its MOT)
  • You have purchased a stolen vehicle
  • You're driving someone else's car
  • You don't have a valid driving license
  • Your insurance provider has gone out of business (Compensation may be available from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in this case).

What Happens If You Need to Claim on Your Car Insurance?

Although it's tempting to think that you'll never need to claim on your car insurance - accidents can happen, even if they're not your fault.

When you suffer from an accident or damage to your car, it's important to get in touch with your insurance provider as quickly as possible and make sure you have your policy details ready. Ensure that you get the details of anyone else involved in the accident too.

You will be given a claim form from your insurance company, which you will need to complete and send back as quickly as you can, along with any supporting evidence that the accident wasn't your foot. It's also worth keeping copies of your claim form and other relevant paperwork close to hand, along with records of emails, calls and other information that might be useful. Make sure that you know which garages are approved by your insurance provider too, so you don't have to end up footing the bill yourself.

If your car is in an accident, you will need to make sure that you:

  • Don't admit or suggest to anyone that the accident was your fault - even if you feel as though it was.
  • Exchange details and names with other drivers at the scene, and make sure that you collect the details of independent witnesses too. If someone at the scene will not give you their details, then you might be able to help your insurance company trace them by recording their vehicle registration plate numbers.
  • Tell your insurance provider about the accident as quickly as possible. Remember that you still need to inform them if you don't want to make a claim.
  • Show your insurance certificate to the police if someone is injured, and make sure that you take information to the police station within 7 days if you can't provide it at the scene.
  • Take any photographs that might be useful at a later date when you need to make a claim.

What is Excess and What's the Difference Between Compulsory and Voluntary?

While a car insurance policy is there to protect you against paying for expensive repairs and replacements for your vehicle - your insurer doesn't want you to claim for every bump and knock that might happen on the road. It would cost a fortune for insurers to cover every little bump, which means that they prefer to keep your policies cheaper by including something called an excess.

An excess is your commitment to paying the first portion of any claim. In simple terms, you pick a sum that you're comfortable paying whenever something goes wrong with your car, and your insurer pays the rest. Obviously, if your excess is larger than the cost of repairing your vehicle, then there's no need to claim the issue on your insurance.

There are two kinds of "excess": let's compare them.

Compulsory ExcessVoluntary Excess
The compulsory excess is an amount chosen by your insurer that you will need to pay whenever your car is damaged. You must pay this amount to make a claim. Your compulsory excess is likely to be a lot higher if you're a risky or young driver, as your insurance provider might expect you to make multiple claims during your policy. Expensive vehicles can also lead to a higher excess.The voluntary excess is the extra amount you might be willing to pay towards your claim. This amount isn't mandatory, but there are benefits to offering to pay a little more towards your claim. For instance, if you pay for more of your claim, you can prevent your car insurance premiums from going up too severely after an accident takes place.
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Car Insurance FAQ: Your Questions Answered

With the above, we've probably covered the ins and outs of car insurance in general, but here are some questions and answers which might just help you determine which type of car insurance policy you need.

Q: What Is Additional Cover?

Although comprehensive car insurance policies can cover a lot of different types of damage, they don't necessarily cover everything you'll ever need when you face a problem with your car. Some policies offer additional features like legal cover, courtesy cars, and breakdown cover. However, these add-ons aren't a component of every policy.

If you think that these extra forms of insurance will help you to feel more confident on the road, you might be able to add them onto your policy with certain insurance providers. However, before you buy any additional features for your insurance, make sure you ask yourself whether you're going to use them or not.

Q: What if Your Car is a Write-Off?

Finally, if after following all of the appropriate steps with your insurance policy, you discover that it simply wouldn't be financially viable to repair your car, your insurance provider might be able to offer you the market value of the car according to the time of the accident. This process is known as engaging in an insurance write-off. Most of the time, the insurance provider will take the car away from you after making the payment, but you may be able to keep it in rare circumstances.

If you don't agree that the insurance provider is offering you a fair amount for your vehicle, you'll need to provide the company with proof that shows the value of your car is higher than the insurer suggests. You might be able to use the asking price for similar cars for sale in your area, or you can ask for a valuation from a third-party engineer.

Once your claim has been settled, your insurer will generally only allow you to keep the car if it's possible to repair the vehicle and make the car roadworthy again. If this is the case, then the money you get will be reduced to cover the cost of salvaging the car.

Even if it's impossible to fix your car, your insurance provider will need to get your consent before they can send your vehicle to a scrapyard or to be destroyed.

Q: How Does your Car Insurance Group Affect Premiums?

As we mentioned above, the type of car you have can have a big difference when it comes to determining the amount you'll pay on your premiums. Every car is given a unique rating by the Group Rating Panel. The Group Rating Panel consists of various organisations, including the Association of British Insurers, the Lloyds Market Association and more.

In total, there are 50 different car insurance groups. The first group "group 1" is the cheapest type of car to insure, and group 50 is the most expensive. For instance, a sports car from Porsche might be in group 50, whereas a standard Vauxhall Corsa might be closer to group 1.

Cars get their rating depending on various factors, including their:

  • Value when new
  • Security features
  • Safety features
  • Performance
  • Repair costs

The best way for younger or frugal drivers to keep their insurance costs as low as possible is by choosing a car in the lower groups. You can find out which cars are in which groups online.

Q: What is Short Term Car Insurance?

Most car insurance policies last for a period of 12 months. At the end of the year, your policy with either renew automatically, or you can ask to switch to a different provider and compare your options to keep costs low. However, you don't have to commit to an entire year of insurance if you don't need it. In some cases, you may prefer to borrow a car or drive someone else's vehicle for a short amount of time - but you won't necessarily be covered to do this.

If you need to drive another person's car, you can ask them to add you onto their insurance policy as a named driver. However, this might not be the cheapest option for your friend. Additionally, if you need to make a claim, this could affect your friend's no claims bonus. Another option is to include the "driving other cars" clause into your own insurance policy.

The ability to use your coverage when driving other cars is a common feature of some insurance policies. Most of the time, the add-on is only available for third-party coverage policies. This means that your policy will not pay out to repair the car that you were driving when involved in an accident. Make sure that you check your policy carefully to see whether you're covered with your insurance.

Temporary insurance policies, on the other hand, can offer short-term periods of cover lasting up to 90 days at a time. This can be a better option for someone who needs to borrow a car for moving a house, or those who want to borrow a vehicle when learning how to drive.

Q: Making a Claim: Third Party vs. Comprehensive Insurance

If you have third-party car insurance, then you will need to make a claim against the other driver and allow the insurance provider to make a decision on who was responsible for the accident. You will need to make payments to repair your vehicle if you are deemed responsible.

If you want to try and claim from the other driver in an accident, then you will need to convey this in writing. If the party in question was driving a company vehicle, then you may also need to write a letter to the business to let them know the details of what has happened.

If you're insured by a comprehensive insurance policy, then you can claim from your own insurer, but you could find that you lose your no claims bonus. Additionally, with comprehensive insurance, you can still claim from the other party for any losses or injuries that your own policy can't cover. These claims are called uninsured losses, and they may cover alternative cars like courtesy cars while your vehicle is being repaired. Remember to keep a record of any losses that you want to claim for, including the expense of being off work due to injury, and the costs of paying for other modes of transportation.

If the other party involved in the accident was not insured, or you cannot find details about them, then you can claim for the cost of the accident on your own insurance, provided that you have comprehensive cover. The MIB or Motor Insurance Bureau may also help you to settle your claim if the driver you're claiming against is not insured. You will not be able to claim if you're an uninsured driver yourself, or an injured passenger.

Q: Is Every Car Covered By an Insurance Group?

Importantly, not every car will belong to a pre-established group. There are some cars out there that are difficult to find insurance for. If you have a car that is classified as a:

  • Classic car
  • Performance car
  • Modified car
  • Imported vehicle
  • Kit car

Then you might have a harder time finding insurance. Generally, you'll need to get your coverage from a provider that specialises in serving these categories of vehicle. Additionally, if you're classified as a riskier driver because of your age or your history, then some insurance providers will be unwilling to cover you with large or expensive vehicles - because of the amount they would cost to repair.

If you have previous convictions associated with your license, or you have a number of tickets related to speeding and other problems, then you might also have trouble finding insurance. While there are still companies out there that will cover people with a problematic history, you should expect your insurance to be more expensive.

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How do Insurers Calculate Car Insurance Premiums?

It's difficult for insurance providers to advertise the exact rate you can expect to pay for your car insurance, as there are so many different factors that can affect your premium. Like most things in the insurance world, the amount you pay on your policy is generally affected by how much of a risk your insurer considers you to be. Here's a quick list of some of the main elements that will help to determine how much you're going to pay on your insurance.

1 Your Age

Age is one of the most significant factors for car insurance providers. Most companies assume that younger drivers will have less experience behind the wheel than older drivers. This means that younger drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents. Drivers between the ages of 17 and 25 generally get the highest premiums. However, you might not instantly get lower premiums when you turn 26. It's worth looking at your options carefully.

2 The Type of Car

As you might expect, the kind of car you choose to drive will also have a bearing on how much you must pay for your insurance. After all, some cars are more dangerous, or worth more than others. There are several factors to think about when it comes to understanding how your car impacts your insurance, including:

The value of the car: The more expensive your car is, the more it will cost to replace if it's written off in an accident. Pricier cars can also cost more to repair - particularly if they have rare parts that need to be sourced.

The power of the car: The more powerful or fast your vehicle is, the more likely it is that you could end up in a particularly severe or expensive accident. Although this isn't always the case, many people find that the bigger their engine is, the more their insurance will cost.

Modifications: Although it can be tempting to modify your car from an aesthetic perspective, the chances you make to your vehicle can also impact your insurance premium. You'll need to let your insurer know about modifications - even if they do make your life more expensive. Your cover could be invalid if you don't keep your insurance provider informed.

Desirability: Sometimes, if you own a highly appealing car, then this can drive the cost of your insurance up too. A good security strategy for your car, including a reliable alarm, can help to offset this issue.

3Your Occupation

You might not think that your job would have a huge impact on your car insurance premiums. However, certain jobs can increase the amount of time that you spend on the road. Additionally, some careers dictate you'll spend more time in high-risk areas or carrying around expensive equipment. The nature of your job will determine how much of a risk your insurance provider considers you to be, so be as accurate as possible when describing what you do.

4 Security Features

There are ways that you can protect your car from theft and damage by adding additional security features into the mix. Immobilizers, alarms, and other forms of built-in security can help to reduce your premium by deterring possible thieves. Additionally, where you choose to keep your car when you aren't using it can help your premiums too. For instance, if you keep your car in a secure garage, your premiums will be reduced. This is particularly important if you live on a dangerous stretch of road. Some insurers will take the security of your home into account when deciding how large your premiums should be.

5How You Plan on Using your Car

If you only use your car to drive to the supermarket once a week, then you'll probably pay a lot less for your premiums than you would if you're constantly using it for your work commute. Your insurance company might take your annual mileage into account too, as the more you drive, the more likely you'll be to end up in an accident.

6Your Excess

The more you're willing to pay if you end up in an accident or with a damaged car, the less your insurance will cost. When you agree to a larger excess, you also tell your insurance provider that you're willing to handle more of the risk. Any pay-outs from your insurance provider will therefore be reduced.

However, if you choose a very small amount of voluntary excess or no voluntary excess at all, then you might face a higher premium as a result.

7Your History as a Driver

Finally, your history as a driver will have a big impact on your insurance premiums. If you have any points on your license, or you've made any claims up until now, then your insurance provider will take this into account when they're calculating the premium you need to pay.

Remember, when you're applying for insurance, your insurer will ask you for the details of any claims that you might have made with a different provider during the last five years. Even if you weren't responsible for the accidents, any claim would generally push your premiums up a little.

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But don't take our word for it. See what what some of our car insurance comparison customers have to say!

Many people assume that when it comes to car insurance, it's best to go with one of the big brands you see advertised on TV and comparison websites don't really offer much in the way of savings. That couldn't be further from the truth. Have a look at what some of our customers have to say about our service and the savings they've generated.

Car insurance has always been one of those things that I've ignored as much as possible. I mean, no-one spends their Friday nights dreaming about saving cash on their car insurance, right? That's probably why I ended up spending so much cash by staying with the same company year after year. When I found out I was pregnant, I just couldn't afford to pay over the odds for my insurance anymore, which is why I decided to compare my options instead. Boy, am I glad that I did! I saved over £180 by switching to a new provider! I'm thrilled!

Sarah Mitchell, Dublin

After getting into a little scrape with my car on the motorway a few months ago, I was pretty sure that my insurance was going to skyrocket. The accident wasn't my fault, and the other guy ended up paying the damages, but when my renewal information arrived in the post, I was nearly bowled over. The amount that my premiums had gone up was ridiculous - by nearly £20 a month! I decided to get online and start comparing as soon as possible, and I was lucky enough to find a great deal - for even less than I used to pay before the crash!

Jonathan Briggs, Manchester

I'm one of those people who have always just stuck with what I know. I like my familiar stuff, which is why I've been using the same TV and broadband company for about 5 years now. It wasn't until my wife started pushing me that I decided to try and get a cheaper deal for my car insurance online. She told me it was easy to get a better deal by shopping around - and of course she was right. We're saving over £200 a year just because we switched to a different provider. Same level of cover too - I'm chuffed.

Alan Baxter, Cheshire

I had to do some major budget cutting recently when I lost my job due to redundancies. That meant cutting down on everything until I found something new - including my car insurance. Comparing my options online has never been easier, and I managed to switch everything over to another provider while I was watching Netflix and waiting for the dinner to cook. I'm saving around £12 a month, and I'm happy as can be! I'm actually looking forward to the next time I'm due for a renewal, so I can hopefully find more opportunities to save.

Sophie Turnbull, Newcastle Upon Tyne

I decided to compare my car insurance options this month as part of a bulk effort to start saving more money on my monthly bills. Me and the wife have been hoping to save up for a trip with the kids, so we hoped that a little switching would help save us some money. Fortunately, checking around turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for my budget. We're saving almost £20 a month on car insurance, which is going to be a great addition to our holiday fund! We'll be packing our bags in no time!

Chris Brace, Nottingham

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What Is a No Claims Bonus and How Does it Affect You?

If you haven't made any claims for a period of a year or more, then you will be able to benefit from some kind of no-claims bonus with your insurance provider. Most insurers will take up to 5 years of no-claims into account, which can help to reduce your monthly fees significantly. Here's a list of the average discount you can get from a no-claims bonus

Number of YearsDiscount Percentage
130%
240%
350%
460%
5+65%

If you end up in an accident that you need to claim on your insurance for, then you'll generally lose approximately 2 years of your no-claims bonus, and your premiums will increase too. If you have multiple accidents within the same year, then you could lose your entire no claims bonus.

However, if you are involved in an accident, and you decide not to claim, you may be able to hold onto your no-claims bonus. Although, you may find that your premiums still go up because you become more of a risk to your insurer. You'll still need to inform your insurer of your accident even if you don't claim so that they can be informed of your driving history.

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