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What is a car insurance cover note?

You may have heard the phrase ‘car insurance cover note’, but not been 100% sure what it is or when you might get one. Find out what a cover note is and how it differs from a certificate of insurance.

You may have heard the phrase ‘car insurance cover note’, but not been 100% sure what it is or when you might get one. Find out what a cover note is and how it differs from a certificate of insurance.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
14 MARCH 2023
3 min read
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Cover notes for vehicle insurance 

‘Cover note’ is the term insurance providers use if they issue a temporary certificate of motor insurance. It provides proof that a vehicle is insured until the final documents are sent. Cover notes used to be far more common, when it took longer to issue insurance certificates. With advances in technology, getting an insurance certificate is pretty quick these days so you come across cover notes less. But they do still exist.

When are cover notes issued?

Cover notes may be issued:

  • If you apply for insurance by phone or by post
  • When a policy is amended – for example, if you change your car or add a new driver to your policy
  • When an insurance provider wants to look more closely at the risks of insuring you before they supply a full policy
  • There’s a hold-up in processing your application, perhaps because of a hitch with your insurance provider’s systems.

Not every insurance provider issues cover notes. These days, most will email you a certificate as soon as you buy your insurance. Others will send you confirmation within 24 hours of payment. But small insurance brokers sometimes still use them.

Can I use a cover note as proof of insurance?

You can use a cover note as proof that you’re insured. For example, if you’re stopped by the police and asked to produce proof of insurance, they’ll accept a cover note if your insurance certificate has not yet arrived.

What information is in a car insurance cover note?

Cover notes normally contain details such as:

  • Your name and address
  • The vehicle details and registration number
  • Your excess (the amount you pay towards a claim)
  • Level of cover, for example fully comprehensive car insurance
  • Who can drive the vehicle
  • Policy numbers
  • Special conditions
  • Expiry date.

Check the details on your cover note because these could be important if you need to make a claim. Check your date of birth is right and your name is spelled correctly. Your claim could be invalidated if your details are wrong.

If there’s a problem, let your insurance provider know as soon as possible. This will help avoid mistakes being repeated when your insurance documents are issued.

What happens if my certificate doesn’t arrive?

Your certificate should arrive before your cover note runs out, but if it doesn’t, get in touch with your insurance provider straight away. They should be able to let you know what’s happening and how they plan to resolve the problem. You can also check they have your correct address and/or email address.

If the certificate is delayed, your insurance provider should extend your cover note. Make sure your extension starts when your old cover note finishes, so there’s no gap in cover.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a cover note and a policy?

A cover note is a temporary document offering proof that you’ve paid for your policy and your vehicle is insured. A policy is a more comprehensive document that details the exact terms of your insurance and what you’re covered for.

How long is a cover note valid for?

This will depend on your insurance provider. It’s unusual for one to last more than 30 days, but you’re highly unlikely to need it for that long.

Are the terms of a cover note the same as the terms of a full policy?

They’re usually the same. The exception is if you’ve been given a cover note because the insurance provider is looking more closely at your application. In this case, there may be some limitations on your cover.  

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Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

Rebecca Goodman - Insurance expert

Rebecca Goodman is a freelance financial journalist who specialises in insurance, personal finance and consumer affairs. Rebecca regularly writes for national newspapers including The Independent and The Mail on Sunday on a wide-range of financial topics. She covers everything from money-saving tips and holiday advice to investigations into how energy efficient appliances can cut the cost of household bills and the impact donating money can have on those in need. Along with features in national papers, Rebecca also writes news stories for websites including Yourmoney.com and The Money Edit.

Learn more about Rebecca

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