How to renew your car insurance
We explain how car insurance renewal works, and how to keep your renewal premiums as low as possible.
Renewing your car insurance can feel like yet another of those boring life admin tasks that it’s tempting to put off till the last minute. But car insurance is a legal requirement to drive on UK roads, so it’s a pretty important one. It doesn’t have to be too arduous though. Just an hour or so a year spent comparing your options will help you secure the best deal every time you renew your car insurance.
What is car insurance renewal?
Car insurance renewal is simply the act of taking out a new policy when your existing term expires. This can be either with your existing provider or a brand new provider.
When should I renew my car insurance?
If you drive a car on UK roads, it is a legal requirement to have car insurance that covers damage you may cause to other vehicles or property. This is known as third-party car insurance. Many people opt to upgrade to comprehensive cover, which also covers damage to your own car.
Driving uninsured is an offence that can result in some pretty hefty penalties, so it’s essential to have continuous cover. This means that your car insurance renewal is an important date to remember. Most insurance policies can take effect almost instantaneously, so you can renew right up to the day your existing policy expires.
But it can pay to plan ahead. Most providers let you take out a car insurance policy up to 30 days in advance. Research has found that getting your renewal set up 2-3 weeks before your renewal date can result in lower premiums than leaving it till the last minute. Don’t worry, this won’t mean paying double premiums. You can lock in the policy and price in advance, but set the new policy to start when your existing policy expires.
Do car insurance policies auto-renew?
Many car insurers will set up your policy to automatically renew – or “auto-renew” – when you first take out the policy. This means that your cover will continue seamlessly. It’s usually under exactly the same terms and conditions as before (including any adjustments you made to your policy mid-term). Check the details, though, to make sure everything is as you would expect.
Auto-renewal can be convenient. It means you can’t forget to renew and risk driving uninsured. But you can opt out if you want, and we’d always recommend comparing your car insurance options annually rather than blindly auto-renewing. Just because a car insurer offered the best deal last year doesn’t mean it’ll still be the best choice when come renewal.
And don’t rely on your insurance auto-renewing to guarantee continuous cover. If your insurer doesn’t auto-renew by default, or if you opted out at the beginning and then forgot, you could end up hit with a financial penalty and points on your licence.
How long does a car insurance policy last?
Most standard car insurance policies last for a year. This applies whether you pay for your insurance in one up-front premium, or in monthly instalments.
Some insurers offer “bonus accelerator policies”. These are car insurance policies that last for 10 months, but let you build up a full 12 months of no-claims bonus. They can be useful for those new to driving and with no claims history, or if you’re looking to build up your bonus again after making a claim. When you’re comparing costs with other policies, remember to take into account that your cover won’t last as long.
There are also temporary car insurance policies that last for up to a month. These typically aren’t suitable for someone insuring their own car for regular use.
How do I know when my car insurance is up for renewal?
If you’ve lost track of when your current policy expires, don’t panic. Your insurance company will contact you a few weeks before your policy expires (usually by email or post) to remind you to renew. It’ll usually let you know how much it’ll cost to stay with them for another term and, under industry rules, encourage you to shop around for the best deal.
If your insurer has set up your policy to auto-renew, you’ll get a notice saying your policy will renew on the stated date and the new rate of your premium.
Step by step: how to renew your car insurance?
- Review your existing provider’s offer. When your renewal reminder arrives, check that the cover details still meet your needs and that everything is as you’d expect. For example, do you want to add or remove a named driver? And are the excess levels still the same?
- Shop around. Run quotes on a couple of comparison sites and direct-only insurers, such as Direct Line. Try to do this at least 2 weeks before you need your new policy to start, as premiums are likely to be cheaper. Compare both premiums and cover details. It could be worth paying a few quid more if there are some valuable optional extras thrown in, for example.
- Decide whether to stick, twist, or haggle. If your current provider’s deal is still the best, either contact it to renew, or simply let your policy auto-renew if this is set up. Make sure you tell your insurer about any changes to your circumstances, such as a change of job. If you’re happy with your provider but you can get equivalent cover cheaper from another insurer, try haggling with your existing provider to see if it will match or better the deal.
- If your existing provider is no longer competitive, get switching. If no amount of negotiation will get your renewal quote down to a competitive level, simply sign on the dotted line with your chosen new insurer. You may need to provide it with proof of your no-claims discount.
- Cancel your existing policy, if you need to. If you’re switching provider, and your existing policy is set up to auto-renew, don’t forget to opt out of this to avoid doubling up on cover.
If life gets in the way, and your existing policy auto-renews before you have a chance to compare quotes, all is not lost. If you find a better deal shortly after your policy auto-renews then, legally, you have a 14 day cooling off period to cancel and get a refund. The cooling off period starts from the time you buy a policy or the time you receive your policy documents, whichever is later. You may have to pay an admin fee. You’ll probably also have a pro-rata amount deducted for any days you’ve held the policy.
Should I stay with the same provider when I renew my car insurance?
Maybe, maybe not. The good news is that insurers can no longer charge a renewing customer more than they’d be charged as a new customer. But that doesn’t automatically mean the provider that offered the best value last year will still offer the best value come renewal.
Even if nothing about your circumstances has changed, the way in which different insurers weigh up different risk factors could mean that another insurer now offers cheaper cover, or better cover for the same price. So even if your current insurer offers you what looks like a competitive price, we reckon it’s worth at least running a quick quote on a price comparison site. At very least, this could arm you with some figures to try and haggle with your existing provider.
Is it cheaper to change provider when I renew my car insurance?
We all lead busy lives. It can be easy to assume the savings you might make by changing car insurance provider isn’t worth the faff.
But what if we told you that an hour or so spent running a few quotes with price comparison sites and direct-only insurers could save you upwards of £100? In fact, insurance price benchmarking firm Consumer Intelligence has found that those who compare and switch car insurance could save more than £400*.
Of course, getting the best insurance cover isn’t all about cutting costs – the quality of cover has to be up to scratch too. And not everyone will save this much by changing provider at renewal, especially if your cover wasn’t that pricey to start with. But with the cost of a weekend away potentially up for grabs, an hour of research could be time well spent.
What do I need to renew my car insurance?
If your insurance is set up to auto-renew with your existing provider, and you’re happy for it to do so, you shouldn’t need anything. The policy will simply roll over for another term, typically using the same payment method as last year. If your payment details have changed, for example if your card has expired, then the insurer will contact you for up-to-date payment details.
If you’re thinking of switching provider, then to get a quote you’ll need the same information as when taking out a new policy. This includes:
- Drivers’ details, such as name, date of birth and address
- Driving record, such as your claims history
- Details of the car and where it will be kept.
If you change provider, your new provider will also want proof of any no-claims discount. Often they will be able to get this directly from an industry database operated by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. If not, you may need to send them a copy of your previous insurer’s renewal invitation, which will include your number of claim-free years.
How early can I renew my car insurance?
You can typically renew your car insurance up to 30 days before your existing policy expires. Most insurers won’t offer quotes before this point. That’s because car insurance premiums are affected by a variety of factors, many of of which change over time. This means your insurance company might not be able to price your renewal correctly if you try to renew too far in advance.
If your car insurance isn’t set to auto-renew, it’s your job to proactively renew your policy as soon as your old one expires. This can be with your existing provider or a new one. If you don’t, you risk driving uninsured, and could be hit with penalties. Even if you have auto-renewal set up, it’s a good idea to compare car insurance deals to check whether your current provider still offers the best value for money. Missing out this step could potentially cost you upwards of £100.
Frequently asked questions
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