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What is third party and third party, fire and theft car insurance?

Find out whether sticking to the most basic car insurance cover can save you money

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Our guide explains what third party, fire and theft insurance covers, and how much you should expect to pay compared to other policy types.

What is third party insurance?

When insuring your car, you first need to choose from three levels of cover available: 

  • comprehensive

  • third party only

  • third party, fire and theft

It’s important to know the difference between different types of car insurance cover before buying your policy, and you should also consider all the different types of cover if you want to get the best deal.

Third party car insurance is the legal minimum cover you need to drive on the UK’s roads.

What does third party insurance cover?

It protects other people, vehicles and property in the event of a car accident that was your fault:

For example, if you drive into the rear of someone’s car, causing damage to the bumper and injuring the driver, your third-party insurance would then cover the cost of the other person’s car as well as their medical expenses.

Any damage to your own car or any injuries you suffer are not covered. For that, you need comprehensive car insurance cover.

About third party cover

  • it is the most basic form of car insurance cover and is a legal requirement to drive on UK roads

  • third-party only cover is the best way to ensure that, if someone suffers a road accident that isn’t their fault, their costs can be recuperated

  • although it is the most basic type of cover third party car insurance is not always the cheapest cover

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What is comprehensive cover?

Comprehensive insurance, as the name suggests, offers the most significant level of cover and will pay out for repair or replacement of your vehicle even if you are involved in an accident that was your fault.

But while this is the most full-featured type of cover, many drivers choose to take out a type of third-party cover for their vehicle.

What is third-party only cover?

Third-party only (TPO) is the minimum legal level of cover and only covers other vehicles and property in the case of an accident or claim. 

Third party covers:  

  • damage to another person’s property – for example, if you crash your car and damage someone’s wall

  • injury to a passenger or driver of another car or a pedestrian or cyclist you injure

  • injury to a passenger in your car

  • damage to another person’s vehicle if you’re involved in a road accident.

What is third party fire and theft cover?

Third party, fire and theft policies can offer additional peace of mind by including protection if your car is damaged or destroyed in a fire, stolen, or damaged as a result of theft from your vehicle.

If you have a third party, fire and theft policy and are involved in an accident, you still won’t always be able to claim for any damage to your car.

  • if you are involved in an accident and your car is damaged, you should be able to make a claim from the other driver’s insurance if it was their fault  

  • if it’s not deemed to be their fault or you can’t claim from their insurer, for example if they are illegally uninsured or they leave the scene and you can’t track them down, you will need to pay for any repairs to your car yourself

What is the difference between third party cover and third-party fire and theft cover?

Third-party, fire and theft (TPFT) also lets you claim for things you cannot on a third-party only policy:

  • replacing your car if it’s stolen

  • damage as the result of an attempted theft for example a stolen stereo system or windscreen

  • fire damage to the car whether accidental fires or as a result of arson (to claim for arson you need a crime reference number)

Does third party, fire and theft insurance cover accidents?

Yes, but it still only covers damage to another vehicle or person if you are at fault. 

If the other driver is at fault their insurance should cover any damage to your vehicle and injuries to you.

Third party insurance and uninsured drivers

If you’ve got third party only or third party, fire and theft car insurance, you can’t claim for your damages but you might be able to a claim via the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, MIB 

  • MIB was set up to help the victims of uninsured and untraced motorists

  • MIB is funded by insurance companies

  • funding MIB means uninsured drivers push up the cost of car insurance 

How much does third-party, fire and theft insurance cost?

Prices for third party, fire and theft cover will differ as insurers rate all drivers on a number of factors and calculate their premiums that way. 

These factors include:

  • driving experience

  • your car make and model

  • your claims history 

  • where you live

  • possibly your occupation

The price of third-party car insurance 

There is a price difference between the different types of car insurance cover but it is not always in the way you would expect.

Many people often opt for TPO or TPFT policies because they consider them to be cheaper than comprehensive cover.

This isn’t always true. In fact, you may find some cases where comprehensive insurance works out to be as cheap as TPFT.

What you won’t get with third party or third-party fire and theft cover

There potential benefits you may miss out on when you decide against a comprehensive policy:

  • cover for damage to your own car

  • pay-out for a replacement car if yours is written off

  • medical expenses

  • breakdown cover

  • windscreen cover

Do I need third party insurance?

  • if your car is older or a car that’s relatively cheap to repair – then third-party cover might be suitable

  • if you have a new car worth thousands of pounds having third party cover might mean you can’t afford to replace your car if you have an accident that’s your fault

Is third party cover cheaper?

Third party cover is not always cheaper. Although comprehensive insurance includes more cover, many insurers offer it for the same price or even cheaper than third party, fire and theft policies.

Why third-party insurance can be more expensive

Third party cover used to be cheaper but many young and new drivers tend to purchase them These are higher risk drivers, so they make a disproportionate number of claims compared to other drivers.

Many insurers deem third party and third party, fire and theft policies as higher risk and premiums for this type of cover increased.

This means that third party, fire and theft policies can be often more expensive than comprehensive policies for some drivers, even though they include less cover. 

What does third party cover cost?

The average cost of car insurance, among all types of cover for drivers under 21 is £1,525, per year

  • 18-year-olds pay the most, an average of £2,134 per year for car insurance – even for some third-party policies

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