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How to make a car insurance claim

If you need to make a car insurance claim, the usual first step is to contact your insurance company. But the process might be slightly different depending on the type of claim you want to make, or the type of policy you have.

From contacting your insurer to dealing with a car finance company, here's everything you need to know about claiming on your car insurance policy.

Car with dent

In general, car insurance claims work like this:

  • Speak to your insurer and explain what happened. You don’t need to tell your car insurance company straight away, but most require you to contact them within 24 hours of the incident.
  • Explain in as much detail as possible what's happened to your car and how it's damaged
  • The insurer explains how much you need to pay for your excess and how much you could get to repair or replace the car.
  • Your insurer arranges for the payout to be transferred to you. It may also pay someone to make the repairs directly.

Most insurers require you to call them to make your claim. But some might let you make car insurance claims online, so it's worth checking your online account.

This starts the claims process and you should be told what you need to provide and how the claim will be handled.

When you speak to your insurer, you need to have the certain information available:

  • Your policy number
  • The registration details of both vehicles
  • The name and address of the registered owner of the car (if they aren’t driving it)
  • The date and time of the incident
  • Crime reference numbers if the police have been involved
  • The names and contact details of the other driver, any passengers and witnesses
  • Photos of the damage to your car and any others involved (if you’ve taken any)
  • The location, including road or street names, and the nearest house or business numbers
  • Time of the incident as well as road and weather conditions

When you compare car insurance quotes with us, we'll ask you about any claims you've made over the last 5 years. You'll be able to select one of the following options:

  • Accident
  • Windscreen glass
  • Theft
  • Malicious damage
  • Storm or flood
  • Fire

If your car's stolen, you need to contact the police and get a crime reference number before claiming on your car insurance policy.

Then, your insurer usually pays you a sum of money equal to the current market value of the car.

There’s usually a short period in which an insurer waits before paying out. If the car is found after you’ve been paid, the insurer may decide to keep the vehicle.

How do I find out the market value of my car?

You can find out your car's market value using our car valuation tool. The tool will ask you whether you're intending to buy or sell the car. In this case, select 'selling' - in this scenario, you'd be 'selling' your car to your insurance company.

If you’re in an accident with someone without insurance, you should be able to claim from your own insurer if you have comprehensive cover.

If the other driver is uninsured, some insurers let you claim and keep your no-claims bonus and don’t ask you to pay your excess. But this depends on the insurer.

If you don’t have comprehensive cover, you can make a claim with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) for compensation relating to personal injuries and other losses.

Any payments from the MIB are subject to a £300 excess.

Yes, so long as you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, which covers you for damage to your cover if the accident was your fault.

If you have third-party only or third-party fire and theft, you're not covered if you've damaged your car.

If the other driver is at fault, you should be able to claim on their car insurance policy regardless of what kind of policy you have.

If your car is a write-off and can’t be driven, your insurer should pay out up to the car’s current market value.

Usually, the vehicle is taken by the insurer. But in some cases, you may be able to keep it. If you do, you need to prove that it's possible to repair the car to make it roadworthy again.

In this case, the insurer may take some money off your overall payout to cover the cost of the car.

What happens if my car is written off and it’s on finance?

The process for making an insurance claim is slightly different for cars with outstanding finance.

The market value payout you get from your policy is usually less than the original cost of the car because of depreciation.

For cars bought on finance, the amount is likely to be a lot less than your outstanding finance agreement.

So you still have to pay the difference between the amount you owe the finance company and the amount you’ve been given by your insurer.

One way to protect yourself against this is with gap insurance. It's a policy that covers the shortfall between your payout and what you owe the finance company.

You might have to pay the excess straight away or, with some insurers, it may take the excess off your total payout. Contact your insurance company so you know exactly when you're expected to pay.

If the car only has minor damage and it’s less to repair than your excess, it makes sense to arrange and repair the car yourself. This saves you money but also means you’re not claiming on your policy, saving your no-claims bonus.

But remember that you still need to tell your insurance company about any accidents, even if you decide not to make a claim.

Every claim you make usually takes 2-3 years off your no-claims bonus (NCB). Depending on how much no-claims you've got, you might lost it all in a single claim.

What if I have protected no-claims bonus?

Protecting your NCB allows you to have a certain amount of ‘at fault’ accidents without affecting the bonus.. It's often referred to as no-claims discount protection.

This means that your no-claims bonus remains intact when you claim. Each insurance company has different rules regarding how many claims you’re allowed.