Specialist car insurance

Find out how specialist car insurance works and what you can get cover for.

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If you have a special car, it might need special insurance. Whether you’ve got a cherished classic or a high-powered beast of a car, some mainstream insurers tend to shy away from unfamiliar (and potentially higher-risk) models. But there are plenty of specialist providers willing and able to step in and provide cover for unusual cars. You’ll also find insurers that cater for drivers who are perfectly happy with mainstream cars, but whose personal circumstances are less mainstream. Read on to find out more about the main types of specialist car insurance, and when they’re worth considering.

What is specialist car insurance?

Specialist car insurance provides cover for drivers (and their cars) who need something a bit different from their standard car insurance. This could be because they struggle to find affordable cover for their situation (perhaps because they have a poor driving history), or because they have an unusual car (a classic or imported car, for example).

Some mainstream providers may offer a few types of specialist insurance as well as their standard offer. You can also get specialist cover from providers that, well, specialise in atypical insurance. Some of these may focus on one or two types of specialism. Others may offer cover for a range of unusual vehicles and situations.

What are the differences between specialist car insurance and regular car insurance?

There are several benefits to seeking out a specialist car insurance policy over a standard one. These can include:

  • Enhanced protection
  • An insurer with greater knowledge about you and your car
  • Extra benefits that might not be available through standard car insurance

What does specialist car insurance cover?

As specialist car insurance is a catch-all term for a number of unusual car insurance types, exactly what it covers will vary. Suffice to say that it should cover you for most of the risks that standard car insurance does. If you take out comprehensive cover, for example, you’ll have protection for:

  • Harm you cause to other people or property in a car accident
  • Theft of your car
  • Damage to your car from fire, vandalism, severe weather damage or an accident

Some forms of specialist insurance offer enhanced cover for certain risks that are typically excluded from standard cover. For example, business car insurance will cover you if you use your car for work purposes. And, as the name suggests, track day insurance offers a financial safeguard if you want to speed your car around a race track.

What are the exclusions for specialist car insurance?

While some specialist car insurance policies cover certain risks that are commonly excluded from regular car insurance, there are still a number of things that could render them useless. For example, your insurance will almost certainly be invalidated if:

  • You drive an unroadworthy car on public roads.
  • You drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • You drive without a valid licence.
  • You don’t tell the truth when you apply for insurance, or fail to update your insurer about important changes that affect your risk.

When might a car need specialist car insurance?

You might need to look into specialist car insurance policies for any car that’s a bit different from the norm. This can include, for example, high-performance cars, classic cars, grey imports (such as cars designed and built for the American market), and cars that have been heavily modified.

It’s always worth checking mainstream insurers too, to see if they offer cover for your type of car. But specialist insurers could sometimes be a better, or even your only, option.

Are there different types of specialist car insurance?

Yes. For pretty much every type of unusual car or situation, there is a specialist insurance to match. We cover most of the main ones below.

4×4 car insurance

Some 4x4s are mainly used for fairly routine driving, just giving their owners a bit of extra control on tricky roads or in bad weather. Most of these will be easily covered by mainstream insurance policies. But if you’ve got a rugged beast of a car that spends much of its time driving off-road, you may need a specialist 4×4 policy that accounts for your atypical driving habits, especially if you’ve made modifications.

American car insurance

A sub-category of imported car insurance, there are some specialist American car insurers that focus their efforts specifically on cars that are made in the USA – think a muscular Ford Mustang or an iconic Cadillac. Like other so-called “grey imports”, American cars can be harder to find insurance for on the mainstream market because of their unconventional set-up and design. They can also be trickier to repair, as parts may need to be sourced from the US.

Black box car insurance

Also known as telematics car insurance, black box insurance is a specialised type of cover that’s designed to give good drivers cheaper car insurance. A black box device is attached to your car to record your driving performance and send details back to your insurer. This is then used to determine the size of your premium. The safer your driving, the less you’ll pay for cover.

Business car insurance

Business car insurance is cover for your personal car when you use it for work purposes. It is different to the insurance needed for a company car. Your standard insurance policy usually only covers a commute to your regular place of work, and not driving for other business purposes (to a work conference, for example). Many mainstream insurers offer some business cover as an add-on, but for some purposes (such as hiring out your car or running a taxi service) you may need a specialist insurer.

Classic car insurance

Classic car insurance has many similarities with standard car insurance, but there are a couple of key differences.

  • Classic cars are often second cars that are driven much less, possibly only at weekends. Owners also tend to take extra special care of them. Specialist classic car insurance takes account of this, and can cost less than regular insurance as a result.
  • Classic cars can be hard to place a value on, as they don’t follow the usual rules of depreciation. For example, an owner might have spent significant time and money restoring a vehicle to its former glory, or a particular classic might be in high demand among enthusiasts. Specialist insurance often offers something called “agreed value” cover. This allows the owner and the insurer to agree on a car’s value up front, rather than basing it on the estimated current market value (which may be much lower).

Electric car insurance

Electric car insurance is calculated in much the same way as standard car cover and based on a number of factors, such as the driver and the risk they pose on the road. But as electric cars work in a slightly different way to traditional cars that use fuel, insurers may weight certain factors more heavily. For example, the new technology of electric cars, including the battery that powers the engine, may be more expensive to repair. There is also the risk that pedestrians may trip over power cables being used to charge the car, or fail to hear the quiet engine of an electric car.

More and more mainstream providers are offering insurance for electric cars as they become more popular, but it’s worth also checking the options from specialists to find the most competitive price.

Imported car insurance

The cost to repair or replace a car that has been imported might be far higher than standard cover as the parts may not be as widely available compared to a car manufactured for the UK market. Parts may need to be brought over from overseas, which costs more. Imported cars also tend to be more unusual and exciting (and therefore potentially more appealing to thieves). You may find that few providers offer cover for imported cars, particularly from further afield, so a specialist imported car insurer is probably your best bet.

Learner driver car insurance

Dedicated car insurance policies for learner drivers are designed to cover you while you learn to drive in a friend or family member’s car, or in some cases your own car. You might also see it referred to as “provisional licence car insurance”.

You can get learner driver policies from as little as a few hours up to a few months. It can often be topped up as needed. Importantly, the cover is only designed to last until you’ve passed your test. Once you do, you’ll need to immediately take out a regular policy. If you’re in your teens or early 20s when you pass, look for a policy that’s suitable for young drivers.

Low mileage car insurance

The average driver in the UK clocks up in the region of 7,000 miles each year. If you rarely or never get close to this, insurers will probably consider you a low mileage driver. Some have developed specialist low mileage insurance policies that could save you money. They’re usually a form of black box policy that tracks only the distance you drive, rather than any other driving behaviour. Some policies set pre-agreed limits; you’ll have to pay extra if you exceed them. Others apply a per-mile rate to cover the miles driven each month.

Modified car insurance

Modified car insurance protects cars that have been changed, often to enhance the look, performance or speed of a car. Essentially, a modification is any change made to a car once it leaves the factory.

Standard car insurance may cover more popular modifications (including adaptations for disabilities) as long as a driver declares the changes when they take out the policy, or informs the insurer before making further changes. Depending on the modifications, cover is likely to cost more.

Over 80s car insurance

When you turn 80, you might find that your car insurance premium suddenly starts to increase, despite (from your perspective) nothing having changed but you having had a birthday. Car insurers price your premium based on how much of a risk they think you are, meaning, how likely you are to make a claim and cost them money. Unfortunately, industry statistics show that, on average, over 80s are more likely to be involved in accidents and to make a car insurance claim. Some insurers cater specifically to older drivers, and it’s worth checking their policies alongside getting more mainstream quotes.

High-performance car insurance

Performance car insurance is ideal for drivers of high-performance cars that are often built with more engine capacity, and can reach faster speeds. Cover for very powerful cars may be hard to come by with mainstream insurers, so seeking out a specialist could be your best bet.

Sports car insurance

Sports car insurance covers high-performance cars made specifically to go faster than standard modern cars. With greater speed comes a greater risk of being involved in accidents. This, combined with the fact that many sports cars are valuable (making them more expensive to replace, as well as more appealing to thieves) can result in much higher premiums. The availability of cover from mainstream insurers will depend on the specific sports car in question, plus your credentials as a driver and how you plan to use the car (race days, for example, won’t be covered as standard – see track day insurance below), but you may need to opt for a specialist insurer.

Student car insurance

Becoming a student can have a big knock-on effect on car insurance premiums, especially if you plan to take your car with you during term-time. Insurers often see students as high-risk, partly because of their age, but also because many universities are based in big urban areas where traffic and crime rates are higher. As a student, you should be able to get insurance from most mainstream providers, but it’s also worth checking those that specialise in student car insurance.

Taxi insurance

Is your vehicle also your workplace? If you use your car to transport paying customers, regular car insurance won’t cut it; you need taxi insurance. This ensures you’ll be protected for the increased amount of time you spend on the road, often in congested areas. It will also make sure you have cover in case your passengers are injured in an accident. Either public hire or private hire insurance is compulsory for all taxi drivers in the UK.

Temporary car insurance

Looking to drive someone else’s car for a short period? Temporary car insurance is a flexible form of insurance, available for anything from an hour up to 30 days. It’s not cheap on a per-day basis, so isn’t a viable permanent replacement for annual cover on your own car. Plus you’d face the hassle of taking out back-to-back policies to ensure continuous insurance. But if you’re test-driving a car from a private seller, or sharing the driving on a road trip with a friend, temporary car insurance is worth looking into.

Track day car insurance

Most regular car insurance policies specifically exclude using your car for any kind of motor sports. It’s easy to understand why. Driving at high speed alongside a number of other cars doing the same thing obviously puts you and your car at higher risk of crashing. So if you’ve got a nippy car that occasionally feels the need to hit the race track, you’ll need to take out specialist track day insurance. In most cases, you can get cover for anything from a few laps of the track to full weekend events and drag races.

Young driver car insurance

Young driver car insurance” isn’t a separate type of car insurance policy. Young drivers’ car insurance needs are usually no different from those of older drivers. But they will often pay more, because their age and relative inexperience means they are at higher risk of accidents and making a claim. Using an insurer that specialises in cover for young drivers could help keep costs down, though you should check mainstream providers too. Black box insurance can also be a good option for inexperienced drivers, as it helps them prove their safe driving credentials.

Does a specialist car need tax and an MOT?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

Usually, yes. The main exception to the rule is older classic cars.

  • MOT exemptions apply to vehicles that were built or first registered more than 40 years ago and that have had no “substantial changes” made to the vehicle in the last 30 years.
  • Vehicle tax exemptions apply to vehicles built before before 1 January 1981. You must apply for a vehicle tax exemption to stop paying tax.

If your car doesn’t tick these boxes, arguing that it’s “special” won’t cut it with the authorities we’re afraid. You can read more on these rules and to find out what “substantial changes” means on the gov.uk website.

How much does specialist car insurance cost?

How long is a piece of string? Even regular car insurance varies significantly in price based on your personal circumstances and between insurers. Add on the extra layer of owning an unusual car or having higher-risk circumstances, and the variation can increase still further.

Here’s what we do know, though. Firstly, with a few exceptions (such as low mileage or black box insurance), if you need specialist insurance, you shouldn’t expect dirt-cheap car insurance. And secondly, atypical needs make it even more crucial to compare quotes to find the best cover at the best price.

How can I cut the cost of specialist car insurance?

Shopping around for the best deal is almost always our top tip to save money on your car insurance, no matter what car you drive or your risk level. Beyond that, the best way to keep costs down will often vary depending on the reason you need specialist cover.

Some of the general principles that apply to all car insurance will also apply to some specialist policies. These include keeping your car in a secure location and driving safely to avoid claims and boost your no-claims bonus. You can find more tips in our full guide to cheap car insurance.

There is also money-saving advice that will apply specifically to different types of specialist insurance. Head over to our dedicated guides to each type of specialist insurance (using the links above) for more tips.

Bottom line

Whatever your car insurance needs, there is probably a specialist car insurance policy to meet them. Some policies include enhancements over mainstream insurance, such as offering cover for risks that are typically excluded, or agreeing a higher value for your car than market rates might suggest. But specialist providers aren’t necessarily your only, or cheapest, option. Unless your car or personal circumstances are particularly unusual, it’s well worth comparing quotes and quality of cover from both specialist and mainstream insurers.

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