When taking out car insurance, it’s easy to think that your policy will cover you for everything and anything that goes wrong.
This isn’t always the case, however, and there are a number of different ways your car insurance policy can be invalidated – meaning your insurer will not pay out if and when you need to make a claim.
From personalised number plates to putting in the wrong fuel in your car, Which? takes a look at six surprising things that your car insurance won’t cover if you ran into trouble with them.
Personalised number plates
Personalised number plates plates are becoming an increasingly popular investment for cars – last year almost 375,000 were sold by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
One unique and highly sought after number plate that spells out ‘TAXI’ sold for £92,000 at an auction at the end of February.
Unfortunately, despite the sentimental and cost value that personalised number plates have, most car insurance providers won’t cover them.
Research by GoCompare revealed that out of 302 comprehensive car insurance polices, only 19 specifically covered the loss of a personalised number plate if your car was lost or stolen. Only 16 car insurance policies provided cover for £5,000 or more.
But why is this a problem? Well, when you buy a personalised plate, you’re buying a right to assign the plate to a vehicle – not the plate itself.
If the insurer gets rid of the car with the registration plates still assigned, all rights to your personalised plate would go with the vehicle – meaning you may lose your investment.
Considering that some personalised plates can cost more than £25,000, this could leave some drivers severely out of pocket.
If you find yourself in this position, you have to arrange for the number to be transferred to another vehicle or retained on a certificate in sufficient time before the claim is settled. This means you should talk to your insurer straight away about the personalised plate if your car is involved in a claim.
You can read up on the government’s rules for assigning personalised registration numbers to learn more about the process.
It’s also worth checking your car insurance policy before taking it out to see if the costs of your personalised number plate would be included in an insurance payout.
According to GoCompare, if a car with a personalised plate is stolen and not recovered, its owner will have to wait 12 months to get the number plate back. To reclaim the personalised plate, they will also have to prove that the car had a valid MOT and tax at the time of theft.
Matt Oliver from GoCompare told Which? Money that ‘when you register a personalised plate to a vehicle you need to tell your insurer immediately, otherwise your policy could be invalidated and, particularly if you’ve paid a lot for a registration number, you should consider whether it’s properly insured.’
- Find out more: Best and worst car insurance
Most car insurance policies will not cover the cost of repairing or replacing non-standard modified car parts.
Car modifications can include but are not limited to the following:
- adding a turbo or supercharger to your engine
- modifying your car wheels
- fitting uprated brakes
- removing or replacing seats
- tinting windows
- changing the steering wheel.
Optional extras and accessories offered by car manufacturers, as well as adaptations made due to a disability, may be covered by some policies but must be delcared and agreed by your car insurer before you take out cover.
Ian Flower, Motor Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual said: ‘It is also important to inform your insurer of any modifications to your vehicle as these could potentially invalidate your claim.’
- Find out more: how to find cheap car insurance
Insuring the main driver as a named driver
Your car insurance policy will be invalidated if you name the main driver on your policy as the named driver, which is often referred to as ‘fronting’.
This could include a scenario where you insure your daughter or son as an additional driver on your policy when, in fact, they will be the main user of the car.
This may seem like a tempting way to reduce the cost of insurance, for younger drivers in particular, as the premium price will be based predominantly on your driving history and not theirs.
But doing this runs the risk of invalidating your insurance altogether, leaving out of pocket when you come to make a claim.
Black box car insurance, also known as ‘telematics’, can help younger drivers get cheaper car insurance. For more information take a look at our short video.
Putting the wrong fuel in your car
Using the wrong fuel by absent-mindedly putting petrol in a diesel car (or vice versa) is a common mistake that affects around 150,000 people a year.
It can have very costly consequences – but most car insurance policies will not cover it.
According to Defaqto, out of 300 car insurance policies on the market, 240 (80%) exclude cover for putting the wrong fuel in your car.
While Defaqto also found that 149 out of 300 car insurance policies do provide cover for using the wrong fuel under ‘accidental damage’, most of these will require you to pay an excess and potentially lose any no claims discount you’ve earned.
If you have used the wrong fuel that you don’t start your engine and get your tank drained and cleaned immediately. Prices for this start at around £130, but your car insurance policy won’t cover this as standard.
A very small number of car insurance polices, 23 out of 300 (8%) offer misfuelling cover as an optional ‘add-on’ feature, instead. But it will, of course, come at an additional cost.
- Find out more: Add-ons, fees and charges
Using your car for business purposes
Most standard car insurance policies will not cover your car if you use it for business purposes.
Before you take out a car insurance policy, your provider will ask you to specify what purposes you will be using car for which will affect the price of your premium.
These usually fall into three categories: social, commuting and business.
Most standard car insurance policies are designed to cover social and commuting purposes such as driving to the shops, visiting friends, or driving to and from work.
Drivers using their car for business purposes are treated differently because they are often seen as higher risk and might need to undertake activities like:
- carrying extra equipment
- driving on unfamiliar roads
- using their car more regularly.
Business car insurance often comes at a higher premium but if you try to rely on standard policy, your car insurance could be invalidated should the worst happen.
If plan on using your car to chauffeur other people, you may need to get taxi insurance instead.
Taxi insurance includes private hire cars, minicabs or black Hackney carriages.
Ian Flower at NFU Mutual said: ‘As is general practice in the insurance industry, we require customers to declare the type of use of their car eg personal, commuting or business, so that they are properly protected in the event of an accident.’
- Find out more: Car insurance explained
Track racing or events
Your car insurance policy will not cover you if your car is used for racing of any kind, including formal track racing events.
It is possible to get track day cover, which is designed to cover the cost of repairing or replacing your car if you experience any damage while taking part in a race event.
Track day insurance often comes at a higher premium and with a hefty excess to cover the higher level of risk that racing brings.
For help finding the best car insurance policy for you, take a look at our newly released independent car insurance scores.
Which? experts have analysed the standard policies of more than 30 car insurance companies and surveyed thousands of policyholders to generate impartial scores to help you decide which insurer is right for you.