Short term car insurance - do you really need it?
If you are borrowing a car you may already have a car insurance policy which covers vehicles not belonging to you and not hired to you under the terms of a hire purchase agreement - but it is best to check your policy details carefully. Even though you may have bought a fully comprehensive policy for your own car it is highly unlikely that this level of cover would extend to another vehicle that you was driving so you could find yourself with third party only cover, the minimum cover allowed by law, which would indemnify you against death or injury to a third party or other people's property that you damaged in an accident, but not damage to the vehicle you were driving, your own belongings, or those of any passengers you were carrying. Bumping someone else's car under these circumstances could not only cost you a lot of money but could ruin a good friendship, particularly if you couldn't afford to pay all the costs! Even worse, some comprehensive policies do cover the use of another vehicle but conditions can apply such as a maximum engine size or maximum mileage, so it is vital to read the policy document carefully to avoid running the risk of inadvertently driving whilst uninsured, which could leave you open to severe penalties as well as virtually unlimited costs in the event of an accident. Conversely, if you bought a temporary policy you would have the option of comprehensive cover, giving you the peace of mind of knowing that your only liability would be the policy excess.
Cover for drivers from other countries
Many people need to arrange temporary cover for friends or relatives who are visiting from other countries. Some short term car insurance companies will accept UK residents only but you can buy cover for visitors with full European Union, New Zealand or Australian licences from this company. Do bear in mind that cover is likely to cost more than a UK resident would have to pay because of different driving conditions, regulations etc.
All insurance companies have an age qualification, usually 25 to 75 years old although it is possible to get short term cover at 18 upwards from some companies. Drivers under 18 can not get conventional 1-28 days cover but they can apply for pay as you go monthly insurance which would mean a minimum period of one calendar month. You would need to have held a full licence for at least a year and have at least a reasonable driving record; however convictions for fraud or other dishonesty within the last five years would mean a rejected application.
As with all other car insurance policies you would be expected to drive and care for the insured vehicle in a reasonable manner; for example leaving the keys in a car which was then stolen, or having an accident whilst driving under the influence of drink or drugs would almost certainly lead to a refused claim. The policy also usually specifies that the car can only be used for social, domestic or pleasure purposes so carrying trade goods or paying passengers would probably invalidate your cover.
Protecting your no-claims bonus
One claim that many temporary car insurance companies make is that having an accident whilst driving on short term car insurance cover would mean that you would still keep your existing no claims discount on any existing annual policy you had for your own car. This may be strictly correct but every time you renew a car policy you are expected to inform your insurance company of any new factors which would alter the premium. If you had an accident whilst driving with another policy you should inform your existing insurers immediately; this would probably not affect the NCB but it would probably affect the total premium! Not telling your insurer would be very unwise and could well result in a refused claim - insurance companies are quite entitled to do this if you have been less than completely honest with them. They have ways and means of finding out about any claims history you have, too, but it is interesting to see how often they accept a premium and only make their checks (and refuse to pay out if anything is amiss) when a claim is registered.
Taxing a car
You can tax a car online if the insurance details are on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) and short term car insurance companies update their details regularly. Do bear in mind, however, that it can still take some time for the database to reflect these changes. A recent change in policy means that post offices should now accept downloaded documents as proof of insurance cover but some staff are still reluctant to do so. If you wish to use a temporary policy to tax a car you may be well advised to request for a proper cover note to be mailed to you; you can have this option during the sign-up process and there is usually a small charge for this service.
Using short term car insurance for buying cars at auction
For many decades car auctions have been a happy hunting ground for police forces throughout the UK who have been looking for ways to increase their conviction figures. Drivers in unfamiliar cars that they had just bought often took the risk of driving these vehicles home without first arranging for insurance cover and they were duly picked up by the thousands, contributing millions of pounds in fines to the local authorities 'coffers! Nowadays the risk simply isn't worth running, because of the easy access we now have to instant short term car insurance.
The vast majority of car auctions now offer free WiFi Internet access. Any purchaser who takes along a laptop computer or netbook -- an iPhone, Blackberry or similar could also do the job but would be far more difficult to use owing to the small screen and keyboard -- can now logon to the Internet, and buy short term car insurance to cover any period from a single day upwards with cover coming into force immediately the transaction has been concluded. It is possible to print out confirmatory documents immediately if a printer is available (which is very rarely the case) but this is not legally necessary and these documents can be downloaded quite easily using a link which is sent to the purchasers e-mail address, should it ever be necessary to produce them. The level of cover can be third party only, which may be sufficient for cheaper cars, or fully comprehensive, which could be advisable if the vehicle was particularly valuable, and it is usually possible to include more than one person on the policy, so that either the purchaser or a friend or employee could legally drive it.
A service like this can enable someone who has just bought a vehicle to drive it for as long as the chosen policy period without running the risk of considerable fines, penalty points or even disqualification for driving without insurance cover; quite apart from the risk of enormous costs or even bankruptcy if the vehicle was involved in an accident. As the saying goes; a no-brainer!
Driving in Europe
Most insurers automatically allow you to drive in other countries in the EU but this cover is usually the minimum allowed by law, and roughly equivalent to UK third-party-only cover. There is, however, usually an option to upgrade this to fully comprehensive for an extra premium.
A good insurer should offer you the option of buying breakdown cover both in the UK and throughout the European Union.
Lending someone your car
Are you thinking of lending a card to a friend? Then think very carefully. You could finish up with your car impounded, six to 8 points on your driving licence and a fine of up to £5,000. The problem is, that under UK law anyone who lends a car to someone else is responsible for ensuring that the driver is insured. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, and it is what is called an 'absolute' offence; this means that not being aware that there was no insurance policy in force is not a defence against conviction, although the judge or magistrate may (or may not)take it into consideration when sentencing. A short term/temporary car insurance policy could save you from having to worry about this.
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