Why using a roof rack could invalidate car insurance

How small print can invalidate your cover

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Magnifying glass focussed on small print

The recent case of a vicar who was told that her car stickers invalidated her insurance shows just how careful we need to be about reading the small print.

Reverend Wena Parry, 75, was told by Age UK insurance that stickers saying "Christ Must Be Saviour" and "Christ For Me" could be regarded as modifications to her car and invalidate her insurance policy.

It's just one of the dozens of ways insurance companies hedge themselves with exclusions that most people would never register - until they come to make a claim.

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In the case of car insurance, for example, anything from alloy wheels to a roof rack can count as a modification and theoretically invalidate your insurance. Even spoilers or tinted windows can do the same. And be warned: you'll even need to inform your insurer if you bought the car second-hand and modifications were made by a previous owner.

And beware if you occasionally use your car for business, as you may not be covered for this.

And the same applies to your home: if you add a loft conversion, for example, or possibly even a new kitchen or bathroom, you may be invalidating your insurance.

You'll also need to tell your insurer about changes such as taking in a lodger or having children if you're to be certain that you're covered. Last autumn, for example, a Devon couple were told that they couldn't claim for £45,000 of damage caused by tenants as their policy excluded this - despite the fact, the couple say, that insurer Saga knew the house was let out.

And don't lie about being a smoker or get your type of door locks wrong - you probably won't be covered.

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It's widely known that most travel insurance policies won't cover you for hazardous activities such as water-skiing or mountain climbing. But some companies have a pretty broad definition of hazardous - so approach with care. While trekking at sea level is generally covered as standard, for example, hiking at anything above 1,000m might not be.

And if you fancy a drink, you may need to think again, as claims have been thrown out in the past even when a customer had had just a couple of glasses of wine.

Of course, checking all the small print can be easier said than done. Last year, consumer website Fairer Finance found that some car insurance documents were longer than George Orwell's Animal Farm. The Association of British Insurers says it's working to try and make policy documents shorter and easier to understand.



Read more on AOL Money:
Small print longer than Animal Farm

The Fixer: travel insurance issue

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