The additional features of car insurance policies vary greatly between different insurers and the different types of policy. Always check the small-print if you want a particular feature.
This page explains some of the main features of car insurance policies that you will find mentioned.
When shopping for insurance, use our Compare-a-Quote form to ensure you have full info about these features and their costs for each policy you look at. Looking closely at the small print will ensure you don't get hit with large extra costs later, making that low premium look not so attractive after all.
It's easy to assume that this is a standard feature of car insurance. However, few insurers now include this facility in their policies free of charge. Even many well-known insurance companies will try to hit you with a one-off fee of £15 - £30 for a courtesy car should you need one.
Some will even offer a 'guaranteed' courtesy car for a small extra cost when you buy the policy. But this can be a bad deal. Approved repairers actually provide the courtesy cars. If the repairer your insurer recommends does not have a courtesy car available when you need one, you do not have to use that repairer. You can choose another repairer that will provide one.
However, your insurer may require you to pay a larger compulsory excess if you don't use the repairer they recommend. If so, balance this potential extra cost of switching repairers in order to get a courtesy car, against the cost of 'guaranteeing' one.
This used to be a standard feature in policies but is increasingly being withdrawn. So do not assume you are covered - check your policy includes this cover if you may occasionally need to drive other cars.
If the equipment is not standard to the car, then the amount you can claim is likely to be limited. The maximum you can claim varies between insurers, normally between £100 & £400, leaving little benefit after a 'theft' excess is applied. So in many cases this feature is likely to make little contribution towards replacing stolen equipment.
However the good news is that due to the increasing amount of audio/visual equipment being fitted to cars, a few enlightened insurance companies are now increasing their maximum payouts to nearer the £1,000 mark. Check the small print to ensure the company you choose is one of them.
However, an excess of at least £50 will normally apply to such claims. Some will expect you to pay as much as £75 towards the claim - a few even more - reducing the benefit of this feature considerably. Though you will likely be let off the excess if only the glass needs to be repaired.
Claims for only windows won't normally affect your no claims discount, but check with your insurer. You will have to declare any claims you have made if you renew your insurance with other companies however.
These could include costs not covered by your policy, like excesses you have had to pay, travel expenses, hire or courtesy car charges, or the costs of additional treatment you may need for an injury.
A few insurers include this feature free, but most will charge extra - normally between £10 and £30. This is one feature worth paying for, but not too much.
Be warned, however, that insurers will generally only provide access to their legal assistance service if there is deemed to be a 'reasonable chance of success' of your legal claim. If not, you will have to pursue the claim at your own expense.
But the best company for your insurance may not be the cheapest for breakdown cover - it may make more sense to buy breakdown cover separately.
Add the amount an insurer will charge for a breakdown service to the cost of the insurance policy, and compare the total with other insurers to make sure you're getting the best all-round deal.
Check what this fee will be, or the total you will pay if you opt for installments, and compare policies on the total price you will end up paying for the year.
Some insurance companies charge such high interest rates for paying monthly that it may even be worth paying the premium in one go on a credit card - especially one with a zero interest rate deal. Ask the insurer what their APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is for paying monthly, and compare that with your credit card.
The length of time insurers allow without asking you to pay extra charges can vary from just 3 days to the whole year round. The standard period is 30-60 days.
Protection will only extend to the basic cover required in the country you're driving in - normally equivalent to Third Party only.
So if you want Comprehensive cover while driving abroad, or cover for longer than the inclusive free period, expect to pay extra.
If you're likely to want to take your car abroad in the coming year, it may make more sense to choose a slightly more expensive insurance policy if a facility for driving a reasonable number of days in Europe is included free - saving you an additional fee later on.
However, be warned that the combination of an excess on such claims, and very often an extremely low maximum claim limit, makes cover for the theft of your belongings from your car very poor indeed - from almost all insurers.
The insurers' excuse is that we should all know better than to leave valuable items on display in an unattended car - effectively, we only have ourselves to blame.
However, everyone makes mistakes and the worst can sometimes happen. If it does, you will likely find yourself in the galling position of having paid a great deal for car insurance and having no useful cover for stolen items.
This can normally only be claimed for serious injuries like the loss of a limb, or of sight, or any injury that results in death within a specified time period of the accident.
But as car sharing schemes become increasingly popular, policies increasingly permit accepting payments for carrying passengers if as part of a car sharing agreement. The payments you take must not include any profit however.
Offering to pay more of the cost of fixing your car, should that ever be required, reduces your insurer's risk and so lowers the cost of your insurance.
But remember, the extra amount you volunteer will be in addition to the compulsory excess of the policy, which will normally be between £60 - £250. The minimum extra you can offer is normally £50 or £100 and increases in various amounts up to around £500.
You can take your bonus between insurance companies if you switch when you renew by just providing your previous insurance certificate or renewal document to prove that you are entitled to it.
But remember, this discount really is as it says - for no claims. It's not fault-related. If you have to claim, even for something that was not your fault, you will very likely still lose your discount.
Sometimes small claims in specified areas, like claims for broken windows/windscreen, will not affect your discount. But this varies between insurers - check the small-print of the policy.
For drivers with good records, insurers will offer the option to have a protected no claims discount, for a small extra cost. The deal varies between insurers but normally means you can claim a certain number of times within a set period and still keep your discount. A few even off a guaranteed no claims discount, for a further extra fee. This means they will maintain your discount no matter how many claims you make.
However, if you change insurer when you come to renew, you will be expected to declare any claims you have made, even if they have not affected your discount with your existing insurer.
Insurers are catching on to experienced drivers 'fronting' a policy for a younger driver's car, in order to save money. In the event of a claim, they will take an interest in who the 'main user' of a car is.
However, a useful effect to note is that adding an experienced driver to a younger driver's policy will often reduce the premium.
Our unique Compare-a-Quote form is designed to help you factor in all the features you would like from your car insurance policy and compare the total cost - not just the headline quote.
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