The American humourist Dave Barry has written, rightly, that all of us, regardless of race, religion, age or gender believe that we are above average drivers. Clearly, that can’t be the case. Accidents will happen, and all drivers need insurance.
It’s not only a good idea; in the UK, all drivers legally required to have it, and there are hefty penalties for driving an uninsured car. If you are stopped by the police without insurance you could be fined £300 and incur six penalty points. Moreover, if the police decide to take the case to court, you could face a larger fine and a disqualification from driving.
Even if your car is simply parked in the garage and is never on the road, you’ll still need insurance. The Continuous Insurance Enforcement law mandates that all drivers must have their car insured at all times. The only way to avoid this is to legally declare your vehicle off the road with the DVLA through a Statutory Off-Road Notification. It’s not worth taking any chances.
If you’ve lost your insurance details, help is at hand
If you have mislaid your certificate of motor insurance – which happens to the best of us – don’t panic. There are various ways to check the terms of your insurance.
Firstly, run your vehicle registration number through the Motor Insurer’s Database. https://mib.org.uk/managing-insurance-data/the-motor-insurance-database-mid/. This holds all the information for every vehicle insured in the UK. If your car isn’t on it, then it isn’t insured and you need to take action. The service is free, but if you want more information, such as the name of your insurer or the details of your policy, then it’s £4.
There are other ways as well. Check your bank and credit card statements and search for payments to an insurer. If a name pops up, contact the firm and ask for details. An email search could also provide requisite details.
It’s easy to find your insurance details, so there’s no real excuse for not knowing. It will be a very nasty shock if you’re pulled over by the police and they discover that there your vehicle is uninsured.
Most insurers will replace lost certificates of motor insurance for a fee, which ranges from about £7.50 at the low end up to £30. So it is a good idea to keep it somewhere safe.
If you’re involved in an accident and want to check whether the other car is properly insured, then you can also check that through the MIB as well, though there is a charge for it.
What happens if you buy a new car
If you buy a new car, then your existing policy should cover it. As of 2013, you no longer need to show your certificate of insurance when you buy a new car, but be sure to let your insurer know that you have changed vehicles otherwise your policy won’t be valid. Your policy charges may also change with the purchase of a new car. A more powerful vehicle might be deemed more of an insurance risk, for example.
You also should let your insurer know if you change address, if you modify your car in any way, such as the installation of alloy wheels, if you incur penalty points, if your car is parked somewhere new, if you start using the car for business, if you install a new security system and even if you change jobs. Failing to do any of these could render insurance invalid, which, in turn, will make getting insurance in the future that much more difficult.
Insurance policies tend to renew automatically every year, and you’ll receive an email and or a letter from your insurer telling you the renewal date is imminent. Many drivers simply roll over their existing policy, but it’s worthwhile not letting inertia make the renewal decision for you. Shopping around for a new insurer is straightforward these days, and the savings you can make are often pretty eye-catching. So, a month or so before your policy is due to renew, go online or make a few phone calls.
One survey suggests that drivers can save between 5% and 50% just by going to other insurers. Even if you don’t change providers, your existing insurer can be often persuaded to come up with a better price if you tell them you have found a lower cost policy with another insurer. It’s a competitive business.
What you pay is a function of a number of different factors: your age, the type and age of car you drive, who drives it (if it isn’t the registered owner, costs can go up), whether you use if for business or not, whether it is parked on the street or in a garage, the neighbourhood where it is parked and, most importantly, what type of insurance you opt for.
Types of cover
There are three types: fully comprehensive, third party fire and theft and third party. Fully comprehensive will cover both damage to your vehicle and to that of another driver, irrespective of responsibility, but expect your policy costs to go up if you make a claim. According to www.aspokesmansaid.com, the average yearly cost of a comprehensive policy is £462.
Third party insurance covers only damage to another vehicle, or injury to another driver and your passengers. This is the minimum legally valid insurance. Third party fire and theft will only cover damage to your own vehicle in the case of fire or theft. Interestingly, fully comprehensive cover isn’t always the most expensive. It can on occasion be cheaper.
But third party insurance might be the best option for you if you are deemed a high risk and can’t get fully comprehensive cover, or you might live an area that is considered a high risk for crime. Moreover, your car might be old and not very valuable, in which case third party cover might turn out to be more cost effective. According to a survey by MoneySuperMarket, the average annual cost of third party insurance is a little more than £2,000.
If you take out fully comprehensive cover, it’s worth checking whether you’re covered for items like a sat-nav or stereo, or any personal items in the car that might be stolen. You should also check if you’re covered for windscreen damage, loss of car keys, vehicle recovery and if a courtesy car is provided if yours is damaged.
Finally, it has been noted by some drivers that occasionally new policies are not updated on the MID database for a week or more. They should be updated within 24 hours, but, alas, that doesn’t always happen. This could lead to some awkward interviews if you’re stopped by the police during this period so it’s not a bad idea to print off your new certificate of insurance and carry it around in the car for a week or so. As with everything else to do with motor insurance, it really is better to be safe than sorry.