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Most kinds of insurance are optional, but car insurance is one of the few that is required by law. If a car is driven on the road, it must have car insurance according to UK law. The only exception is if a car has a Statutory Off-Road Notice, which means that by law the car can’t be driven on the road, but also doesn’t require insurance.
Types of Car Insurance
UK car insurance comes in three main categories:
Third party: This is the minimum legal requirement for car insurance. It’s a basic form of insurance that covers the costs of any damage incurred while driving. For example, if a driver is in an accident with another car, the at-fault driver is liable for damage to the other person’s car, and for any medical expenses they incur as a result of the accident. Note, however, that the insurance does not cover the costs of damage to the car belonging to the driver who is deemed at fault.
Third party, fire, and theft: This is similar to third party insurance, but also covers the cost of replacing a car if it’s stolen or damaged in a fire.
Comprehensive cover: Provides everything as above, but also covers costs for repairing the car belonging to an at-fault driver.
Depending on the insurer and the policy, the driver may be covered when driving other cars, including hired cars. Some policies also allow the policyholder to name other drivers to be covered when driving their car.
Car insurance providers offer coverage for a wide range of special groups, including older and younger drivers and others. For example:
- Younger drivers typically pay higher premiums, because this demographic tends to get in more accidents. As a result, for drivers under 25 it may be worthwhile to get a policy targeted to this age group.
- Older drivers over the age of 50 may also benefit from getting a specialist policy.
- Poor driving record: It’s typically difficult for people with poor driving records, to get affordable insurance. Choosing a specialist insurance provider can help with this.
- Business and commercial drivers typically need specialist insurance.
These options add convenience, but will increase the cost of insurance:
- Breakdown cover provides roadside assistance when the policyowner’s car breaks down.
- Legal expenses are covered if they arise as a result of compensation claims made as a result of a vehicle-related accident.
- Windscreen cover is typically included in comprehensive policies but can be purchased as an add on for third party cover.
Car Insurance Groups
Car insurance groups are what insurance providers use to determine a driver’s basic premium level. Insurance groups are numbered from 1 to 50, and each make and model of car is categorised into a specific group based on a wide range of factors. The lower a car’s group, the lower the driver’s premiums tend to be. Factors that affect the group a car is in could include its price, performance level, the cost and availability of spare parts, and the average time required for repairs.
In order to compare car insurance online, it could be good to look at a number of different factors to get the best prices and the best level of coverage. A person could start by comparing like with like, as well as comparing different kinds of policies. For example, comparing third party policies from various insurers, and also comparing the different policy levels offered by the same insurer. Making the comparison this way may make it easy to see what the best deals are. Sometimes, depending on the car the driver’s personal circumstances, comprehensive cover might be almost as cheap as third party insurance.
Minimising Premium Costs
One possible way to get cheap car insurance could be by owning a car in one of the lowest premium groups. This typically means owning a newer car. When it comes to calculating premiums, insurance groups may not be the full story, however. Insurance companies might use other information, such as age, gender, and driving record, when they calculate premiums. Home address could also taken into consideration; for example, if a driver lives in a high-crime area, they might pay more as insurers consider the car more likely to be damaged or stolen.
Some ways to reduce premium costs might include:
- Drivers that avoid making claims may benefit from a premium discount; the discount typically gets higher with consecutive claim-free years.
- The no-claims discount may often be transferred to a new insurance provider if a driver finds a better deal elsewhere.
- The no-claims discount doesn’t necessarily prevent an insurer from increasing premium costs. It’s a discount applied to whatever the premium is, so the premium could increase even if the discount remains the same.
- Most policies have two separate excess amounts. One is set by the insurer and is an integral part of the policy. The second is one that the driver may set themselves. To reduce their premium a driver could opt to set this excess higher, but it does mean they tend to pay more out of pocket if they have to make a claim. And since the excess has a mandatory per-policy component, there could be an excess to pay on every claim regardless of how high the voluntary excess is set.
- Car modifications of any kind could result in a premium increase, so it may be good idea for a driver to check with their insurer before adding any mods.
- Paying premiums annually rather than monthly could reduce the cost significantly.
Five Basic Steps of Filing a Claim
Once you contact the car insurance company, your case will go through the following steps.
- Case assignment to a professional at your car insurance company who will work on your claim.
- Meeting with your claims professional to discuss your coverages and the situation.
- Evaluation by your claims professional, which can include inspecting your car, examining evidence of any injury claims, and an initial payment.
- Resolution of the case, including payments as appropriate.
- Closing of the case.
Since you are responsible for protecting your own property, your car insurance company may require you to make temporary fixes to your car while you are waiting for car repairs. These can help prevent further damage. However, be sure not to make permanent repairs before you are approved, because these may not be reimbursed.
Make sure to keep receipts for expenses as you fix your car and seek medical treatment.
Hiring an Attorney
In some cases, you might consider bringing in the counsel of an attorney who specializes in accident claims. They may be able to expedite the process.
Coverage for Bodily Injury Claims
If you are not at fault for the accident, you'll typically be covered by the other driver's bodily injury liability coverage. However, if you live in a no-fault state, you may pay for your injuries through your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Other optional medical coverages that will help pay for your injuries include:
- Medical payments coverage – Helps pay for funeral costs, injuries suffered by your passengers, injuries to you if a car hits you while you are walking or biking, and necessary dental care resulting from a car accident.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – Pays for injuries sustained in an accident with a driver who has no or too little insurance to cover your costs.
Before purchasing optional medical coverage or raising your minimum deductible, consider using your own health insurance to cover all or part of your injuries.
For more information, visit our Medical Coverages page.
Handling a Bodily Injury Claim
When you are hurt in a car accident, there are certain steps that can make the process of dealing with a personal injury claim easier. Remember to:
- Take photos of the scene and your injuries.
- File a police report and request a copy.
- Visit a doctor immediately.
- Write down everything related to your injury, including any work time or activities you may have missed due to the injury.
- This is necessary if you're going to file a lost wages claim.
- Hire an attorney, if necessary.
Finally, remember to never admit fault at the scene.
For more information on how to ensure you handle an injury-causing accident properly, visit our page on the first steps after a personal injury accident.
Property Damage Claims
Your ability to file a claim for vehicle repairs depends on the cause of the damage and the coverages that you have.
Liability property damage coverage, which is required in many states, does not cover your own car. It will only pay for the damages you cause to another driver's vehicle in an accident that you cause.
The two major coverage types that pay for damage to your vehicle include:
- Collision coverage, which pays for damages to your vehicle after a collision.
- Comprehensive coverage, which will cover damages to your car occurring from events that aren't related to accidents.
- Examples include vandalism and severe weather.
Other coverages that will cover property damage include:
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist property damage coverage to get you reimbursement if you are in an accident and the driver that hit you does not have insurance.
- Gap insurance coverage to cover the difference if you have a car loan or are leasing your car, and it is declared a total loss.
- Windshield or glass coverage to replace or repair a windshield, mirror, or window that is damaged in an incident other than a collision.
For more information, see our Vehicle Coverages page.
Handling a Property Damage Claim
When you file a physical damage claim, an insurance adjuster will inspect your vehicle and estimate how much it will cost to repair the damage. You will then receive a check from the insurance company that takes into account the auto deductible you have chosen for your policy.
If your vehicle has been damaged, follow these steps in order to have your car insurance claim processed effectively:
- Report the damage to your vehicle to your insurance company immediately.
- Depending upon your insurance company's policies, you can do this online, by calling your insurance agent during regular business hours, or by calling the company's claims division.
- If another driver was involved, exchange insurance information.
- Allow your insurance company to inspect the vehicle before repairs are made.
- Protect the vehicle so no further damages are caused and losses are limited.
- For example, if the accident causes the fender to rub against the vehicle tire, you should have this repair made immediately so the tire is not further damaged. If you don't make the repair, your car insurance company can refuse to pay for any additional damages.
- Save all receipts and any other documentation you receive to give to your insurance company as part of your claim.
- Provide any requested information the insurance company needs as part of its investigation. If you refuse to cooperate, your claim could be denied.
Making smart decisions about how to move forward with your claim, and making sure you document all damage, will go a long way toward a fast and smooth settlement of your claim.
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Correct as of 17th March, 2017
Research commissioned by Gocompare.com carried out with 2,011 UK adults in December 2014 by Vision Critical
Research commissioned by Gocompare.com, carried out with 2,000 UK adults in May 2011 by OnePoll
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