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Car insurance exclusions

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Don’t want your car insurance claim rejected? Know the key 16 exclusion clauses.

There are a number of ways that you can accidentally void your car insurance policy. This means that you might still be paying the premiums, but have no chance of successfully making a claim.

If you haven’t already taken a close look at the exclusions section of your car insurance policy, it’s worth going over it to make sure you haven’t accidentally voided your cover in the past. If you get into an accident and your claim can be traced to any of these exclusions then your insurer may reject it.

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Meeting your car insurance obligations

As a customer, you have some broad obligations to meet. The following requirements apply to your policy for its entire lifespan. By not meeting them, you might end up buying a policy that’s already void for you. If you are found to have previously violated the requirements when making a claim, your insurer can reject it.

  • Meet the duty of disclosure and good faith: You are legally required to meet your “duty of disclosure” and to only sign a car insurance policy “in good faith.” This means that it’s your responsibility to inform the insurer of anything that may affect the odds of you making a claim, such as a pre-existing medical condition, and that you can only take out the policy if you plan to use it as intended.
  • Minimize damage: It is your legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to minimize damage to your car. This means taking it in for a checkup if you have reason to believe there’s something wrong. or pulling it off to the side of the road, if possible, in the event of an accident. This condition only applies to damage that you know about, or that you have cause to believe exists.
  • Drive responsibly: Legally and responsibly are not the same thing, but you are required to do both. If you are driving under the influence and you are over the limit, then this is both illegal and irresponsible. If you are taking blind corners at excessive speed on a road with no posted limits, then this is legal but irresponsible. In both cases your policy may be voided.
  • Maintain an active policy: It sounds obvious, but your policy needs to be active at the time of your claim. If you’ve missed premium payments, have previously claimed a total loss or otherwise may have an inactive policy, it’s worth checking to be sure.

Common causes of car insurance exclusions

Some drivers will accidentally void their insurance policy without knowing it.

  • Unapproved drivers: If the person behind the wheel is not listed on your insurance policy, then your policy may be void. This depends on the insurer and the policy and, naturally, does not apply to stolen vehicles. All approved drivers must meet their policy obligations and other conditions such as not driving against medical advice.
  • Unapproved use: Most insurance policies will only be valid for certain uses of your car. You can not expect your personal car insurance policy to cover you for commercial purposes. This includes carrying goods for pay, working as a driving instructor or using your car as a taxi. Some insurers will still cover Uber drivers, but unless the policy explicitly says this, it’s safe to assume that ridesharing for pay will void your policy.
  • Overloaded vehicle: If there are more people in the car than there are seat belts, you can assume that your insurance is void. The same applies to all overloading, for both cars and trailers, in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations for specific vehicles.
  • Improper maintenance: Your car insurance is void if your car is not legally fit to drive and not certified as roadworthy. Bald tires, worn suspension or brake pads, broken headlights or even an improperly displayed license plate can mean your car insurance policy is inactive. Regular car maintenance is an essential part of vehicle ownership
  • Unapproved modifications: Depending on the terms of your policy, you might void it entirely by installing any modifications without getting permission from your insurer first. For some policies, this may only apply if you’ve installed modifications that specifically affect performance in some way. Either way, you should always get in touch with your insurer before modifying your car.

What losses can’t be claimed?

There are certain types of damage that cannot be claimed against most car insurance policies.

  • Wear and tear and depreciation: Generally, car insurance policies will cover damage to your vehicle. If that damage was caused by wear and tear, defined as natural damage expected to occur over time with regular driving, then you cannot expect your insurer to pay for it. The same applies to loss of value caused by depreciation.
  • Mechanical, structural, electrical, electronic or any other breakdown: You will commonly find car insurance policies that will specifically not cover “failures” or “breakdowns.” This is because car insurance covers damage, not failures. For example, if your power windows suddenly stop working for no clear reason, then this is likely a breakdown and it will not be covered by your insurance. If your power windows stop working after being rear-ended by another car, then it would probably count as damage and be covered by your policy.
  • Tire, glass and other damage: Some policies may specify that they will not cover any broken glass expenses, or any damage to the tires resulting from punctures, bursting or similar.
  • Unapproved repairs: Some policies may be voided if you get any car repairs from unapproved providers, while others may simply not cover any loss or damage resulting from those repairs failing at a later date.
  • Consequential damage: This refers to other damage or loss resulting from a claimable event. For example, loss of income from not being able to drive to work would be a type of consequential damage.
  • Personal belongings: Some car insurance policies will also cover personal items to different extents. Limits typically apply and special conditions may apply to trade tools and other valuables. You can generally assume that belongings are not covered by any given car insurance policy and that if they are, conditions apply.

What else won’t I be covered for?

There are some less-common, miscellaneous conditions to look out for in your car insurance policy. It’s unlikely that these will apply to you, but it’s still worth knowing about them just in case.

  • Lawful seizure: If your car is lawfully repossessed or taken, whether by debt collectors, the police or anyone else, it’s not covered by your insurance.
  • Asbestos, nuclear, biological or other contamination: Damage resulting from specific types of environmental contamination is not covered by your car insurance.
  • Terrorism or acts of war: Damage from these kind of events might occur on a wider scale, which insurers would prefer not to be liable for.
  • Deliberate damage: As a general rule, you cannot claim any type of deliberate damage to your vehicle, with the exception of vandalism or theft in line with your policy terms. This also applies to damage done with your consent.
  • Outside the United States: Typically, everyday car insurance for everyday drivers will not cover you outside the country. Some policies might have more specific location restrictions or will offer different types of cover depending on where you are driving at the time.

Bottom line

Make sure you understand what’s covered under your car insurance and what’s not covered before hitting the road. This is especially important when canceling policies or switching insurers.

Check your terms carefully to avoid a surprise when it’s time to make a claim, and compare your options to find the best coverage.

Compare car insurance policies

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection
Liberty Mutual
Included free
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
Car insurance through Liberty Mutual will give coverage options for almost any situation.
Esurance
Optional
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
Esurance offers a modern online and mobile experience that helps you take your insurance on the go.
Allstate
Included free
Yes, cars under 2 years old
Enjoy having your own dedicated agent to help you get the best discounts and coverage.

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