You might not have the insurance cover you expect, consumer group warns drivers

Motorists risk being left with an unexpected and hefty bill if they do not check their insurance small print for “loopholes”, Which? has warned.

The consumer group, which analysed 49 policies from insurers, said it had found some gaps in cover for personal belongings and “surprising” exclusions for courtesy cars.

Nearly all policies it looked at contain some personal belongings cover – which helps people repair or replace items damaged in or stolen from a car.

However, Which? found not all belongings are included, with a handful protecting cash, documents and credit cards. Four in 10 policies (40 per cent) with personal possessions cover exclude mobile phones.

Which? also found that only about a quarter (24 per cent) of policies will pay for someone to recover illegal clamping or towing fees, while just three in 10 (31 per cent) will help deal with legal costs related to a car’s licence plate being cloned.

Almost all policies have some provision for courtesy car cover as standard – but only a fifth offer a temporary replacement vehicle if someone’s vehicle is stolen, and just a fifth do so if it is written off. Most policies do have options to upgrade this feature to make it more comprehensive, but drivers should not consider full cover a given, Which? cautioned.

It also found the “rarest” feature it looked at is guaranteed cover for driving other cars. In more than a third (37 per cent) of policies, it applies only in emergencies, it found.

Seven in 10 (69 per cent) of policies offer help in the event that someone fills their petrol tank with the wrong fuel, but only one in five (18 per cent) will assist with both draining the tank and repairing the engine. Half (51 per cent) of policies do one or the other, Which? found.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “Our research shows that motorists risk facing hefty bills when things go wrong as a large number of policies don’t cover incidents or possessions you might expect. With the cost of living biting, this means car problems could be disastrous for those on low incomes, or with limited savings.

“We would urge drivers to read the small print. If you’re comparing two similarly priced policies, the bills you can rack up by falling foul of car insurance loopholes could dwarf the extra amount you would pay for the more expensive cover.

“Anyone who’s unhappy with how their insurer has handled a claim should always shop around when it’s time to renew. You could save hundreds of pounds by switching insurers, while getting the right cover to suit your needs.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “Every day motor insurers pay £22 million in claims to private motor insurance customers, with 99 per cent of all claims paid.

“Insurers remain committed to ensuring value-for-money cover and want drivers to understand exactly what they are covered for. We urge motorists to check the scope of cover provided and speak to their motor insurer if unclear.”

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