Car insurance is a legal requirement that covers the cost of damage if you’re involved in an accident. When you buy a policy, you’ll also be offered a range of extras for a small increase in your premium, but it can be tricky to choose what you need and decide what might be the most useful.
While you’re under no obligation to add any options you’re offered, they can help increase your overall level of protection and bring greater peace of mind. Here, we explore some of the most popular car insurance add-ons so that you can choose what’s right for you.
- What are car insurance add-ons?
- Types of car insurance extras
- How much do car insurance add-ons cost?
- Are car insurance add-ons worth it?
- Can I add extras to my insurance later?
- What extras do I need with car insurance?
Car insurance extras provide additional insurance for events or incidents not covered by your standard policy.
The add-ons available will depend on what’s offered by each insurer. You’ll also need to consider what’s already included in the level of cover you choose, as you may have some of the additional options as standard.
For example, comprehensive car insurance (the highest level of cover you can buy) often includes a range of extra features, such as windscreen cover, key cover, or legal expenses cover.
In contrast, third-party only policies rarely include any extras, so you’ll need to add them if you want the additional protection. With this in mind, comprehensive policies can sometimes represent better value for money.
What is the minimum level of car insurance required?
By law, you must have third-party car insurance at the very least. These policies compensate other drivers for damage you cause in an accident but don’t cover your damage costs.
You can still add optional extras to your third-party only policy, but remember that your premium will increase as you’ll need to pay for each add-on. If you opt for lots of extras, you might find your policy becomes increasingly expensive or that it’s better value to change to a comprehensive policy instead.
Remember that insurers set their own terms and conditions. So, even if two insurance products share the same name, don’t assume they provide the same level of cover.
It’s also worth knowing that some options can only be bought alongside a car insurance policy, whereas others may be available separately.
For instance, you can buy car breakdown cover as a standalone policy from Alan Boswell Group or as an add-on. Others can only be bought alongside your main car insurance policy.
Car insurance add-ons include:
- Breakdown cover
- Legal expenses cover
- Excess protection
- Personal accident cover
- Courtesy car (hire car cover)
- Lost or stolen keys cover
- No claims bonus protection
What is breakdown cover?
Breakdown insurance is one of the most popular extras you can buy. Before purchasing you should check you don’t already have it, though, as some banks include cover as part of a bank account package, or it may have been included when you purchased the vehicle for a set period of time.
If your car breaks down, these policies provide help so that you can continue your journey as quickly as possible. Home-start is often included, too, so you can still get help if your car won’t start at all or if it breaks down within a mile of your home.
Policies often include recovery, which means your insurer will arrange for your car to be towed to a garage if it can’t be repaired at the roadside. Just be aware that some policies will only cover towing your car to the nearest garage, while others will offer national coverage so you can have your car sent to a garage that’s convenient for you.
At Alan Boswell Group, our Call Assist breakdown cover includes roadside assistance, nationwide recovery, and help with your onward travel (including overnight accommodation, should you need it).
What is motor legal expenses cover?
This helps pay for legal fees your car insurance policy wouldn’t otherwise cover.
Policies will limit how much you can claim, and in most cases, insurers will only approve a claim that you have a reasonable chance of winning. Examples of what you can claim for under your motor legal expenses policy include:
- Lost earnings if you’re injured and need to take time off work
- Costs to take another driver to court
- Defence costs if you’re taken to court by a third party
- Damaged personal possessions
- Medical expenses if you need treatment after an accident
Motor legal expenses is often overlooked by drivers even though it can help you recoup a number of costs that a standard policy won’t normally cover.
For more information about how these policies can help minimise financial losses, take a look at our guide to motor legal expenses.
What is excess protection?
Excess protection insurance covers the cost of your policy excess. In most cases, you’ll need to pay the excess first and then claim it back under your excess protection insurance.
This type of cover will limit the amount you can claim but you can claim as many times as you like while the policy lasts – usually 12 months. For example, if your claim limit is £1,500, you can make three claims for £500 each while your policy is active.
What is personal accident cover?
These policies cover you (the driver) for any injuries you suffer from a car accident. If you’re killed in an accident, your policy will make a payout to your beneficiaries.
The value of the policy (the amount that is paid out) varies by provider but it could be up to £50,000. Some enhanced protection policies pay out as much as £100,000. As a general rule, the higher the level of cover, the more the policy will cost.
What is hire car cover?
If you choose to add hire car insurance (courtesy car) your insurer will provide you with a temporary vehicle while yours is being repaired after an accident.
Courtesy cars are usually insured to the same level as your existing car insurance policy. For instance, if you have comprehensive cover with named drivers, you can expect the same cover for your courtesy car. That said, double check this is the case, as some insurers may have different terms.
The type of courtesy car you’re offered will depend on the insurer and the terms set out in your policy. Broadly, courtesy cars tend to be small, less powerful vehicles with a one-litre engine. More often than not, they’re also three-door with manual gears.
If your car size is important for a specific reason (for example, if you need a larger car for the school run) you should speak to your insurer and ask about your options before adding it to your policy.
It’s worth knowing that some courtesy car policies offer ‘like for like’, in which case, you should be given a temporary hire car of a similar make and model as your own. If you opt for this, you can expect to pay more for your policy.
What is key cover?
Key insurance covers the cost of replacing your car keys if they’re lost or stolen. Some comprehensive policies include key cover as standard, while others don’t, so check what your policy says.
Also, be aware that if your standard car insurance provides key cover and you make a claim, it can affect your no claims bonus, depending on your insurer’s terms. Another point to consider is the type of car key you have. The more technically advanced it is, the more you can expect to pay as your policy level will need to be high enough to cover the replacement cost.
Although different policies will vary, cover usually provides:
- a replacement key and the cost to reprogramme related car security features (such as an immobiliser);
- compensation for transport you’ve had to take because you can’t use your car (unless a courtesy car is provided);
- access to a helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Generally, you won’t be covered for wear and tear of keys or spares. Most policies will also reject claims where someone outside of your household has lost your car keys. For example, if a friend borrowed your car but then lost the keys.
If you’re claiming because your car keys have been stolen, you’ll usually need a crime reference number.
What is a protected no claims bonus?
For every year you drive without claiming on your car insurance, you earn a no claims bonus (also known as an NCB, or no claims discount, NCD).
The bonus is a discount taken off your insurance premium. The amount varies by insurer, but one year of NCB usually gives you a 30% discount on your premium. That percentage discount increases yearly until you reach the maximum discount available – usually 70%-75% but some insurers offer up to 80% off.
However, if you have an accident and make a claim, you’ll lose some of that discount (usually two years’ worth).
If you don’t want to lose your discount, you can choose to ‘protect’ your NCB with a no claims protection policy. This means that if you claim on your insurance, your no claims bonus stays the same, and you’ll get the same discount at renewal.
Many drivers protect their no claims simply because they help lower premiums. For those with a number of years of NCB, it usually means a significant reduction.
Prices are set by each insurer, so costs do vary, but you can expect to spend between £15-£40 per add-on.
The only exception is breakdown cover which can be a lot more expensive depending on how much is included in the policy. For instance, if you choose a policy with onward travel and overnight accommodation, policies can exceed £200. You can, of course, find much cheaper breakdown insurance, but it will usually mean you’ll only be covered for basic roadside assistance.
Whether or not car insurance add-ons are worth it comes down to your attitude to risk, and your budget. After all, if you never make a claim, it’s an expense you won’t get back.
However, some add-ons can be extremely valuable and represent good value for money if you make a claim. For example, legal expenses cover typically costs around £35 and usually provides you with up to £100,000 to spend on legal advice. Without cover, you’d have to pay your own legal fees, which can quickly spiral into the thousands.
Before deciding what car insurance add-ons to buy, check if you have cover elsewhere first. For example, some home insurance policies include lost key cover for your car and house.
Add-ons are usually bought alongside your car insurance policy. If you want to add something later, you’ll need to speak with your insurer. In most cases, it shouldn’t be an issue but check if you need to pay an amendment fee to alter your policy.
Before committing to any extras, it’s always sensible to check what’s included in your car insurance already. Comprehensive policies sometimes include extras such as a courtesy car and windscreen cover (which pays to repair or replace your windscreen).
Beyond that, think about what optional extras might genuinely save you significant amounts of money should you need to claim (for example, legal expenses). Some add-ons (such as breakdown cover) also offer convenience, helping you to resolve what could be stressful and difficult situations.
Buy car insurance to suit you
Car insurance is a legal requirement, and you must have third party only cover at least. Yet despite being the minimum level by law, it’s not always the cheapest option.
For many drivers, comprehensive car insurance can actually work out cheaper if you are purchasing add-ons to your third-party policy. Not only do policies provide greater all-round protection, but some will also include a range of features you might otherwise have to buy.
At Alan Boswell Group, our car insurance policies include courtesy car cover, windscreen cover, as well as personal belongings and child seat cover. For more information or a quotation, simply call one of our experts on 01603 649650.