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.
The car insurance claims process
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. This includes minor bumps and scrapes.
- 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.
This applies even if you've had a minor accident and you don’t intend to claim. You need to tell your insurer otherwise you might not be covered for more severe accidents at a later date.
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 they’ll handle the claim.
When you speak to your insurer, you need to have this 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
Should I claim on my insurance?
That’s up to you, but whatever you decide, you need to tell your insurer if your car has been damaged in any way. Here are the pros and cons of claiming on your car insurance:
If the damage to your car is substantial, it could be cheaper to claim on your car insurance than paying for the repairs yourself
You get peace of mind knowing someone’s dealing with the issue on your behalf
If the car is written off, any potential payout could help toward the cost of a new car
You might be eligible for a courtesy car while yours is being fixed
If the claim is counted as a ‘fault’ claim, you could lose some or all of your no-claims bonus
Your compulsory and voluntary excess might be deducted from any payout you get
Your car insurance costs could rise in the future
Do I have to claim on my car insurance?
You don’t have to claim on your car insurance for damage if you can cover the cost of repairs yourself.
But your insurance company needs to know about all accidents you have in your car. You just need to tell your insurers about the incident ‘for notification purposes only’.
Your car insurance costs could go up even if you don’t claim because you’re more at risk of claiming again in future.
What can I claim for on my car insurance?
You can make a claim for:
- Windscreen glass damage
- Malicious damage
- Storm or flood
Your insurer should cover the cost of the repairs to your car. But it depends on what level of insurance you have. If you have fully comprehensive insurance, it’s likely repairs are covered. But general wear and tear isn't usually covered by your car insurance.
What’s the average cost of a claim?
Here’s the average cost for some common claims:
|Type of claim||Claim amount*|
Storm or flood
*Confused.com data. July 2022 - June 2023. Comprehensive policies only.
What happens if my car is stolen?
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.
Can I still claim if hit by an uninsured driver?
If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, 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. In this case they might not ask you to pay your excess either, but it depends on the insurer.
If you don’t have comprehensive cover, you can make a claim with the (MIB) for compensation relating to personal injuries and other losses.
Any payments from the MIB are subject to a £300 excess.
If I damage my own car can I claim on my insurance?
Yes, so long as you have a comprehensive car insurance policy that covers you for damage to your car 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.
Is it worth claiming on my car insurance for a dent?
This depends - there are pros and cons:
Repair costs might be cheaper than trying to fix it yourself
Repairs are usually guaranteed when using an approved repairer
- Making a claim could impact your no-claims bonus
- The repair costs could be lower than your excess, making claiming ultimately pointless
Remember to tell your insurer about any dents even if you don’t intend to claim.
How long does a car insurance claim take to settle?
This depends on how complex the claim is. Let's say a third-party hit your car in the rear and has admitted fault. Your insurance company could settle the claim in a matter of weeks.
But if anyone is injured, or if nobody accepts liability, the claim could stretch out into months or even longer before you see a payout.
Could my car insurance claim be rejected?
On the whole most car insurance claims are accepted. In fact, so far in 2023, insurers have paid out £2.5 billion on all motor insurance claims. This includes:
- Vehicle repairs
- Replacement vehicles
- Personal injury
But your claim could be rejected if:
- The accident was found to be your fault and you were being negligent. For example, you were speeding or breaking the law in any other way.
- Your car isn't roadworthy.
- You have the wrong insurance, or your details are incorrect, for example if you’ve moved house and you’ve not updated your address.
If my car is written off what happens to my insurance?
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.
You have to pay the difference between the amount you owe the finance company and the amount you’ve been given by your insurer. This is because the car’s value at the time of the claim is going to be less than when you first bought it. This is called depreciation.
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.
When do I pay my excess?
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.
What happens to my no-claims bonus if I 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 lose it all in a single claim.
What if I have a protected no-claims bonus?
This means that your no-claims bonus remains intact when you claim. 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.
Each insurance company has different rules regarding how many claims you’re allowed.
How long does a claim stay on my car insurance record?
When you get a quote with us, we’ll ask you about any claims or incidents you’ve had in the last 5 years. Most insurance companies have similar requirements.
This is for all accidents you’ve been involved in, regardless of whether you made a claim.
We’ll ask you:
- The type of incident it was - for example accident, theft, flood, fire
- Whether or not the claim was settled
- Whether anyone was injured
- Whether it was a single-vehicle incident
- Who was at fault
- The date of the incident
- The total claim cost - if you didn’t make a claim, you can put in £0