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30 Apr 2021

Car insurance: don't let this temporary coronavirus rule change catch you out

Make sure you're covered to drive to work from May

Drivers should think twice before driving to work after Bank Holiday Monday next week, as a change to car insurance rules could leave them with the wrong level of cover.

At the start of the pandemic, insurers temporarily changed the rules around insurance cover, allowing people to drive their cars to work even if they were only insured for 'social, domestic and pleasure' driving.

Now many lockdown restrictions have been lifted, this temporary tweak will come to an end on 30 April, meaning you'll need your car insurance to explicitly cover you for driving to work in order to keep your commute on the road.

Here, Which? shows you how to check if you're covered, as well as everything else you need to do to prepare for driving after lockdown.

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Are you insured to drive to work?

When you take out a car insurance policy, your insurer will ask you what you use your car for. This is called your car's 'class of use'.

Remember that it's illegal to drive without insurance, so if you drive for any reason outside of your policy's class, you could be breaking the law and could face serious penalties.

There are six insurance classes of use you can choose from:

  • Social, domestic and pleasure: this covers driving to visit friends, go shopping, travel on day trips or holidays, and other day-to-day driving trips. It doesn't cover driving to work. During the pandemic, people with this class of insurance were temporarily covered to drive to work, but from 30 April that won't be the case.
  • Commuting: this covers all of the above, plus commuting to work. This includes driving to a train station and leaving your car there while you get the train the rest of the way to the office, and it also covers driving someone else to work.
  • Class 1 business: this covers you to drive to places other than your fixed office for work, such as on-site visits or to external meetings.
  • Class 2 business: same as the above but it can also cover another named driver, such as a colleague.
  • Class 3 business: this one covers you for transporting goods for door-to-door sales.
  • Commercial: you'll need this for anything more than the above, such as using your car as a taxi or to give driving lessons.

If you don't know what class of cover you have at the moment, you should check with your insurer to find out.

If you've been driving to work with only social, domestic and pleasure cover, you'll need to contact your insurer in order to keep doing it past May.

The ABI, which represents UK insurers, said: 'As restrictions change and travel to workplaces becomes more routine, drivers will need to contact their insurer if there are ongoing changes to their driving activities since taking out the policy. This includes using your own vehicle to commute to work or driving to different locations for work purposes, as was common before the pandemic.'

All this being said, if you use your car for voluntary purposes, such as transporting groceries or medicines to people who have been impacted by Covid-19, most insurers will still cover you at no extra cost.

Will driving after lockdown be more dangerous?

With millions of drivers keeping their cars off the roads during the 'stay at home' portion of the lockdown, there's likely to be a surge in driving as restrictions are lifted. Especially now that UK holidays can take place (with some limitations).

In early April, NFU Mutual predicted that traffic accidents would surge by a fifth after lockdown ended. This is based on the sharp increase in accident claims it received after last year's lockdown.

NFU also found that one in four of the 2,003 drivers it surveyed felt nervous about driving for long journeys once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Nearly half (45%) of drivers said they'd like a 'driving confidence' session to help relieve their anxiety. NFU Mutual is offering these to 1,000 of its customers from May 2021. But you have to win a prize draw to be selected.

Can I get a car insurance refund?

While some motorists might find themselves on the road more often now that restrictions are being lifted, others may have permanently changed their driving habits.

If you're driving less than you did before the pandemic, and you haven't yet told your insurer, you may be able to lower your car insurance premium or even get a rebate.

In April 2020, Admiral refunded all customers £25 per vehicle to reflect a reduction in claims due to fewer cars on the road. Other insurers encouraged customers to get in touch if they'd reduced their mileage.

Since your premium is based at least in part on how much you drive, if you're driving less there's a chance you can get your premium lowered.

It isn't too late to ask your insurer about this if you haven't already. However, keep in mind that some insurers may charge you to make this change.

There's a chance your new driving behaviour will be better suited to a pay-by-mile car insurance policy which bills you partly on an accurate measure of how much driving you do each month.