logo-rebrand Skip to main content

Car insurance: your questions answered

Comparing quotes gets you the best deal on car insurance. But before you put your details into the comparison site, it helps to know exactly what cover you are really looking for.

Car insurance: the basics | Policy coverage and car insurance questions

Get a car insurance quote

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

We’ve answered common questions about car insurance and gathered up useful information to help you decide.

Why do I need car insurance?

The law says that you need at least third-party insurance to drive your car on the UK’s roads. Your car also needs to be insured if it is parked on the street or on your property.

What types of car insurance are there?

There are three types of car insurance, offering different levels of cover.

Third-party 

Third party only (TPO) insurance is the minimum legal requirement. If you are at fault for an accident it will cover the damage you have caused to vehicles and property owned by third parties. 

A third party is someone not involved in taking out the insurance policy. You and your insurer are the first and second parties.

It will also pay out for personal injury.

Third party, fire and theft

Third party, fire and theft (TFTP) adds theft of your vehicle and fire damage to your car to the cover offered by third-party insurance.

Comprehensive

Comprehensive car insurance adds damage to your own car to third-party, fire and theft cover.

Are all car insurance policies the same?

No. Check that they cover the things that you need to insure and that you are not paying for things that you don’t need.

If things you want, such as breakdown cover, are not included in the policy, check whether it is cheaper to add them to your insurance or to pay for them separately.

How much is car insurance?

According to the Association of British Insurers, the average price paid for comprehensive car insurance in the second quarter of 2020 was £460.

Why is car insurance so expensive?

Car insurance premiums largely reflect what the insurance companies have to pay out in claims. 

How much you personally have to pay for car insurance will depend on how much of a risk the insurance companies think you are.

How is my car insurance premium worked out?

Insurers look at a number of factors to decide how much of a risk you and your car are. These include:

  • what car you drive

  • your age

  • your driving experience

  • your occupation

  • level of vehicle crime in your area

  • where the car is kept

  • your claims history

How can I make my premiums lower?

Never autorenew your car insurance. Always compare car insurance quotes

Get a car insurance quote

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

Vary your details to see what difference it makes

Try things such as:

  • putting in a bigger excess

  • using a different (though still accurate) way of describing your occupation

  • seeing what difference adding more security to the car would make

  • seeing if parking the car in a different place overnight changes the quote

Or, if you have more than one car, look at multicar insurance.

Multicar insurance

Multicar insurance, where more than one vehicle is on the same policy, can often work out cheaper than insuring your cars separately.

Some insurers also offer multicar and bike insurance and multicar and van insurance.

Compare multi car insurance

Search for multi car insurance policies with Uswitch and money.co.uk*

Will passing an advanced driving course make my insurance cheaper?

Possibly. Some insurance companies will give discounts for passing certain advanced driving courses.

The course should be seen more as a way of improving your driving skills rather than as a way of getting cheaper insurance.

Can I put my insurance in someone else’s name to make it cheaper?

The main driver of the vehicle has to be the main driver listed on the policy. Claiming someone who is a lower risk is the main driver to get cheaper insurance is called fronting. It is illegal. 

Can I pay for car insurance in instalments?

You can spread the cost of your insurance over a year but it will work out more expensive than paying in one go.

What is an insurance excess?

The excess is the part that you have to pay when you make an insurance claim. So if your excess is £500 and the claim is £2,000 your insurer will only pay out £1,500.

Types of excess

  • Compulsory — an amount set by the insurer

  • Voluntary — an amount that you choose to pay

Paying a voluntary excess can bring down the cost of your insurance. It is worth trying different excess when you compare insurance quotes.

Excess insurance

Excess insurance can be taken out to cover the amount of the excess should you have to make a claim.

What is a no claims bonus?

A no claims bonus – these days called a no claims discount – is a reward for not claiming on your car insurance. Each year you have not claimed will bring a discount on the next year’s premiums.

You can build up your bonus to get greater discounts. Most insurers will cap this at five years.

Protected no claims

You can pay extra to protect the years of no claims discount that you have built up. Insurers will let you have a limited number of claims in a set period and still let you keep the bonus.

But it is likely that your premiums will increase because you have made a claim.

Is it worth protecting my no claims bonus?

It depends. You need to work out how much it will cost you to protect it, how much discount your no claims bonus gives you and what bonus, if any, you would still have after a claim.

How much will I get for my car if it is written off or stolen?

In the event that your car is written off the insurance company will value your car at how much a like-for-like replacement would cost. 

If your car was new when you bought it and it is written off or stolen within 12 months, some – but not all – policies will give you the same amount as you paid for it.

If you want or need a particular value for your car you could take out agreed value insurance or consider guaranteed asset protection (GAP) insurance.

What is agreed value insurance

This is a good option for owners of vehicles that are hard to value, such as rare or classic cars. The car’s value is set when taking out the policy.

What is GAP insurance

GAP insurance covers the difference between what you paid for the car and its market value when it was written off or stolen. 

It is mainly taken out for new cars as that is when the rate of depreciation is greatest.

I don’t agree with my insurer’s valuation. What can I do?

You don’t have to accept the initial offer. Gather evidence of what similar cars have sold for.

There is also the option of the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is a free service that settles disputes between consumers and businesses.

Insuring cars with modifications

Modifications need to be declared when you take out your insurance. They fall into two categories:

  • performance

  • cosmetic

Generally, modifications make insurance more expensive, unless you are adding something like parking sensors.

I use my car for work. Do I need different insurance?

Standard car insurance policies cover what is called social, domestic and pleasure, so not work. If you drive to a single place of work, or to the station every day to get the train to work, that is commuting and needs additional insurance cover.

if you use your car at work, for example driving to clients or even just visiting different offices, you will need business car insurance. You will need to tell your insurer what you do and how you use your car.

If you have a company car, business use is likely to be included in the insurance.

I don’t use my car for work. Why does my job affect my premium?

Insurers consider some occupations riskier than others based on the history of claims that they have received, so construction workers will likely pay more than PAs.

Why is insurance for young drivers so expensive?

Drivers aged between 17 and 24 are three times more likely than drivers from any other age group to injure somebody in a car accident.

Young drivers also tend to have young passengers. If a young person is seriously injured and needs life-time care they will need it for longer than an older person, which will cost insurers more. 

Reducing the cost of insurance for young drivers

There are a number of ways to reduce the cost of insurance for younger drivers, including:

Black box insurance

Policies that use black boxes to track the driver’s speed and driving style can be a good option for younger drivers.

Adding named drivers

Adding a parent or other older driver to the policy can bring down the cost of insurance for younger drivers.

Insurance for learner drivers

Those learning to drive can be insured in a number of ways:

I’ve had a minor accident. Do I have to tell my insurance company?

Even if you don’t intend to go through your insurance company to claim, you have to let them know if you have an accident or any damage is done to your car. 

You will keep your no claims bonus as you haven’t claimed, but as you have had an accident it is likely to affect your premium.

My car is being repaired. Will the courtesy car be the same size?

If your car is at an approved repair place you may get a courtesy car. These tend to be small cars with adverts for the repair place plastered all over them.

If you need a bigger car, consider taking out hire car insurance as part of your policy or find an insurer that will guarantee a similar-sized vehicle. 

What is knock for knock?

If you have comprehensive car insurance and are involved in an accident your insurer may decide to pay your insured losses and not go through the other party’s insurer. The insurer for the other party does the same thing.

Am I insured if I take my car abroad?

Currently, during the Brexit transition period, UK car insurance automatically gives third-party insurance for travel to the EU for short periods. Travel to non-EU countries may require extra insurance and a green card.

What is a green card?

A green card is a document that proves you have the necessary car insurance for the country you are visiting. It was traditionally printed on green card.

Can I drive other people’s cars?

Comprehensive insurance may mean that you have third-party insurance when you drive a different vehicle. You will need to check your policy. 

If your policy does not cover you, temporary car insurance could be what you are looking for or you could be added as a named driver to someone else’s policy.

Temporary car insurance

Temporary car insurance lets you get cover for a short time, if that’s all you need. You pick how long you need the insurance for. Most insurers do temporary insurance for up to a month. Some do up to three months.

This may well work out a better deal than being added as a named driver on someone else’s insurance.

Get temporary insurance

Compare a range of short-term insurance policies with Uswitch and money.co.uk*

Adding another driver to a policy

Insurers will let you add people who drive the vehicle occasionally as named drivers.

Can I amend my policy during the year?

Yes, changing details such as your occupation or address is known as a mid-term adjustment. Insurers are allowed to charge a reasonable amount for administrative changes. 

Depending on what you change, it may also affect the cost of your policy. 

Getting points on your licence

Getting points on your licence isn’t going to be looked on favourably and your premium is likely to rise.

Why are some insurance claims rejected?

Common reasons for claims being rejected are:

  • incorrect information on the policy

  • driver negligence

  • unroadworthy vehicle

  • no proof of the accident

What is the Motor Insurance Database?

This is a central record of all insured vehicles in the UK. It is held by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) and flags up vehicles registered with the DVLA that do not have insurance.

It is how the police and the DVLA know that your vehicle does not have insurance.

Penalties for driving without insurance

If you are caught driving without insurance the police can give you six points and a £300 fine. If the case goes to court the fine can be unlimited and you may also get disqualified from driving.

The police can also seize, and in some cases destroy, a vehicle that is being driven uninsured.

Do I need insurance for a car that never goes on the road?

No, but you will need to make a Statutory Off Road Notification – known as a SORN – otherwise you will fall foul of the need for continuous insurance.

What is continuous insurance?

This is the legal requirement for vehicles to always be insured. It was brought in to stop people falsely claiming that their vehicle wasn’t insured because they weren’t using it.

Penalties for not having insurance

The MIB regularly checks its database of insured vehicles against the DVLA’s records. If a car is thought not to have insurance the registered keeper will initially be sent an insurance advisory letter.

If matters are not resolved you risk:

  • a £100 fixed penalty

  • a fine of up to £1,000 if the case goes to court

  • having your vehicle clamped, seized or destroyed

Get a car insurance quote

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