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Insurance guide

12 things to consider when taking out car insurance

12 things to consider when taking out car insurance
Rob Flynn

Rob Flynn

Staff Writer

When taking out car insurance in Ireland it's not just about getting the cheapest price. There are lots of other important things you should consider to ensure you're getting the right cover for your particular needs.

The whole point of car insurance is that it's there to protect you financially in the event of an accident. But if you've been paying for inadequate cover, or bought the wrong type of insurance policy, it may not be much use to you when you go to make a claim.

So to make sure you buy the right policy for you, take a look at these 12 important things to consider other than price when taking out car insurance.

1. Type of cover 

When applying for car insurance it’s important to be aware that the minimum cover required by law is third party. This covers you in the event a claim is made against you, but little else.

There are two more options open to you as a driver; third-party fire and theft, which is the most common type of cover chosen, as well as fully comprehensive cover.

If have an older car that's 12 to 15 years old, third-party fire and theft may be sufficient for you as you may not care about any small scratches or dents that are your own fault. And if you feel confident that your car won't get stolen then simply third-party cover might be OK for you. However, if you've just splashed out on a brand new Audi A5 then full comp may be the only way to go. 

If you don’t want to fork out loads on a top-notch fully comprehensive policy, but would still like extra cover in certain areas, you can include add-ons to your car insurance policy such as breakdown assistance and windscreen cover for an extra cost, which we'll cover in more detail below.

Plans and prices differ greatly depending on the cover you require, so, like anything consumer related, shopping around is always the best practice.

Before getting a quote from an insurer make sure to also have a read of this post which helps to debunk 15 of the most common car insurance myths.

2. The excess

In short, an excess is the amount you have to pay yourself towards a claim. For example, if you have an excess on your policy of €300 and you make a claim for €500, your insurer will only pay out €200.

Cheaper policies tend to have quite high excess charges, up to €1,000 in some cases, meaning you could find yourself having to fork out a fair bit of money in the event of making a claim. As a result, knowing the excess on your policy is one of the most important things to consider before buying car insurance. 

These days most insurers will give you a choice on what excess you want to pay. Paying a higher excess can result in you paying a substantially lower premium, and vice versa. 

3. No-claims bonus protection

When getting insured a straightforward way to safeguard your no-claims bonus is to include no-claims bonus protection as part of your insurance cover, which most insurers will provide as an optional add-on for a small fee. 

Having no-claims bonus protection cover does exactly that, meaning you won’t lose your no-claims bonus if you make a claim or if one is made against you. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule called ‘exclusions’ or ‘limitations’ and these will be explained in detail in the fine print of your policy document.

An example of a limitation might be that some insurers only cover your no-claims bonus in the event of a fire and theft claim, but for nothing else. Another example might be protection for your bonus but only within a certain time frame, or up to a particular number of claims.

Having protection for your no-claims bonus doesn’t mean there are no repercussions if a claim is made against you. All claims must be disclosed, which may in turn carry a loading.

Additionally, if you don’t have insurance in your own name for two years or more you might lose all of your no-claims bonus, so bear this in mind.

4. Step-back bonus protection

Another consideration, and slightly cheaper than full no-claims protection, is step-back bonus protection which covers part of your no-claims bonus, meaning you won’t lose all of your no-claims discount if you make a claim or if one is made against you, but you will lose part of it.

The amount of your bonus that you lose depends on what’s called the ‘step back rate’ and will be outlined in your insurance policy document provided by your insurer.

The step-back rate is usually calculated as a percentage, representing the discount in years to be deducted. For example, most insurers will apply a step-back rate of 30% (three years) on a no-claims bonus, which means three years will be deducted from your discount in the event of a claim being made.

If you’d like to add step back-bonus protection to your existing policy you should make an enquiry about the rate that would be applied to your policy with your insurer today.

5. Roadside or breakdown assistance 

Another thing to consider is whether or not your policy comes with roadside or breakdown assistance. It's available as standard on a lot of fully comprehensive policies but for cheaper policies you should be able to add it on for a small additional fee.

Breakdown assistance guarantees a helping hand should your car break down while out on the road and can be a great comfort to drivers. Depending on your insurer, a number will usually be available 24/7 to call the relevant maintenance team who will come to your assistance and help get you back up and running - often within the hour. This cover also usually includes the transportation of your vehicle to the nearest garage if necessary.

As with all types of insurance benefits, be sure to find out exactly what's covered though. Some policies will cover things like tyre replacements and overnight accommodation costs, while others will only cover the bare minimum, 

Another type of breakdown assistance that could prove advantageous for some is Home Start which covers you if your car breaks down in your driveway at home. With most Home Start cover your insurer will also cover you while on the road.

6. Loss or theft of car keys

When it comes to your car insurance policy, one benefit that often proves to be a blind spot for people is cover for the loss or theft of your car keys. Cover in this respect is even more important nowadays in a world where car keys differ greatly and some can be extremely expensive to replace, such as remote keyless locks.

Keys covered under your policy can include those to your car, ignition, alarm, immobiliser, steering wheel lock or keys for a garage door. If any of the above are stolen or lost your insurer will pay towards the cost of replacing the keys and the associated locks in question.

Generally speaking, more expensive plans such as comprehensive cover will include cover for the keys to your car, but this isn’t always the case. Make sure to bring this point up with your insurer if you want to be covered in the event of your keys disappearing.

One important thing to remember when it comes to the safety of your car keys is your own personal responsibility, as an insurer will usually not cover the replacement cost of keys where it's due to negligence on your behalf. For example, if you leave your keys in the ignition, even by accident, or if a family member takes your keys without permission your insurer may not replace them.

7. Windscreen cover

Windscreen cover is sometimes included on more expensive insurance policies such as fully comprehensive, but it can usually be added to most third-party, fire and theft policies for a fee.

If your policy says it comes with windscreen cover be sure to find out whether the cover includes all the windows in your car or just your windscreen. Other windows include sunroofs, glass roofs or panoramic sunroofs. 

Glass and panoramic sunroofs in particular can be very, very costly to repair so if you have these it’s best to double check with your insurer if these are covered under the policy you’re taking out.

8. 24-hour helpline

This is a fairly straightforward consideration but one you should double check nonetheless. A 24-hour helpline should be provided as standard by insurance companies to provide assistance in the event of an emergency.

A helpline should be used to report a claim, even in the case of a minor accident. If you’re not going to make a claim on your insurance, you’re still obliged to inform your insurance provider that an accident occurred in case a claim is made down the line.

Helpline numbers, where available, will be made clear on an insurer's website, as well as on all policy documentation, and should ideally be free to call.

9. Legal expense cover

This covers your legal fees, so you can pay for a solicitor to go after a third party on your behalf.

This is usually to recoup against any costs you might have incurred as a result of a car accident which a standard insurance policy may not pay out for. These are sometimes called uninsured losses. 

Some examples of uninsured losses are:

  • Medical expenses for personal injury following an accident

  • Some travel expenses

  • Out-of-pocket expenses e.g. phone calls to insurers, car hire companies

  • Loss of earnings following an accident

10. Driving other cars

Being able to drive someone else's car under your own insurance policy is a handy benefit to have, particularly if your car unexpectedly breaks down. 

Again, if it's not included as standard it may be possible to add it on for a small additional fee. Similarly your policy might allow others to drive your car. 

If in doubt, always check with your insurer before getting behind the wheel of another car. 

11. Driving abroad

This is another benefit that can be handy to have, especially if you're a fan of a continental road trip adventure! 

If covered, make a note of the countries you can drive in and for how many days each year. Also, be aware that your policy may not cover you for the same things outside of Ireland as inside e.g. breakdown assistance and windscreen cover. 

12. Hidden fees and charges

Beware the hidden fees and charges with your policy.

Just like some airlines might entice you with the allure of a really cheap flight only to add on a host of extra fees and charges right at the end, some car insurance providers might quote you a really good price upfront, but then add on things like a set-up fee or an administration fee which could see your premium shoot up. Some providers might also charge you a hefty admin fee if you change address or if you get married and need your name changed for example so it's always good to be aware of these other costs. If in doubt, simply ask your insurer what other fees you could be likely to face.

Finally you need to consider the costs of your chosen payment method. Some insurance providers will charge you extra if you wish to pay by credit card. Others will allow you spread out the cost of your annual premium over a few months for little or no extra cost while some will hit you with interest of up to 20% or so for doing so.  

Get in touch with bonkers.ie

If you have any questions regarding the car insurance considerations outlined above, or a more general question around getting insurance cover make sure to leave us a comment below and a member of our in-house insurance team will get back to you.

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