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What optional Car Insurance extras are available?

Here is advice on whether four of the most common extras offered on car insurance policies are good value.

Insurance companies always look for an excuse to charge you more. The most common way is to separate out features from the main policy and sell then separately for more money. So first look for policies with the best coverage. Then look at the add-ons and how much they cost. Do the sums. If the extras are good value, buy. These are the most common to think about.

Breakdown cover

Of course, there's the general cover offered by the AA, RAC, etc., but the option to add cover to your car policy can be attractive to cover the costs of towing to your usual garage in the event of a breakdown, the cost of spares even for fair wear and tear, home start, and so on. Check the wording to see whether it covers you if you drive abroad. Under most policies, it's the car not the driver who's insured so, if you lend your car to someone else and it breaks down, you can get it back. And, of course, you may want to consider the option of hiring a car while yours is off the road for repair following a claim. Most car insurance companies exclude windscreen damage from "repairs". You're expected to wait the hour or so most specialists take to replace it. In some policies, you can hire a replacement when your own car is stolen. But before you buy, compare what the insurance company offers against the AA, RAC, etc. and pick the best value.

Pay-as-you-go

This can sound quite attractive - to pay on a monthly basis. There can also be other factors to put in play given the personal profile of who you are, what you drive, and at what time and where you drive. So let's start with the credit terms. Ah ha! Yes, you're potentially going to be paying interest on an annual premium payable by monthly instalments. Be very careful to check out exactly how the monthly premium is calculated and how much more you will pay for the privilege of monthly rather than annual payments.

Then you can get personalised cover if you're prepared to live with the technology and potential invasion of your privacy. A GPS system is installed in your car and transmits real-time data via satellite to your insurer. So, as a young driver, you might be charged a few pence per mile during the day when the chances of an accident are low, and £1 a mile after 10:00 pm when the risk of an accident are high. This avoids the unfairness of general policies where safe drivers subsidise the premiums of the unsafe. Needless to say, this spy-in-the-car is not a popular idea among the young and, for everyone else, it's not clear whether it does work out cheaper than a conventional policy.

» read more about Pay-as-you-drive Insurance

No claims discount protection

Under normal circumstances, you will be given a no claims discount or bonus for up to five years. In addition to this saving, many companies also give you some protection so that, if you have a claim, you don't immediately drop down to zero on renewal. Depending on the policy, you may not drop at all, or drop one or two years only. Thus, don't agree to pay for additional protection until you read the terms of the policy and see what's included. Also remember that this is a discount so your premium could go up on renewal if you have a claim, i.e. the fact of the claim affects the risk calculation and increases the premium before the discount is applied. You make a saving but perhaps not as much as you were expecting.

Legal protection

This is a balancing of risks and benefits. If you're unlucky enough to be caught in an accident and it's not your fault, you have the right to claim all your uninsured losses from the driver at fault. So that includes damages for the pain and suffering from your injuries, loss of earnings, damage to your personal property, any vehicle repair costs not covered by your policy and your uninsured excess. A competent solicitor is going to charge you around £100 an hour unless you can find someone to take on the case on a contingency fee (or you qualify for Legal Aid). This insurance pays an average £100,000 against your legal costs of recovery. But if you do qualify for Legal Aid and drive an old car on Third Party, this is not for you.