Courtesy car insurance ensures you’ll be provided with an alternative vehicle should your primary vehicle be temporarily unavailable due to damage or theft.
This may be a part of your standard insurance plan, or you may need to purchase this cover separately.
Courtesy car provision may not apply if your primary vehicle is written off following an accident.
Insurers generally have a relationship with an approved repair agency, and terms and conditions will apply so it’s important to be aware of these before entering into an insurance agreement.
Courtesy car cover
Finding yourself without a car is a huge inconvenience, particularly when you’ve assumed you were covered. The majority of comprehensive insurance policies will provide courtesy car cover, although with many of these policies the provision is ‘subject to availability’.
All policies will include different stipulations. Some insurers will only provide courtesy cars if repairs to the primary vehicle are carried out at their affiliated garages, others will demand an insurance upgrade if courtesy cars are to be provided for clients whose vehicles have been written off or stolen.
Insurance on courtesy cars
This may not be the same, or as comprehensive, as the insurance on your primary vehicle. A minority of policies provide equivalent insurance on courtesy cars as standard. Although the courtesy car company will provide their own insurance, it is important to check the extent of this with your insurers, or the courtesy car provider, to see whether it meets your needs.
Length of courtesy car use
This will vary according to your policy. The majority of insurers will provide use of a courtesy car until full repairs have been made to your primary vehicle. A minority, however, will stipulate a timeframe, for example two weeks or a month.
Entitlement to a courtesy car in the event of your car being deemed a write-off is not automatic. Only approximately a quarter of insurers will automatically include courtesy car cover under these circumstances. An additional third offer this coverage as an optional extra, with another third offering no provision whatsoever.
If a policy does entitle you to a courtesy car, this may only be until the decision has been made to classify it as a write off, regardless of whether you have managed to procure another car by that time.
To be considered
Inform your breakdown cover provider of your change in vehicle and its registration number. The same applies even if your provision is through your insurer.
Upon collection of a courtesy vehicle, always check for damage and report this immediately so that you are subsequently billed for damage.
Be aware that courtesy cars will generally not replace your primary vehicle like for like. A small minority of policies offer an enhanced courtesy car as standard; the vast majority will offer an economy vehicle.
If the accident was your responsibility, your insurer will be negotiating with the other party to pay reasonable costs for the hire of a courtesy vehicle, and vice versa.
A report by the Competition and Markets Authority, 2014, estimated courtesy car provision added £180million per annum to car insurance premiums. As a result, it suggested an upper limit on courtesy car costs, to be agreed by an independent group of assessors.
Courtesy cars should be free of additional charge if a vehicle is being repaired at an insurer-approved garage, so make sure this is the case.
Hidden extra charges can materialise when accident management companies become involved, adding terms and conditions not covered by your policy, and encouraging you to sign credit agreements which can leave you liable for costs they are unable to recover from your insurer. This danger should be circumvented by ensuring the garage you use is on your insurer’s approved list. That they are on this list in the first place indicates that your insurer trusts their costing systems.
These accident management companies may make unsolicited calls to you following an accident, so you need to clarify, under these circumstances, exactly who you’re talking to. You need to be dealing with either your insurer or their approved repairer to avoid these expensive complications.
Keeping costs to a minimum if you don’t have courtesy car insurance
Think about whether you can manage for a short period with an economy vehicle.
If you are borrowing or sharing a vehicle of a friend or family member, be sure to consult the terms of your and their insurance, and if these are not comprehensive enough, think about taking out short term insurance.
If you’re looking to make a claim with a third party insurer, be aware they will only cover what they consider reasonable costs, in terms of length of rental.
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