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Motorists risk hefty bills due to gaps in car insurance cover

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Written by: Emma Lunn
30/03/2021
Which? found that many insurers won’t pay out for common incidents such as misfuelling, mobile phone damage or lost keys.

The consumer champion analysed 73 elements of car insurance across 39 policies and 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, 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 covered cash.

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 Which? scrutinised provided misfuelling cover as standard, while about a third (36%) don’t offer misfuelling cover at all.

Many insurers either only pay for draining the fuel from the tank (18% of the policies Which? compared), or for repairing a damaged engine that’s been run on the wrong fuel (18%). Just three in 10 (28%) policies automatically cover both.

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% don’t provide any cover at all for lost keys, instead only covering stolen keys.

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.”

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