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Comprehensive car insurance explained

Comprehensive car insurance, also known as ‘fully comprehensive’, is the top level of (non-business) insurance you can get for your car.

Small red model car with stethoscope

This provides cover above and beyond that provided by third-party fire and theft (TPF&T) and third-party only (TPO) policies.

 

What's the difference between fully comprehensive and third-party? 

You can’t legally drive a car without insurance, and third-party only is the lowest allowable level of car insurance you can get.

TPO should cover damage to other people and other cars if you’re involved in an accident, but you might have to pay for any damage to your own car.

Third-party fire and theft provides the same cover as third-party only, but should also cover your car if it’s stolen or catches on fire.

Fully comprehensive insurance on the other hand, should cover damage to your car as well. 

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What does comprehensive insurance cover?

With fully comprehensive car insurance, you could claim for accidents that are deemed to be your fault (if it’s not your fault, the policy of the driver who was at fault should pay out). 

You could also claim when fault can’t be proven.

For example if you return to your car after shopping to find that someone has scratched or hit it and driven off.

Without comprehensive insurance, you risk having to fork out for repairs yourself.

Worse still, if your car is written off you might have to pay to replace it.

It’s not just the car that’s insured either. Fully comprehensive insurance should also cover any of your possessions that are stolen from your car or damaged in an accident.

Personal injury for yourself and anyone else involved in the accident along with damage to property should also be included.

Comprehensive cover gives you that added level of protection and peace of mind that you won’t necessarily have to pay for expensive repairs.

The main costs to you should be your compulsory and voluntary excess.

 

What isn't covered by comprehensive insurance? 

Although fully comprehensive insurance is the highest level of car insurance you can buy, like any policy it might have exclusions that you need to be mindful of.

 

You probably won’t be able to claim if you were drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs at the time of an accident.

You might not be able claim if you don’t have a valid licence, too.

 

You also need to be a responsible car owner. Insurers might not accept a claim for theft, for example, if you were careless with your car security

 

This means you must always ensure you leave your car locked, with windows closed and any valuable possessions out of sight.

 

Can I drive other cars on a fully comp insurance policy?

Unless it’s a genuine emergency you might not be able drive somebody else's car, or let someone else drive your car without agreeing it with your insurer.

 

If it’s likely that other people will need to drive your car, you might need to have them added as a named driver on your policy.

 

Should you need to regularly drive someone else’s car, ask them to add you to their policy.

 

Is comprehensive insurance more expensive that other policy types? 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a comprehensive policy is always more expensive than third-party only cover, or third-party, fire and theft.

This is often the case, but not always.

When comparing car insurance policies it’s worth looking at the difference in price between comprehensive and third-party policies.

You might find that comprehensive insurance actually works out as cheap as a third-party policy.

This means you don’t necessarily have to compromise on your cover just to save a few pounds.

 

How come comprehensive cover is sometimes cheaper? 

It’s because a lot of high-risk drivers tend to go for third-party cover as a way of lowering their insurance costs.

As a result, the statistics begin to skew towards a higher number of claims on third-party policies.

This means that the overall cost of third-party cover could go up.

That’s why it’s worth checking the cost of all levels of cover, just in case.  

 

Where comprehensive cover could fall short 

Despite its name, fully comp insurance might fall short in some areas.

Certain policy extras such as legal expenses cover might come as standard with some companies, whereas others might charge you for it.

It’s always best to check the policy details before you buy – don’t assume that you’ll be entitled to all the bells and whistles.

Two of the most common policy add-ons are:

  • Courtesy car - Many insurers let you use another car while yours is being repaired, but not all of them. It’s also worth noting that courtesy cars usually aren’t provided if your car is written off.
  • Breakdown cover - Usually an optional extra that comes at a cost, though some insurers might throw it in as an extra. If it doesn’t come as standard, it’s worth shopping around for the best breakdown deals.

 

Other ways to save on your car insurance 

Car insurance often isn’t cheap, particularly if you’re a young driver or have made several claims previously. But going for a lower level of cover just to save money could be a false economy.

Having the minimum level of cover means that you might end up paying out more in the long run.

Especially if you’re involved in an accident where the fault is yours or can’t be determined.

Being organised is one of the easiest ways to save yourself some money.

Our data shows that generally, the later you leave buying your insurance the more you might pay. 

If you know your renewal is coming up or you've already received your renewal offer, take the time to compare car insurance quotes.

This could help you keep your costs in check rather than leaving it to the last minute and paying that little bit more.

For more tips, check out our tips for cheaper car insurance