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On car insurance, what is comprehensive?

It’s easy to get confused by all the terminology that crops up when you’re looking for car insurance. What is comprehensive cover? What is third party, fire and theft insurance? And how do they differ?

What does comprehensive car insurance cover?

Comprehensive car insurance covers everything that a third party, fire and theft policy does, as well as a range of extras. Fire damage, theft and vandalism are therefore included, as well as damage to the other person’s (the third party’s) car.

Who is at fault?

Comprehensive cover also allows you to claim for accidents where you were at fault, and it covers cases where fault cannot be proved - for example if someone hits your parked car then drives off without being seen or leaving their details.

Repair or replacement

Comprehensive insurance also covers the cost of repairing your car, or even replacing it if it is written off.

Extras

Many fully comprehensive car insurance policies also cover a range of extras. These can include windscreen repair cover, accidental damage cover, personal injury cover, the provision of a courtesy car while yours is out of action, breakdown cover and legal expenses cover to protect you in the event of a claim. Some insurers include various options as standard, while others may charge extra, so it pays to shop around and check exactly what is being offered.

What is not covered?

Excess

A minimum excess will be set by the insurer. This is the amount you will have to fork out yourself before the insurer pays the rest. There will be a compulsory excess stated by the insurance company, and you can add a voluntary excess to this if you choose to, which may lower the insurance premium.

Terms and conditions

The terms and conditions of the insurance are highly likely to exclude claims arising from certain circumstances. If you have no licence or are driving after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, you will not be covered. When a theft or damage occurs and the car was not properly locked, this may mean you cannot claim. If you put in the wrong type of fuel this also might not be covered, although some policies now advertise that they do now include this.

Is comprehensive cover more expensive?

You would be forgiven for assuming this is the case. Surely cover for a wider range of circumstances would cost more?

This is not always true. Comprehensive insurance can actually be around the same price as third party only, or third party, fire and theft policies. In some cases, it can even be cheaper.

The reason for this is perceived or actual risk. It is often high-risk drivers who opt for a third party only or third party, fire and theft policy. Insurers expect more claims from such customers, and therefore raise the prices accordingly. 

That said, sometimes third party, fire and theft or third party only insurance will be cheaper than comprehensive. It’s always worth checking prices for all types - and considering whether it’s worth risking having to pay out for repairs or a new car in the event of an accident.

How to cut insurance costs

As mentioned above, adding a voluntary excess can lower your premium. Avoiding low-cost claims can also be worthwhile, as this helps to build your no claims discount. Car insurance does tend to get cheaper as you get older too, especially if you haven’t made many claims in the past. Shopping around is very highly recommended, as well as comparing what different insurers do or don’t cover.

Other related FAQs

Looking for more related content to this? We’ve picked a selection of related topics that you may find helpful

Although you may be covered to drive other cars as part of your insurance policy, this cover often specifically excludes rental vehicles. Instead, your rental car provider will have insurance built into the cost of the hire – with a few options that’ll let you reduce any excess you’ll pay in the event of an accident.

If the cause of water damage to your car is not your fault, a comprehensive insurance policy will provide cover, but a third party insurance policy is limited and does not normally include water damage.

Many comprehensive car insurance policies provide cover for a cracked windshield, but not all. When taking out car insurance, check that windshield cover is included, otherwise you may need to pay extra for this cover.

If your car insurance covers windscreen damage, it will probably also include cover for all other broken car windows, and some policies extend cover to glass sunroofs.

In most cases, your car insurance will provide cover for the cost of minor engine damage as the result of an accident, but it may not cover damage due to wear and tear.

If you have a fully comprehensive policy, you’ll generally find that insurers will pay out for severe weather damage like that caused by hail. Be warned though, not all do – so if you’re concerned, it’s important to check your policy for any exclusions.

As long as you have fully comprehensive cover with no exclusions relating to flood or water damage, you should find that your car insurance covers water damage. Be warned though, if the damage was avoidable (if you drove into a large puddle for instance) you might find your insurer won’t payout.

In short, if you have comprehensive car insurance, it will pay for repairs under certain conditions.

Most comprehensive car insurance policies will cover repair for damage caused by potholes on public roads. Alternatively, you can claim directly from the authority responsible for the road.

Depending on the type of car insurance you have in place, it’s likely your policy will provide cover for theft.