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Is there anything I should ask or think about when buying car insurance?

Policy Limits and/or Excesses - Make sure you are aware of any applicable excess and/or cover limits your policy may include. An excess is the first portion of a claim you will be responsible for paying and the insurer will only pay out on the amount above the excess. There may be a number of different excesses in one policy. For example, different excesses might apply depending on whether a claim is for accidental damage or theft. There is usually a separate excess for windscreen replacement claims. Most insurance policies also have maximum limits the insurer will pay out in a claim. You need to check you would be able to afford the excess in the event of a claim, and that the maximum insured would be sufficient to cover your loss.

Insured Drivers - The car insurance policy might only cover driving by yourself or specified people, or it might allow driving by any qualified person with your permission, possibly over a certain age limit. Your insurers will want to know about anyone who is likely to drive - particularly their age, experience, claims and driving record and occupation.

Vehicle use - Your policy and certificate set out the uses for which your car is insured. For example, if you or any authorised driver want to use your car in connection with work, make sure that your policy covers this.

No Claims Discount - Policyholders with a claim free (not blame free) record normally qualify for a premium discount. Scales vary from one motor insurer to another but can range from 30% for one claim free year up to 60% or more after four or five years. Click here for further information on No Claims Discount.

Protected Discount policies - are often available, for example, to policyholders who have a good claims record. For an extra premium, a number of claims are allowed without affecting the discount. Typically two claims are allowed in a three to five year period. Your insurance premium or your excess may be affected, however, even though your discount is protected, if you build up a poor claims record or receive driving convictions.

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Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance - gives you added protection if your car is written off. If you have used a finance agreement to buy your car, GAP insurance pays out the difference between the car’s pre-accident value and your outstanding loan. Some products may also pay for the cost of replacing your car with the current equivalent or provide a deposit to help you buy a new one. And, even if you haven’t taken out a loan, other types of GAP insurance pay out the difference between original purchase price and the car’s pre-accident value.

Legal expenses insurance – If you do not already have this, ask your insurance adviser about the options available, whether as a stand-alone product or as an extension of your motor policy. If you are involved in an accident that isn’t your fault, for example, this could help you to recover your uninsured losses, such as your excess, from the liable party.

Common exclusions to be aware of include :

Theft by deception - If you are selling your car make sure you receive proper payment before parting with it. Your insurance policy will usually not cover your loss if your car is taken from you by deception.

Driving Other Cars - Many policies cover the policyholder while driving a car which belongs to someone else. However, cover will be limited to third party only, even if you have a comprehensive policy for your own car. Accidental damage to the borrowed car will not be covered by your insurance.

Make sure that you have the car owner's permission to drive the vehicle and that the owner has arranged comprehensive insurance (e.g. by adding you as a driver under their policy) if they wish to do so. (If they do this, then claims involving their car, while you are driving, will be met by their policy.)

Similarly, before letting someone else drive your car think about the insurance implications of doing so, and ensure that you are comfortable with these.

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