Car insurance exclusions

Don't want your car insurance claim rejected? Know the common exclusions.

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There are a number of ways that you can accidentally invalidate 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 closer look at the exclusions section of your car insurance policy, it’s worth going over it to make sure you haven’t inadvertently 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. What car insurance exclusions should you be aware of? Read on to find out.

Common car insurance exclusions

It’s not unusual for the list of general exclusions to take up a few pages or more of your car insurance policy. But while the size of the list may seem a little overwhelming at first, many of those exclusions are simply common sense. If you’re a safe and responsible driver, most of them won’t ever cause you any problems.

Here are some important car insurance exclusions you should be aware of before hitting the road.

1. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

If you get behind the wheel having drank more alcohol than is legally permitted in the UK, expect a claim to be rejected.

This exclusion also applies to drugs or prescription medications that have a significant impact on your reactions or thought processes.

And don’t think you can get away with it by refusing to take a test to check for drugs, alcohol or medication in your blood, as this will also likely cause any related claims to go against you.

  • It’s worth pointing out that the act of drink driving itself doesn’t void any claim made by a third party for injury or damage. Insurance companies are still obliged to pay out for any third party claim. The problem is, the insurers could decide to seek these costs back from you.

2. Driving a car that isn’t roadworthy

When you take out car insurance cover, one of your obligations under the insurance contract is to keep your car in good condition. This means it needs to be well maintained, roadworthy and safe to drive.

With this in mind, it’s essential to:

  • Replace old, worn-out tyres
  • Replace broken or defective lights
  • Replace worn-out brakes
  • Repair any major rust problems
  • Fix worn upholstery
  • Repair major scratches and dents you do not claim under your policy

3. Modifying your car (without telling your insurer)

Although the approach to modifications does differ slightly between insurers, it’s always a good idea to get your insurer’s approval before making any changes to your vehicle. Any alterations to the standard body, engine, suspension, wheels or paintwork of your car that have an effect on its performance, safety levels, appearance or value may influence your insurer’s decision about whether or not to cover you, so you’ll need to get the OK first.

Once you make any unauthorised changes to your car, it becomes a different vehicle to the one your insurer originally agreed to cover. So if you don’t tell your insurer about any mods you’re planning, future claims could be refused.

4. Unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles

If you don’t have a valid licence when you get behind the wheel of your car, don’t expect your insurer to cover you for any incidents that may occur. This exclusion also applies if you have failed to renew your licence in time, or if you’re in control of a vehicle you’re not licensed to drive. So make sure you regularly check your licence expiry date and check any terms and conditions that may be attached before hitting the road.

You would also compromise your insurance cover if you fail to:

  • Register your car with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  • Renew your car tax
  • Have a current MOT certificate
  • Forgetting to renew your tax is an easy mistake to make, especially now that tax discs are a thing of the past, so make sure you’ve got all the proper documentation and made the necessary payment to be sure of maintaining cover.

5. Driving your car while it is overloaded

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to find out that driving your car while it’s overloaded is a dangerous and also illegal practice, and is therefore excluded from car insurance cover. The overloading exclusion applies to the following scenarios:

  • Carrying more passengers than the car was designed for
  • Carrying more passengers than the car is permitted to carry by law
  • Carrying any load which is not properly secured according to law
  • Carrying any load that is over the legal limit
  • Carrying any load that is more than your car is designed to carry or tow
  • Take special note of the towing exclusion. If you’re planning to tow a trailer or caravan, check your car manufacturer’s specifications to find out how much your vehicle can safely tow.

6. Damaged tyres and tyre damage

This is one common exclusion that many UK drivers might not be aware of but it’s important to consider before you hit the road. The minimum legal tyre tread depth, according to the UK Tyre Law, is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the middle three quarters of the tyre. Replacing your tyres before they get to this point is a critical safety measure.

Driving on worn-out tyres is illegal and unsafe. And if you have an accident while your car is fitted with tyres that don’t meet the legal minimum, your claim may not be approved.

While we’re on the subject of tyres, car insurance also won’t provide any cover for tyre damage caused by:

  • Braking
  • Wear and tear
  • Punctures, cuts or bursts

With this in mind, there’s even more reason to regularly check the tread and overall condition of your tyres before getting behind the wheel.

7. General wear and tear or gradual deterioration

Following on from the above exclusion, comprehensive car insurance won’t cover any claims that arise due to gradual deterioration or general wear and tear to parts of your vehicle. Insurance policies are designed to provide financial protection against unexpected events and mishaps, not against the general ageing and deterioration that occurs naturally with regular use of your car.

This means you won’t be covered for claims caused by:

  • Wear and tear
  • Rust or corrosion
  • Mould
  • Mildew
  • Rot
  • Damp

So instead of relying on your car insurer to cover every single little thing that could eventually wear down on your vehicle, it’s your responsibility to stay on top of ongoing maintenance and any minor repair requirements as they arise.

8. Legal confiscation or repossession of your car

Has your lead foot finally come back to haunt you and resulted in your car being seized after yet another speeding ticket? Did you list your vehicle as collateral for a car loan and then have it repossessed when you defaulted on your repayments?

In either of the above scenarios, don’t expect any financial assistance from your car insurer. Whenever your car is legally repossessed or confiscated, or even if it is lawfully destroyed by the authorities, no cover is available under your comprehensive car insurance policy. This exclusion also applies to any personal items or possessions that are carried in your vehicle and legally confiscated or repossessed.

9. Motor sports or reckless acts

Do you feel the need? The need for speed? Sorry, Maverick, but indulging in your desire to go fast could cause any resulting car insurance claims to be rejected.

Car insurance will not provide cover if you participate in any kind of motor sport in your car, such as:

  • On a permanent or temporary racetrack
  • In a four-wheel drive adventure park
  • For racing
  • For trials, speed tests, rallies, contests or hill climbs
  • For endurance or skills tests

Unsurprisingly, you also won’t be covered if your claim arises because you were participating in street racing, or driving recklessly (donuts, burnouts and the like). So it might be time to put your need for speed to one side and focus on your need to drive safely and maintain your car insurance cover.

10. Hiring out your car

‘Renting’ your car to a friend for a couple of months while their vehicle is off the road? Driving for a rideshare service like Uber and using your car to earn some extra cash?

In both of the above scenarios, if your car was damaged by an insured event your claim would be rejected. All comprehensive car insurers exclude claims that arise because your car was being used for hire, fare or monetary reward.

However, the good news is that car pooling arrangements are usually covered but contact your insurer to double-check. And if you’re planning on becoming an Uber driver, check out our guide to rideshare car insurance to find out how to get the cover you need.

11. Report all accidents

With premiums increasing after every claim made, it’s no surprise that drivers might choose to repair minor damage themselves and keep their no-claims bonus. However, you will still have to inform your insurer about any damage from an accident even if you don’t want to make a claim – as any later claim made following a more serious accident might be thrown out.

12. Update the basics

Moved to a new address or got a promotion at work? Don’t let it slip your mind to inform your insurance company straight away as you risk invalidating your cover if you fail to inform them about these changes.

You will also void your car cover if you decide to use it for any purpose other than what you originally insured it for. For example, if you insured your car for personal use but have since started using it to carry supplies between offices for your business, you are breaking the terms of your insurance.

You are legally obliged to tell your car insurance provider the truth so if your circumstances change, remember to inform the company immediately as your premiums may need to be recalculated.

13. Not paying your premiums

This is another exclusion that should be obvious but is worth mentioning nonetheless. If you don’t pay yourcar insurance premiums on time, your policy will lapse.

This can be a pretty easy mistake to make. An expensive car insurance renewal through the post is hardly a welcome arrival but the decision to put it aside to “deal with later” could come back to haunt you.

Do whatever you have to do to make sure you remember to pay your annual renewal on time or, if you pay monthly, consider setting up an automatic direct debit so you never forget.

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 cancelling policies or switching insurers.

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

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