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Car insurance: add-ons, fees and charges

We explain the extra cover offered by insurers and see which charge the most in fees for renewal, cancellation and adjusting your policy.

In this article
What is a car insurance 'add-on'? Types of car insurance add-on
What car insurance fees do I pay? Car insurance fees compared

What is a car insurance 'add-on'?

Even comprehensive car insurance doesn't cover you for every eventuality. 

Car insurers offer additional elements of cover, which are optional. If you want to add them to your policy, you'll have to pay extra on your premium.

Here we explain what these add-ons provide, to help you decide whether they're worth buying. 

Types of car insurance add-on

Enhanced courtesy car cover

A courtesy car will usually be offered during a claim while your vehicle is in the garage for repairs. 

However, if you depend heavily on your vehicle, you should pay attention to the details when it comes to courtesy car provision your insurer offers.

Many will differ on whether the replacement car offered will actually resemble your own (in terms of size and make), or even if its availability can be guaranteed.

When we analysed the standard policies of 35 insurers, only around a quarter would provide a temporary replacement vehicle if yours was stolen or written off. 

In most cases, you can pay extra to enhance your replacement car cover beyond the insurer's bare minimum.

  • Typical add-on cost - £20-£30
  • Cover limit - 14-60 days

Legal expenses insurance

Commonly sold alongside car and home insurance policies, legal expenses insurance (LEI) covers the cost of pursuing legal action to reclaim expenses that aren't covered under your main insurance.

With a car policy, for instance, this might come in handy in suing for compensation for property damage or injury after a car accident.  

Most car LEI policies provide £100,000 cover (usually for around £30). It's important to bear in mind, though, that having LEI isn't as simple as having straightforward access to a pot of cash.

Claims will not be accepted if the insurer doesn't believe you have a reasonable chance of succeeding with your legal action, and it will typically have limits on the rates that are payable to solicitors.

  • Typical add-on cost - around £30
  • Cover limit - £50,000-£100,000 

Breakdown cover

Car insurance pays out if your car is damaged in an accident, but you're on your own if your car simply stutters to a halt. Most car insurers offer breakdown cover as an added extra. A wide selection of cover levels are typically available to choose from, making for a vast range of prices. 

  • Typical add-on cost - £25-£200 

It's possible to buy breakdown cover separately and potentially at a lower cost. You can find our reviews and Which? Recommended breakdown cover providers here.

Personal accident cover

Personal accident cover pays out if you're killed or seriously injured in a motor accident. Every standard car insurance policy we analysed provides some level of this cover as standard, but cover levels can vary by tens of thousands of pounds depending on the provider and level of cover you choose.

Standard levels of cover range between £2,500 and £15,000 - but cover can be enhanced to as much as £100,000.

Personal accident cover is often more complex than the maximum payout limit, though. Different benefit limits will typically apply to different types of injury (for instance to different parts of the body).

Some policies will also pay out for for daily expenses if you're hospitalised following an accident.

  • Typical add-on cost: £20-£40
  • Cover limit - £2,500-£100,000 

Key cover

Key insurance helps pay for a replacement if your keys go missing. The cover provided will also pay for replacement locks. Some providers will also offer 24-hour assistance. Key insurance benefit limits tend to range between £300 and £2,500. 

Theoretically, you would be able to make a claim on most car insurance policies to replace your car keys or locks. However, these would potentially reduce your No Claims Discount - and so impact the following year's premium.

Additionally, the benefit could also stand to be halved by the car insurance policy's excess. In our survey, compulsory accidental damage excesses on car insurance policies averaged around £180. According to figures from the Financial Conduct Authority, meanwhile, key insurance claims typically come to under £300.

  • Typical add-on cost: £15-£25
  • Cover limit - £300-£2,500

Which add-ons do I need?

Add-ons are highly profitable for insurers. And while cases can be made for each, none are a must for all customers. For example, enhanced courtesy car cover could be crucial if you need to stay mobile - but would be less important if you have access to more than one car. 

With personal accident cover, you might consider alternative insurance options, such as life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection, to cover you or your heirs for financial loss if you're killed or disabled.   

An important thing thing to check when assessing a car insurance add-on is that you don't already own it. For example, breakdown cover can sometimes come as part of a packaged bank account.

What car insurance fees do I pay?

Renewal fees 

Renewal fees are relatively rare and are usually charged by online brokers. For example, Budget charges its customers £50 to renew their policies.

Adjustment fees

Having to change your policy is likely to cost you. Amendments can range from changing the name on your policy (if you get married, for instance) to adding a second driver. The fee could be as high as £33.60 and this is on top of any increase in premiums caused by the changes.

Cancellation and ‘cooling-off’ cancellation fees

If you decide you no longer want your policy, even within the 14-day cooling-off period, your insurer may charge you a fee.

Under the law the fee has to be ‘reasonable’ but can still vary greatly from provider to provider. Budget, Esure and Sheilas' Wheels for example, charge £60 if you can cancel after the cooling off period - but five providers let you cancel for free

Pay monthly APR

Paying monthly for your car insurance may seem like a good way to spread the cost, but it can prove expensive.

Paying monthly means taking out a high interest loan from your provider – sometimes with APRs as high as 44%.

Car insurance fees compared

When deciding whether to buy a policy, you should consider not only the premium and excess, but also the fees, as these can greatly add to the cost.

To read our full reviews, click on the insurers' names.

The insurers with the lowest fees

Provider Which? fee score APR Adjustment fee Duplicate document fee Cancelling during 14 day cooling-off period Cancellation fee after 14 day cooling off period Renewal fee Payment default fee
Aviva 100% 0.00% No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee
NFU Mutual 100% 0.00% No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee
Age Co 93% 17.50% No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee No fee
Direct Line 84% Variable No fee No fee No fee £48.16 No fee No fee
By Miles 82% 0.00% First 3 adjustments - £0 / £20 No fee £50 £50 No fee No fee
M&S Bank 80% 23.50% £25 No fee No fee £50 No fee No fee
More Than 80% 21.00% £25 No fee No fee £50 No fee No fee
Sainsbury's Bank 79% Variable £0 online / £25 No fee No fee £50 No fee No fee
Co-op Insurance 77% 19.50% £15 No fee No fee £50 No fee £12.50
John Lewis Finance 77% 23.50% £15 No fee £40 No fee No fee No fee

 

Table notes: We examined the fees and charges of 35 insurers. Each insurer was rated for each of its different fees compared with what others charged in the survey. The Which? Fee Score is the insurer's combined total score as a proportion of the maximum score achievable. The table shows the insurers with the 10 highest fee scores. Table correct as of January 2020.

 

The insurers with the highest fees

Provider Which? fee score APR Adjustment fee Duplicate document fee Cancelling during 14 day cooling-off period Cancellation fee after 14 day cooling off period Renewal fee Payment default fee
Elephant 64% Variable £25 No fee £25 £55 No fee £7.50
Saga 63% 26.70% £25 No fee £5 £50 £25 No fee
Rias 62% 29.90% £0 online / £25 No fee £25 £50 £20 £12.50
esure 61% 27.80% £26 No fee £26 £60 No fee No fee
Sheilas' Wheels 61% 27.80% £26 No fee £26 £60 No fee No fee
Ageas 59% 29.90% £25 No fee £25 £50 £20 £12.50
Swinton 54% 43.61% £25 No fee £25 No fee £25 £30
AA Insurance 53% 26.90% £25 No fee £28 £30 £28 £12
RAC 47% 30.90% £25 No fee £25 £55 £40 £20
Budget 44% 29.90% £20 No fee £38 £60 £50 £20

 

Table notes: We examined the fees and charges of 35 insurers. Each insurer was rated for each of its different fees compared with what others charged in the survey. The Which? Fee Score is the insurer's combined total score as a proportion of the maximum score achievable. The table shows the insurers with the 10 lowest fee scores. Table correct as of January 2020.

 

 

 

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