What will invalidate your car insurance? The complete list for 2019

For once, there’s a little bit of good news when it comes to car insurance premiums. Recent research by Confused.com suggests that car insurance premiums in the UK are around £774, a drop of 6% or £53 per year, compared to 2017. London, usually the epicentre of price hikes, saw the biggest drop of 9%, but that will still mean the average motorist is paying around £1170 a year for fully comprehensive insurance. But what invalidates car insurance, and could you be left high and dry with no cover without realising it?

How much you pay for your insurance will depend on your location. If you’re down in the South West of England then you’re lucky, as your insurance premiums of around £558/annum are the cheapest in the UK. If, however, you’re in the City of London, expect to pay nearly £1500 a year (as well as those pesky congestion charge fees and terrifyingly expensive parking permits).

Car insurance is a legal essential if you own a car, and driving without insurance is a criminal offence. The majority of motorists diligently sort out their insurance cover every year, but are you as fully covered as you think you are? And could you be unwittingly nullifying your car insurance? Every year, 43,000 vehicle insurance claims are rejected according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). That leaves drivers seriously out of pocket because of little mistakes that many of us are guilty of every day.

We’ve put together a list of things that could cause you a problem and invalidate your car insurance if you need to make a claim.

  1. First, take the right step with your choice of footwear

Did you know that wearing ‘inappropriate’ footwear could invalidate your insurance and lead to a claim being rejected? While it’s not actually illegal to drive in flip flops, platform shoes or barefoot, you do have to be able to prove that your choice of footwear allows you to operate the car controls safely.

According to the Driving Standards Agency, “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.” Rule 97 of The Highway Code also states further that you must ensure: “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.”

Do it today:
You don’t need to chuck out your heels or fling the flip-flops. Inside invest in a pair of sensible driving shoes that you can keep in your car, so you’ve always got the option to slip them on before you head out.

  1. Ditch the dangler – think about items hanging from the windscreen or mirror

Did you know that having something hanging from your rear view mirror can invalidate your insurance? Your insurer can reject a claim if they feel that an accident was caused because items suspended from the mirror or hanging in your windscreen affected your line of vision or caused a distraction. Bear in mind too, that if you have a satnav holder (the sucker pad ones that stick to your dashboard or window) then they need to be removed before your MOT.

Do it today:

Ditch the danglers, and put them somewhere else in the car. If you want an air freshener then switch to one that clips to your air vent instead of hanging from the rearview mirror.

  1. Pets on the loose can lose you cash

If you use your car to ferry your pooch or other furry friends, they need to be properly secured. If your dog is loose in the car (or even worse, sitting in the front passenger seat or on your lap), your claim can be rejected because your pet may have caused a distraction, leading to you losing concentration and having an accident. You can also face a hefty £5,000 fine too for having an animal lose in the vehicle. According to The Dogs Trust, 48% of dog owners are breaking the law by failing to restrain their dog in their car properly.

Do it today:

Buy a dog guard or dog crate to ensure your dog is properly restrained in the back of your car.
If you prefer to travel with your pet on the back seat, use a dog harness to secure your dog to the seat belt.

  1. What about failing to declare modifications?

It’s fairly obvious that you’ll need to declare any modifications that make your car go faster or increase its value. But these are not the only modifications that you need to tell your insurer about. If you don’t declare all changes that you have made, your insurance could be invalidated. Modifications you may not have thought you’ll need to declare include:
Post-factory-fitted tow bars
Any stickers that express a point of view that could leave you open to becoming the target of vandals or aggressive reactions
Wraps or non-standard paint jobs should be declared as these could make your vehicle more attractive to thieves.

Do it today:

Discover the top 10 modifications that will increase your car insurance here including how much more they will add to your insurance bill.

  1. Lock it, don’t lose it

Whether you’re rushing to the office for a meeting or you’re juggling half a dozen shopping bags and a hangry two-year-old, it can be easy to forget to lock your car. While most insurance policies cover you if your car is stolen, if you leave the keys in the door or the ignition then you’ll be seen as culpable and your insurance company won’t pay out.

Do it today:
Read through this guidance from The Financial Ombudsmen on if/when your insurer should still pay up, even if you’ve left your keys in the ignition.

  1. Don’t forget to renew your MOT and tax

No matter how much you’ve spent on fully comprehensive car insurance, it won’t be valid if you’ve allowed your car tax or MOT to expire.

Do it today:
Check if you have a valid MOT for your vehicle here. Before you start, you’ll need your vehicle make and registration, so make sure these are close to hand.

Sign up for free text or email reminders that your MOT is due. Before you start, you’ll need to have an email address or mobile phone and you need your vehicle’s registration number, so make sure you have those handy.

Check if your car is currently taxed. You’ll need your car registration number to do this.

Setting up a direct debit payment for your vehicle tax means it will be automatically renewed and you won’t need to remember when it is due. Sign up here.

  1. Keep your car properly maintained

You are obliged to keep your car in a roadworthy condition at all times. Even if you have a valid MOT you still need to make sure the car is in a fit state to drive, so keep an eye on things like brakes, oil leaks, cracked windscreens, or anything else that could affect the safety of the vehicle. If you don’t carry out repairs and maintenance as soon as it is needed, your car insurance can be voided.

Do it today:

The Which? Trusted Trader scheme can be a good place to start if you’re looking for a reliable garage. Ring around for a couple of quotes to make sure you’re getting the best price. Ask the garages the following questions to make sure you’re getting what you expect for your money:

Does the quoted price for work include VAT?

Will they use the manufacturer’s original parts or those of ‘equivalent quality’?

Will any repairs affect the vehicle’s warranty?

  1. Lending your car to family or friends

The only people who can drive your vehicle are the ones specifically named on your insurance policy. Friends and family may have insurance that allows them to drive other vehicles, but this is normally only third-party cover. That means if they are driving your vehicle and have an accident, your insurer will not pay out for any damage to your vehicle. If in doubt, say no if they ask to borrow the car for the evening.

Do it today:
Check your insurance policy to see who is named as a driver.

It may be possible to add an additional driver to your insurance for short periods of time, such as a day or a week. Speak to your broker for more details.

  1. Under-estimated mileage can lead you down the wrong road

Around 27% of drivers admit to just guessing their annual mileage. If you have opted for a capped mileage policy you need to be certain you’re not going to do substantially more than the limit you’ve selected. The most common limit is 10,000 for low mileage policies, but you can arrange with your insurance company to increase that cap if necessary. If you don’t, and you then make a claim, your insurance company will look at records on the MOT etc, to check that you have not exceeded the miles you claim. If you do drive more than you said you would, insurers can reject the claim.

Do it today:
Accurately estimate your annual mileage by looking at your last two MOT certificates. Here you’ll find the number of miles displaying on your car odometer. Calculate the difference between the two amounts to see how far you drove during that year.

You could use a mileage calculator to work out how many miles you’re likely to travel.

Not sure how far your regular journeys are? Use Google Maps to discover the precise distance between your home and place of work.

Contact your insurance provider and amend the cap if necessary.

  1. Failing to change your details if you change jobs

Your job title is one of the factors used to calculate your premium. If you change jobs, you need to let your insurance company know. You may also need to consider other aspects of your insurance, such as mileage caps, where the car is parked, and whether your insurance covers you for commuting to and from work.

Do it today:
Use this handy tool from MoneySavingExpert.com to find out what difference your job title could make to your insurance.

  1. Bending the truth is a dangerous game

Insurance isn’t cheap, and it could be tempting to bend the truth a little when you ask for a quote. If the information you provide when you take out your insurance isn’t 100% accurate, your insurance will be invalidated.

Make sure you mention any incidents that your vehicle has been involved in including small bumps. Your broker or insurer will advise if these incidents do not need to be recorded. If you do make a claim in the future, and there is other damage to your vehicle that you have not declared when taking out your policy, your claim could be rejected. You’ll also need to own up to any penalty points on your licence but don’t forget that penalty points only stay on your licence for a limited period!

Do it today:
Go back through your insurance documents to see if you have accidentally (or accidentally on purpose!) given inaccurate information. If there is anything that doesn’t ring true, be honest, and speak to your insurance company right away. If you’re not sure what something means, take a look at this jargon buster from The AA so you are clear.

Take a look at how many, if any, penalty points you currently have on your licence. To do this you’ll need your driving licence number, your National Insurance number and the postcode of your driving licence, so make sure you have these handy.

  1. Be up-front to avoid fronting

You might think it won’t hurt to pretend to be the main driver, when in fact it is your teenage son’ or daughter’s car. But it will. This is called fronting, and it’s illegal.

Don’t assume that the insurance company will never know. They can use all sorts of things, including social media, to discover the truth. If they suspect a case of fronting, they will investigate further. If you’re found guilty, your insurance will not only be invalidated, but you could both face prosecution for fraud. Your child will be considered to be driving without insurance and the penalties for this are harsh. It means points on their licence that could even result in a total ban. All this can make getting insurance in the future even more difficult and expensive for both of you.

Do it today:

Look for other ways to save money on car insurance for inexperienced drivers, such as telematics or by shopping around for a better price.

  1. Think about where you’re driving

Standard car insurance won’t cover you everywhere, for example if you decide to drive your vehicle on a racetrack or use it for competitive motorsports. If you use the car for commuting between home and work, you’ll need to double-check that you’re covered for that too.

Do it today:
If you’ll be using your vehicle in any non-standard locations or for special events, speak to a broker. For example, you can buy additional specialist track day cover or competition insurance that will ensure your vehicle is still insured.

Saving you money and hassle

Make sure you don’t have a nasty shock in store if you do need to make a claim. Read your car insurance policy booklet thoroughly or talk your cover through with your broker so you know exactly what is and isn’t allowed. Finally, follow the steps above today. All it takes is a few minutes reading to make sure your insurance is valid every time you drive.