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Car insurance no-claims bonus explained

Building up a no-claims bonus could make a big difference to what you pay each year in car insurance costs. The more you earn, the greater the potential discount. But making a car insurance claim could mean you lose it all. We explain how it works and what you need to look out for.

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What is a no-claims bonus?

A no-claims bonus (NCB), sometimes referred to as a no-claims discount, is the number of years that you haven’t claimed on your car insurance policy.

We’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout this guide.

A no-claims bonus of five years or more could give you a discount on your insurance costs. But the level of discount might vary between insurers.

That’s why it’s worth shopping around when choosing your policy.

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How does a no-claims bonus work?

Let’s say your car insurance policy costs £1,000 and you’d built up a no-claims discount percentage of 20%. You’d pay £800 where you’d otherwise have paid £1,000.

Every year that follows where you don’t make any claims, your discount increases. So, five years without any claims might mean you get a 60% discount.  

How do I build my no-claims bonus?

NCBs are pretty straightforward - for every year you’re insured without making a claim, you’ll earn another year's bonus.

Some companies offer accelerated policies where you can earn a bonus in 10 months rather than 12.

What is the maximum amount of NCB I can build up? 

In theory, you could build up an unlimited number of NCBs. The reality is that most insurers tend to use a maximum of five years when calculating a discount. 

If I make a claim, how is my NCB affected? 

If you make a car insurance claim on your policy where your insurer pays out, you’ll likely lose some, or all, of your no-claims bonus.

If your car is damaged in a crash the other party was at fault, your insurer may be able to reclaim repair costs from their insurer. This should leave your NCB intact.

In cases where insurers can’t agree liability for a collision, they may split the cost of the claims. In this case, both your and the other drivers’ NCB could be affected.

Your NCB could also be affected if your car is stolen or damaged by bad weather.

If you get a new policy with a reduced NCB and are later found not at fault, you could get your NCB reinstated. The insurer might also refund any extra money you paid.

What can I claim for without affecting my no-claims bonus?

There are some circumstances where making a claim might not impact your no-claims bonus. For example, if you were in an accident that it was the other driver's fault, you shouldn't see your no-claims bonus go down.

If you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, claims on windscreen cover are unlikely to impact your NCB. But get in touch with your insurance company beforehand to make sure.

Is it worth protecting my no-claims bonus? 

Frequently referred to as no-claims discount protection, protecting your NCB allows you to have a certain amount of ‘at fault’ accidents without affecting the bonus. 

This means that your no-claims bonus remains intact even if your insurer can’t claim their costs back. Each insurance company has different rules regarding how many claims you’re allowed. 

Protecting your no-claims bonus won’t necessarily stop your costs rising after a claim though. This is because insurers use your claims history to calculate prices - so a claim would likely show up even with your NCB protected.

Insurers might factor in any remaining NCB you have after a claim when they calculate future policy costs. But there’s no guarantee that your price for the next year will be the same or lower.

How can I get proof of my no-claims bonus? 

You should see details of your no-claims discount on your annual renewal letter. But if you don’t have that to hand, you can contact your insurer and ask them to send you your proof of no claims. 

Your no-claims discount details might also be in in the policy cancellation notice from your old insurer. If not, you may need to ask them for proof to send to your new insurer.

How can I find out how much no-claims bonus I have? 

If you have a renewal letter or email from your insurer, it should provide details on your level of no-claims discount.

If not, you can also call your insurer and ask – they’ll then give you an up-to-date calculation on your no-claims bonus.

Can named drivers build up NCB? 

Yes. Some insurers offer what’s called a named driver no-claims bonus. This means you get a discount if you're insured as a named driver on someone else's policy and haven't claimed.

If you've built up a no-claims discount as a named driver and you now want your own cover, your existing insurer should consider your discount when transferring your policy over.

But if you’re thinking of switching insurers, check that your new insurer will factor in your no-claims discount – not all do.

What happens when I change my car or policy? 

You can usually transfer your no-claims bonus to another car. But if you switch insurers before the year is up, you won’t get the NCB for that year.

Insurers should provide proof of your bonus at the end of your policy term. You can pass this on to your next provider when you switch.

Some insurers may provide your proof of no claims in the car insurance renewal letter they send you. If it's not there, you can call your insurer and ask them to send it.

Can I use my no-claims bonus on more than one car?

No – you can only apply your no-claims discount to one car insurance policy at a time.

But you could transfer your no-claims bonus from one policy to another. For example, if you sold your old car and took out a new policy for its replacement.

Does no-claims bonus apply to work vehicles? 

As a general rule, commercial insurance policies don’t typically let you build up an NCB.

If you use a fleet van under an ‘any driver’ policy, then chances are that you won’t be able to build up any no-claims bonus.

But some insurers might take your business driving experience into account when calculating costs for an individual policy.

If you’re listed as the main driver and using your van for work and personal use you could earn a no-claims discount. Just make sure your policy covers you for both uses.

If your car is insured for work use but the policy also includes ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ purposes, then you should be able to build up a no-claims bonus

It’s worth checking the terms and conditions of your policy on this as each insurer is different. 

How do I transfer my company car NCB?

In the event that you give up a company car, you should be able to use any no-claims bonus built up on that car.

But there may be specific circumstances that let you transfer this. For example, if you were named on your company’s insurance policy for a particular car and specifically for your use only.

Usually, when changing insurers, you’ll need proof of any NCB you’ve built up from your last provider. But with company policies, many insurers might settle for confirmation from your employer. 

Can I transfer NCB from overseas?

If you’ve built up a no-claims bonus overseas, you may be able to transfer it when you come to UK shores.

Much will depend on the insurer and they usually specify which countries they’ll accept no-claim discount from.

If your no-claims bonus was built up outside this list of countries, you may be unlucky. It’s worth contacting your insurer and finding out what they can offer.

How can I keep a no-claims bonus without a car?

If you’ve sold your car and don’t drive for a period of time, some insurers might honour your no-claims bonus when you cancel your car insurance and get a new policy.

It all depends on timescale. If you haven’t driven for two years or more, you might struggle to find an insurer that will honour any previous no-claims bonus.

In such instances it might be worth contacting the last insurer who provided you with cover.

They may be more amenable than other providers, possibly reducing your no-claims discount rather than sending you back to square one.

No-claims bonus on multi-car policies

If you have multiple cars insured as part of a multi-car policy, each car has its own no-claims bonus. So, if you or a named driver have to make a claim on one car, it shouldn't impact the no-claims bonus on any other cars in the policy.

As with standard car insurance policies, any claim from a named driver is likely to impact the no-claims bonus of that car.