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30 Mar 2021

Five car insurance potholes that could leave you with a hefty bill

We reveal common exclusions for incidents you'd think would be covered

Car insurance should be simple - paying out if you cause or are on the receiving end of damage on the road.

But you'd be surprised how many common incidents may not be covered.

Even the comprehensive policies offered by insurers can be very different and could leave you out of pocket.

To find out what is and isn't included, in December 2020 we analysed 73 elements of cover across 39 policies, as part of our research into the best car insurers.

Here, we highlight five areas of your cover which might not live up to your expectations.

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1. Personal belongings

All car insurance policies we examined and rated boast personal belongings cover. This can range between £100 and £2,000 and - as the name suggests - protects personal items that are damaged or destroyed in your car.

But insurers are choosy about what counts as a 'personal belonging'. Only two of the 39 policies, for example, cover cash.

In 46% of the policies we analysed, mobile phones also weren't covered. Meanwhile, 18% of policies examined excluded laptops and tablets.

2. Misfuelling

According to the RAC, 150,000 Brits pour the wrong type of fuel into their car each year - an accident that can lead to expensive engine damage.

Only half of policies we scrutinised provide misfuelling cover as standard, while 36% don't offer misfuelling cover at all.

And a good chunk either only pay for draining the fuel from the tank (18% of policies), or just for repairing a damaged engine that's been run on the wrong fuel (18% of policies).

Just 28% of policies automatically cover both.

3. Onward travel

If your car is put out of action far from your home, car insurance usually covers the costs of getting you to your destination or back home.

Onward travel wasn't a feature of 26% policies in our survey, though, leaving your with a potentially pricey trip in a taxi.

4. Sunroof cover

Car owners with smashed sunroofs will - in 18% of policies looked at - find themselves unable to claim under the 'glass' section of their cover.

Glass cover is the part of the policy specifically related to the windscreen and windows, and it usually also includes sunroofs.

If it doesn't, you can claim instead under the policy's 'accidental damage' section - but at a cost that could reduce the value of claiming.

This is because accidental damage claims come with higher excesses than 'glass' claims. They're also more likely to affect your no-claims discount.

5. Lost keys

If you drop your keys down a drain, most policies will have you covered... to an extent.

Of the policies we scrutinised, 15% will pay for replacement keys and locks - but not for the locksmith's call-out charges.

Another 15% don't provide any cover at all for lost keys, instead only covering stolen keys.

Do you always read the smallprint?

We're guessing you probably don't - for most of us, price is paramount when picking insurance.

That said, the bills you could rack up by falling foul of these car insurance potholes could dwarf the cost of buying a better policy.

Rather than wading through dozens of policies' paperwork yourself, use our reviews to find the policy you need.

Quickly compare using our overall policy score, or go into detail with our ratings of all 73 areas of cover per policy.

For 16 insurers, we've also got scores from customers who've recently made a claim.

First featured in April's Which? Money magazine

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