Car insurance optional extras

What optional extras can you add onto your car insurance policy and are they worth it?

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No matter whether you own a big luxury SUV or a zippy little hatch, car insurance is a crucial cost to consider before hitting the road. But as well as the standard cover provided by your comprehensive car insurance policy, there are several optional extras you can take out to provide increased cover for your set of wheels.

What are those optional car insurance extras and are they worth the additional cost? Let’s find out.

What optional extras can I add to my car insurance policy?

The list of optional extras available differs between insurers. The cover options listed below are commonly offered by UK car insurers and can sometimes be included with your policy for an additional premium, or in some cases may be offered as standard policy features.

Courtesy car/hire car cover

If you’re involved in an accident, comprehensive car insurance can cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle. In the event of an accident, it’s possible that your car could be off the road for an extended period of time while it is repaired, and if the repairer needs to order a rare part from overseas, this wait could potentially be even longer. And if your car is written off, it could take some time until a permanent replacement is provided.

Many of us wouldn’t be able to survive very long without our car, which means you could face the inconvenience and extra expense of hiring a car while your own vehicle is out of commission.

The accident hire car option is designed to cover such a scenario. If your vehicle suffers extensive damage and can’t be driven safely until the damage is repaired, selecting this option ensures that your car insurer will cover the cost of a hire car while your car is off the road. This extra offers peace of mind and important financial protection.

The hire car will usually need to be a similar make and model to your regular drive. However, keep in mind that while some policies will cover hire car costs for the entire time your car is being repaired, others will only cover hire costs for a fixed period, such as 14 or 20 days. The maximum daily hire cost covered by your policy can also vary, so check the fine print to be sure.

Windscreen cover

Chipped and cracked windscreens are a common and annoying problem. Although they can be quickly and easily repaired, the important safety qualities of windscreen glass means the job can only be done by specialist auto glass repairers – and this means windscreen repairs can be quite expensive.

Windscreen cover may be included with comprehensive cover from some insurers but may be added as an optional extra with others. With windscreen cover, your insurer will pay to have chipped, cracked and broken windscreens repaired or replaced. While you may sometimes be required to pay an excess for such claims, other insurers will offer to reduce or even waive their excess for all windscreen claims. In other cases, your first windscreen claim in any policy period may be excess-free, but any subsequent claims will come with the normal policy excess attached.

Finally, it’s also worth checking whether making a windscreen claim will affect your no-claims discount – it will affect your discount with some insurers but may not have any impact with others.

Breakdown cover

Engine troubles, mechanical and electrical failures, flat tyres and even running out of fuel are frustrating incidents that every driver hopes to avoid. Not only can they be extremely inconvenient and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere (or even in the middle of a busy dual carriageway), but they can also leave you facing expensive bills for repairs and towing costs.

And under normal circumstances, your standard comprehensive car insurance policy won’t cover the cost of either:

  • Any structural, mechanical, electrical or electronic failure or breakdown.
  • Incidents that occur due to general wear and tear.

However, an increasing number of insurers allow you to purchase optional breakdown cover for an extra premium. This ensures that you’ll be covered for expenses and services such as:

  • Towing your car to a repairer.
  • Replacing or jump-starting a flat battery.
  • Performing minor repairs related to the breakdown of your vehicle.
  • Changing a flat tyre.
  • Delivering emergency fuel if you have run out.

There are typically five different types of breakdown cover:

  • Roadside assistance
  • National recovery
  • Home start
  • European cover
  • Onward travel

Legal expenses cover

If you need to take someone to court in order to reclaim any uninsured loss of earnings or costs as a direct result of an accident that wasn’t your fault, then legal expenses cover can help you by covering any fees that the solicitor or lawyer charges, for example. It can also cover you in the event that a third party brings a claim against you in court. Sometimes, basic legal expenses cover may be included in your comprehensive policy but it’s always worth checking whether it is included or not.

Replacement keys cover

Do you always lose your car keys? Or are you worried about the cost of replacing your keys if they’re stolen by thieves?

If so, many insurers can provide cover for the replacement of your keys and remote locking devices if they are lost or stolen. This feature is included as standard on some policies, but only available as an extra-cost option on others.

Just make sure to check the limit that applies to this benefit. Some policies, for example, will restrict cover to £300, while others may provide up to £1,500 protection or more.

Optional extras to help you reduce your premium

Your insurer may also provide a number of other policy options that can help reduce your car insurance premium. Just like choosing a higher excess, the following options can help you save on the cost of cover.

Adjust your excess

The excess is the amount you agree to contribute towards the cost of a claim. The standard or basic excess that applies can range from £50 upwards, but many insurers allow you to adjust your car insurance excess to suit your needs.

This option allows you to tailor a policy to suit your needs by:

  • Choosing a higher excess. This will lower your car insurance premium but will mean you’ll have greater out-of-pocket costs if you ever need to make a claim.
  • Choosing a lower excess. This will mean you have to pay a higher premium to purchase cover, but your out-of-pocket costs will be reduced when you claim.

Of course, you can also choose to accept the standard excess quoted by your insurer if you decide it’s the right fit for you.

Named drivers

If you’re looking for an easy way to save money on the cost of car insurance, for example, if you’re a young driver with little driving experience, you might want to look for an insurer that allows you to add experienced named drivers. Why does this lower your premium? Young drivers are inexperienced and statistics show that they are much more likely to be involved in an accident (and therefore more likely to make a car insurance claim) than their older counterparts. So by adding an older and more experienced driver to your policy, you could enjoy significant savings.

Restricted miles

Another option that can help you reduce your car insurance premium is to only pay for the number of miles you plan to drive. Commonly known as “pay as you drive” car insurance, this type of policy is well worth considering for anyone who doesn’t drive their car all that frequently or over long distances.

Restricted-mile car insurance allows you to only pay for car insurance to cover the distance you travel, which means you can tailor a policy to suit your needs. The less you drive, the cheaper your cover will be.

You can “top up” your number of miles if you look like you’re reaching your limit before the policy period ends. However, if you need to make a claim and you have covered more miles than you specified when you purchased a policy, you may need to pay an additional excess.

No-claims discount protection

A no-claims discount or no-claims bonus is a common feature of comprehensive car insurance policies. How it works is simple: for every year you are claim-free on your policy, you receive an additional discount. In other words, the longer you go without making a car insurance claim, the cheaper your cover will be.

However, if you ever need to make a claim, your years of hard work to be a safe driver will all fall by the wayside as you will lose your no-claims discount.

Although, rather than going back to square one, some insurers offer optional no-claims discount protection. If you buy this extra cover, you can make a car insurance claim without affecting the discount you’re eligible to receive.

How much do car insurance extras cost?

The cost of car insurance optional extras depends on the option you select, the insurer you choose and the standard cost of cover. Some options, such as adding an experienced driver or choosing a higher excess, could actually reduce your premium. Others, like adding roadside assistance or personal effects cover, will see the cost of cover increase.

The best way to calculate the effect these extras will have on your wallet is to get a quote. See how much your car insurance premium varies with and without those options included, and use that information to decide whether they offer value for money.

Are car insurance extras worth it?

The answer to this question really depends on your personal preferences. If you want complete peace of mind and a higher level of protection than a standard policy can offer, then explore the idea of adding extra-cost options to your policy. And if you want to save money by adding a named driver, restricting miles or choosing one of the other cost-cutting options, they’re certainly worth considering if they suit your needs.

However, if you’re looking for cheap car insurance that only covers the essentials, extra-cost options most likely won’t be the best choice for you. While there are many factors that contribute to the total cost of car insurance, tacking additional cover onto standard cover is an easy way to drive premiums up. It’s also worth remembering that some options, such as roadside assistance and cover to fix chipped or cracked windscreens, may be available cheaper elsewhere.

Whatever you decide, remember to compare car insurance quotes across a range of providers and to read the policy document closely to make sure you know exactly what’s included in the cover.

*Based on independent online research by Consumer Intelligence (March ’20). 51% of car insurance customers could save £285.88.
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