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Do I need comprehensive car insurance?

A row of cars for saleWhen you shop for car insurance, there are three basic policy types. These are:

A comprehensive policy (or 'fully comprehensive', as it's often known) offers greater protection than the other two types.

What’s the minimum level of cover I need?

All drivers must by law have at least third-party insurance. This means that you’re insured against any claims made by drivers whose vehicles are damaged in an accident that was your fault. It also covers you for claims made by other road users.

But the problem with third-party cover is that you can’t make claims for damage to your own car – or injuries you or your passengers sustain – unless an accident can be shown to be someone else’s fault. This is why most drivers opt for comprehensive cover.

The advantage of comprehensive policies

With comprehensive car insurance, you can claim from your insurer for accidents that are your fault. Or indeed when fault can’t be proven – for example if you return to your parked car and find it’s been damaged by an unknown vehicle.

If you don’t have comprehensive cover, you run the risk of having to foot the bills for this kind of damage. Which could be painful if the car is expensive to repair, or if you've bought it on credit. You could even have to find the cash to replace your car altogether if it’s written off.

Comprehensive insurance gives you the peace of mind that, whatever happens on the road, your financial losses should be limited to the value of the excess on your policy.

Is comprehensive insurance more expensive?

Given the extra protection it provides, you’d expect a comprehensive policy to cost more than a TPO or TPFT policy for the same driver and the same car.

This is normally the case, but not always. When you’re comparing prices of insurance policies to find the one that’s best for you, it could be worth seeing whether comprehensive cover is as cheap as third-party, especially if you’ve been considering choosing a lower level of insurance to save money.

So why is comprehensive insurance occasionally cheaper?

It’s because a lot of high-risk drivers who are faced with very high insurance costs opt for third-party cover to save money.

As these drivers present a higher risk to insurers, the statistics - over time - show greater numbers of third-party claims. And this results in a rise in the cost of third-party policies. That’s why you should check comprehensive policy prices before going ahead and buying third-party cover.

Where comprehensive cover could fall short

Despite its name, a comprehensive insurance policy may fall short in some areas.

Certain policy extras – such as the availability of a courtesy car if your vehicle needs repairs – are included as standard by some insurers. But other firms may ask you to pay extra.

Never assume the availability of extras – always be sure to check the policy before you commit.

Courtesy car: Many policies will make a car available to you if your own needs to spend time at the garage. But not all do. Also, you’re unlikely to get a courtesy car if your own vehicle is stolen or written off.

Breakdown cover: Comprehensive policies are unlikely to include this as standard. You may be able to get cover from the same insurer by paying extra. But, as with regular insurance, it pays to shop around to get the cheapest possible price.

Other ways to save on your car insurance

Car insurance often isn’t cheap. But opting for a lower level of car insurance than comprehensive could be a false economy. Especially if you’re involved in an accident where the fault doesn’t lie with another insured party.

There are other ways you can save money on your cover. Read our guide on reducing the cost of car insurance. And check out this video on saving money on car insurance:

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