In the UK, car insurance is a legal requirement and you must not drive without it. You should make sure your car is covered by at least third party insurance before you drive it - or even park it on a public road.
Am I insured?
If you’re not sure whether or not you have taken out or renewed your car insurance, then it’s fairly straightforward to check this. All you need to do is enter your number plate at the Motor Insurer’s database (MID), and you can find out for free whether or not your car has cover. If you want to know who your insurer is, or any policy details, you’ll need to pay a small fee. It may also be worth checking your bank or credit card statements to see if a car insurance payment is listed. You could also have an electronic version of the documents in your email folders, as many insurers now send these out instead of paper copies.
What if I’m not insured?
The only exception to the rule of having to have car insurance is when a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) is made to the DVLA. This would only apply if you have no plans to use the car, or it isn’t roadworthy. Even if it’s parked on the street, it must be insured. Failure to comply could cost you a fine - possibly unlimited - plus a number of penalty points. If your case went to court, you could even be disqualified from driving.
Is there any ‘grace period’?
There is no grace period when it comes to car insurance. Your policy will end at the time specified on the documents, and will not run for a single day beyond that. Therefore you must ensure that you have continuous cover at all times, such as when switching between one insurer and another.
When do I have to pay for the insurance?
If you pay yearly, the full amount is due when you take out the policy, and must be paid as a lump sum. If you pay monthly, the cost is divided into 12 instalments which are due on a set date every month for a year. Insurers often charge an extra amount for the convenience of paying monthly.
When should I renew?
Your current insurer will usually send out some sort of notification to warn you that the renewal date is approaching. This will normally include their renewal quote. At this point, it might seem easiest to just accept the renewal rather than shopping around, but it’s not necessarily the best idea. Insurers often rely upon their customers’ apathy or lack of time, which means the renewal premium may not be competitive. Once you have this price, you can approach other insurers to see if they can beat it. As it will normally arrive a few weeks before the renewal date, this is a good time to look around for the best possible deal.
What if I change my car?
If you buy a new car, you can do one of two things. You can contact your existing insurer to see if you can transfer the policy to the new car. They may charge an amendment fee for this, so it may be worth getting some other quotes as well. This way, you can compare what you’d be paying in total, using both approaches, and opt for the cheapest.