Motor insurance: What you are and aren’t covered for

Motor insurance

You don’t want this to happen before you discover that you’re not covered

Motor insurance used to be so simple. You bought comprehensive cover and you were pretty much covered. Or so most of us thought. But as insurers have worked hard to make the cost of premiums appear more attractive, so drivers are less likely to be insured for the things that many of us take for granted. Read on to see what your insurance premium may not include, perhaps contrary to what you might think.

What motor insurance may not include?

Probably the most important thing drivers need to check is whether their insurance policy covers them to driver other people’s cars. They should also check whether other people, such as valet park drivers, can get behind the wheel of their car and be legally insured. Don’t take it for granted that a courtesy or hire car is included in your policy. Don’t assume you’ll be comprehensively covered for driving abroad either. And your no-claims bonus may well not be protected automatically.

Why can you no longer driver other people’s cars?

Historically, cover to drive other people’s cars was in case of an emergency. For example: if you were suddenly taken ill, your passenger could drive your car on their insurance. However, the term ‘emergency’ was difficult to define and people were using the clause to drive other people’s cars for all sorts of reasons that were nothing to do with emergencies.

What happens if you do drive someone else’s car on your insurance?

If your insurance doesn’t cover you to drive other people’s cars and you have an accident you’re not covered. The result can prove very expensive. You could be sued for damages by the person you’ve crashed into and possibly injured, and the police may well prosecute you for driving without insurance.

What if you’re a named driver?

Let’s assume you’re a named driver on your partner’s insurance. You are covered to drive your partner’s car. However, just because you’re a second driver on that policy, it doesn’t mean you can use that cover to drive a third party’s car. So for example, your partner’s insurance won’t cover you to drive your friend’s car.

What if you need to drive another car?

First, check your insurance carefully. You can’t presume that you’re allowed to drive other cars. And if you do, the cover may only be third party. This means that if you’re in an accident and it’s your fault, the other person’s repairs are covered by your insurer, yours aren’t. However, you can get short-term cover that lasts between one and 28 days. Alternatively, if it’s a family member or close friend’s car and it’s going to be a recurring situation, you can become a named driver on their policy.

What if you’re leaving your car with a valet park service?

You need to check the small print of the parking service you’re using. Any of their staff driving your car should have comprehensive cover. However, some companies save money by not providing this service. Equally, check if your possessions are covered. Some valet park companies exclude personal possessions from their policies. So if your portable sat nav mysteriously goes missing from your car while you’re on holiday, you may not be covered for a replacement.

What about a replacement car if yours is off the road?

Check the small print of your policy. It may well say that you have a courtesy car (generally owned by the garage) or hire car for a defined period of time, perhaps three weeks. If you need a car to carry out your everyday life, ask yourself what will happen if yours is written off, stolen, or off the road for a longer period of time.

Why has comprehensive motor insurance changed?

The motor insurance market is ever-more competitive. And insurers haven’t been slow to catch on to the realisation that people buy their cover on price and that the lower the headline price is, the more attractive a policy is likely to appear. But obviously as businesses insurers can’t give something for nothing. So rather than providing cover that is unsustainable, many insurers offer a basic product, then give their customers the opportunity to choose add-ons. The secret is frequently in the small print, so read it carefully to be sure that a policy that looks like a bargain really is.

Read more: How having penalty points is costing millions of drivers


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