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Could you be invalidating your car insurance?

If you don't give your insurer the correct information about you, your car and your driving situation, your car insurance may not be valid.

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Car insurance is something which is required by law in the UK. It protects drivers across the country and ensures that there’s cover in place should an incident occur.

Your car insurance premium price is determined by how the insurance company assesses your level of risk. If you don’t give your insurer the correct and current information about yourself, your car and your driving situation, your insurance will not be valid – especially if you have underpaid for the level of cover you actually need. It is your responsibility to make sure that everything you tell the insurance company is 100% correct, and that you update your information as soon as your circumstances change.

There are many simple mistakes that could leave your insurance invalidated in the eyes of the providers. Fortunately, they’re usually simple enough to avoid – and CarParts4Less has revealed ten of the most common to look out for below. By the time you get to the end, you may realise that you need to contact your insurer to update your information.

Lying about your main address

Car insurance premiums are often influenced by where the primary location listed on the policy is. Insurers take into accounts local crime rates, for instance, to alter how much a premium will cost.

It can, therefore, be tempting to list a location in a lower crime rate – or if you’re travelling to university with your car, to leave the policy’s address as your home – but in doing so, you’re invalidating your insurance.

The same applies to where your car is parked overnight – in a garage, on a private driveway or on the street. It might save you a few quid if you claim to keep the car in a garage, but if the insurance company can prove you don’t, any claim could be invalidated.

Ignoring your morning commute

There are three different types of car insurance usage options: social, domestic and pleasure; commuting to/from work; and business use. You may need to be covered for one, two or all three kinds of use.

  • Social, domestic and pleasure means that you’ll only be using your car for personal journeys and errands.
  • Commuting covers your trips to and from your normal place of work, or partial journeys to work (for example, you drive to the train station and then continue your commute via train).
  • Business use covers you if you use your car to drive to multiple places of business, travel to attend meetings in different locations or carry equipment. If you want to be covered for business use, you’ll also need to indicate your expected annual business mileage.

This division of vehicle use can come as a surprise to some people, who assume that car insurance will cover you whenever and wherever you are driving. However, that’s not the case in the UK. The benefit of this categorisation is that you don’t have to pay for cover that you don’t need. As business use and commuting tend to account for more accidents and claims, it’s unfair to make domestic drivers pay extra if they’re not using their car to get to work or while at work.

While it can be tempting to leave your car usage as ‘social only’ as it often brings lower premiums, if you’re found to be commuting then you are effectively uninsured for that journey. As a result, your insurer can refuse to pay out in the event of an accident.

UPDATE, November 2020: There has been a lot of online dicussion about this lately. If you are now driving to work as a result of Covid-19 and weren’t previously, you don’t need to contact your insurer to update your current policy to include ‘commuting’ – but you should probably do it anyway. And when your policy is up for renewal (or you choose to switch to another insurer), then you do need to update this information as you will be taking out a new policy. More information here.

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Not informing your insurer about any car modifications

Modifying a car is seen as an exciting part of the overall owning experience by many, with upgrades allowing you to make your car ‘yours’.

However, fail to disclose any of these upgrades – even changes such as alloy wheels or window tinting – and insurers might not have your back if there’s an incident. It’s because upgrades can increase the risk of theft, meaning a policy would need to be adjusted to account for this.

Not informing your insurance company of minor accidents

If you’re involved in a small bump or collision with another motorist that only causes light cosmetic damage to a car, it’s often the case that you won’t want to make a claim on your insurance.

However, even if you don’t intend to make a claim, you still need to inform your insurers. This protects against the other driver changing their minds and making a claim against you in the future, while also highlighting the damage for future reference.

‘Fronting’

With insurance costs for new drivers increasing year by year, many look for ways to drive down the cost of their premiums. One common way is called ‘fronting’. This sees an older, more experienced driver (like a parent) named as the main driver on the policy, with the younger motorist added as a ‘named driver’ instead. Policies will likely drop in price, as a result.

However, doing so is a real no-no, and could result in any claims being denied and the policy cancelled. If escalated to court, this offence could turn into a fine of up to £5,000 and six penalty points on your driving licence.

Doing more miles than you thought

Your annual mileage is one of the key ways in which an insurer calculates how much you’ll have to pay for cover. After all, the more miles you spend on the road, the more likely it is that you will be involved in an accident.

However, you need to make sure that you’re as accurate as possible with your estimation of mileage when taking out a policy. If an insurer finds you’ve been doing more miles than initially disclosed, then they might not pay out following an incident.

Driving with pets

Driving with a pet in the car is something many people do on a regular basis. However, in order to reduce the risk of an accident being caused, it is a legal requirement that pets are secured in the vehicle. This is both for your pet’s safety and for yours.

If you crash while your pet is unsecured in your car, then there’s a good chance that your insurer won’t pay out.

Letting other people drive your car

Though many people have insurance policies that allow them to drive other cars, it’s often the case that this only provides third-party cover.

It means that, although your friend or relative might be able to legally drive your car, if they crash then there’s little chance that you’ll be able to claim for it.

If you’re going to be driving another car, it’s worth talking to your insurer about temporary cover to make sure you’re protected. There are also several insurance companies online that specialise in temporary cover for exactly this sort of thing.

You’ve recently changed jobs

Your occupation is yet another way insurers calculate your premiums, as certain jobs tend to have a higher risk factor. For this reason, it’s crucial that you inform your insurer if you change jobs, as if you fail to do so they might not pay out if an accident occurs.

Even if you get a promotion at work that results in a new job title, it may affect your premium. Speak to your insurer to make sure your details are up to date.

Charging for lifts

Some policies exclude cover for car sharing, even if you’re not making any money out of it. For those policies that do cover lift sharing, it might be voided if you start making a profit from giving lifts to others.

Earning money from giving lifts can identify you as a ‘taxi hire service’, which would need a completely different type of cover.

Additional reporting by Stuart Masson

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I bought a brand new. Mercedes A180 diesel sport edition in 2015. We were told that the diesel engines were cleaner to run and cheaper because you will get more mileage per gallon. I was told that I might have a claim against Mercedes for mis-representing the fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions. Could you clarify this please? Kind Regards.

    • Hi June. There are law firms preparing a class action against Mercedes over diesel emissions. I’d speak to them (don’t know who they are but Google will help) for more information.

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