You might expect third party only to be the cheapest form of insurance cover — after all, third party offers the least protection of all types of insurance. But this isn’t always the case, and drivers can end up paying more for less cover. In fact, according to uSwitch research, those who only search for third party cover could pay £929 more compared to a comprehensive policy.
What is the difference between third party and comprehensive insurance?
Third party insurance (known as third party only or TPO) is the minimum amount of cover you need to drive legally in the UK. If you get into an accident that was your fault, your insurance will cover losses to any third party vehicles or property, but damage to your own car will not be covered. Similarly, if your car is stolen or damaged in a fire, your insurer will not pay out to replace or repair it.
Third party, fire and theft insurance (TPFT) has the same basic features as third party only, but your losses will be covered in the case of a fire or theft.
Comprehensive insurance includes all of these features as well as paying out for damage to your car in the case of a claim, whether or not you are at fault. Read our guide for a detailed look at types of car insurance.
Third party, third party fire and theft, or comprehensive insurance — which is cheaper?
Traditionally, third party and third party fire and theft cover were much cheaper than comprehensive insurance, but for many this is no longer the case. In the past, high-risk drivers (such as young drivers and those with no experience) would opt for lower protection in order to cut their insurance costs, something which insurers have now become wise to. Insurers noted that they were processing more claims from high-risk drivers with third party policies, and associated these policies with a higher crash risk.
To illustrate the price differences between the different types of car insurance, we ran some test quotes (based on a Ford Fiesta driver living in Coventry):
New driver with 0 years’ no claims bonus, age 17:
Third party, fire and theft: £2248
Third party only: £2248
For a young driver, quotes for both third party and third party fire and theft cover came out at 84% more expensive than comprehensive insurance, which offers much more protection.
Driver with more than 15 years’ experience and no claims bonus, age 50:
Third party, fire and theft: £218.68
Third party only: £229
For a more experienced driver, quotes for third party fire and theft cover came out cheaper than comprehensive cover, but by just 1%. Quotes for third party only cover were 3.61% higher than comprehensive insurance.
Choosing between third party and comprehensive insurance
Even if comprehensive cover is more expensive for you, you might want to consider the costs you would face if you got into an accident — with third party or third party fire and theft policies you’d have to cover your own repair or replacement costs.
If you’re on the lookout for third party or third party fire and theft, make sure you compare quotes for fully comprehensive insurance too — you might get much more for your money and you could even save hundreds.
If you’re not sure whether third party or comprehensive insurance will be cheaper for you, it’s best to compare different quotes using a site like uSwitch where you can easily switch between cover types to see how it affects the price.