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Last updated: 21 January 2021
Car insurance – at its most basic level – protects vehicle owners against the liability of causing damage to other people’s property and health should they cause an accident.
This introduction to car insurance explains the different types of policies available and how they protect you.
If you are a car owner in the UK, you’re legally required to buy car insurance to cover the costs of any damage you might cause in your vehicle. If you drive without insurance, you could be fined and get penalty points on your driving licence. You could even be disqualified from driving.
The only time you don’t need car insurance is if you’ve declared your vehicle off-road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You’ll need to keep it on private property if that’s the case.
Car insurance also helps relieve motorists from some of the financial burdens of damage to their own vehicles, property and passengers – providing the level of insurance they’ve chosen is appropriate.
While it makes sense to compare car insurance to find the best deals, it’s more important to have the right cover than it is to find the cheapest premium.
The cheapest car insurance quote may not provide you with the cover you need, leaving you poorly protected should you need to make a claim. This can cost you hundreds or thousands of pounds and still leave you without a car.
When comparing quotes make sure you find the cover you need, at a price you can afford.
There are three levels of car insurance that vary in price and what they offer. Think carefully about what you need before you go ahead.
Comprehensive car insurance – sometimes called fully comprehensive, or just fully comp – covers you, your car, passengers and property. It also covers any third parties involved in an accident with you. And it protects your car against vandalism and theft.
Some policies allow you drive other people’s cars, but not all do, so check the policy wording carefully.
While comprehensive policies offer more cover than any other type of car insurance, they are not always the most expensive.
Third party, fire and theft car insurance covers other parties involved in an accident with you. It also gives you protection if your vehicle was stolen or damaged by fire. Remember that it doesn’t pay out for any damage to your own vehicle if you had an accident.
Third party cover is the most basic level of car insurance. It just covers you for any compensation you might have to pay for injury to others, and for damage to anyone else’s property. It’s a minimum legal requirement for all drivers in the UK to have this insurance.
Before you decide which motor insurance to get, it is important to think about what might happen if you didn’t have a good enough level of cover and how you would cope if you were left without a car.
The standard usage is social, domestic and pleasure. If you use your car to commute that adds to your premium because you are driving more and at busy times. If you need to use your car for business that’s even more expensive. And if you carry any goods or transport people in your car it will get more expensive again.
You must tell your insurer how you will use your car and you will only be insured for the use you have declared. If you drive to work without telling your insurers you could be stopped and declared uninsured, given six points on your licence, a £300 fine and see your car seized and crushed.
There are several different types of car insurance that you might like to think about before you get car insurance quotes.
Multi car insurance is a policy that covers two or more cars in your household
Black box car insurance monitors your driving using a telematics box which is fitted to your car and sends information about your driving to the insurer. The better you drive, the less you pay
Learner car insurance is the car insurance UK provisional licence holders need to have when practicing driving in any car other than a registered instructor’s vehicle
Taxi insurance is a motor insurance policy to cover cars used for commercial hire
Temporary car insurance covers you for short periods of time – just a few days or weeks – when driving a borrowed vehicle
European car insurance is needed in certain countries. But you can drive in most European countries on your normal UK car insurance, providing your comprehensive plan lists this cover as standard
Business car insurance is for people who use their car for business reasons, such as driving to meetings on behalf of their employer
Classic car insurance is for classic car owners. Classic cars are usually worth more money, and cost more to repair, than modern cars. For that reason, they sometimes need a special classic car insurance policy
Car insurance for over 50s is usually cheaper because older drivers have lots of experience. Some insurers sell special over 50s policies
When you’re comparing car insurance quotes to find the best cover for your needs, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Decide which type of cover you need based on your driving habits and situation. Then find the best car insurance deals for your needs. Don’t just go for cheap car insurance as you might regret it later.
Choosing between comprehensive and third-party cover can be tricky. If the car you’re insuring is newer and you couldn’t afford to replace it if you needed to, comprehensive cover is better for you. But, if your car is more than 10 years old, or has more than 100,000 miles on it, and isn’t worth a lot of money, third-party cover might be better.
The voluntary excess is the amount you must pay when you make a claim on your car insurance policy. The higher the excess you’re able to pay, the cheaper your premium will be. But it’s important to choose an excess you can afford, otherwise you won’t be able to make a claim.
When you’ve decided what your ideal car insurance would be, compare deals that fit your criteria.
You can tailor your car insurance policy, and get better cover, by paying to add extra benefits. Such extras might include:
Legal cover – here’s how to work out if you need it
Cover for lost or stolen keys
No claims protection
Cover for driving abroad
Windscreen repair and replacement
See the full list of car insurance extras that could be worth adding to your policy.
Make sure to check your car insurance quote, however, as some of these may be included as standard. If not, think about whether it’s worth spending a bit more to add them.
Insurers reward drivers for not making claims on their car insurance policies. Usually, for every year you don’t claim, you’ll get a little bit more of a discount on your policy renewal. This is called a no claims bonus.
You can pay extra to protect your no claims bonus, so you don’t lose your discount even if you need to claim. This is called no claims protection and you can usually get it once you’ve reached three years with no claims.
One of the best ways to get car insurance quotes is to do a car insurance comparison. Enter your car registration at the top of this page, share some information about you and your car, and the quote engine will assess the various risk factors to come up with your quotes.
If you know your car’s registration number, comparison websites will find all the details of your car from a UK registrations database. But if you don’t, giving your car’s make and model is often enough.
Typically, the more valuable the car, the higher your premium is likely to be. But you’ll also need to mention any modifications you’ve made, because the speed at which your car is capable of moving will also push up the premium.
This is about what you use your car for – commuting, socialising or business. You’ll also need to say how many miles you travel in a year. The more time you spend behind the wheel, the higher the risk of an accident and, therefore, the larger the premium.
Your name, age, address and employment details – these are all significant risk factors to insurers.
Age – newly-qualified and young, inexperienced drivers suffer the highest premiums
Address – cities and large towns, with lots of traffic are higher risk, as are the higher rates of crime in such places
Occupation – some jobs carry a higher risk premium:
The kind of licence you have can affect your insurance. This is also where you can add any other driving qualifications you may have.
You’ll need to confirm how many years’ worth of no claims bonus you’ve got. Or you’ll need to give details about any accidents you’ve had or claims you’ve made in the last five years.
The car insurance underwriter – the part of the company that assess the risk factors – bases the price of your premium on how likely it is that you will make a claim. Let’s look at those risk factors in a little more detail:
Your annual mileage – people who drive a lot are statistically more likely to have an accident
Your occupation – some jobs are seen as more risky than others: professional footballers come at the top of this list, but lawyers and journalists are also among those seen at higher risk of making a claim
Your car – risk factors on your car are based on its book value and the insurance group it’s in, which assess how easy it is to repair, cost of parts or vehicle replacement. Additionally, the higher the performance, the faster, it’s assumed, you’ll drive it
Your address – because many claims are for incidents of vandalism and theft close to people’s homes, crime rates in your area are taken into consideration by your car insurance company
Your age – young drivers pay more than older, more experienced motorists
Your claims history – this will affect your no claims discount and, therefore your premium at renewal
Your driving history – if you have previous driving convictions, endorsements or points on your driving licence you may have to pay a higher premium
Your criminal history – if you have non-driving related convictions you’re also seen as higher risk
Your car usage – do oud drive for more than just social, domestic and pleasure (SDP)? Commuting to work or business use bump up the costs
Adding another driver to your policy – if you add an experienced driver with no claims, it can reduce the price of your policy, but adding your newly-qualified teenager will bump the premium higher
While its most important that you get the right car insurance for your needs, you’ll also want to get a fair deal and some cheap quotes. Nobody wants to pay more than they need to.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the price of your motor insurance.
The price of your car insurance is based on how much of a risk you pose to claiming on your policy. You can reduce this risk in a number of ways, including:
fitting an approved alarm or parking your vehicle in a garage.
buying a car from one of the lower car insurance groups
taking an advanced driving course
Car insurers usually give you a better deal if you pay your insurance annually, rather than in monthly instalments. It also helps if you add experienced drivers to the cover, even if they don’t use the car that often.
If you compare car insurance quotes you’ll be able to find the best deal possible. But don’t cut corners to get cheap insurance. You can also ask for a discount – haggling doesn’t hurt. If you find a quote with a different insurer, ask your current provider to beat or match the offer. It’s not a guarantee, but chances are car insurance companies want to keep your business.
Don’t forget that it’s important to give accurate information to your insurer. It could be tempting to say someone else is the main driver, to lie about your driving history or to underestimate your mileage to reduce the price. But it’s never a good idea. Lying could make your insurance invalid, and you could be prosecuted.
Once you’ve got your car insurance, you must also remember to tell your insurer if your situation changes at all, such as if you move house or modify your vehicle. If you don’t, your insurance could be invalid. Your insurer could cancel your policy and this would make it harder to get a policy from other insurance companies in the future.
You can work out how many miles you do a week and then multiply it by 52 weeks to get a year’s mileage. Or you can have a look at your MOT certificates to see what your mileage has been like in recent years.
The more miles you do, the more risky you’ll seem to insurers, because you’re more likely to have an accident. But it’s important to be as accurate as you can when you do your insurance comparison. Your insurer needs the right details, so you don’t accidentally invalidate the policy.
There are lots of websites where you can get a free valuation of your car. The value’s based on its age, mileage, make, service history, condition and modifications. You could also check how much cars like yours are selling for on used-car listings.
No, it is a legal requirement to have at least third party car insurance cover to drive in the UK. There is a minimum fine of £300 and six penalty points on your licence. Your car may be seized and scrapped and you may be prosecuted and fined further. You will then find it harder to and more expensive to get car insurance in the future.
There are several things you can do to get cheaper cover. Try these 10 easy ways to cut your car insurance costs.
It can cover damage to your and another driver's car in an accident, damage to other property and injury to anyone else you hurt in an accident. It can also cover theft, vandalism, fire and more.
Paying annually in one go will usually work out cheaper because you will be charged interest of up to 30% when you pay monthly.
No, your current provider will not usually offer the cheapest deal so shop around and find a cheaper quote. You can then call your current provider and ask them to match or better this offer. If they can’t, go with the new quote.
Yes, you can use our quote service to find cheap cover for your imported car. You can select whether your car is a grey or parallel import.
Yes, you can check if a car has a valid insurance policy in place through the Motor Insurance Database (MID).
Most car insurance policies last one year, but you can cancel your cover for a fee. You can get short term cover for between one day and three months.
If you have a fully comprehensive policy you might be covered to drive other people's cars, but some policies do not allow this. You will need to check.
Yes, if you buy a new car you will need to tell your insurer so they can update your policy. The cost of your cover will probably change.