Roy Rodger continues the motor insurance series with the benefits of comprehensive cover

Comprehensive cover has many benefits as discussed in previous articles. This week there will be an examination of cover for replacement locks, emergency overnight accommodation and windscreen cover.

Replacement lock cover is usually optional, provided at an additional premium, subject to a limit and separate from a policy's theft excess.

It pays for replacing or reprogramming the locks if the keys are stolen.

While I have little sympathy for anyone who manages to lose their one and only car key, having your keys stolen by a thief who knows your car is a different matter.

If your keys fall down a drain, then your only expenditure is the cost of a new key. But, keys in the hands of a thief who knows the car is an accident waiting to happen.

It is not just the value of the car at risk, it is also the damage that the thief could do while driving the car. In certain circumstances, the law makes the car insurer responsible for damage done by illegal drivers.

In these circumstances, insurers should replace or reprogramme locks (quickly) under the basic cover, without the need for extra premium. There is a case for doing it under third party, fire and theft cover and third party only cover to avoid Road Traffic Act claims.

In the past, the ombudsman has held that replacement locks should be paid for under the basic cover without the need for any special extension.

To alleviate the stressful experience of losing keys there is a bolt on package from Keycare that includes free car hire, protects no claims discount and reunites motorists with their keys when found. The company will cover all keys in the bunch, not just the car key.

Some comprehensive policies offer emergency overnight hotel accommodation either as an optional extra or included in the basic cover.

Either way, it provides cover for expenses incurred following an accident covered by the policy and where the accident has prevented the driver reaching his destination before nightfall.

If, for example, you planned to drive from London to Newcastle in a day, and you had an accident near Leeds late in the day, making it impossible for you to continue, this cover would enable you to stay in bed and breakfast accommodation and make alternative arrangements the following day. Many policies also have provisions for getting you home in these circumstances.

If the customer has breakdown cover, there is usually a corresponding item there too, to cover for the delay caused by breakdown instead of an accident.

It is worth looking at the limits under this section as they are usually quite low, and normally the driver has to pay something out of his own pocket to obtain reasonable accommodation. Also, where it is the insurer who provides the breakdown cover, the limits under the breakdown section are sometimes different from those under the accident section. This is just poor drafting.

If you read through the wording of the standard comprehensive policy, you will not find any exclusion of windscreens or glass. Why is it then that we need a special section covering them?

Special deal
The answer is that, under the standard policy, a broken windscreen would be subject to whatever excess(es) applied at the time of the damage, for example, young and inexperienced drivers and policy compulsory excesses. The claim would also affect no claims discount.

This was the situation for many years, until some insurers offered a special deal for claims where the only damage was a broken windscreen and scratching to the paintwork by the splinters of glass.

Now, almost every insurer treats windscreens separately by applying a special excess (£40 or £50 usually) and leaving no claims discounts intact.

It is possible to repair some chips in windscreens, rather than replace the whole screen, but it depends on where the chip is in relation to the driver's view of the road. Where the chip is repaired, insurers usually waive the excess.

Insurers found windscreen frequency going through the roof several years ago- when the condition of the screen was made part of the MOT test.

Until then drivers had been happy to drive around with a chipped windscreen. But, with the change in the law, they looked for a replacement. It meant insurers were paying out for damage that had occurred, in some cases, years before the policy had been taken out.

Insurers replace millions of windscreens every year and most companies have made arrangements with windscreen manufacturers to provide windscreens at substantial discounts. In the same way, windscreen fitters and installers have arrangements with insurers to provide a fast, efficient service, usually with dedicated telephone lines.

Usually the fitter can identify the cover and excess from a code printed on the driver's certificate of insurance, and the bill goes directly to the insurer.

These facilities and discounts are available to non-comprehensive customers who pay the fitter themselves.

To encourage customers to use these dedicated fitters, insurers may offer wider cover, for example, a higher policy limit, than where an unauthorised fitter is used.

Some insurers exclude sunroofs from this section and this means a claim for a damaged sunroof would be subject to the policy excesses and affect no claims discount.

Question 1
The replacement locks extension provides cover:

a.If you buy a car and are not sure if you have been given all the keys

b.Where the car keys are stolen

c.For replacement locks, subject to the policy theft excess

d.If your house keys are stolen from the car.

Question 2
Emergency overnight accommodation cover operates:

a.When the driver falls ill and cannot complete his journey

b.Pays for hotel bills where an accident interrupts a journey necessitating an overnight stop

c.Only applies when the car is abroad.

d.May also be included under breakdown cover.

Question 3
The effect of the windscreen section being included in the policy is:

a.Without it, there would be no cover at all for glass

b.To ensure that all glass claims are directed to approved fitters and suppliers

c.A separate excess applies to these claims

d.No claims discount is not affected by windscreen claims.

Roy Rodger is a technical and training consultant and is also technical consultant with the Motor Investigation Agency, Liverpool. Phone 0151 236 7878, email rar@mia-ltd.com