Third party car insurance

It’s the legal minimum for car insurance in the UK. What does it cover, and is it the right choice for you?

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Third party car insurance is the most basic policy you can get, and it only covers you for a collision or accident that damages someone else’s vehicle or property. While it has historically been the most affordable level of car insurance on the market, this isn’t always the case.

If you’re on the hunt for a third party deal for your car, our guide offers some essential tips for comparing policies and choosing the right policy for you.

What does third party car insurance cover?

The specific level of cover you’ll get is likely to depend on your provider. However, as a general rule, the clue is in the name: third party car insurance will cover you for any damage you cause to another person’s vehicle or property, but it won’t cover any damage to your own vehicle.

The idea is that innocent drivers and passengers aren’t left out of pocket, or forced to claim on their insurance, simply because another road-user was being reckless.

This means that if you hit another driver’s car, or veer off the road and plough into someone’s house, your insurance will pay for the damage to the other car, or to the house; and for any injury compensation and/or medical bills (like physiotherapy) for anyone, except you, who was injured in the accident. But it won’t cover any repairs or replacement to your own car, whether it’s dented or completely written off, or for any medical treatment that you need as a result.

What’s the difference between third party only and comprehensive car insurance?

Third party car insurance is a legal requirement; fully comprehensive car insurance is optional. This is the highest level of cover you can buy to protect your car, and it allows you to make a claim for an accident even if it was your fault.

What is third party, fire and theft car insurance?

This type of policy is somewhere between third party only and fully comp cover. Again, the clue is in the name: third party, fire and theft insurance (TPFT) offers the same cover as third-party insurance, but can also cover you if your car is stolen or damaged by fire, usually including:

  • the cost of repairing your car if it’s damaged by a fire caused by accident or arson
  • the cost of replacing your car if it’s stolen and you don’t get it back
  • the cost of repairing damage to your car after theft or attempted theft; this might mean repairing a broken window if a thief tried to break in, or more serious repairs if your car was damaged due to joyriding.

However, just like third party only, TPFT won’t cover any damage to your vehicle caused by a crash.

Is third party only car insurance right for me?

With several different types of car insurance available, it can be tricky to work out which type of policy is the best fit for you. To help make your choice easier, check out the comparison table below:

CoverThird party property damage insuranceThird party fire and theft insuranceComprehensive car insurance
Damage to my vehicle in an accident
  • No
  • No
  • Yes
Damage to another person’s vehicle or property
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • Yes
Loss or damage to my car due to fire
  • No
  • Yes
  • Yes
Loss or damage to my car due to theft
  • No
  • Yes
  • Yes
Loss or damage to my car due to storm, hail and flood
  • No
  • No
  • Yes
Injury or death to someone else as the result of a car accident
  • No
  • No
  • No

Is third party car insurance better for young drivers?

The short answer is “Maybe”.

If your vehicle isn’t worth much, which is sometimes the case when it’s your first car, then it might not be worth paying for comprehensive car insurance or TPFT.

In the past, a lot of young drivers tended to go for third party only cover because it was the cheapest option. However, this meant insurers started associating this type of cover with inexperienced drivers, and as a result, the premiums for third party only insurance went up. By opting for third party car insurance, you might inadvertently be opening yourself up to higher premiums, especially as a younger driver who is already seen as a greater risk by insurers.

The answer, as it so often is with insurance, is to do your research and compare policies before you buy.

What isn’t covered by third party insurance?

Check the list of general exclusions in a third party policy to find out when the policy won’t provide any cover. Your claim will not be paid in the following situations:

  • You were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Your car was being used to carry dangerous goods
  • It was due to a deliberate or intentional act by you
  • It was caused by unauthorised modifications to your vehicle
  • You were using your car for hire or reward
  • It was due to an illegal act by you
  • Your car was being driven by anyone who is excluded from cover
  • It was due to the lawful seizure of your vehicle
  • Your car was participating in motor sports
  • Your vehicle was being used while overloaded with goods or passengers
  • Your car was being used by an unlicensed driver
  • Your car was being driven while in an unsafe condition
  • You did not remain at the scene of an accident when required by law to do so

What are the benefits of third party car insurance?

There are a few reasons why you might opt for this type of car insurance:

  • It’s cheaper than fully comprehensive car insurance…maybe. The premiums have generally been much cheaper, because so much less is covered. However, as insurers have responded to higher risk drivers taking out third party policies, this isn’t always the case. So get some quotes for the two other main types of insurance.
  • It can be a good choice if your car isn’t worth loads. If your car is a bit of an old banger or simply not worth as much as it used to be, taking out comprehensive car insurance or TPFT may be unnecessary. With a simple third party policy, you could save a fair amount in premiums – to pay towards a new car perhaps?
  • It offers peace of mind. As well as being legally necessary, you can drive around confident that you will be covered. It gives you the confidence and reassurance you need to hit the road.

How much does third party car insurance cost?

These days, third party insurance isn’t always the cheapest: see “Why is third party car insurance so expensive?”, below.

The cost of your premium will depend on your personal circumstances. Here are some, but not all, of the things an insurer will consider to assess how much of a risk you are:

  • The make and model of your car. Each car is placed into a risk category, and expensive or more powerful cars are likely to cost more to insure. However, a better security system will generally earn you a lower premium.
  • Your address. Where you live plays a huge part in the cost of your premiums. If you live in an area with high levels of crime, your insurance could be more expensive.
  • Where you park. Parking your car in a secure lock-up or garage can reduce insurance costs as it’s less likely to be stolen or clipped by a passing car.
  • Who is insured on the policy. The age, driving experience and record of all the drivers listed on the insurance will play a big role in how the insurer calculates your premiums. Young drivers or those with dodgy driving records will be hit with higher costs.
  • How you use your car. For example, your premium could change depending on the number of miles you drive each year, and whether you use your car to commute to work or only drive at the weekend.

Why is third party car insurance so expensive?

Insurance costs, as you probably know, are calculated on risk.

For a long time, third party cover was the cheapest option. This meant it was frequently taken out by drivers whose main priority was to lower their premiums, rather than to make sure they had a responsible level of cover. This meant that more and more claims were made on third party policies. Insurers began to see third party policy holders as more of a risk, and so they raised the premiums for this type of cover.

Is third party cover worth it?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

It really depends. As we’ve seen, these days TPFT and fully comprehensive policies sometimes work out as being more affordable than third party insurance.

Even when third party insurance does offer the lowest premiums, it still might not be worth it. If you have an expensive or new vehicle, you should probably get a policy which will protect it. Without the proper cover, if your new vehicle gets written off, you could be left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

On the other hand, if your car isn’t worth much, repairs to your car are fairly cheap and straightforward or you think you can cover the cost of repairs yourself, it could be more economical to take out third-party cover, as the cost of getting it repaired could be more than its actual value.

How can I find the best third party insurance?

First things first, work out what level of cover you need. If your car is damaged or written off, will it be incredibly expensive to repair or replace?

Once you’ve weighed up if third party insurance is the way to go, shop around. Take a closer look at the best car insurance policies and get quotes to see what different features they offer and for how much.

Really doing your homework will mean you find a policy that offers you the cover you need, at an affordable price.

How can I save money on car insurance?

Keep the following tips in mind to help you save money on your car insurance premiums:

  • Shop around. It takes a matter of minutes to compare car insurance quotes online, and this is by far the easiest way to make sure you don’t get landed with an overpriced deal.
  • Don’t auto renew. Car insurance customers lose money every year by blindly letting their policies rollover. Always get quotes and see if you can get a cheaper deal elsewhere when your policy is near its end.
  • Choose the right level of cover. Opting for a third party policy will generally mean lower premiums, but you might lose more money in the long run if you don’t get the right level of cover for an expensive or new car.
  • Take on a higher excess. An excess is the amount you contribute towards any claim before the insurer starts paying out. The higher your excess, the cheaper your premium will be.
  • Take advantage of discounts. Insurance companies sometimes offer discounts to people who insure multiple cars on the same policy.
  • Restrict cover. Avoid putting young or inexperienced drivers on your policy as they can push premium prices up.
  • Ramp up your security. Putting your car in a garage or buying a car with high-tech anti-theft devices will make your vehicle harder to steal, and your insurer might reward this with lower premiums.
  • Buy online. Some companies offer decent discounts if you buy your insurance policy online.

Bottom line

Third party only car insurance is the most basic level of cover available, so it might be the most affordable but, depending on your circumstances, it might not. Do your research and get quotes for each type of insurance to help you decide which type of cover is best for you, based on the cover you need and not just the price.

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*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (Mar ’24). 51% of car insurance customers could save £539.54
The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.
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Written by

Grace Fletcher-Hackwood

Grace was a Finder writer specialising in credit and loans. She's been writing about personal finance for several years and enjoys helping consumers sort the facts from the fluff. See full profile

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