Motor insurance explained

You have to have motor insurance before you can drive your vehicle in a public place. It protects you, your vehicle and other motorists against liability in case there is an accident. It provides financial compensation to cover any injuries caused to people or their property.

Types of insurance cover

Third party only

This cover is the legal requirement. This level of cover ensures that compensation is available for injury to other people (including your passengers) or damage to other peoples' property resulting from an accident caused by you. It doesn't cover any of your costs as the result of an accident.

Most insurance companies offer additional levels of insurance cover that go beyond the legal requirement. The precise nature of cover will vary from company to company.

Third party fire and theft

This provides the same cover as third party only and also insures you should your vehicle be damaged by fire or stolen.

Comprehensive

This provides the same cover as third party fire and theft. However, it also covers you should your vehicle be damaged in an accident. Many additions to this level of cover are available from insurance companies including:

  • providing a courtesy car while your car is being repaired, legal expenses, insurance to recover your uninsured losses (such as your excess)
  • roadside recovery schemes
  • vehicle repairs in case of breakdown

If you're involved in an accident

If you have an accident that causes damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property, you must give both your own and the vehicle owner's name and address, along with the registration number of the vehicle, to anyone having reasonable grounds for requiring them.

If you don't give your details then you should report the accident to the police as soon as possible within 24 hours. You must also report the accident to your insurer, even if you're not intending to make a claim.

If you're involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist

Any accident with an uninsured driver should be reported to the police. You should also report any accident to your insurer, who'll advise you further if there is any claim.

Additionally, the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) ensures that compensation is available to the innocent victims of uninsured drivers or hit and run (untraced) drivers.  

UK motor insurance and driving overseas

All UK policies provide the minimum cover required by law in other European Union (EU) countries or the minimum cover required by UK law if that is greater. This cover doesn't automatically include theft or damage to your car.

Most people want the same protection they have in the UK when travelling abroad, for example comprehensive or third party, fire and theft. This could, in addition to the legal minimum of third party liability cover, include accidental damage to, or theft of or from, your own vehicle depending on the policy cover.

A number of insurers automatically provide this extended cover for a set period and often without additional charge. It's important, however, that you check with your insurer or insurance adviser before you go abroad.

The Green Card system and driving overseas

Outside of the EU, a Green Card provides proof that your domestic motor insurance policy covers the minimum legal requirements in the country being visited.

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