How to manage your car insurance policy

Once you have car insurance you are financially protected when you drive on the roads, but you must keep it up to date. This guide explains how to renew your policy, upgrade your cover and tell your insurer about changes in your circumstances.

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What changes do you need to declare?

Anything that will affect your policy must be declared to your insurer immediately. These include:

  • Change of address – a new location may have a different risk profile and your premium may be increased or lowered

  • Change of job role – insurers consider some professions higher risk than others

  • Car modifications – more power, the higher the risk, the higher the premium

  • Changes to your driving record – you must notify your insurer if you receive points on your driving licence

  • Change in how you use your car – for example, if you start to use it for business purposes

  • Change to where your car is kept overnight – keeping your car in a garage is less risky than keeping it parked on a road

If you fail to declare relevant changes your policy may be declared invalid and any claims you make are likely to be rejected by your insurer.

If you can’t, or don’t need to use your car and can park it off the public highway, you can apply for a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). Inform your insurer and, while you may be liable for an administration fee to cancel your policy, you’ll receive a refund for the months that remain on the policy if you’ve paid an annual car insurance fee.

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 might 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. Many insurers do not raise premiums for single speeding offences.

It is not necessary 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 car insurance policy?

You can usually amend your policy by phone, online, by post or in person.

Telephone is the most common method, as not all companies have online facilities to carry out these processes and those that do may not allow certain amendments online, like cancelling your policy.

When you contact your car insurance company 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 to make changes to my car insurance policy?

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.

If the price 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.

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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 come with an administration fee.

What car insurance cover should I get?

How to extend your car insurance 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 the approach of your renewal date.

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. This means if you do nothing when your insurance company contacts you, your cover will roll over for another year at a price specified by the 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.

It is 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 are also obligated to include text designed to encourage you to check your cover and shop around to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere.

How to cancel your car insurance policy

Car insurance policies can be cancelled mid-cover by contacting the insurance company. It may ask you to return your Certificate of Motor Insurance and sign a cancellation declaration.

When you cancel you may be charged an administration fee that could be as much as £55.

If you have only recently taken out your policy, you could take advantage of the 14-day cooling off period all insurers must allow. Some insurers will not charge for cancellations during this period and give a full refund, but others may still charge an administration fee.

What happens if you miss a payment on your car insurance policy?

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.

Contact your insurer and let it know If you think you might struggle to pay your next instalment on time. The company may allow you 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 it can offer a satisfactory resolution straight away.

  • Put your complaint in writing: If the problem 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 which will assess your case.

For a more help read our guide on complaining to financial service companies.

Whatever car you drive, make sure you find insurance that covers everything you need as cheaply as possible by comparing policies.

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