Updated on 18 May 2015.
Most car insurance providers offer several different levels of insurance cover. These will vary both in the type of cover they provide and how much they will cost in premiums.
Your main options when insuring your car are third party, fire and theft insurance and fully comprehensive cover. But exactly what type of protection do these two levels of insurance offer for your car?
This is usually the most basic type of cover available for your car, although it is one step up from third party only insurance.
Third party only cover will simply insure you in the event that you cause damage to other vehicles, persons, or property in an accident. It will not cover any damage to you or to your vehicle. It is however the minimum level of cover that you need to drive on UK roads; having this in place is a legal requirement.
For example if you were involved in a car collision that resulted in damage to your car, another person's car, and a wall surrounding a garden, you would be able to claim for the cost of the damage to the other person's car and the wall, but not for damage to you or your own car.
Third party, fire and theft cover will pay out to cover the cost of claims made by third parties involved in an accident in the same way, but still will not cover damage to you or your car sustained in an accident. However it does have the added provision of covering the complete loss and any damage to your car caused by fire or theft.
So, for example, you would be able to place a claim after an attempted theft of your car resulted in damage to the car's bodywork - or you could claim if your car was in fact stolen. Likewise you would be able to claim if your car was involved in a fire, either accidental or intentional.
Because third party, fire and theft insurance will not pay out to cover any damage sustained by you or your car in the event of an accident, it is usually a cheaper option than fully comprehensive cover. For this reason it tends to be most suited to those who drive a fairly inexpensive vehicle that they could afford to replace if their car was completely written off in an accident.
It's also a popular option with those who are relatively new to driving as it can provide a more affordable means of getting on the road. That said, third party, fire and theft cover isn't always the cheaper option so it's worth getting quotes for fully comprehensive cover too just to make sure that you couldn't get a higher level of insurance cover for less.
It's important to remember that the type of car insurance you go for shouldn't be decided on price alone; instead you should think about what kind of cover would best suit your circumstances and choose a policy that includes all the benefits you need for the best possible price.
A step up from the basic protection offered by third party, fire and theft cover is fully comprehensive car insurance. This covers any damage sustained by you, your car, and any third parties involved in an accident, fire or theft.
Comprehensive insurance may also provide you with extra benefits such as a temporary courtesy car if yours is stolen or written off, roadside assistance, and windscreen repair and replacement. However these are by no means standard fare offered by every comprehensive car insurance policy, so remember to check the small print before you make your decision.
Fully comprehensive car insurance will generally be more expensive than a more basic level of cover because of the extra costs it will pay out for. For example, if you were involved in a car collision that resulted in damage to your car, injury to yourself, damage to another person's car, and to a wall surrounding a garden, you would be able to claim on your insurance policy to cover the costs of all these things (plus any legal proceedings that might be brought about providing this type of protection was included in your policy). It would also cover your car in the event of a fire or if your car was stolen.
This makes comprehensive insurance a worthwhile alternative to third party, fire and theft for most drivers despite the potential for higher premiums. If you aren't sure that it will be worthwhile paying out more for this higher level of insurance, it will be worth calculating how much it would cost you to replace your car if it was stolen or repair it if it was damaged in an accident. If these are costs that you wouldn't comfortably be able to meet then comprehensive insurance is worth considering.
It's worth noting that although fully comprehensive car insurance is 'comprehensive' in the sense that it covers more than third party, fire and theft insurance does, it will not cover you in the case of any possible event that arises. Some exclusions will always apply, and will need to be taken into account before you commit yourself to a policy.
Another point to remember is that although third party, fire and theft offers a more basic level of cover than comprehensive, it is not inherently always cheaper. Quotes will vary from provider to provider according to your perceived level of risk, and how you have driven in the past. Therefore it is important to shop around, comparing different policy exclusions and benefits and their associated costs, before arriving at a decision.
Written by Sally at money.co.uk
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