Understanding car insurance
Frequently asked questions
If you're not sure if your car is already insured, you can check the Motor Insurance Database – the central record of all insured vehicles in the UK – for a £10 admin fee. If you have an accident, you can also use it to check if the other drivers involved are insured.
If you need the insurance company details, you can send a request form for the information. You may need to send some ID, and you'll also need to pay a fee.
If you're not sure who you're insured with, go to the Motor Insurance Database – the central record of all insured vehicles in the UK. From there, you can send a request form for the information. You may need to send some ID, and you'll also need to pay a fee.
By law, you need third party insurance as a minimum if you drive a car or other vehicle. That also applies if you own one and leave it parked on the street, on your drive or in your garage.
If you don’t have car insurance and the police check your details on the spot, they can seize your car there and then – even if you arrange cover at the roadside. You’ll need to show a Certificate of Insurance and pay to get your car back. If you don’t, the police can dispose of your car 14 days later.
If your car looks like it doesn’t have insurance, you’ll get a letter from the Motor Insurers' Bureau. They’ll ask you to insure it or make sure your insurance company has entered your details on the database correctly.
You should get in touch with them as soon as you can to tell them if you’re insured. If you’re not insured and you don’t get cover straightaway, you’ll get a Fixed Penalty Notice to pay. If you still don’t insure your car, it could be seized, clamped or destroyed. You might even be taken to court.
There are some situations when it's legal for your car to be uninsured. You don't need car insurance if:
- you have a valid Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)
- you’ve kept your car off a public road since before 1 February 1998
- your car has been scrapped, stolen or exported – and you’ve told the DVLA about it (if you haven’t, you could be fined £1,000)
- your car is between registered dealers or with an authorised dealer.
Third party is the minimum cover you must have by law. It means if you’re in an accident, where you were at fault, it will protect other people, and their cars and property.
It also covers your passengers if they get injured in your car, or if something they do when travelling with you causes an accident. But it doesn’t cover any injuries to you or damage to your car.
Third party, fire and theft car insurance is the same as third party, but also covers you if your car is stolen, or damaged by fire.
Car insurance comes in all shapes and sizes. We offer comprehensive and third party, fire and theft, and some optional extras for even more protection. Depending on what you choose, your insurance can cover your car, any damage you cause to other cars and property – as well as other things like medical expenses, personal belongings and legal expenses if you have to go to court.
When you've worked out what cover you need, you can either pay for it upfront or monthly. Then, if your car is damaged or stolen for example – and you've got the right cover – your insurer will pay for you to fix or replace the car or arrange the repair or replacement for you. It's always worth checking the terms and conditions of your policy so you know exactly what's covered.
Also called fully comprehensive car insurance, it’s the highest level of cover we offer. You’re covered for everything you would be under third party, fire and theft, but you’re also covered against accidental damage, the cost of repairing your own car following an accident – whether or not it was your fault – and some personal belongings.
Our comprehensive cover includes a courtesy car and windscreen cover as standard – plus some extra options you can add on.
Car insurance groups are the groups cars are put into to help insurers decide whether or not to insure them, and for how much.
The Association of British Insurers and others in the Group Rating Panel, decide on the groups with monthly information from the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre in Thatcham. That information includes:
- damage and part costs
- repair costs and times
- new car values
- car performance
- safety and security
- bumper compatibility
There are 50 groups. Cars in group 1 have the lowest price rating and cars in group 50 have the highest price rating. It's not the only thing insurers take into account, but it's worth knowing what group your car – or potential new car – is in before you insure it.
You can find out what group your car is in at thatcham.org.
Read our guide to car insurance groups.
An excess is what you pay towards your repairs when you make a claim. There are two types – compulsory and voluntary.
Everyone has to pay compulsory excess when they claim. How much depends on different factors, like your age and your car.
You can also choose to pay up to £500 voluntary excess on top of compulsory excess. This means you pay more when you claim, but pay less for your insurance upfront or per month.
Read our guide to car insurance excess
No – an excess is what you pay towards repairs to your car, and you only pay it if you make a claim. You don’t need to pay an excess if someone claims against you for repairs to their car.