Car insurance – what does a good policy look like?

Car insurance policies have a host of features – some important, and others less so. Use these simple tables to check what features are a ‘must have’, a ‘should have’ or a ‘could have’ to make sure you buy the right policy for you.

‘Must have’ features

‘Must have’ features A good policy will give
Windscreen cover – means your windscreen will be repaired or replaced following a loss or damage claim. Up to the market value

Be aware that windows and sunroofs may not be included.

And if you use a non-approved repairer your insurance company may limit the amount they will pay in the event of a claim.
Personal belongings – covers loss or damage of your personal belongings following an accident, fire or theft whilst they are in your car. For example, bags, CDs, etc. £200 or more

Note that, typically, money, credit or debit cards, stamps and tickets are not included.

Theft of items carried in an open or convertible car are not covered, unless they are kept in a locked boot.
Loss or theft of keys – if the keys to your car, ignition, alarm, immobiliser, steering lock or garage door opener are lost or stolen the insurer will pay towards the cost of replacing the keys and the associated locks. £300 or more
Note that if the keys, lock transmitter or entry card are either left in or on the car at the time of the loss, or taken without your permission by a member of your immediate family or a person living in your home then you won’t be covered.
Protected no claims discount – protects your no claims discount and ensures that you do not lose it following a claim. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard allowing up to two claims in a three-year period
There are limits to the number of claims you are allowed to make within a certain period of time – you need to check what your insurance company allows.
Car rescue cover – if you have an accident which immobilises your car, the insurance company will cover the cost of removing the vehicle from the scene of the accident. The reasonable costs of moving the vehicle from the scene of the accident to the nearest repairer.
Courtesy car – if you are involved in an accident and your vehicle needs to be repaired, then you will be provided with an alternative car to keep you mobile whilst you are without yours. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard

This can be limited to a certain number of days (for example 14-28 days).

Often you only get the courtesy car when your car is actually being repaired in the garage.
Repairs guaranteed – the insurer will guarantee any repair work carried out by their approved repairers. 12-month guarantee
Repairs carried out by someone you choose to do the work won’t be covered.

‘Should have’ features

‘Should have’ features A good policy will give
New car replacement – if your car is stolen and not recovered or damaged following an accident, fire or theft (and the cost of repair is above a certain percentage of the manufacturer’s recommended retail price) your insurer may replace your car with a brand new car of the same make and specification. 60% of list price and within 12 months from new

Note that you won’t be covered if you’re not the first registered owner of the vehicle or a replacement car isn’t available in the UK.

The car will have to be under a certain age – usually 12-24 months.
Stereo and satellite navigation – cover is provided for loss or damage to your stereo and/or satellite navigation equipment. Up to market value (for manufacturer equipment)
Note that non-manufacturer equipment (bought separately to the car) may not be covered or covered for a different amount.
Accident transport – if you are involved in an accident which immobilises your car, your insurance company will arrange for you and your passengers to be transported from the scene of the accident. Cover as standard for up to seven passengers.
Some insurers limit the number of passengers that will be transported.
Hotel expenses – following an accident where you cannot continue your journey or get home, the insurance company will pay for the cost of a hotel for you and your passengers. £250 or more
Any costs over the limit set per person.
24-hour helpline – provides a 24-hour helpline that you can call in the event of an emergency. Emergency helpline provided as standard
Total loss courtesy car – if your car is stolen or is damaged beyond economical repair then the insurer will provide you with a courtesy car while your claim is being settled. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
The car will only be provided for a limited time (ranges from 2–28 days).
Legal expenses – legal help to recover your ‘uninsured losses’ following an accident that was not your fault. For example, claims for personal injuries, car hire or out of pocket expenses you could incur as a result of the accident. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
You won’t be covered for legal costs that your insurance company haven’t agreed in advance.
Breakdown cover – provides assistance if your car breaks down and it needs repairing or taking to a garage. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard

Make sure you don’t double up if you have separate breakdown cover.

Costs for replacement parts aren’t covered.

‘Could have’ features

‘Could have’ features A good policy will give
Driving abroad (‘foreign use’) – provides the same level of cover you have (ie comprehensive, third party fire and theft, or third party) when you to drive your car abroad. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
Countries not listed within the policy won’t be covered. Separate cover may be available, but you have to contact your insurer for confirmation.
Child car seat – following an accident, fire or theft your child car seat will be replaced. Replaced regardless of whether damaged in the accident or not
Some policies will only replace the car seat if there is visible damage or replace the seat up to a certain monetary amount.
Enhanced courtesy car – following an accident, typically insurers will provide a small courtesy car. This cover will give the option to enhance the type of courtesy car to a larger or a vehicle of equivalent size to your own vehicle. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard.
On some policies, use of the car will be limited to a certain number of days (14-28 days).

Things to watch out for

Things to watch out for A good policy will give
Accidental damage excess – an amount of money you must pay in the event of a claim for accidental damage. £100 or less
Windscreen replacement excess – an amount of money you must pay in the event of a claim to replace your windscreen. Insurers often let you choose how much to pay towards claims, in return for a lower premium. If you choose a higher excess you will have to pay more for every claim.

Further information

The tables above set out what to look for, but if you want to know about the right level of cover, or getting the best deal, follow the links below: