Courtesy car policies explained

We all rely on our cars. Whether it’s for work, the weekly supermarket trip, or the dreaded school run, life can grind to a halt without them.

So, how would you cope if your vehicle needed repairs after an accident?

Being without a car for any length of time could be inconvenient – but a courtesy car could help keep you on the road while your own is in the garage.

Person opening the courtesy car door

What is a courtesy car?

A courtesy car is a temporary vehicle provided to you by a repair garage or your car insurance company while your own is being repaired.

Generally, they tend to be small and cheap to run – usually a 1-litre, three-door hatchback. They often have the name of the garage plastered down the side.

It probably won’t be an exact, like-for-like replacement of your own car, unless that’s explicitly stated in your policy.

So, just because your people carrier or petrol-guzzling Ford Mustang is being repaired, don’t expect to drive away in something similar.

The priority is keeping you on the road, so keep your expectations low.

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How do I get a courtesy car?

If you’re involved in an accident and the other driver was at fault, you could claim for a courtesy car on their car insurance. If you were at fault, then it might depend on your policy.

While many comprehensive car insurance policies offer a courtesy car as standard, that’s not always the case. If you have third-party, fire and theft car insurance, it’s less likely to be provided.

But it might be possible to pay extra and get it added to the policy. As always, check the terms and conditions carefully to ensure you understand what’s being offered.

Also, to get your courtesy car, some insurers might insist you take your own car to one of their approved garages for repairs.


What are the courtesy car rules?

Courtesy car rules depend on the terms of your policy. For example, some could enable you to have a car for as long as your vehicle is in the garage.

Others might stipulate how many days or weeks you can have it – even if your car is likely to be out of action for considerably longer.


How does courtesy car insurance work?

You need to be insured to drive a courtesy car and it’s important not to assume that you’ll have cover automatically. You might need to pay an additional cost to the car provider or have it added to your existing policy for an extra payment.

Even courtesy car insurance is provided it might not offer the same level as your own policy. For example, even if you have comprehensive cover on your standard policy you might only get third-party cover for your courtesy car.

Make sure you understand your cover before you get behind the wheel of your courtesy car.


Are there any exclusions to getting a courtesy car?

Even if you have comprehensive car insurance there might be times when you might not be able to get a courtesy car. These include:

  • If your vehicle only has windscreen or glass damage and you’re claiming on your windscreen cover.

  • If your own has been written off or if your vehicle is stolen.

  • If the garage has no courtesy cars available. This is usually in the policy terms as a ‘subject to availability’ clause.

  • If you’re under 21 years of age.

  • If the car being repaired is a classic car or a campervan.

You can avoid this and similar car insurance traps by making sure you read your policy documents to understand what is and isn’t covered.


What’s the difference between a courtesy car and hire car cover?

If you’re concerned about the courtesy car offering on your policy, you might be able to opt for hire car cover instead . Although you might need to pay a bit extra, it could offer more peace of mind if you can’t do without your car. This is different from holiday car hire and might come with different terms.

For example, a hire car is likely to be available for the duration of the repairs – or until an offer is made to settle the claim. This is often up to a maximum of 21 days.

Hire cars should also be similar in size ­­­­to your own vehicle, which could be invaluable if you need a larger car or big boot for example. You might also be able to get the car delivered to your home address and collected when you no longer need it.

Since this kind of cover tends to come with more options than a courtesy car, it could be a bigger expense to add to your car insurance policy.