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31 Oct 2019
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

Car insurance excess explained


car keys on the table

Paying a higher excess is one way that you could lower your car insurance costs. But is it worth it?

Everyone knows about car insurance excess. Most people know that you can change it to lower your car insurance premium. 

But not everyone knows just what car insurance excess is for, and why we have it in the first place. Here we clear things up a little. 

What is car insurance excess?

In a nutshell, your excess is a fixed amount that you have to fork out if you make a claim.

So if your excess is £250 and you make a claim for £1,000, your car insurance provider will keep the first £250 and give you the remaining £750.

If you make a claim that was deemed to be someone else’s fault, your insurer might decide to pay your claim in full and waive your excess.

This isn't set in stone though, so check the T&Cs of your policy to find out if your insurer does this. 

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What’s the difference between compulsory and voluntary excess?

As the name suggests, compulsory excess is applied to your policy no matter what – this is decided by your insurer.

If you’re a young or inexperienced driver, don’t be surprised if your compulsory excess is higher than someone who's older or has been driving for a while.

This is because new and younger drivers fall into a higher-risk category, so there’s an extra excess added. This should be clearly noted on your policy, though.

You may also have an additional excess to pay if you drive a luxury or high-performance car.

Voluntary excess works differently, because you set the amount of excess you’re willing to pay. Increasing this voluntary excess is one way many people are able to lower the cost of their insurance.

When you get a car insurance quote, it’s worth looking at how changing the voluntary excess affects your price, and choose an amount that you’re comfortable with.

But remember that, if you make a claim, you’ll have to pay both the compulsory and the voluntary excess. 

A man in a suit driving a car 

Should I increase my voluntary excess?

One way of looking at voluntary excess is that you’re putting a bet on how likely you are to not make a claim*. The higher your excess, the higher the bet.

If you consider yourself to be a careful driver with a low chance of being involved in an accident, you might be more confident in taking on this risk.

In some cases where you have a minor accident, your total excess might be more than the cost of repairing the car.

Then you have to decide if it’s worth claiming on your insurance at all. Remember that you should let your insurer know about any accident you have, even if you don’t claim. 

How else can I lower my insurance?

If you decide that you’d rather not risk taking on a higher excess, there are other ways to lower your insurance costs.

* This is purely for illustrative purposes. Insurance doesn’t work like that in real life - it’s much more complicated and numbers-y. 

First published 7 August 2015


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