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What car insurance policies are available?

Here's a quick check on the three main kinds of car insurance policy and what to look out for.

Well, our Lords and Masters made their decision a long time ago. You can't drive your car on the public roads unless you carry some insurance. They even made it a crime to add to all the others you can commit when out in traffic. So, unless you have close family sitting on the local bench as a Magistrate, you save money in fines if you have the minimum cover. And watch out! Powers to take your uninsured vehicle to the crusher are in the offing.


Third Party (minimum required)

In the Road Traffic Act 1988, Parliament decided there should always be enough car insurance in place to pay compensation to anyone who is injured or loses property because of the way you drive. For these purposes, the passengers in your car are considered third parties and can sue you as the driver (bet that makes you feel better). The trigger for a pay-out on the policy is whether you are at fault. It gives you deep pockets to meet all claims against you. But it does nothing else. There's no money for you to repair your own car or to cover any expenses you incur as a result of the accident. So who would go for this? Well, if you drive an old banger you will throw away if it gets damaged, the bare minimum is for you. But, if your car is at the better end of second-hand, you've got more to lose and might think of upgrading.

Third Party, Fire and Theft

This gives you the basic cover outlined above, but adds compensation to you if you lose some or all of the value of your own car through damage by fire or theft. So, if you own a car which has some capital tied up in it, it might be worth the extra few pounds in premium to protect it against two risks. Let's say you have the car in your garage when the house catches fire, or you have no garage and your car is stolen when you leave it parked on the road. Either way, the loss of your car will not hit your wallet quite as hard. However, if you bought the car using a loan, check out the terms. Most of the lenders require you to carry comprehensive cover so that, if your car is written off, there will be enough money to repay what you owe.

Comprehensive

As the name suggests, this protects you both against claims made by third parties and against some of the losses you suffer when your car is damaged in an accident. Because it has the widest cover, it's the most expensive. If you bought your car using a loan or you lease it, there's a strong possibility you are required to carry comprehensive cover no matter what the value. Check out the terms of your financing or other agreement before deciding on what policy to buy. Some of your own medical expenses may also be included as may damage to any personal property you have in the car (this may also be covered under your home insurance policy so remember not to make two claims). Make absolutely certain you know what cars you can drive and who can drive your car. Is the cover purely for social, domestic and pleasure purposes, or does it cover you for "business" purposes? Just as importantly, there can be big variations in the extent of the cover on windscreen, breakdown and legal expenses with some insurers separating these out as optional extras for you to pay for separately. Know what the policy covers before you buy!