Courtesy car insurance cover

Read our guide about courtesy car cover, which could keep you on the road even when your car is nowhere to be seen.

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Unfortunately, accidents do happen. When they do, the last thing you need is to be left without an essential means of transport while your car is in the garage for repairs. That’s when courtesy car insurance could come to the rescue. Find out how by reading our guide.

What is courtesy car insurance?

Courtesy car insurance is a feature of many annual car insurance policies. It gives you access to a temporary replacement car to use while yours is in for repairs following an accident. It’s commonly included with comprehensive car insurance policies. This isn’t guaranteed, though, so check the small print.

If it isn’t included, or you have a lower level of cover (such as third party, or third party, fire and theft), you may be able to pay extra for a courtesy car add-on.

How does courtesy car insurance work?

If you have courtesy car cover through your own car insurer, then you will usually be offered a courtesy car while your vehicle is being repaired following an accident.

There may be certain conditions attached. For example, you might only get a courtesy car “subject to availability”, or if you take your car to one of your insurer’s approved repair centres. And you may not be covered if your car is written off completely.

Even if you don’t have courtesy car cover through your own insurance provider, if you are involved in a collision and the other driver is at fault, you could make a claim on their insurance for a courtesy car.

When can you get a courtesy car?

Even if your insurance includes courtesy car cover, this doesn’t mean that you will automatically get a courtesy car every time you might need one. Below, we’ve outlined common reasons for being left without a car, and whether or not a courtesy car will typically be supplied by an insurer that includes courtesy car cover. There may be exceptions to these rules. For example, some policies may offer a courtesy car if your car is stolen.

Reason for being without a carCourtesy car usually provided?
Your car is in for repairs following an accident that was your fault.Yes.
Your car is in for repairs following an accident that was another insured driver’s fault.Yes: Your insurer will ask the other driver’s insurer to pay for a courtesy car.
Your car is in for repairs following an accident that was someone else’s fault, but they’re not insured or you don’t know who they are.Yes.
Your car is written off.No, but there are exceptions.*
Your car is in for servicing or routine maintenance.No.
Your car breaks down.No.
Your car is stolen.No, but there are exceptions.

* A courtesy car may be supplied until your car has been formally confirmed as written off.

Do all car insurance policies include courtesy car cover?

Not all policies include courtesy car insurance, but the vast majority of comprehensive policies do.

Financial analysis firm Defaqto publishes insights into more than 300 car insurance policies. Its website indicates that more than 90% of comprehensive car insurance policies offer courtesy car cover after an accident as standard.

How long can you use a courtesy car?

Even when your car insurance policy includes courtesy car cover, it may not last as long as you need it to.

Most policies limit how long you’ll have access to a courtesy car. This is typically between 14 and 30 days, depending on the policy. Check the small print to make sure you don’t get an unpleasant surprise if your insurer asks you to return the courtesy car before you have your own set of wheels back.

Will I be insured to drive a courtesy car?

Don’t assume that your main insurance policy will automatically cover you to drive a courtesy car. Check the terms that relate to your courtesy car cover carefully to find out:

  1. Whether the policy will insure you to drive a courtesy car at all. If the insurer has sourced and directly supplied the courtesy car, you are more likely to be insured to drive it. However, if – depending on the terms of cover – you have sourced the replacement car yourself, or its been supplied by the repair garage, you may not be covered by your regular policy. If this is the case, you’ll need to make sure you are insured separately.
  2. Whether the policy offers the same level of cover as for your own car. For example, even if you have comprehensive insurance for your own car, the policy may only cover you to drive a courtesy car on a third party basis.

If in doubt, check with your insurer. If it doesn’t cover you to drive a courtesy car, or the default level of cover isn’t as good as you want, you could ask the insurer to add the courtesy car to your policy for the duration of repairs (this is likely to cost extra). Alternatively, consider stand-alone, temporary car insurance.

How can I get a car insurance policy that includes courtesy car cover?

When you get quotes for car insurance directly from an insurer or on a price comparison site, it’s usually clearly highlighted which insurers include courtesy car cover as standard and which ones don’t. Price comparison sites may let you filter to only see policies that include courtesy car cover.

There may be occasions when you want to consider policies that don’t include courtesy car cover as standard, but offer it as an upgrade or add-on. For example:

  • If a policy that doesn’t include courtesy car cover as standard is significantly cheaper than those that do. In such cases, buying the cheaper policy plus an add-on might be more cost-effective.
  • If you want more comprehensive courtesy car cover. Upgraded policies can offer benefits such as cover for a stolen or written-off car, like-for-like cover, longer time limits and a guarantee that you’ll get a car (rather than it being subject to availability).

Can anyone drive my courtesy car?

With many insurers, only the main driver will be allowed to drive a courtesy car provided under the terms of the policy.

Some insurers may also allow a named driver on the policy to drive a courtesy car, but this is not guaranteed. Check the terms to be sure. If they are allowed to drive it in the first place, they’ll need to make sure they have appropriate insurance cover (at least third party).

What happens if I have an accident in my courtesy car?

If you have an accident in a courtesy car, claim as normal under the terms of your policy. Exactly what you can claim for depends on the level of insurance cover you have to drive the courtesy car. Your policy may not always cover you to the same level to drive a courtesy car as you have on your own car.

If another insured driver was at fault, any damage to your courtesy car should be covered by their insurance policy.

If you were at fault and you have comprehensive cover to drive the courtesy car, you should only have to pay the policy excess. If, however, you are only covered by third party insurance, you may be liable for the cost of damage to the courtesy car.

The courtesy car insurance trap

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler highlights the risks to watch out for

If you’re involved in an accident with another driver that’s not your fault, you should have access to a courtesy car paid for by the other driver’s insurance.

But how, precisely, your insurer deals with the replacement car can make the difference between everything going smoothly, and a world of pain.

In some cases, you’ll be offered a normal courtesy car – often supplied by the garage carrying out repairs. It’ll typically be a small hatchback. If this is the case, you’re unlikely to face any problems.

However, some insurers will instead offer you a credit hire care, provided by a third party car hire firm. No money will change hands upfront and your insurer will plan to ultimately claim the costs from the other driver’s insurer.

Initially, this may seem like a better deal, as you may be offered a car that is as similar to your own car as possible. But there is a major downside.

You will be asked to sign an indemnity upfront, which holds you liable for costs if the other driver’s insurer refuses to pay out. Typically, this won’t be the case if you and the other driver agreed that you weren’t at fault, but it is a risk.

We recommend always checking the small print of your courtesy car cover and any details you are given at the time the car is supplied to suss out how replacement car cover works if you’re not at fault in an accident. Ask your insurer if you’re not certain.

Hire car companies charge by the day in circumstances like this, and higher-end cars are much more expensive than basic hatchbacks. If you find yourself in this situation and being offered a courtesy car that is better than you expect, or repairs are taking longer than you think they should, question this. You don’t want to risk finding yourself having to pay a high price for an accident that someone else caused.

Bottom line

Courtesy car insurance is a reassuring standard feature of most comprehensive car insurance policies, giving you peace of mind that you won’t be left without a vehicle while your car is in for repairs after an accident. But there’s no guarantee there’ll always be a replacement car available. Even if there is, you may get a smaller car than your own car and there will be a time limit on how long you can keep it. You usually won’t get a courtesy car if yours is written off or stolen, either.

If you wouldn’t be able to survive without the use of your car for a short period or want to guarantee a like-for-like replacement, consider paying for upgraded courtesy car cover.

Frequently asked questions


*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (March '21). 51% of car insurance customers could save £228.60.
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