Car insurance is a product that provides financial protection in the event of an incident that causes damage or injury to another person, vehicle, property or animal.
It can also cover your own costs if you have a car accident, if your car is vandalised or stolen, or if it catches fire.
Driving on UK roads without insurance is against the law, but you only need to claim on your policy if you have an accident that’s your fault.
Is there more than one type of car insurance?
Yes, there are three main types – third party, third party fire and theft, and fully comprehensive:
This is the minimum level required by law; it only covers third parties, rather than covering you directly. On this type of policy, you can claim in the following instances:
- Damage to someone else’s property
- Injuries to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians or animals
- An accident caused by a passenger or a named driver on your policy
- Injuries to any passengers in your car where the accident was your fault
Third party insurance doesn’t cover repairs to your own vehicle if you were involved in an accident.
Third party fire and theft (TPFT)
This is the same as third party insurance, but you’ll also be covered in the following instances:
- If your car is stolen
- If your car is damaged / written-off by fire
You may also be covered for damage caused by an attempted theft of your vehicle.
This is the highest level of cover you can get – it provides the same protection as a TPFT policy, but will also pay out for damage to your own car.
Some comprehensive policies also include things like medical costs, or a courtesy car if yours is being repaired.
It’s worth noting that not all insurers offer all three types of insurance.
What is ‘excess’?
If you make a claim on your car insurance, you’ll typically need to pay a set amount of excess (i.e. a figure that’s deducted from your pay-out).
There are two different types of excess – compulsory and voluntary:
- Compulsory excess is a fixed amount that’s applied to any claim you make, set by the insurer when you purchase your policy. Young/new drivers can expect the figure to be higher than those with more experience.
- Voluntary excess is where you choose how much you’re willing to pay in the event of a claim. Increasing this figure can bring down the cost of your policy, but it needs to be an amount you’d be comfortable with if you did have to make a claim.
How much does car insurance cost?
According to recent data from the Association of British Insurers, the average comprehensive car insurance premium in the UK costs £471 a year.
The price you pay will be based on a number of factors, including:
- Your age
- Your occupation
- The make and model of your car
- Your address
- Where your car’s parked
- Your driving / claims history
- Your excess (as explained above)
- The type of cover you choose
How can I minimise the cost?
Avoiding making claims where possible will also help keep costs down by protecting your no-claims bonus.
And you can reduce the cost of your insurance if you’re a young or less experienced driver by having a ‘black-box’ (aka ‘telematics’) installed, which monitors things like driving speed, braking, acceleration and time of day.
Finally, consider asking your current insurer if they’ll beat your best quote – they may be willing to do this to keep you as a customer.
What company should I go with?
It’s really important to do your research, and compare not just the quotes but the companies who are providing them. Have a look at each quote in detail, as often the cheapest option comes with a host of added fees, an unusually high excess, or does not cover what you require.
In terms of customer service, some of the companies with the best reputations (as analysed by Bought By Many) include:
How often do I need to buy car insurance?
Policies usually last for a year – you can pay annually or monthly, but monthly is almost always more expensive overall due to interest and admin fees. With monthly, you will also pay a deposit, which is usually 20% of the annual cost.
What isn’t covered?
There are a number of things which car insurance policies tend not to cover, including:
- Putting the wrong fuel in your vehicle
- Using your vehicle for business purposes (if you’re not covered for this)
- Track racing events (you will need track day cover)
- Repair or replacement of modifications
- Having a personalised number plate stolen
You should also be aware that your policy will be invalidated if you put the main driver down as a named driver.
What additional types of car insurance are there?
As an addition to your car insurance, you may want to invest in extra types of cover, such as: