When searching for car insurance your main focus is likely to be finding the cheapest price, but it's important to make sure your new policy isn't riddled with potholes that could cost you money further down the road.
We analysed 49 car insurance policies from 34 insurers and found that the breadth of coverage offered varies significantly, with many insurers' standard policies providing no or low cover for certain types of claims.
The rarest feature offered by insurers is guaranteed driving other cars (DOC) cover. This type of cover is useful if, in a pinch, you needed to quickly borrow a friend's car.
Drivers of certain ages (usually under 25) are generally excluded from this form of cover, as well as those in certain occupations - and in more than a third of policies (37%), it only applies in emergencies.
So before making that innocuous trip to the shops, check carefully that you have suitable cover on your policy schedule.
Personal belongings cover, which helps you repair or replace loose items damaged in or stolen from your car, was also missing from many policies.
Almost all policies contain some cover (ranging from £100-£2,000), but the catch is that not all belongings are included.
We found just two policies protecting cash and documents, and only three covering credit cards. Just over half (57%), meanwhile, exclude mobile phones.
Seven in 10 policies (69%) offer help in the event you fill your petrol tank with diesel, or vice versa
Only one in five (20%) will assist with both draining the tank and repairing the engine, however. Most policies offer one or the other but not both.
Almost all policies have some provision for this as standard, but only a fifth offer a temporary replacement vehicle if yours is stolen.
Similarly, only a fifth of policies provide a courtesy car if your car is written off.
Fortunately, most insurers have options to upgrade replacement vehicle provision to make it more comprehensive.
Legal expenses cover is a priority for many Which? members, but it could also prove to be toothless in certain scenarios.
Only a quarter of policies (12 out of 49) will pay for you to recover illegal clamping or towing fees, while just three in 10 (15 out of 49) will help you deal with legal costs related to your car's licence plate being cloned.
The table below shows the elements of cover most commonly omitted from car insurance policies
|Rank||Area of coverage||Percentage of policies|
|1||Guaranteed cover for driving other cars||2%|
|2||Personal belongings - cash||4%|
|3||Personal belongings - documents||4%|
|4||Personal belongings - credit cards||6%|
|5||Misfuelling (fuel drainage and engine damage)||18%|
|6||Legal expenses (as standard)||20%|
|7||Replacement vehicle (total loss as standard)||20%|
Source: Based on a December 2021 Which? survey of 34 insurers about the cover offered by 49 of their policies.
Before buying a policy, it's important to carefully check the policy document to be sure you're purchasing the cover you expect.
We've also got insurer ratings from customers who've recently made a claim.
Shopping around for the best deal could potentially save you hundreds of pounds on your car insurance renewal, despite recent changes designed to make pricing fairer.
In January, the car insurance 'loyalty penalty' was scrapped, meaning insurers can no longer quote existing customers a higher price than they would an equivalent new customer.
The full version of this article appeared in the March 2022 edition of Which? Money magazine.
Which? Limitedis registered in England and Wales to 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF, company number 00677665and is an Introducer Appointed Representative ofInspop.comLtd for the introduction of non-investment motor and home insurance products (FRN 610689).Inspop.comLtdis authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide advice and arrange non-investment motor and home insurance products (FRN310635) and is registered in England and Wales to Greyfriars House, Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, South Wales, CF10 3AL, company number 03857130.Confused.comis a trading name ofInspop.comLtd.