Making a car insurance claim
By Dean Sobers
No-one wants to have to claim on their car insurance. But what do you need to know to make the process as straightforward as possible? And when it comes to claims handling, which companies stand out from the crowd?
In this guide, find out:
- How to make a car insurance claim
- If it's worth making a car insurance claim
- Do you have to contact your insurer even if you don't claim?
- The best and worst insurers for claims satisfaction
1. Collect all the details you need
If your claim follows a road accident make sure you collect all the details you need from the other driver. Jot down the following:
- Vehicle registration
- Telephone number
- Insurance details
2. Call your insurer promptly
You'll need to give your car insurance company as much information about the accident as soon as possible. Make sure you have all the information you'll need to make a claim to hand before you call. Having notified the provider you'll get a claim form to complete and return. Alternatively, you may be able to submit your form online.
Remember that if you have an accident your insurer will expect to be notified - whether you intend to claim or not.
3. Complain if you're not satisfied
When making a claim, your expectation is that the provider will handle your enquiries carefully and pay out according to the terms of your policy.
However, this isn't always the case. If you feel that your claim hasn't been handled fairly - if it's rejected, for example, or the valuation you have received is less than you expected, complain to your insurer in the first instance.
4. Speak to the ombudsman
If you have exhausted the insurance company's complaints procedure (set out in your insurance policy) and your claim has not been settled, email the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) at financial-ombudsman.org.uk or call 0300 123 9123.
You usually have six months from the time you reach deadlock with the insurer in which to make a complaint. The decision of the FOS is binding on companies but not on the consumer - so you could, if you wish, refer the matter to court.
Faced with several thousand pounds worth of damage or theft, the case for making a claim on your insurance is pretty clear cut.
When it comes to costs of lower value, however - where it wouldn't break the bank to fund repairs or replacements yourself - you might decide making a claim isn't actually worth it. Here are the factors to bear in mind when weighing up whether or not to make a claim:
The effect on your premiums
A major cause for hesitation can be the potential impact on your premiums: recent claims or incidents affect the insurer's view of your level of risk, and so they may adjust your price accordingly.
Unfortunately, you can't know in advance what your next renewal premium will be. Generally speaking, though, minor, isolated incidents like a chip in the windscreen are less likely to lead to painful increases than something more serious or complex - like a collision with another driver.
Whether you choose to claim or not, be alert at renewal time. If your premium has soared, consider switching to a new provider or haggle with your current one for a better deal.
Find out more: Renewing your car insurance - tips for getting the best deal.
Excesses help keep your premium low, marking a threshold of what you're happy - or required - to pay yourself in the event of a claim.
Therefore the nearer the claim amount is to your excess, the more negligible the benefit is in claiming.
No claims discount
Check how much a claim will affect your no claims discount (NCD).
This won't give you the entire picture - you'll know from it how much discount you stand to lose if you claim, but not the underlying premium to which that discount is applied, which may change regardless.
However, it's still useful because if your claim triggers a big reduction in discount, you can know to expect a sizeable increase in premium - and it may take two or three years to recover the NCD you had.
The bottom line is car insurers expect to be notified of any incident that could potentially lead to a claim - even if you don't plan to make one.
Not doing so could risk putting you in breach of your policy's terms and conditions.
This is primarily because even if you don't lodge a claim, an affected third party might - so your insurer wants to have as much information as possible about the incident.
Insurers will also take into account incidents in your recent past when calculating your risk - especially if the incident is serious. Damage to your car may have affected its safety, security or value.
The acid test of any car insurer is how it handles your claim. In November 2016, Which? surveyed 1,335 members about their experiences using a major car insurance provider. Their ratings are shown in the table below.
We also rate insurers on value for money, complaint handling and transparency of fees as part of our customer satisfaction ratings. In addition, full info on the quality of each policy can be found on our car insurance brand pages.
This review reveals which insurers came out best for cover and customer service, and which scored the worst. To access this review and thousands of others, sign up for a £1 Which? trial. Or if you're already a member, log in now to see our reviews.
Insurers must be rated by at least 30 respondents to be included in our table. Where '-' is shown, sample sizes were too low to give a score.
- Last updated: October 2017
- Updated by: Dean Sobers