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Thousands misfuel but 80% of insurers exclude mishap from cover

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Every four minutes another driver puts the wrong fuel in their car but 80% of car insurance policies currently on the market exclude cover for misfuelling.

A two second mistake in filling up a car tank with the wrong fuel can cost drivers thousands of pounds in repair bills.

Research by financial information firm, Defaqto, found that 240 of 300 car insurance policies exclude cover for misfuelling, while 23 out of 300 offer misfuelling cover as an optional add-on.

With estimates that 150,000 drivers misfuel each year, it can be an expensive mistake to make.

Defaqto said most breakdown companies can remove the fuel for you but will not cover any repairs as a result of the damage caused by misfuelling.

However, for some drivers, the answer might be found in their accidental damage cover.

Defaqto found 149 out of 300 car insurance policies currently on the market do provide cover for misfuelling under the accidental damage cover part of the policy, leaving the customer to pay their own excess, and potentially losing any No Claim Discount they have accrued.

The level of cover varies from policy to policy, so it pays for drivers to check the features of their cover carefully. However, if you realise you’ve put the wrong fuel in before causing any damage, the insurer won’t pay for the tank to be drained and cleaned out, because there hasn’t been any “accidental damage” at that point.

Defaqto found that the number of specialist misfuelling insurance products available on the market has doubled from 50 in 2017 to 99 in 2018, showing there’s a demand from drivers.

Misfuelling insurance can offer cover for repairs, transportation of your car to a location to be fixed (along with passengers) and accommodation costs should you find yourself stranded overnight.

Brian Brown, head of insight at Defaqto, said: “It is easy to get distracted at the pumps and accidentally put the wrong fuel in, especially if you have recently changed to a new vehicle, or you are a multi-car household with both diesel and unleaded vehicles.

“The insurance market has responded with an increase in separate misfuelling cover policies, however, it is always worth checking your car insurance policy before you buy to make sure you have the right cover for your needs.”

What you should do if you misfuel your car

Here are Defaqto’s top tips in case this happens to you…

1) If you haven’t started your car, don’t. If the fuel can be removed right away, the damage can be minimised and you’ll only need to pay the cost of removal, usually a few hundred pounds.

2) If you realise your mistake once you have driven, pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and turn off the ignition. As soon as drivers turn on the ignition and the fuel flows into the engine, this can mean the entire engine will need to be replaced.

3) Check your policy to see if misfuelling is covered– it may well be under your accidental damage feature.

4) Check with your breakdown cover provider if it can help you.

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