MOTORISTS risk losing hundreds of pounds due to surprising gaps in car insurance, as new research reveals many insurers will not pay out for common incidents such as misfuelling, mobile phone damage or lost keys.
An analysis of 73 elements of car insurance across 39 policies found that certain problems encountered by many drivers are not covered by a significant number of policies.
Despite all car insurance policies boasting personal belongings cover, the research from consumer organisation Which? found that nearly half (46%) don’t cover mobile phones if damaged or destroyed in your car.
One in six (18%) policies also excluded laptops and tablets, while only two of the 39 policies cover cash.
A separate customer satisfaction survey of insurance firms found that LV, NFU Mutual, Saga and Direct Line, performed best. But Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank, RAC, Admiral and Ageas achieved the lowest scores.
According to the RAC, 150,000 Brits pour the wrong type of fuel into their car each year – an accident that can lead to expensive engine damage.
However, only half (54%) of the policies scrutinised provide misfuelling cover as standard, while around a third (36%) don’t offer misfuelling cover at all.
Some 18% of insurers either only pay for draining the fuel from the tank or for repairing a damaged engine that’s been run on the wrong fuel. Just three in 10 (28%) of policies automatically cover both.
It comes as a separate study found that the average cost of insurance for older cars fell £87 in 2020 as more drivers kept their existing cars rather than upgrading to a new model during the Covid-19 crisi.
Cars often become more expensive to insure as they get older, however, the pandemic has caused a decline in premiums which has offset the usual increase, according to data from Compare the Market.
As a result, last year, the average premium for a car that is more than 10 years old reversed to £1,521, down from £1,608 in the previous year.
In contrast, over the same period, the average premium for new cars increased by £128 to reach £1,212.
More people have chosen to stick with their current vehicle as new car sales slumped during the pandemic.
Last year saw the lowest new car sales since 1992, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trades.
Jenny Ross, Which money editor, said: “When things go wrong drivers should be able to count on their insurer, but it is concerning that a large number of policies don’t cover incidents or possessions you might assume they do, leaving customers with potentially eye-watering bills.
“We would urge policyholders 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 potholes could dwarf the extra amount you would pay for the more expensive cover.
“It’s always worth shopping around when it’s time to renew, but that’s especially true for anyone who’s unhappy with how their insurer has handled a claim.”
While car insurance usually covers the costs of getting to your destination or back home if your vehicle breaks down, onward travel didn’t feature in a quarter (26%) of policies, leaving motorists with a potentially pricey trip in a taxi.
The consumer champion also found that many drivers with smashed sunroofs will find themselves unable to claim under the ‘glass’ section of their cover.
Glass cover is the part of the policy specifically related to the windscreen and windows, and it usually also includes sunroofs – but this was excluded in one in five (18%) policies.
If you lose your car keys most policies will have you covered, but there can be a catch. One in seven (15%) will pay for replacement keys and locks – but not for the locksmith’s call-out charges.
Meanwhile, another 15 per cent don’t provide any cover at all for lost keys, instead only covering stolen keys.
To find the standout insurers that can be relied upon to deliver both quality of service and cover, the consumer organisation surveyed more than 2,300 policyholders who have made a car insurance claim in the past two years – asking them how satisfied they were with their provider and how likely they would be to recommend it. It also analysed the standard policy of each firm rated.
Of the 16 firms receiving both a ‘Customer Score’ and a ‘Policy Score’, LV topped the table with customers praising the insurer’s policy clarity, ease of online services and value for money. It also achieved a four-star rating dealing with queries.
Its Total Score – the average of its Customer and Policy Scores – was 79 per cent.
Other top performers included NFU Mutual, Saga and Direct Line which had total scores of 78 per cent, 74 per cent and 73 per cent respectively.
But Ageas, Admiral, RAC and Tesco Bank meanwhile achieved the lowest total scores.