Beware of bizarre insurance terms and conditionsWhich? investigates insurance policy small print

23 December 2012

Bizarre insurance

Which? Money has analysed car, home and travel insurance policies to highlight confusing language, tricky terms and conditions and strange exclusions.

Lengthy insurance documents

We looked at the policy documents of the 10 biggest car, home and travel insurers and found that these often stretched to 50 or 60 pages. Car insurance providers, for instance, tend to take different approaches to how they present the information.

The longest policy documents that we found had higher word counts than some of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. Aviva's travel insurance policy document stretches to 23,650 words, which is longer than Much Ado About Nothing (22,444 words). The More Than car insurance policy document (19,929 words) is a more substantial read than Macbeth (18,227 words).

Check the insurance small print

Most of us will scan through the main points of an insurance policy without reading every word. This leaves policyholders open to missing important, less-known conditions and exclusions that could lead to a claim being rejected. 

Car insurers such as Aviva, Axa, Direct Line and Sheilas' Wheels will not, for instance, cover damage to your tyres caused by 'braking, punctures, cuts or bursts'. This is a common, but still surprising, exclusion.

Travel insurance providers take different approaches to alcohol in relation to claims. Saga is very specific and reserves the right to reject claims arising directly or indirectly from you consuming more then eight units of alcohol (equivalent to a little less than three pints of 5% beer). 

Barclays talks about claims where you've 'drunk so much alcohol that your judgement is seriously affected', while Aviva and LV simply mention being under the 'influence or effect of alcohol'.

Five bizarre insurance terms and conditions

We list the weird and wonderful policy features that we've come across:

1. The need for speed

The Axa and Direct Line car insurance policies specifically exclude accidents caused by driving on the Nürburgring Nordschleife – a 21km section of the Nürburgring race track in Germany. The policy doesn't cover any injury, loss, damage or liability on the circuit – bad news for all you budding Lewis Hamiltons out there, but not a great inconvenience to most of us.

2. Fore!

Opting for golf cover on your travel insurance if you're taking your clubs overseas for a round or two seems sensible. But beware – the insurance provided by the likes of Barclays and Saga, surprisingly, doesn't cover loss or theft to your golf equipment 'whilst in use'. On the bright-side, Columbus Direct will meet the cost of your bar bill should you have to buy everyone a drink as a result of a hole-in-one in a competition.

3. Sonic bangs

We found some pretty unlikely sounding general exclusions on home and car insurance policies. Loss or damage to your house or car caused by 'sonic bangs', or 'pressure waves from aircraft travelling at or above the speed of sound' shouldn't be a regular occurrence, particularly since Concorde came out of service in 2003. However, if you are a victim of a sonic bang, your insurer won't cover the damage.

4. Stolen documents

You can pay extra to cover personal effects or belongings on your car insurance, but the likes of Admiral, Aviva and More Than will exclude the loss of any documents. So if you keep your car insurance document in your car as advised and it's stolen, you'll have to pay up to £30 for a duplicate copy. So the advice is don't keep your original insurance document in the car when a photocopy will do.

5. Anyone for cricket?

Travel insurance policies will list the sports and activities that are covered as standard. The Post Office travel insurance policy lists gliding, go-karting, kite surfing, quad biking and shark diving in a cage underwater as 'standard activities' that carry no extra charge. But hockey, mountain biking, cricket and squash are deemed as 'hazardous activities' and require you to pay an additional premium.

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