What changes do you need to declare?
Anything that will affect your policy must be declared to your insurer as soon as possible, including:
Change of address
Change of job role
Changes to your driving record (points, convictions etc.)
Change in how you use your car (starting to use your car for business for example)
Change to where your car is kept overnight
If you fail to declare any relevant changes you could invalidate your policy and any claims you make could be rejected by your insurer.
If you want to pause your car insurance and declare your car off the road, you need to apply for a SORN.
Do you need to declare driving convictions?
You must declare any motoring convictions, including speeding tickets and endorsements, to your insurer in accordance with the Road Traffic Act 1988.
You can see a full list of offences and endorsements on the GOV.UK website.
This will probably result in a higher renewal premium because insurance companies see drivers with motoring convictions as a higher risk.
If you opt to take a speed awareness course to avoid a speeding penalty you still need to declare this, as you have been in breach of the Road Traffic Act.
Do you need to declare non-driving related offences?
Criminal convictions have a 'rehabilitation period'; when this has been served the conviction is 'spent' and you no longer have to declare it.
You do not have to declare unspent criminal convictions to your insurer unless you are directly asked.
You can legally withhold details of spent convictions even if you are asked by your insurer to declare them, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
You can see if your conviction is spent by using the Unlock website.
How do you make changes to your policy?
You can usually amend your policy by phone, online, by post or at your nearest branch.
Telephone is the most common, as not all companies have online facilities and those that do may not allow certain amendments online, like cancelling your policy.
When you contact your insurer make sure you have your details, including policy number, to hand. Any changes should take effect immediately, unless you request by post.
What will it cost?
Most insurers charge an adjustment fee of up to £30 depending on the change.
Cancelling your policy before it ends is usually more costly, with some insurers charging as much as £55. Contact your insurer or check your policy for the charges you will face.
Your premiums could also increase, especially if you declare any modifications to your car's performance or any driving convictions or penalty points.
Can you transfer your policy to a new car?
Yes, in most cases you can, but it may change the cost of your cover. For example if you switch from a 1.0 litre city car to a powerful 4x4 your premiums will usually go up.
Your insurer may refuse to transfer your policy to a vehicle they do not usually cover.
If the price does goes up, shop around for a better deal before amending your policy. You may have to pay a cancellation fee to move mid-term, but you should receive a refund for any unused cover if you paid annually.
When you change cars mid-policy you must advise your insurer immediately. Your insurance company will not pay out if you are not driving the car detailed on your policy.
Can you change your cover type?
Most insurers will change your car insurance type, for example from third party, fire and theft to fully comprehensive, during your policy but some may refuse.
It is likely any changes will affect your premiums and also come with an admin fee.
How to extend your policy
Your insurer will contact you by post or email a few weeks before your renewal date, but try not to rely on this. Set a reminder so you are prepared for when your renewal date approaches.
If you do not hear from your insurer within a week of the end of your policy you should contact them yourself. This avoids any chance of missing your renewal date and being uninsured.
The renewal quote your insurer gives you is unlikely to be the cheapest option, so get quotes elsewhere before you renew.
Beware of auto-renewal
If you pay by credit or debit card your policy may be set to auto-renew, which means if you do nothing your cover will continue at a price specified by your insurer.
Auto-renewal prices are usually less competitive, so check elsewhere before letting your policy roll over. Even getting a new quote from your current provider can be cheaper.
From April 2017 it will become compulsory for insurers to confirm how much last year's premium was in your renewal letter. This means you can compare it against your new quote and clearly see if there has been an increase.
Insurers will also have to include text designed to encourage you to check your cover and shop around to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere.
This depends on your insurer and your reasons for wanting to do so.
Some companies will allow you to suspend your policy if you have sold your car but not bought a replacement, or if your vehicle has been written off. Contact your insurer to find out exactly where you stand.
If you are unable to pause your policy you may need to cancel it. Either way be sure to declare your car off the road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) if it is uninsured. Here is how to get a SORN for your car.
How to cancel your policy
You can cancel your policy mid-cover by contacting your insurer. They may ask you to return your Certificate of Motor Insurance and sign a cancellation declaration.
When you cancel you may be charged an admin fee that could be as much as £55.
If you have just taken out your policy you could take advantage of the 14 day cooling off period all insurers must give.
If you cancel in this period some insurers will not charge and give you a full refund, but other insurers will still charge an admin fee.
It is no longer necessary to carry physical copies of your insurance documents with you, but it is a good idea to have access to your details in case you are involved in an accident.
The police can check your insurance details electronically via the Motor Insurance Database (MID), but this is not always updated immediately so if you are pulled over it will save time and hassle to have your details on you.
If your insurance documents are held electronically then make sure you can log onto your policy remotely, or have downloaded copies on your phone.
What happens if you miss a payment?
If you pay monthly and miss a payment your cover could be cancelled by your insurer.
Most companies will give you a time frame in which to make up the missed payment. If you fail to meet this deadline your policy may be cancelled.
If you think you might struggle to pay your insurance on time, contact your insurer and let them know. They may be able to delay your payment or take a reduced amount.
Making a complaint
If you want to complain about your car insurance you should:
Contact your insurer directly: Explain the reason for your complaint and see if they can offer a satisfactory resolution straight away.
Put your complaint in writing: If it cannot be resolved over the phone write a letter or email outlining your complaint, how you would like it to be resolved and also state you will take the complaint to the ombudsman if it is not dealt with.
Refer to the Financial Ombudsman Service: If your insurer does not resolve your complaint you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service who will assess your case.
For a more help read our guide on complaining to financial service companies.