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Coasting down the road with the wind in your hair and your favourite tunes blaring – nothing beats the feeling of freedom that comes with driving. But before you hit the accelerator, you need to make sure you have the right car insurance in place. The sad truth is, accidents happen and you don’t want to end up in a sticky situation. 

And that’s why we’re here. In our detailed guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about choosing the right car insurance. We’ll cover the nitty-gritty details like what a car insurance excess is and how it works. We’ll also dive into the crucial factors that impact your car insurance premium and how you can score a lower rate. 

Also, if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to a particular annual car insurance policy, we’re here for you too. With our temporary car insurance, you can take out comprehensive cover that lasts as long as you need it. It’ll give you the time you need to shop around for the right policy.

So, whether you’re a new driver on the road or looking to upgrade your current policy, we’ve got all the info you need. And if you’re strapped for time, we’ve got a handy table of contents to help you find the answer you need quickly. 

Person in orange with blue car and trees and sun in the background.

Why do you need car insurance?

You’ll always need some form of basic car insurance policy to drive your car. For starters, it’s the law. As in, it’s not optional. You can’t decide you don’t want car insurance. If you’re caught without car insurance, expect to face some pretty serious consequences. 

There are very few circumstances where you don’t need car insurance.  But, other than those specific exceptions,  you need to get insured. And if you don’t? You could receive a fine on the spot, and also six penalty points on your licence. Trust us, penalty points are no joke.

And if the case goes to court, the consequences get worse. You could be disqualified from driving altogether and you could get an unlimited fine too. Is it really worth it? We’re going with no on this one.

Most people agree.

That’s why 9 in 10 drivers choose comprehensive car insurance over a third-party only policy. See, a third party policy is the bare minimum you need to be allowed to drive legally. But the vast majority of drivers in the UK opt for the full works because they understand the importance of car insurance beyond the legal requirement. 

But what is the difference between a comprehensive policy and a third party only policy? Well, read on to find out. 

What are the different levels of car insurance cover? 

Picking the right type of car insurance is important. To help you choose the policy that suits your needs, we’ve broken down the different levels of car insurance cover you can get. Find out the difference between comprehensive car insurance, third party fire and theft, and third party only below.

Comprehensive car insurance 

First up, we have the creme de la creme of car insurance: comprehensive car insurance. It offers the most cover and protection for your car, as well as other people’s cars. In case of an accident, comprehensive car insurance means you could claim for damage to your own car as well as other parties. 

Third party fire and theft 

Third party fire and theft does what it says on the tin. It gives you insurance that covers third party damages, fire and theft. So if you hit another car, this type of insurance may cover the third party damage but not your own car. Also, it provides cover in case of theft or fire. 

Third party only 

We’re sure you know where we’re going with this by now. Third party car insurance basically only covers damages caused to the third party. It won’t provide any cover for your own car at all. It’s also the bare minimum you need to drive in the UK. 

Lots of people assume third party insurance will work out the cheapest because it’s the most basic. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, comprehensive car insurance works out cheaper. We know, make it make sense, right?

The point is, if you’re getting quotes for third party only policies in an attempt to save on your car insurance, stop. Look at all your options. You might be surprised at the car insurance deals available to you and within your budget. 

What is a car insurance excess and how does it work? 

If you make a claim, you’ll have to pay a car insurance excess. So for instance, if your excess is £400, but your claim costs £2,000, you’ll pay the first £400 and your insurer will cover the remaining amount, i.e. £1,600 in this example. 

We all have a compulsory excess. This is non-negotiable and set by your insurer when you take out your car insurance policy. All sorts of factors go into working this compulsory excess, but it may be based on your age, your car, and even the type of claim you may need to make. 

Then, there’s also an additional excess called the voluntary excess. As the name implies, this is optional. You can choose to pay a specific amount on top of your compulsory excess if you wish. You set this amount when you set your policy and you can’t change it after. No take backs, basically. 

If and when you need to claim, the total excess you’ll owe will be the compulsory excess and the voluntary excess combined. 

The voluntary excess: why pay more? 

So why volunteer to pay more? People usually do it to lower their car insurance premium. A higher overall excess can result in lower premiums. But don’t go setting your excess insanely high just so you can get your car insurance premium as low as possible.

You need to remember that you’ll need to actually be able to afford the excess in the event of a claim before your insurer pays out the rest. So there’s a balance to be had is what we’re saying. If you want to find out more about this particular topic, check out our car insurance excess guide here

All sorts of factors go into working out your exact car insurance premium. We’ll explore some of them in the next section. 

Man with blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

What factors affect your car insurance premium?

Here are just some of the factors that may affect your car insurance premium. As you can see, it’s a complicated calculation based on lots of different aspects. 

Your age

Generally speaking, the younger you are the higher your car insurance premium tends to be. That’s because you tend to be less experienced than an older driver which will partially affect your premium.

Your car

The type of car you drive can also affect your premiums. Luxury and higher performance cars tend to be more expensive than smaller, less powerful vehicles. There’s a higher risk associated with insuring them for various reasons, not least because repairs can be a lot pricier, and the theft risk is different.

Your car insurance group

Following on from our point above, your car is generally assigned a car insurance group ranging from 1 to 50. A low car insurance group typically means a lower premium. Although the lowest car insurance groups sometimes attract a higher premium because they tend to be bought by younger drivers. Like we said, you can’t rely on one single factor to work out what your premium is likely to be. Our guide on car insurance groups explains this in more detail. 

Your address

Where you live can also have an impact. Living in a quiet, residential area with low crime? You might be afforded cheaper car insurance than if you lived in the city centre where you’re likely to experience heavier traffic and more crime. 

Your job title 

Your job title can play a role in determining your car insurance premium. You might think it makes sense that a salesperson who travels a lot for work might pay more than a virtual assistant working from home, but it’s not always that straightforward. Find out exactly why your job title affects your car insurance premium here

Your annual mileage

If you’re clocking up a lot of miles every year, bear in mind it may have an impact on your premium. Typically, driving less means a lower premium, and you might even be classed as a low mileage driver. Driving more means a higher premium – but lying about your true mileage to save a quid or two can have a really poor outcome.

Your driving history

You guessed it: the better your driving record is, the lower your car insurance premiums will be. If you’ve had any convictions or points on your licence, this may affect your premiums and overall insurance options too. Not all insurers will want to insure someone with points on their licence.

How to get a lower car insurance premium 

When it comes to your car insurance premium, there are steps you can take to lower those quotes. Some aspects are within your control and could result in a lower overall cost. 

Consider a black box policy 

In some cases, insurers will offer black box policies which are designed to monitor your driving. If you opt for a black box policy, this may bring your premium down. And if you drive safely, you may be able to get further discounts down the line. 

Pay it all in one go

If you’re able to afford it, pay off your car insurance in one go. If you need to pay it off in instalments, you’re effectively taking out finance to pay your premium which will result in additional interest costs. 

Go bigger on your excess 

As we mentioned earlier, one way of reducing your insurance premiums is to increase the overall excess (the compulsory plus voluntary). Just bear in mind that this would mean having extra money saved in case of an emergency if something were to happen and you needed to claim against your policy

Don’t mod your car  

If you’ve got a car that’s been modified in some way, it can increase your premium. So even if your car looks super fancy and glossy with all of its modifications, remember that it might not be the best idea when it comes to keeping your insurance premiums down. 

Think about whether to claim

When you do need to make a claim, it’s worth considering whether or not it will be better to pay out of your own pocket. If the cost of repair is only slightly more than your excess amount and you’re able to afford it, go for the self-pay option and avoid making a claim against your policy. This can help keep your insurance costs down in the long run. 

But please bear in mind that you will still need to notify your insurer that you’ve been in an accident even if you don’t intend to claim. Not doing so could be against your policy’s terms and conditions. 

Build your No Claim Discount 

Another way to reduce your car insurance premiums is by building up your No Claim Discount (NCD). If you go a few years without making any claims, you’ll be rewarded with cheaper policies in the future. We go into more detail about building your NCD in our next section. 

Make sure to check out our article on saving money on your car insurance if you’re interested in even more ways to lower your premium. 

How do you build a No Claim Discount (NCD) with your car insurance  

The simple answer is that you build your No Claim Discount by not making any fault or partial fault claims on your policy. The more years you go without making a fault claim, the bigger the discount. Some insurers will cap your discounts after five years, and others have higher limits. 

The key thing to understand here is that your NCD will typically only be affected if you make a fault claim. That’s when the full amount can’t be reclaimed from the third party. This could include cases where you’ve hit someone else’s car, or even fire and theft. 

While having your car stolen isn’t usually your “fault”, because your insurer can’t claim damages from the third party (the thief), this may be considered a fault claim. It’ll still likely be paid out, but your NCD may be affected, i.e. it may be reduced or wiped out completely. 

There are ways to “protect” your NCD in the event of a fault claim though. If you want to find out more about building and protecting your NCD, check out our No Claim Discount article here. 

Blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

How to choose the right add-ons for your car insurance policy  

Choosing the right add-ons for your car insurance policy is key.  Whether it’s breakdown cover or excess protect, having the right ones can save you from costly bills in the event of an emergency.

Breakdown Cover 

Breakdown cover is an add-on to your car insurance policy that can get you affordable access to assistance if your car breaks down. Depending on which provider and policy you go with, the cover can include roadside repairs, or even assistance if your car doesn’t start at home. It’s definitely worth looking into as it can sometimes be included in your car insurance policy at a discounted rate.

At Zixty, our breakdown cover can be added on to your policy and accessed in-app. This is especially helpful if you’re stuck on the side of the motorway and aren’t really sure where exactly you are. Through the app, you can send breakdown services to your exact location and not worry about having to provide directions in a stressful situation. 

Excess Protect

Another additional cover that you might want to consider is excess protection. This type of cover will help with the cost of your excess in the event that you need to make a claim. For instance, with Zixty’s excess protect, you can claim back £250 of your Excess after you make a claim. 

When shopping around for these add-ons, it’s important to compare the different providers and policies available. This way, you can make sure that you’re getting the best deal with the cover that fits your needs. 

How to check your policy covers your car insurance needs

Now that you understand the different components of a car insurance policy; as well as the many options you have, it’s time to find the perfect policy. 

You’ve probably been told it’s key to shop around and take your time when picking a policy that suits your needs. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. For instance, if you’ve just bought a brand new car and need to collect it, but don’t have insurance. 

It can be so tempting to do a quick search on a comparison site and buy the cheapest policy. But that might come with lots of headaches down the road when you realise that a) the cheapest policy might not offer everything you want in a cover and b) you could have had a better deal if you dug around on other comparison websites or even called up a few insurers that don’t feature on those sites. 

So what do you do? You get temporary car insurance, that’s what! With Zixty, you can be on the road in five minutes flat. Plus, our policies last anywhere between an hour and a few weeks, so you don’t even have to worry about paying for cover you don’t need. You’re sorted! 

The ultimate car insurance policy checklist: read it before you commit! 

Okay, now that you have all the time in the world to make sure your policy is right for you, what is it that you should actually look at? Don’t worry! We gotchu.

  • What level of cover are you getting? Is it comprehensive, third party fire and theft, or third party only? 
  • What’s the total excess you’ll be paying in the event of a fault claim? Can you afford it comfortably? 
  • Does the policy include features like the “driving other people’s cars (DOC) extension? If not, are you okay with that? 
  • If the policy includes the DOC extension, what limitations are there? Are you comfortable with them? 
  • Can you use the policy to drive your car abroad? What level of cover can you expect if you do so? 
  • Are you buying breakdown cover, excess protection, or other add-ons through the same provider? Have you checked they’re offering the best deal? 

Ask yourself (and the insurer) the above questions before you sign on the dotted line, and you’re a lot more likely to get a policy that covers your needs.

Choosing the right car insurance: An overview 

The world of car insurance comes with a plethora of options and confusing fine print. It’s easy to start questioning whether your cover ticks all the necessary boxes. But, with this guide, you can finally take the wheel and pick the right car insurance policy. 

Remember, a well-rounded policy ensures a smooth (and safe) ride. And if you ever need extra time to think, there’s always temporary car insurance