Car insurance questions

Got a query while running your quotes? Our Frequently Asked Question list should help. 

Got a query while running your quotes? Our Frequently Asked Question list should help. 

Alex Hasty
Insurance and finance expert
5
minute read
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Last Updated 24 OCTOBER 2022

Car insurance FAQs

It can be frustrating when you just want a quick and simple answer to a question without having to wade through car insurance jargon. To help you compare quotes more easily, we’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions on how car insurance works.

If you’re still scratching your head, you could also use our glossary for a short explanation of common insurance-related terms, or visit our car insurance hub for more detailed guides and help.

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General car insurance FAQs

Some of the rules around car insurance and driving on public roads can be confusing. Here are some common car insurance questions.

Is my car insured?

The easiest way to find out if your car is insured is to check on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) – simply enter the car’s registration number.

Who is my car insured with?

If you can’t remember who your car is insured with, the quickest way to find out is to look up your paperwork or check your bank statement for the last payment made. You can also use the Motor Insurance Database website to find out the name of the insurance provider for your car, or another person’s vehicle – but they’ll charge a small fee for this.

Can you drive a car without insurance?

No, it’s illegal to drive a car on public roads without car insurance. You’ll need to have at least third-party cover to drive, or even park your car on a public road. If you’re caught driving without insurance, you could face a minimum £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence. If you end up in court, you could get a much higher fine and even be disqualified from driving.

Why is car insurance mandatory?

Car insurance is there to protect you, other drivers and the public in the event of an accident. For more details, read our guide to why car insurance is a legal requirement.

Can you insure a car you don’t own?

Yes, you can. For example, if you’re borrowing a friend’s car while they’re away, you could take out temporary car insurance or they could add you as a named driver to their own policy. Either way, you must make sure you’re properly insured to drive someone else’s car. And if you’re down as a named driver on someone else’s policy, you mustn’t drive the car more than they do – this is called ‘fronting’, and it’s illegal.

Can you insure a car without an MOT?

If your car is three years old or more, you must legally have an MOT to show it’s roadworthy. In most cases, insurance providers will insist you have a valid MOT certificate as a condition of your car insurance policy.

Can you insure a car without tax?

Both car insurance and road tax are legal requirements. To tax your car, you must already have an insurance policy in place, so get your cover sorted first. The MID automatically knows if a car is insured and has an MOT (if it’s more than three years old) when you go to tax your car either online or at the Post Office.

The only time you don’t need to tax or insure your car is if it’s declared off-road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This means you can’t drive or park your car on a public road – it must be kept on private land, on a driveway or in a garage.

Can you drive a SORN car to an MOT without insurance?

No, you can’t. The only time you can drive a SORN-declared car on public roads is if you’re taking it to a pre-booked MOT test. But it must be insured to do this. The catch-22 is that some insurance providers won’t insure your car without a valid MOT.

A way around this would be to take out short-term car insurance (even for just one day) from a provider who will cover you to drive your car to the MOT garage.

Types of car insurance

The type of car insurance you choose depends on your budget and the level of cover you need. Here are some questions on the three main levels of cover and other types of car insurance you can get.

What are the different types of car insurance?

When you take out car insurance, there are three levels of cover to choose from:

 

What does third party insurance cover?

Third party is the minimum level of cover you need to drive legally on UK roads. It covers injury to another person, or damage to their vehicle or property. It won’t cover any injuries to you, or damage to your own car.

What does third party, fire and theft insurance cover?

TPFT will cover you for third party injury or damage, but it also covers your own car if it’s stolen or damaged by fire.

What does comprehensive insurance cover?

Comprehensive insurance offers the highest level of protection for you and your car. You’ll get the cover you’d get with a third-party, fire and theft policy but it’ll also typically cover the cost of any damage to your car in an accident or malicious damage or vandalism if you make a successful claim.
See what this means and why comprehensive insurance isn’t always the most expensive.

What type of car insurance do I need?

As well as the level of cover, there are different types of policy you might want to consider, for example:

  • Black Box car insurance – a telematics policy could offer a discount on your premium if you show you’re a safe and careful driver. These types of policy can be good for young drivers who typically pay a lot more for their car insurance.
  • Business car insurance – covers you for business/work use not typically covered by a standard car insurance policy.
  • European car insurance – offers more specific cover than your normal car insurance if you’re planning on driving your car to Europe.
  • Classic car insurance – a specialist policy that can be tailored to the specific needs of a classic or vintage car.
  • Track day insurance – cover designed for driving on a racetrack as part of an organised track day.

Are black box policies worthwhile?

You could save money with a telematics insurance policy depending on what type of driver you are. Find out more and decide whether it’ll work for you with our guide to telematics.

You can easily see which policies involve installing a telematics box in your comparison results.

Can I buy temporary car insurance?

Yes. We can help you find temporary car or van insurance from one hour up to a full 84 days. Short-term car insurance can be really helpful if you want to:

  • Borrow a vehicle from a friend or family member
  • Lend your car or van to a friend or family member
  • Test drive or drive home a new car you’ve just bought so you can then sort out your annual insurance at your leisure
  • Share the driving on a long trip. You can get temporary car insurance and be on the road in minutes
  • Drive someone else’s car in an emergency
  • Move furniture in a borrowed van.

Find out more about temporary vehicle insurance and get a quote.

Does car insurance cover storm damage?

If you have comprehensive car insurance, it should cover storm damage to your car – for example, if falling branches or debris damage the paintwork. Fully comp might also cover flood damage but check your policy – it might not cover you if you take risks like driving in a flooded area despite weather warnings.

Does car insurance cover repairs?

Fully comprehensive car insurance will cover repairs including engine failure. But it won’t cover damage caused by general wear and tear, for example, rust problems or malfunctioning parts.

In most cases, repairs need to be carried out by the insurance provider’s approved repair centre. You might not be covered if you use a local mechanic you choose yourself.

What car insurance extras can I get?

Insurance providers typically offer a range of extras that you can add on to your standard car insurance policy. While some may come in handy, extras can bump up the price of your premium.

Common add-ons include:

  • Breakdown cover – roadside assistance if your vehicle breaks down
  • Motor legal protection – can cover legal expenses and costs if you’re involved in an accident and someone takes legal action against you
  • Personal accident cover – compensation pay out if you’re seriously injured or killed in an accident
  • Courtesy car cover – offers the use of a courtesy car while yours is being repaired
  • Key cover - covers the cost of replacing lost or damaged car and house keys.

Is motor legal protection worth it?

Motor legal protection can be a small price to pay to cover thousands of pounds worth of legal fees. However, you’ll usually only have access to a panel of solicitors chosen by your insurance provider, and you might not be covered if you’re at fault.

It’s also worth seeing if you already have legal assistance cover through your home insurance.

Multiple car insurance and drivers

If you want to insure more than one car, or you occasionally drive someone else’s car, it might be simpler to add them to one policy.

Is multicar insurance cheaper?

It can be. Some insurance providers offer a discount on each car added to the policy, but it can also depend on who’s driving, their age and the type of cars you want to insure.

Find out more about multicar insurance.

Will adding a named driver to my policy increase my car insurance?

It depends. Adding a young, inexperienced driver to your policy will probably increase the cost of your car insurance. This is because they’re considered a higher risk on the roads.

On the other hand if you’re a younger driver, adding an older more experienced driver to your policy could help bring down the cost of your premium as they’re considered less of a risk.

Just make sure the policyholder is named as the main driver and does more than 50% of the driving.

What is ‘fronting’?

This is when you say someone is the main driver of a car when they’re not – it’s a type of fraud and the consequences can be harsh. Find out more about fronting and the impact it can have – especially on young drivers and their parents.

Car insurance claims

You’ll obviously want to avoid having to make a car insurance claim, but it’s useful to understand what the process is. Here are some common questions on how car insurance works.

Do I have to make a claim if I have an accident?

No, you don’t have to make a claim if you don’t want to. However, you must tell your insurance provider if you’ve had an accident, no matter how minor - even if it wasn’t your fault. If you don’t let your insurance provider know, it could invalidate your policy, meaning you’ll no longer be insured.

Is it worth claiming on my car insurance for minor damage?

It’s up to you, but if the cost of repairs isn’t much more than your excess, it might be better to pay for the damage yourself and preserve your no-claims discount.

How do I make a claim?

Insurance providers usually have a pretty straightforward claims process either online, by phone or by email. It’s probably quicker to get it done online if you can.

How long does the claims process take?

The claims process can take anything from a few days to several months depending on:

  • How soon you make the claim – the sooner the better
  • How serious the incident is – minor claims should be fairly quick, more serious claims can take a lot longer to process
  • How much evidence there is – the more you have to back up your claim, the better
  • Disputes – if someone challenges your claim, it can delay the whole process.

How do insurance companies pay out claims?

If your claim is successful, you’ll either receive a cash settlement from your insurance provider or they can pay the repair centre directly. This should be set out in the terms and conditions of your policy.

Will my car insurance go up after making a claim?

It can do, yes. If you’ve got a history of claims, there’s more of a risk of you claiming again, so insurance providers will raise your premium to reflect this.

Will I lose my no-claims discount if I make a claim?

You won’t necessarily lose all of your no-claims discount if you make a claim, but your insurance provider might reduce it by a couple of years. If the accident wasn’t your fault, your insurance provider will try to recoup the costs from the person at fault – in which case, your no-claims discount shouldn’t be affected.

You could also protect your no-claims bonus by paying a little extra on top of your premium. This will usually let you make a couple of claims without it touching your NCD. Just be aware that the overall cost of your premium could still go up after a claim, even with your discount applied.

How long does a no-claims bonus last?

Most insurance providers will let you build up a no-claims discount up to five years, although some might go beyond this.

If you stop driving and no longer need insurance, your no-claims bonus will expire after two years.

What is compulsory excess?

Excess is the amount you pay towards the cost of a claim before your insurance provider pays out their share. Compulsory excess is the amount your insurance provider charges, so you don’t get a say in how much it will be. Voluntary excess is the amount you choose to pay on top of the compulsory excess. Typically, the higher your voluntary excess, the cheaper your car insurance premium will be.

Is a higher voluntary excess better?

This is a bit of a dilemma – a higher excess often equals a lower premium, but you can’t plan for accidents and you’ll need to be confident you can afford to pay your voluntary excess plus any compulsory or young-driver excess. Find out more and weigh up the pros and cons on whether bigger is better.

When do you pay excess on car insurance?

It depends on your insurance provider – some will deduct the excess from your claim pay-out. With others, you may have to pay the excess upfront when you make a claim. If you’re claiming for an accident that wasn’t your fault, it’s unlikely you’ll have to pay any excess at all. This will usually be included in the costs of the person at fault.

Car insurance renewal and quotes

Getting a car insurance quote through us is quick and easy. However, there might still be some things you’re not sure of. Here are some common queries we get for car insurance renewals and quotes.

When does my car insurance run out?

Unless it’s a temporary policy, car insurance typically lasts for 12 months. You should get a reminder to renew from your insurance provider usually around three to four weeks before your policy is due to expire.

Does car insurance renew automatically?

Most insurance providers will automatically renew your car insurance unless you tell them not to. Auto-renewal can be convenient, especially if you’re prone to forgetting when your car insurance runs out. But letting your insurance automatically renew means you could be missing out on potentially cheaper deals.

Before you decide whether or not to renew with your current provider, compare quotes to see what other deals are available – it could be the best way of finding cheaper car insurance.

I don't know the registration number of the car. Can I still get a car insurance quote?

Telling us the reg of the car you'd like to insure is the quickest way to get a quote, as we can look up the make and model of the car and a lot of the details about it. But if you don't know it, don't worry, we can still help. You’ll just need to enter the year, make and model, and we'll provide a list of car types to choose from.

Rerunning a comparison today returned a different quote from yesterday. What’s that about?

This is normal in car insurance. Providers are constantly adjusting the way they price policies for all sorts of reasons, so you may find that your car insurance quotes vary on a daily basis. You should also check that you’ve used exactly the same information when you’ve re-run your quote. Because of these variations, when you find cheap car insurance that meets your needs, it could be worth purchasing straight away.

How long will my quote be valid for?

This is something that’s set by car insurance providers, rather than us. If you’d like to see when a car insurance quote is set to expire, click through to the provider’s own website. But be aware that providers change their pricing often, so you may find the price changes if you edit your quote. The only way to guarantee a price is to buy straight away.

Is it okay just to buy the cheapest car insurance?

It’s easy to find the lowest prices because we put the cheapest car insurance quotes at the top of the quotes results page. But the cheapest policy might not be the best for you. Do check that it offers everything you need – for example, would you need a courtesy car or windscreen replacement if your car got damaged?

How do job titles affect car insurance?

Insurance providers consider some jobs riskier than others in terms of making a car insurance claim. So the way you describe what you do can have an impact on your car insurance.

If you can’t find your job title when trying to get a quote it could be listed as something similar, so try another option. For example, if you work in tech and you can't find your exact job title, try to find the closest match – as long as it accurately describes what you do. It’s important to be honest about your job – if you’re not, you could invalidate your policy.

Find out more on job titles and car insurance.

I have a list of quotes. Can I change my level of cover from third-party to comprehensive?

On your quotes page, there’s a section at the top called ‘Customise results. You can choose a different level of cover from the three options available:

Comprehensive
Third-party, fire and theft
Third-party only

Just click ‘Update’ to get new results.

How do I make sure I get a courtesy car, legal cover and breakdown cover?

When you get a quote with us, you can compare important policy options. These include courtesy car, breakdown and legal protection cover. Just remember that sometimes these will be optional extras that may have an additional cost.

And check the details. Will your breakdown cover be home-start or roadside? Is the courtesy car available for car repairs or just in case of a write-off?

What should I do when insurance providers come back with a different voluntary excess?

Sometimes insurance providers don’t want to accept your suggested voluntary excess because it’s too low or too high. Use the options on the quotes page to change your voluntary excess; it might give you more quotes.

How do I print out my policy details?

Providers will usually send you your full policy details or allow you to print them out, and you can do that once you’ve bought the policy. Providers also allow you to see a summary of the policy during the online journey, which you can find by clicking through to the provider. But if you want to print out policy summary details here, click on ‘more details’ to open up the quote in full. Then print using the ‘File > Print’ menu on your browser.

If you want to print out the details you’ve put into our form, click on the ‘Edit details’ tab at the top of your screen and print using the ‘File > Print’ menu on your browser.

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