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What is car insurance excess?

It’s worrying enough to be in a car accident without then finding that you can’t afford your excess. Here’s our guide on car insurance excess so you can prepare for how much you’ll need to pay if you make a claim.

It’s worrying enough to be in a car accident without then finding that you can’t afford your excess. Here’s our guide on car insurance excess so you can prepare for how much you’ll need to pay if you make a claim.

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
24 APRIL 2023
8 min read
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What is car insurance excess?

Your excess is the amount you’ll have to pay towards any claim you make on your insurance, no matter who’s to blame. The total is likely to consist of a compulsory and a voluntary excess.

What’s the difference between voluntary and compulsory excess?

There are two main types of car insurance excess:

Compulsory excess

This is set by your insurance provider and can’t be changed. The amount depends on your car, your age and driving history, as well as other named drivers on your policy. It also depends on whether you’ve opted to take out no-claims protection.

Voluntary excess

This is how much you choose to pay on top of the compulsory excess. It’s a fixed amount you agree to when you take out your policy. Typically, the higher your voluntary excess, the cheaper your premium will be.

How does excess work on car insurance?

If you have an accident and make a claim, you’ll have to pay an agreed amount of money before your insurance provider will pay for the rest.

So, let’s say you have an accident that causes £1,000 in damages. If you have a compulsory excess of £250 and a voluntary excess of £150, you’ll need to pay £400 towards the cost of your claim. Then your insurance provider will pay out the additional £600.

How much is car insurance excess?

The amount of excess you’ll be expected to pay should be set out clearly for you to see when you get a car insurance quote. It will also be explained in your policy documents.

Before you buy an insurance policy, you’ll be told when you’ll need to pay an excess and how much it will be.

If you’re not happy with the amounts suggested, pick another insurance provider. And remember – loyalty rarely pays, so don’t be tied down to an unaffordable policy.

Can I change my compulsory and voluntary excess?

You can’t change your compulsory excess as it’s decided by your insurance provider. They’ll set a compulsory excess depending on your age, experience and the car you drive.

Voluntary excess in insurance works differently. It’s more flexible and allows you to choose how much you’re willing to pay, within a range. If you want to change your voluntary excess during your policy term, you’ll need to contact your insurance provider.

Types of additional excess

Some policies may have an extra compulsory excess. For example:

Young drivers

If you’re under 25, you might need to pay a ‘young driver excess’ because insurance providers consider you a higher risk.

High-performance cars

You might have to pay an additional excess if you drive a luxury or high-performance car. This is because they can be more attractive to thieves and are typically more expensive to repair. A sports car with a higher speed capacity is also at higher risk of being involved in an accident.

Windscreen repairs

Most car insurance policies also have a windscreen/glass excess. That means if your windscreen is damaged and you make a claim, you may have to pay a small excess if it needs replacing. If the windscreen can be repaired, the excess is usually waived. Check your policy as this can vary.

Non-approved repairs

Before you take your car to be repaired, check your policy in case you need to use an approved repairer.

If you decided to go to a mechanic or garage not approved by your provider, you might need to pay an additional excess for using a non-approved repairer.

What is excess protection insurance?

Excess protection insurance covers the cost of your excess if you need to make a claim. For example, if you’re in an accident and need to pay £250 excess on a car insurance claim, excess insurance will mean you can get that £250 back.

You can buy excess insurance as a standalone policy or as an add-on to your car insurance policy. Before taking out a policy, you’ll need to agree an upper limit with your insurance provider. You should set this to the same amount as your excess.

How many times you can claim on your excess insurance will depend on your policy. Some insurance providers limit how many times you can claim, while others limit how much you can claim for.

Excess insurance could save you money in the long run but be sure to read the small print so you know exactly what you’re covered for and how much it’ll cost.

Should I take out excess protection insurance?

This is a personal decision that depends on your circumstances. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t sign up for an excess you can’t afford, so shouldn’t need excess insurance.

If you’d struggle to afford your compulsory excess, an excess insurance policy could give you the breathing space you need. But bear in mind you’ll only need to pay an excess if you claim, whereas you’ll definitely have to pay for excess insurance.

An alternative is to put the money you’d spend on excess insurance into a savings account. That way it’s there if you need it.

When do you pay excess on car insurance?

You might be asked to pay the excess immediately at the start of your claim. Sometimes, the excess will be deducted from the total repair bill, so you’ll pay it at the end of the claims process. It all depends on your insurance provider, the type of claim you’re making, and the policy.

If the cost of repairs is less than your excess amount, you won’t be able to make a claim on your car insurance

Do I have to pay the excess if it’s not my fault?

You’ll still have to pay the excess, even if the accident wasn’t your fault. However, the other driver’s insurance provider should refund you.

Be warned though, this could take time, and you may need to claim the excess back yourself from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. This is where having legal protection as part of your car insurance could help.

Do I have to pay the excess if the other driver isn’t insured?

If the other driver can’t be identified or doesn’t have insurance, you may end up having to pay the excess regardless of whose fault the accident was.

However, if you have a comprehensive policy that includes an uninsured driver promise, your no-claims discount will be reinstated and your excess reimbursed.

How can I compare car insurance excess?

When you compare car insurance quotes, look for policies that have a certain excess amount.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. We’ll do the hard work for you and independently compare a variety of insurance providers to help you find the right car insurance deal.

We’ll show you policies based on price, cover, add-ons or payment terms, helping you compare policies based on your needs.

Looking for a car insurance quote?

Compare car insurance quotes with us today and see if you could start saving.

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Frequently asked questions

Why do we have car insurance excess?

It’s to deter people from making many low-value claims for minimal damage. Car insurance is essentially meant for bigger claims that you wouldn’t be able to cover yourself.

Charging an excess is also a way for insurance providers to protect against false claims and fraud. Claimants are more likely to be genuine if they’re having to foot part of the bill themselves.

Will my excess increase if I make a claim?

If you make a claim, your insurance provider might consider you a higher risk and set a higher compulsory excess when you renew your policy.

Should I increase my voluntary excess?

If you consider yourself a safe driver, it may be worth setting a higher voluntary excess to reduce your premiums.

Just make sure you can afford to pay both your voluntary and compulsory excess if you need to make a claim. There’s no point setting a high voluntary excess you’ll struggle to pay.

What happens if I can’t afford to pay the excess?

If you can’t pay the excess, your insurance provider might refuse to pay out. That’s why you should always check the excess before taking out any insurance policy.

When won’t I pay an excess?

You won’t need to pay an excess if someone else is claiming against you, or you only have third-party car insurance. This is because you only pay an excess towards repairs to your own car.

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