Driving without a valid car insurance policy is illegal. You could be fined £300 and get six penalty points, so if you’re not sure whether you’re insured, this guide will explain how to be sure you’re on the right side of the law.
If you haven't purchased an insurance policy for your car, the chances are it's not insured.
Car insurance isn't transferable when cars are sold, so you or your employers – if you are driving a company car – are required to take out your own policy when buying a car.
Some car dealers will offer short-term or temporary insurance when you buy a new car — this will cover you for a limited period (usually up to a week) until you purchase your own car insurance policy.
An easy way to check whether your vehicle is insured is through the Motor Insurer’s Database (MID) online. You just need the car’s registration number and must declare that you're the owner or registered keeper of the car.
The MID is the only centralised database of motor insurance policy information for all insured vehicles, and is also used by the police to run car insurance checks.
All insurance companies must be members of the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) and are required to add all policies to the database. It’s updated 365 days per year, but if you’ve just purchased an insurance policy your car may not appear on the database straight away, so give it a few hours to catch up.
Just because you’ve checked your car insurance status and the vehicle is insured, this doesn’t mean anyone can drive it.
Insurance policies cover drivers not cars, so before letting someone loose behind the steering wheel, check that your policy allows other motorists with comprehensive cover in their own right to drive your car. If not, you will need to add them to your policy as a named driver.
If you’ve forgotten who your car is insured with there are several ways to find out:
check your bank statements: look for any payments to an insurance company
check your emails: run a search for ‘car insurance’ to see whether you have correspondence from your car insurer. It’s worth checking spam and trash folders too
retrieve a quote: if you’ve used a comparison site to run a quote, see if you can log back in and look it up
lodge a Subject Access Request: you can do this through the MIB, but note that you may be charged a fee
If you’ve managed to locate your insurance documents, these should inform you of when your car insurance expires. Alternatively, if you know who your insurance provider is you can always contact them to ask.
Also, many insurers will send out a reminder a month before your current insurance term expires, so don’t dismiss what looks like junk mail.
Since continuous insurance enforcement (CIE) came into force in the UK in 2011, all cars must have a minimum of third party insurance cover to be road-legal. This will cover you for injury or damage caused to others but won’t cover you for damage to your own vehicle.
You will still need insurance even if your vehicle is not being used, unless you declare it off-road with a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). If you don’t have insurance or a SORN, you’re risking a fine and prosecution.
Note that you won’t be able to drive your car on public roads, including car parks, if you have declared it off-road, and you’ll need to keep it parked in a garage, on a driveway or on private property.
If you are found to be driving without insurance, you can get a £300 fine and six penalty points on your driving licence.
In the worst case, you could end up going to court, face an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving. The police are also allowed to seize, and in some cases, destroy a vehicle that is being driven uninsured.
If you previously bought an insurance policy for your car and are not sure if you are still covered, it is possible that your policy has renewed automatically.
Most insurers will send you a renewal notice and automatically renew your cover if you don’t take action before the policy expires. If you think this has happened, contacting your insurer and check your bank statements to see if any payments have been made in the past year.
If your policy has automatically renewed, make a note of the expiry date for future reference so that you can shop around for car insurance in good time.
Automatically renewing your policy is often more expensive so it pays to make sure you get the best quotes for car insurance in advance and avoid sorting your insurance at the last minute.
Even if you take the steps to insure your car correctly, you should also make sure you have road tax and a valid MOT.
You can check if a car is taxed and has a valid MOT certificate by using the government’s free car check service. You can find out if a vehicle is currently taxed or registered as off-road (SORN) just by entering the registration number.
Aside from telling you whether the car has been taxed, and when the tax expires, you will also find out when the next MOT test is due. It also gives the vehicle make and when it was first registered.