Comprehensive vs third party car insurance

Trying to choose your level of cover? Here's a breakdown of comprehensive and third party car insurance and which one might be best for you.

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In an ideal world car insurance would be free. But since that’s not really an option you’ll need to try and root out the cheapest policy possible. One of the main ways you can do this is through your choice of coverage.

What is third party insurance?

To legally hit the roads, you need at the very minimum a type of cover called “third party car insurance”.

Say you hit another car, or you veer and plough into someone’s house. This insurance will cover any damage you cause to another person’s vehicle and property. After all, it would be pretty unfair if someone had to claim on their own insurance if they’d been minding their own business when you crashed into them.

Third party insurance will also cover the medical costs for any passengers in your car, should they get injured. However, damage to your vehicle will not be covered. If your car is trashed, then unfortunately you’re going to have to foot the bill. Meanwhile, if you’re hurt in the collision, you might have to pay for your own medical costs. If you need physiotherapy for example.

What is comprehensive car insurance?

This offers all the coverage of third party insurance and more – covering you and your vehicle too. So you’ll also receive financial help should you sustain an injury or your car gets damaged in an accident that was your fault.

While rare, you’ll also get financial help if your car is ruined by floods or crushed by a falling tree.

Are there any other kinds of policy?

Third party, fire and theft insurance. This is sort of a middle ground between the two. You’ll be covered if you cause damage or injury to someone else. And it should also provide you financial help if your vehicle is damaged due to it being stolen or because of a fire.

What else is covered?

With comprehensive car insurance policies you often get extra benefits thrown in. These include windscreen repair and the use of a courtesy car if yours is out of action and getting repairs. You’ll also get the cover you would with third party, fire and theft.

Third party vs comprehensive insurance – which is cheaper?

There is no hard and fast rule here. It really depends. In theory the two third party insurance options should be cheaper. After all, you’re getting less.

So you should pay less right? However this is not always the case. Over the last few years insurance companies have cottoned on that young drivers (or those with poor records) were the ones mainly taking out third party insurance. And while you may be a great driver (we’re sure you are), youngsters are more likely to have an accident and make the insurer pay out. The stats don’t lie! So, in response to this increased risk some insurers have raised the premium costs for drivers taking out third party or third party, fire and theft. Which has led to a somewhat bizarre situation, with comprehensive insurance sometimes working out as cheaper.

In effect, it’s like having to pay more for a slice of margherita than you would the entire pizza. Which means you need to really compare, compare, compare and see if the cheapest quote you can get is actually a comprehensive policy. Admittedly, third party may still cost you less. However, don’t accept this blindly.

Third party pros and cons


  • Can often be cheaper than comprehensive.
  • Suited to you if you have an old banger that’s cheap to repair.


  • If you have an expensive car that costs a lot to repair you’ll end up paying more if you crash.
  • You’re not covered for medical expenses if you need a physiotherapist for example.

Comprehensive pros and cons


  • Could be cheaper than getting third party for some people.
  • Your car is covered should you have an accident.
  • You might be able to get financial help with medical costs.
  • Protected for fire and theft.
  • Are covered for flood or storm damage.


  • Typically more pricey premiums than third party.

Frequently asked questions

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.
*51% of consumers could save £257.97 on their Car Insurance. The saving was calculated by comparing the cheapest price found with the average of the next three cheapest prices quoted by insurance providers on Seopa Ltd’s insurance comparison website. This is based on representative cost savings from January 2021 data. The savings you could achieve are dependent on your individual circumstances and how you selected your current insurance supplier.

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