When you buy car insurance, you provide details that are used by your insurer to calculate the cost of your premium. Unfortunately, if any of this information is accidentally incorrect, it could invalidate your insurance, leaving you facing big bills if you have an accident. Failing to give the correct information is not the only problem facing drivers. There are things you may do that you don’t realise will invalidate your insurance. And to make it even harder for consumers, news articles warn that some price comparison websites make assumptions that can invalidate your insurance too.
To help you to avoid accidentally purchasing invalid insurance, we’ve put together a list of things that could cause you a problem 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 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.”
Don’t worry. 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.
2) Next, ditch the dangler – think about items hanging from the windscreen or mirror
Having something hanging from your rearview mirror can invalidate your insurance too. 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. If you want an air freshener, then switch to one that clips to your air vent instead of hanging from the rearview mirror.
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.
3) Pets on the loose can lose you cash
According to The Dogs Trust, 48% of dog owners are breaking the law by failing to restrain their dog in their car correctly. If you use your car to ferry your pooch or other furry friends, they must be adequately secured. If your dog is loose in the car (or even worse, sitting in the front passenger seat or on your lap), your insurance claim can be rejected. That’s because your insurance company may decide that your pet 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 loose in the vehicle.
- 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.
4) What about failing to declare modifications?
Most drivers know that you 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 the changes that you have made, your insurance could be invalidated.
Car 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.
Discover the top 10 modifications that will increase your car insurance here, including how much more they will add to your insurance bill.
5) Lock it, don’t lose it
When you’re rushing to the office or juggling shopping bags and an over-tired two-year-old, it can be easy to forget to lock your car. Unfortunately, if you leave the keys in the door or the ignition, your insurance company might not pay out if it is stolen.
This can be a grey area, so if your car insurance claim has been rejected because you left the keys in the car, read through this guidance from The Financial Ombudsmen. This explains if/when your insurer should still pay up even if you’ve left your keys in the ignition.
6) Remember 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. The best way to ensure you don’t fall foul of this circumstance is to make sure your MOT and tax are always in date.
- 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. You’ll also 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.
7) Keep your car properly maintained
Did you know that your car insurance is invalid if your vehicle is not considered roadworthy? Even if you have an up to date MOT, you still need to make sure the car is in a fit state to drive. 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.
8) 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 usually is only third-party cover. That means if they are driving your car 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.
Check your insurance policy to see who is named as a driver. Adding a family member to your car insurance often won’t cost any more and gives you peace of mind they are fully covered if there is an accident. It may also be possible to add another driver to your insurance for short periods, such as a day or a week. Speak to your car insurance broker for more details.
9) Under-estimated mileage can lead you down the wrong road
Many of us admit to just guessing our annual mileage. But this could lead to trouble if you get it wrong. If you have opted for a capped mileage policy, you must not drive substantially more miles than the limit you’ve selected. If you do, your insurance may be void.
To make it easier to get your mileage right, you can:
- Look 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.
Don’t think that the insurance company will never know. If you make a claim, your insurance company will look at records on the MOT to check that you have not exceeded the mileage cap. If you do drive more than you say you will, insurers can reject your claim.
10) 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.
Use this handy tool from MoneySavingExpert.com to find out what difference your job title could make to your insurance.
11) 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!
- Go back through your insurance documents to see if you have accidentally 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:
- 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.
12) Be up-front to avoid fronting
Car insurance for teenagers is costly. 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.
- Look for other ways to save money on car insurance for inexperienced drivers, such as telematics or by shopping around for a better price.
13) Finally, 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, you’ll need to double-check that you’re covered for that too.
If you are using your vehicle in any non-standard locations or for special events, speak to your car insurance 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 car insurance broker, so you know precisely what is and isn’t allowed. Finally, follow the steps above today. All it takes is a few minutes reading for peace of mind that your insurance is valid whenever you drive.