Gap insurance

Gap insurance can prevent you being left out of pocket if you need to make a large claim on your car. This is especially true for financed or leased cars, where you can really lose out.

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Gap insurance policies are optional but if you do decide to take out gap insurance, you’ll also need to have comprehensive car insurance alongside it. Gap insurance essentially offers you extra protection if your car is ever written off or stolen and the amount you get from your insurance payout doesn’t match the car’s original price tag.

What you originally paid for your car and what your insurance provider may pay out for your car based on its value at the time of claim can be two very different amounts. Don’t be left out of pocket. Read our guide to discover how gap insurance works and see if any options are right for you.

What is gap insurance?

It’s a simple fact that as soon as you buy a car, its value starts to depreciate. There’s very little that can be done about this, but what happens if your car is stolen or written off? Chances are your insurance provider will pay you what it believes the value of the car to be at the time of claim, but this can be far less than what you paid for it, leaving you out of pocket when you come to buy a replacement.

Guaranteed asset protection, or gap insurance, works by paying out the difference in what the insurance provider pays you compared to what you originally paid, allowing you to buy a new car with the same amount of money as your originally spent on the car you are making the claim for.

Do I need gap insurance?

It’s up to you to decide whether to spend the extra money on gap insurance. However, it’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, gap insurance is not just for financed cars. It can be bought for new or second-hand cars up to 10 years old.

There are several reasons why you might consider taking out gap insurance:

  • Your car is on finance. If your car is written off following an accident, the pay-out may not be enough to clear your debt on the car. This can leave you paying for a car that you no longer have.
  • You want an equal value new car. If your car is written off or stolen, gap insurance will cover the difference between what you originally paid for the car, and the current market value. This means you can buy a new car with a similar value to the one you lost, without having to compromise for a cheaper model.
  • For peace of mind. If you’d like to guarantee you get the same amount that you originally paid for your car in the event of a total loss, gap insurance can provide that.

What does gap insurance cover?

As stated, gap insurance covers the difference between your insurance payout and what you originally paid for your car. So, if your car is stolen or written off, you don’t lose out by getting a lower insurance payout than the money you spent buying it.

Gap insurance might also protect you against any outstanding amount if your car is financed and the insurance provider’s payout falls short on what you owe on it.

Gap insurance is mainly associated with new cars, although newer second-hand cars might also benefit from this cover. It can typically last for around four or five years, or until a claim is made. Depending on the policy, there is also a maximum amount that you will be able to claim, which can be anywhere from £25,000 up to around £100,000.

What doesn’t gap insurance cover?

Gap insurance will not cover you in some instances. It is therefore vital that you read your policy document carefully before taking out a policy. Some exclusions include:

  • If your car is written off as a result of racing or another form of competing.
  • If your car is written off as a result of an accident caused by drink or drug-driving.
  • If someone was driving your car without a valid license at the time of the accident.
  • Your car is over a certain age or is worth less than a certain amount (this will likely change by provider, so check the small print).
  • If you’ve modified your car after purchasing it, the amount spent on these modifications will not be covered.
  • If you don’t have comprehensive car insurance on your car.

Case study

You’ve left your secondhand 2013 Nissan Micra parked in its usual spot on your street, but it got stolen over night. You bought it for £4,500 three years ago, but, as it’s now three years older and has 10,000 more miles on the clock, the insurance company is only willing to pay you £3,000 for it.

Gap insurance would top up your payout by the additional £1,500, to bring your total up to the amount you originally paid for the car. This will allow you to buy a car of similar age and milage to what your Micra was when you first purchased it.

How much is gap insurance?

The cost of gap insurance is dependent on the cost of the car, as well as the usual factors, like your age, driving experience, location and the make and model of the car.

However, buying a gap insurance policy directly from the car dealer could set you back upwards of £300 for the year. Buying the policy separately will be much cheaper – usually between £100-£300 per year.

What are the different types of gap insurance?

There are four main types of gap insurance, which include:

  • Return to invoice. Also known as back to invoice, this would cover the difference between what your insurance provider pays you (based on the value of your car at the time you make the claim) and the exact price you paid for your car when you bought it.
  • Vehicle replacement. This would cover the difference between what your insurance provider pays you and the cost of buying a new replacement car similar to the one you place the claim for. To take out this cover, you must have bought your car from new. There might also be restrictions relating to its age and how how many miles it has on it.
  • Return to value. Also known as agreed value gap insurance, this policy is very similar to the return to invoice option. The different is that, rather than provide the same sum that you originally paid for the vehicle, return to value cover pays out the difference between your car insurance settlement and its original market value when you first purchased it (regardless of what you paid).
  • Finance cover. This usually comes as part of a package and is one of the more basic products available. This policy would cover any outstanding balance if you financed your car and still owe money on it even after your insurance provider’s payout.
  • Lease cover. Also known as contract hire gap insurance, this policy is aimed at people who have leased their vehicle rather than buy it. The cover helps to get around the many pre-determined repayment arrangements that come with lease agreements, and you can also choose to protect your deposit should you wish to do so.

How can I get the right gap insurance policy?

Deciding which type of gap insurance might be suitable for you boils down to how you purchased your car in the first place, and whether you would want to buy a brand new car if yours was ever stolen or written off. Your car insurance might already cover the cost of a similar replacement car if yours was ever stolen or written off, but, if it doesn’t, that’s where gap insurance can come in handy.

Return to invoice gap insurance might suit you if you’ve purchased a new or second-hand car in the last few months that is worth up to £120,000.

Vehicle replacement gap insurance might suit you if you’ve purchased a brand new car within the last few months and it has low mileage.

Return to value gap insurance might suit you if you purchased a new or second-hand car more than a few months ago that is worth no more than around £50,000.

Finance gap insurance might suit you if you’ve purchased a car with the help of a loan and still have money to pay on it.

Lease gap insurance might suit you if you lease your car, rather than own it.

Consider your options and check the policy details carefully to ensure it offers you the right protection in the event of you needing to make a claim.

Pros and cons of gap insurance

Pros

  • Suitable for drivers that still owe money on a financed car.
  • Suitable for drivers who would want a brand new car if their car was ever stolen or written off.
  • Can help you get a similar value car if yours is stolen or written off.

Cons

  • Unsuitable for drivers of older second-hand cars.
  • Only valid if you have comprehensive car insurance cover.

Bottom line

If you buy a pricey car, especially from new, taking out gap insurance can be worth the extra expense.

For financed or leased cars, this can be even more crucial, as failing to take out this type of cover can leave you seriously out of pocket.

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