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Car insurance: 10 things you must do to stay legal

Follow these 10 guidelines to avoid invalidating your car insurance. Car insurance is a legal requirement in the UK, and all car drivers must have at least third party cover.
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10 things you must do to stay legal

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It’s easy to buy an affordable car insurance policy by comparing with Uswitch, but there are some requirements you must meet to make sure you’re covered at all times, and especially in the case of an accident.

1. Tell the truth – always

There are many variables that affect the cost of your car insurance cover. Typically, this is about your age, driving experience, where you live and your claims and convictions history. Also, the car you drive and the job you 

You’re legally required to disclose all of these facts to your insurer, so don’t be tempted to lie in an attempt to reduce the cost of your cover.

Lying on your application (misrepresentation) is a form of insurance fraud, and will invalidate your policy so you won’t be covered if you attempt to make a claim. You will find it hard to get insurance in the future and you cannot drive without insurance.

2. Don’t make life easy for thieves

Most fully comprehensive policies will cover you for theft of your vehicle or items inside it – but not if they believe your own negligence has led to the theft. If you leave valuables in plain sight, such as on the passenger seat, the insurer may not pay out on your claim.

It may sound obvious, but never leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition. This is something you might be tempted to do if you’re: 

  • popping into a garage to pay for fuel or groceries 

  • leaving your car to warm up on a cold morning

  • delivering a parcel to someone’s house

Your insurance is unlikely to pay out for any loss in such a case, so you could find yourself having to replace your car from your own savings.

3. Be honest about the named driver

Drivers in high-risk groups (young and new drivers or those with previous claims or convictions) may find insurance more expensive than most. 

To cut costs, some lower-risk drivers may offer to ‘help out’ by buying an insurance policy in their name, adding the risky driver as a named driver. For example, parents declaring themselves as the main driver on a policy for a car to be used by their children.

This is known as fronting. Here are three very good reasons not to front. Fronting is:

  • A form of insurance fraud and is illegal.

  • Ultra high-risk behaviour because your policy can be cancelled and any claims rejected.

  • Expensive because you could be fined up to £5,000, receive six penalty points and be liable for higher premiums.

4. Take reasonable care

Your insurer expects you to take reasonable care of your car — accidents do happen (that’s the point of insurance), but if you are reckless or negligent it’s likely the insurer will reduce or refuse the pay out on your claim. 

For example, you’re unlikely to be covered for damage to your own car if you ignore warnings and drive through a flooded road, leave your keys in the car or drive when you know your car has a dangerous fault.

5. Make sure all drivers are covered

If you’re going to let someone else use your car, make sure they’re fully insured. To stay legal the other driver will usually need to be added to your policy as a named driver. 

Alternatively, they may take out temporary cover on your car or have their own comprehensive policy with ‘driving other cars’ (DOC) cover. DOC is less common than it used to be and has many exclusions, such as no cover for cars under hire purchase agreements. 

DOC cover is usually only third party so if there’s an accident, any damage to your car won’t be covered. 

If you’re teaching a learner how to drive in your car it’s best to get them added as a named driver, or to take out provisional drivers’ insurance separate to your policy.

6. Declare all modifications or ‘mods’

Most features added to the car after manufacturer are deemed as modifications. If you fail to declare any modifications on your insurance application, your cover will not be valid. 

Such ‘mods’ can include: 

  • exhaust and brake upgrades 

  • paintwork and fancier wheels

  • body graphics and stripes

  • engine tuning often called ‘chipping’ or remapping

  • LED lighting

  • window tinting and racing pedals

  • sports seats

  • suspension upgrades that might change ride height, for example

If you add any modifications to your car after taking out your insurance policy, do make sure you let your insurer know.

7. Only use your car for what it’s covered for

When you take out an insurance policy you will be asked about your use of the car — i.e. whether you use it for social use, commuting or business use. 

You should only use the car for what you’ve stated or you’ll be breaking the terms of your insurance agreement and your cover will not be valid. Note that even if only part of your journey to work is by car - you drive to the station - you need cover for commuting.

You’re also not permitted to make a profit from driving your car unless you state that in your application — for example as a taxi driver — so don’t accept money for lifts unless the cash is solely to cover petrol costs.

8. Keep your insurer informed

It’s your duty to inform your insurer when your circumstances have changed, as your premium may need to be adjusted. 

This includes: 

  • when you move house

  • if you change careers

  • if the use of your car changes – for example if you start to commute

  • if you start to keep your car in a different place during the day or overnight

  • if you start to drive considerably more

If your circumstances change and you have not informed your insurer, your insurance may be invalidated and any claims on your policy may be rejected.

9. Report all accidents

With no claims discounts offering considerable reductions on yearly premiums, most people are reluctant to claim in the event of a minor incident.  

You are required to inform your insurer of an accident, even if you don’t wish to make a claim. If you don’t, you might not be able to claim for any damage to your vehicle in the case of a more serious incident.

10. Stay within the mileage that you disclosed to your insurer

They know it’s a rough estimate but if you go significantly over you could have your insurance invalidated. Some insurers might only cover you on the condition you stay within a certain mileage limit.

To get an idea of your mileage you can look back at your MOT certificates as they have a record of your mileage. If you think your driving habits will change, such as you get a new job further away, you need to factor this in or inform your insurer if you’re in the middle of your policy.

Get a car insurance quote

See a range of car insurance quotes in just a few minutes when you compare with Uswitch