Comprehensive cover is not always as wide-ranging as it appears. Roy Rodger explains the finer points

The term "comprehensive" can be misleading as the detail of the cover will vary from insurer to insurer, but I will attempt to explain here and in later articles what is generally covered.

Unlike third party fire and theft, where fire and theft are usually defined, a comprehensive policy will say: "If the car, its accessories or spare parts are lost stolen or damaged..." or: "We cover loss or damage to your car..."

The words "loss" and "damage" are not usually defined and the effect of this is that the car is covered against all risks or, in layman's terms, just about everything. As with every all risks policy, there are a number of exclusions and we will look at these in a future article.

The most common claim is in respect of collision damage, but there are others such as fire, theft, vandalism, malicious damage, hit while parked, storm, flood and water damage.

Accessories belonging to the insured car are covered while they are on the car or in the policyholder's own private garage.

Example: a hard top for an MGF is covered against theft or damage in the garage while the car is out on the road fitted with the soft-top. The requirement that the accessory has to be in the garage is an interesting one as the literal interpretation is that, if I took an accessory, such as the hard top, into my house for safer keeping, it would not be covered. I like to think that an insurer would take a sensible line with this one.

Most comprehensive policies are subject to at least one damage excess.

Policy excess: some policies have an automatic accidental damage excess (for instance, not applicable to fire and theft claims) built into the wording.

Voluntary excess: the policyholder may elect to take an accidental damage (AD) excess in return for a premium discount. Typically, a £100 excess might reduce the premium by 10%.

Windscreen excess: we will cover windscreen excesses in a later article.

Compulsory excess: if the risk, or any part of it, is substandard, the insurer may impose an excess. It may be AD only or it may be all damage or fire, theft and malicious damage only. The excess may apply to all drivers or to one or more named drivers.

An insurer may impose a compulsory excess because of: increased theft or malicious damage risk; high value or high group car; young driver; accident or conviction history; occupation.

Young drivers excess: this is usually in two tiers, for example under-21 and under-25, or over-25 but not held a full licence for more than 12 months.

Where any excess is intended to apply only to specific drivers, such as young and inexperienced drivers, the policy is usually worded "while the car is being driven by or is in the charge of..."

The interpretation of the words in italics varies from insurer to insurer. The ombudsman ruled a few years ago that because the young driver had driven the car to a supermarket where it was damaged while parked, the young driver excess should not apply as it was a "mature driver" activity. The inference is that, had it been a disco car park, the excess would have applied.

Other complications arise when the car is left by one driver for collection by another.

You should note that excesses applying to third party claims are very unusual. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being that road traffic accident cover is compulsory and insurers would be required to pay third party claims in full and attempt to recover the excess from their policyholder. I think the difficulties of this process are self-evident.

Authorise repairs
When insurers authorise repairs, they will tell the repairer there is an excess applying to the claim. The repairer will usually not release the repaired car to the policyholder until the excess has been paid. In some cases, the repairers will ask for the excess up front before commencing repairs.

Drivers often feel unhappy about paying the excess when they feel that they are not at fault for the accident. In these cases, the excess forms part of the driver's uninsured loss claim against the third party and this is where uninsured loss recovery cover proves its worth.

For audio and stereo systems, navigation equipment and car phones the limits and cover provided under comprehensive (and TPFT) policies vary considerably, depending on the insurer.

Mobile phones
While most insurers will cover audio and stereo equipment readily, some draw the line at navigation equipment and car phones. Car phones are less of a problem now as they are being superseded by mobile phones, but hands-free equipment is still at risk.

Navigation equipment, whether standard fit or after fit, is a more recent development. Some insurers will need to reconsider their attitudes, as these devices are here to stay!

Commonly, insurers will cover standard-fit audio equipment with no limit.

This is a reasonable approach as the value of standard-fit equipment (and its security features) is taken into account when the group rating panel groups the car. Other insurers will insert a limit that can be increased on payment of an additional premium.

When offering a customer a range of quotations, the audio limit is just one of a number of important features we need to bring to his or her attention.

Question 1
A comprehensive policy covers damage to the car:

a.From fires, thefts and collisions only

b On an "all risks" basis.

c All damage other than from weather

d Excluding malicious damage.

Question 2
You would find a compulsory excess in the following circumstances:

a Where the customer wishes to reduce the premium

b Where the insurer wishes to reduce the claims cost for the account

c As part of a package of cover

d.As an underwriting measure where the insurer regards the risk as substandard.

Question 3
An accidental damage excess applies to the following claims:

a.All claims for damage to the car

b.Claims for fire, theft, and malicious damage

c.Damage claims other than fire and theft damage

d.All claims, including third party claims.

Question 4
Audio and stereo equipment is normally covered as follows:
a.Full replacement value irrespective of whether it is standard fit or not

b.Manufacturer's standard fit is covered up to its replacement value.

c.Non-standard equipment is covered up to a limit stated in the policy

d.There is a limit built into the policy for all equipment.

  • This week's CPD is one of a series kindly provided by Roy Rodger FCII of Roy Rodger Motor Insurance Training & Consultancy. He can be contacted at or on 0151 632 5914.

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