Car insurance is a legal requirement for all drivers in the UK. While it may seem like a big expense, car insurance gives you financial protection should you be involved in an accident while driving. It can help give you peace of mind that even if an accident was not your fault, your repair bills and other costs will be covered.
Shockingly, it is estimated there are around one million uninsured drivers on Britain’s roads . Uninsured drivers cost all drivers money. The Motor Insurers’ Bureau handles claims against uninsured drivers and says the bill for these is paid for through the insurance premiums of all law-abiding motorists. They say uninsured drivers add around £15 to each motor insurance premium .
When buying car insurance, you first need to decide what kind of cover you require.
There are three main categories:
Third party. This is the lowest level of cover and the minimum required by law. This covers you if you cause injury or damage to other people or their property. However, it does not cover you for your own injuries or vehicle repairs.
Third party, fire and theft. This offers the same benefits as third party but would also pay out in the event that your car is stolen or suffers fire damage. Again, it does not cover you for the cost of damage to your own car.
Fully comprehensive. This is the highest level of cover. As well as all the benefits of third party, fire and theft, it also covers any damage to your car, medical treatment and legal fees It covers you for any accidental damage caused to your car too.
Despite third party being the lowest level of cover, it is not always the cheapest and fully comprehensive cover is not always the most expensive. Free Price Compare can help you search hundreds of providers for third party, third party, fire and theft and fully comprehensive policies, so you can find the best one for you.
What questions will car insurance companies ask me?
When looking for a car insurance policy, you will be asked a set of questions. These help to ascertain your level of risk as a driver so your policy can be quoted accordingly. Car insurance providers do not know you personally or what kind of driver you are. They use the answers to these questions to paint a picture of you and the type of driver you may be. You will be asked for:
Your personal details. You will need to provide your potential provider with personal details about yourself, including your name and phone number which are both included in your policy document. You should also give them the details of your driving licence.
Your age. Younger drivers, especially those who have recently passed their test, are most likely to have an accident and are therefore considered an elevated risk. Figures from the RAC show that one in eight of all road casualties are hurt or killed in collisions involving a car driver aged 17 to 19 . Many insurance companies now offer specific young driver insurance and young drivers can aim to reduce their premiums by taking advanced driving certifications.
Your address. This is asked for more than just identification purposes. Your address will have a bearing on the cost of your policy. Your address will be considered alongside the crime rate in that area. Getting insurance for a car in an area where car thefts and break-ins are high will be more costly than in an area with low crime rates.
Where your car is left at night. This question is used to assess the safety of your car. A car left in a locked private garage is likely to be considered at lower risk of theft than a car left on the side of a busy main road.
The vehicle you wish to insure. You will be asked to provide details on the make, model and year of the car. An insurer will want to assess how risky the car itself is to insure. The claims history and a vehicle’s repair costs will be considered when determining the cost of a policy. You may also be asked about security features such as alarms, immobilisers or locks.
Your driving history. The car insurance provider will want to know if you are considered a high-risk driver or a low-risk driver based on your previous accident history. You will be asked to provide details of any accidents, usually within the last five years.
The driving history of anyone else you are insuring under the policy. Those who will also use the vehicle will also be assessed for their risk level and this will also impact on the cost.
Your estimated annual mileage. You will need to provide an estimate of your annual mileage. The more miles you do on the road each year, the bigger the risk you are to insure. Those who drive fewer miles each year will usually find their premiums cheaper than those who cover a high number of miles.
Your occupation. You may feel that your job is irrelevant to your car insurance cost, especially if you only drive to work but do not drive as part of your role. Your job will, in fact, be used by insurers, along with your driving history and the make and model of the car, to ascertain your risk level. Knowing your occupation is used by insurers to deduce things about your everyday life. Some jobs such as a delivery driver are considered higher risk because they drive a lot and are often in a rush, while those in clerical jobs are usually desk-based and can often be seen as lower risk. According to recent figures, racing drivers and footballers faced the most expensive car insurance premiums, while nurses were among the cheapest to insure . The occupations of others included on the policy should also be supplied.
Another question you will be asked by your car insurance provider is what you plan to use the car for. Answering this accurately and truthfully is important, as you could be refused a payment following an accident if you are found to be uninsured. There are six main classes of use:
Social (or social, domestic and pleasure SDP) – this covers all non-work driving such as visiting family or shopping.
SDP including commuting – as above but including cover for a single place of work.
Business use – you may need your car for your work, such as a carer who visits clients in their home or a delivery driver.
Class 1 business car insurance – covers SDP, driving to work and short business trips to different sites.
Class 2 business car insurance – covers SDP, driving to work, trips between sites, as well as named drivers such as a co-worker.
Class 3 business car insurance – for those who are on the road a lot as part of their job.
Commercial – this varies from provider to provider. In many cases, this is the right kind of insurance for drivers who are on the road most of the day and carry people and/or goods. Taxi drivers or driving instructors would choose this type of cover.
Choosing the right level of use is important as not only is it illegal to have the wrong type of cover, but the wrong one can also invalidate your policy.
Additional upgrades and addons
Your insurer will also ask you what extras you wish to add on to your policy. Options include protecting your no-claims bonus. The no-claims bonus is a reduction in premium which builds up for every year that no claim is made and you can opt to preserve some or all of it even if you make a claim. Breakdown cover and a courtesy car are other options, as well as whether you want personal injury cover, which will pay out for injuries caused in a car accident. You may also want to opt for legal expenses cover, which recovers legal expenses from the person who was at fault in the accident. Other extras include lost or stolen keys cover and windscreen replacement and repair cover.
What questions do car insurance companies ask after an accident?
Other than in buying a car insurance policy or adjusting its terms and conditions, the only other time you are likely to speak to your provider is in the event of an accident. Your car insurance company is likely to ask questions such as:
Your policy number
Details of the accident
Your registration number and that of any other cars involved
The details of the other drivers, including their contact numbers
The insurance details of the other driver.
After an accident, try to note down as many details as possible (if you are able and if it is safe to do so). Try to take photographs of the scene of the accident or of any resulting damage. All of this detail can be used when trying to settle a claim.
Making false claims to try to lower your car insurance premium is illegal and risky. But there are some things you can do legally to try to get cheaper car insurance.
You could consider getting a black box installed in your car. This records your driving habits so your insurance provider can monitor your driving style. If you can show that you are a safe driver, it may result in reduced premiums. Other safety features such as an immobiliser can also help to reduce the price you pay. Most insurers prefer a “Thatcham approved device” (this is a ratings scale for immobilisers and alarms) added to a vehicle.
You could also try to reduce your annual mileage. Those who drive fewer miles are considered less ‘at risk’ of being involved in an accident. Never lie about your mileage but look instead for opportunities to use your car less. Could you travel by public transport or walk sometimes to help reduce the number of miles you travel by car?
Make sure you let insurers know if you have a no claims bonus. If you do not make a claim on your car insurance, you may be offered a no claims bonus. It is a reward from an insurer for not making a claim. For every extra year that no claim is made, a bigger discount is applied. There is usually a maximum period over which you can build a no claims bonus. For most insurers, this stands at 15 years.
Increasing your voluntary excess (the amount you volunteer to pay in the event of an accident) can also lower your premium but it is important that this is a realistic figure you can actually afford to pay should the need arise.
Another way to reduce the cost of your car insurance is to pay for it annually. This works out cheaper than paying in monthly instalments. Premiums can be reduced by as much as 20%.
Never let your car insurance renew automatically. This usually leads to a far higher premium. Around a third of motorists let this happen. Free Price Compare can help you to find the cheapest cover for you.
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