What levels of cover are there?
There are three main levels of car insurance:
Third party, fire and theft
Third party only cover
What is comprehensive car insurance?
It is the most complete level of cover you can get for your car.
It gives you financial protection for accidental damage, fire, theft and any damage to third party property in the event of an accident.
Many fully comprehensive policies will also include cover for:
Driving other cars; find out more in this guide
Comprehensive cover can offer a lot more protection than the other insurance levels, but each insurer will offer different benefits.
Some comprehensive policies offer a courtesy car as standard, while others may only offer it as an optional extra.
If you crash into another car your comprehensive policy will pay out for any damage to your car, the damage to the other vehicle involved, and any other third party claims.
What is third party, fire and theft cover?
This provides financial cover for damage you cause to other road users, as well as letting you claim for loss or damage caused by fire or theft.
Third party, fire and theft cover will not pay out for any damage to your own car in the event of an accident.
If you are to blame for a collision involving your car, another driver's vehicle and a garden wall, you could only claim for the cost of the repairs to the other person's car and the wall, but not your vehicle.
However you could claim if your car sustained damage as a result of an attempted theft, or for the loss of your car if it were stolen. You can also claim if your car is damaged by fire; either accidental or arson.
What is third party only cover?
This is the most basic level of insurance and it will only pay out to cover damage to other people and their property, not your own costs.
It is the minimum legal level of cover you can get to drive in the UK. Some insurers will not offer this level of cover.
Third party only insurance will also compensate any passengers that suffer injuries whilst travelling in your car.
Third party cover will never pay for damage to your own car.
If you crash into another car and cause £500 of damage, your third party only policy will pay out to cover the cost of their repairs. If your car is damaged you will have to pay for the repairs yourself.
You will not be able to claim if your car is stolen or damaged by fire.
What does each cover?
This table shows what each level of cover could protect you against:
|Cover||Fully comp||Third party, fire & theft||Third party only|
|Damage to third party property||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Loss or damage caused by fire or theft||Yes||Yes||No|
|Accidental damage to your car||Yes||No||No|
|Uninsured driver cover*||Yes||No||No|
Remember: this is only a rough guide and every policy is different. Check the policy documents carefully to see what is covered by each policy.
Which level is the cheapest?
Fully comprehensive cover can still be the cheapest option, even though it offers the best cover.
This is because high risk drivers have taken out third party, fire and theft or third party only policies in the past to reduce the cost of their cover. Insurance companies now recognise that drivers with lower protection policies are more likely to claim, so increase the cost.
A driver case study:
An 18 year old living in Swindon driving a 2013 Ford Fiesta Zetec with 0 years' no claims bonus*:
Third party only: £4,207.16
Third party, fire and theft: £3,566.72
This example shows that a comprehensive policy would save this driver £653.40 compared to third party only cover.
If you are looking for the best price for your car insurance, compare quotes for each level; you may find you can get much more cover for less money.