Probably the first thing you do when you buy a new or used car is to sort out the car insurance on it. Aside from the fact that it’s a legal requirement, organising appropriate insurance to cover damage and possible repairs to your car is a sensible thing to do.
So that’s the car sorted, but what about the tyres?
Tyre insurance is one of the many finance and insurance products that dealerships will try to push onto car buyers, along with GAP insurance, scratch & dent insurance, key insurance and other various and assorted policies.
The purpose of tyre insurance is to cover you in the event that one or more of your car tyres is damaged beyond repair. This can either be accidental damage (such as bouncing off a kerb or pothole) or malicious damage (such as someone putting a knife through your tyre).
For some people, tyre insurance can be just as important as covering the rest of the car against accidental or even deliberate damage.
This kind of insurance is most commonly attached to more expensive vehicles that feature large alloy wheels or big off-road rubber, as those tyres can be hugely expensive to replace. An increasing number of cars (like most BMWs and Minis) are also being fitted with run-flat tyres, which can’t be repaired like a normal car tyre. That usually means it’s automatically a replacement tyre for even minor damage.
Tyre insurance premiums are worked out based on the type of car, its wheel size and performance, so the cost of tyre insurance for a town runabout will be significantly cheaper than for a high-end supercar.
What does tyre insurance cover?
Tyre insurance covers unwanted damage caused by an accident – such as a kerbing or a blow-out – as well as from malicious acts like tyre slashing. Your tyre insurance will pay for replacement tyre(s) rather than repairs to your existing tyres.
Wear and tear is not covered by tyre insurance. All tyres will wear down over time and need replacing. A new tyre will usually come with about 8mm of tread on the surface, and the minimum legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm. Insurance providers have fairly strict rules and regulations about what they will and won’t pay for, and you won’t get a brand-new set of tyres if your old ones have barely legal tread depth.
This type of cover is becoming less commonplace. That’s not only because many drivers would rather take the chance of avoiding damage than pay for something they might never need, but also because the cost of providing the cover is becoming pretty prohibitive for the insurers.
Tyres are expensive to manufacture, and therefore pricey to buy, and there’s not a lot of profit in them for suppliers. As a result, any insurer asked to pay out for some damaged rubber will find themselves having to pay top prices – and that’s not something insurance companies like to do on a regular basis.
Do I really need tyre insurance?
In weighing up the merits of any insurance policy, you need to look at the cost of the insurance, the value of the product you’re insuring and the likelihood that you will have to make a claim on the policy.
Like most insurance policies, tyre insurance will cost you the premium (upfront cost) plus an excess if you actually make a claim.
Most tyre policies will allow you to claim for a certain number of replacement tyres over the course of the policy (usually a three-year term), so you need to weigh up the likelihood that you will make any claims on the policy during that time. If you live around heavily potholed roads, you may have already suffered tyre failures in the past.
In most cases, the premium is roughly similar to the cost of one new tyre. You’ll also have to pay an excess (roughly £25 but it will vary) if you make a claim.
Usually, it tends to work out that if you claim for more than one tyre over the life of your policy, you’d be saving money over buying the tyres brand new. However, that will obviously depend on the actual payout you receive – as mentioned, if your tyres are almost balding when you make a claim, you won’t get the full new tyre replacment price.
If you have expensive tyres, like big SUV tyres or run-flat tyres, a tyre insurance policy might be more valuable as the cost of replacing a damaged tyre is higher and/or the likelihood that you will suffer a damaged tyre is higher.
Still looking for tyre insurance?
Because of the cost and specialist nature of tyre insurance, there will be certain provisions in the policy. Here are some of the top points to look for when considering cover:
- Your tyres must have the ‘E’ mark to say it is fit for purpose in the UK and Europe.
- Make sure the policy covers accidental and malicious damage.
- Remember it won’t cover wear caused by defective steering geometry or bad maintenance – damage has to be caused by an ‘unexpected deflation’.
- See what the ‘wear and tear’ deduction is. A tyre originally with 8mm tread that is damaged when it’s at 3mm will get a proportionally lower pay out.
- Look for excess charges – these can be £25 to £35.
- See what the pay-out limit is – it’s usually £150 per wheel or £300 per wheel depending on premium, for up to four tyres each year. It’s highly unusual to have to claim this often though.
- Remember that if a tyre is repairable it will almost certainly have to be fixed rather than replaced. Run flat tyres can’t be repaired though.
- Check you don’t have to go to a main dealer for the replacement. You should be able to choose who you use.
- Insurers might have a clause giving the maximum they will pay for a replacement – this stops suppliers and fitters charging over- inflated prices for work.
- You will need to supply a report from the technician with two photos showing: 1) the damaged tyre and 2) its tread depth.