Car insurance classes of use explained

Social, SDP or fully comp? Car insurance policies come in a variety of flavours. Which one gives you the best blend of protection?

Elderly driver behind the wheel of their car

What are the different classes of use?

When you buy car insurance, being accurate with how you use it is important. Broadly speaking, there are six in total and these could affect the price you ultimately pay.

  • Social only
  • Social and commuting
  • Class 1, 2 and 3 business
  • Commercial

Choose the wrong one and your insurance company could refuse your claim if you’re under-insured. Or if your claims circumstances don’t fit what you say you use your car for.

Of course, you don’t want to break the bank, but you don’t want to be under-insured, either. So, it’s important to get it right.

Ask yourself, do you need cover just for visiting family and friends? Or do you drive to work and leave your vehicle in a public place, perhaps?

What if you only drive for work part-time? Or if the role’s temporary? There are a few variations to keep in mind.

Let’s dig into the detail so you’re not tripped up, and you pay for only what you need.

Don’t forget, the usual fully comprehensive and third party, fire and theft options are available in each insurance category.


Social only – also known as social, domestic and pleasure (SDP)

Social-only cover is more generous than it sounds. It’s also known as social, domestic and pleasure, or ‘SDP’. So don’t worry, you haven’t been short-changed!

Social use covers all non-work driving. This generally includes shopping, day trips and holidays plus visits to friends and family.

For many of us it’s all the cover we’ll ever need or want. If you think you might want to include the odd trip to the office, then you might want to consider social and commuting.


Social, domestic and pleasure including commuting (SDP+C)

This SDP+C car category offers additional cover for one single place of work. All the social cover you want to fit in away from work is also included.

If you drop someone off at a railway station en route to your job, this should be included in your cover.

If you drive to the train station and then hop on a train to work, you should also be covered here.

The ‘commuting’ bit here is important. By driving to a train station and dropping off your car in the car park, you’re leaving it in a public place.

This is compared with, say, locking it up outside your home.

While the above distinctions look slight, could be quite a big deal for insurers because their risk rises.

So, always give the full driving picture and keep the risk of invalidating your policy down.

If you’ve several different workplaces or drive long distances crisscrossing the country for work, this type of cover won’t be enough.


Business use

Many of us need to drive for work but working life arrangements on the road might vary a lot.

If your job means visiting clients across several sites – perhaps in a healthcare worker role – you might need to consider business use cover.

Your job might also mean you need to drive colleagues or clients around from time to time. So, there’s a few different business car insurance cover options to cover all eventualities.

Lots of us have ‘portfolio’ or part-time jobs these days and the driving demands around them could vary.

If you drive your car for work, you might be able to offset some of the running costs by claiming a mileage allowance.

So, keep a record of these costs, just in case HMRC need to check – even if you’re not self-employed.

If you do use your car for your job, check with your employer about their obligations.

Any car used for company work must be fully insured, as well as insured in the right class, whoever owns the vehicle. Or whatever way it’s used.


Class 1 business car insurance

This is the most popular business car protection as it covers a range of basics. You’re also covered for social, domestic and pleasure as well as driving to and from work.

Usefully, it means you’re covered for short business trips between different sites.

So, if youre a freelance musician doing a few monthly gigs, for example, this cover might be right for you.

Some business car insurance policies might also cover your spouse. But it’s worth checking to make sure beforehand.

If you’ve any named drivers on the policy, they might not be covered for their business-related use.

This type of cover doesn’t usually include door-to-door sales work or deliveries where lots of stop-start driving is common. 


Class 2 business car insurance

For extra business driving protection, class 2 includes named drivers on your policy. This means that adding a co-worker, for example, is straightforward to do.

You’ve also got all the benefits of Class 1 included. Named drivers must use the vehicle for the same business as the policy holder.


Class 3 business car insurance

If youre on the road a lot as part of your job, class 3 business car cover is worth considering.

This cover might be right for sales professionals, typically, driving long distances with very specific or established destinations.

Most of these policies include modest amounts of light goods transportation cover too – product samples can be a big part of the sales role, after all.

Class 3 might be right for those who visit multiple clients a day, such as community healthcare workers.

Or perhaps building inspectors and architects driving across large chunks of the country for site visits.

But class 3 business use won’t be suitable for minicab drivers, delivery drivers or driving instructors.

These driving professions need commercial insurance, which sits in a specialist category.

If you’re driving patients or their relatives in a work role, you might need commercial insurance too. This category includes part-time commercial driving too.


Commercial travelling

Quite a lot of commercial travelling policies cover areas that might overlap with business use insurance.

So, it’s especially important to check the small print with commercial travelling car insurance.

Some insurance providers define it in a different way, which could confuse things.

Commercial travelling cover could be right for you if you’re on the road most of the day carrying people and goods.

There’s usually a great deal of stop-and-start driving involved. This cover generally includes driving instructors or taxicab drivers.

If you’re transporting goods, insurance companies often label this as courier insurance, which often involves light vans.


What happens if I drive without the proper class of use on my policy?

While it’s illegal to drive without car insurance it’s also illegal to have the wrong type of cover.

If you start to use your car for work purposed, make sure you contact your insurance provider and let them know, making changes to the policy if you need to.

It also works the other way. If you’re working from home more, then your risk might be less. This could help lower your insurance costs.

While it might seem picky, it stands to reason that accidents involving business use tend to be more expensive compared with social use only.

More miles and more time on the road simply mean a higher chance of accident – and more risk.

So as a broad principle, if you’re earning your living from your vehicle, you’ll need some kind of business use cover.


Choosing the right cover

If you deliberately choose the wrong class of use to lower your costs, then your policy might be invalid. That could be an expensive accident if your insurance company turns down your claim.

Greater sharing of information between insurers as well as the police is helping make this less common.

Admittedly, many insurance policies appear long and complicated with a lot of legalese included.

But most car insurance companies are much better at making their T&Cs more understandable and straightforward than they used to.

Clarifying exactly what we’re covered for up-front helps us feel confident we’ve got the right cover for our circumstances.

If you think your existing policy has your car in the wrong category, let them know immediately. Honesty’s always the best policy.

And if you do want to save money, is anything stopping you from comparing car insurance policies? Or taking a close look at some of the ‘extras’ you might not really need.

Compare car insurance quotes


How can I lower the cost of my car insurance?

Start by making sure you’re in the right class use to start with, and then take a hard look at any extras.

Here are eight ideas that could slash your costs further:

1. Do you really need that policy with a load of add-ons including breakdown and legal cover?

A more basic package where you pay separately for your car insurance extras could work out cheaper.

2. Can you lower your annual mileage limit, say from 12,000 miles a year to 10,000 miles?

Perhaps even lower. Lots of us are working more from home these days. Remember to be accurate with your mileage, though.

3. If you’re a young driver, are you still using a black box policy?

Some telematics policies could end up being pricier once all the fees and charges are added. Standard insurance could be cheaper for some after a while. Why not check and compare?

4. Could you pay your insurance premium up-front in full, rather than in monthly lumps?

If you pay monthly or quarterly, you generally pay more overall. If you’ve got some savings tucked away, why not pay it off?

5. Have you added any modifications? 

Insurers are sniffy about modified cars. Even go-faster stripes can ramp up your premium. So, try and rein in your inner racer.

6. Try renewing your insurance around three weeks before your policy runs out.

If you renew the day before you could pay more because your insurance provider has loaded the premium for your lack of planning. Ouch.

7. Keep your car parked in a well-lit, secure area off the road.

The better your car security is, the harder your car is to steal, and so the lower your costs could be.

8. Check your job title.

Some insurance providers have higher costs for certain occupations, which is reasonable enough. It’s not all about where you live or the car you drive.

But if you’ve a job an insurer considers ‘high risk’, there might be an alternative title that more accurately reflect your role.

For more information, check our our guide on how to lower the cost of your car insurance.