The car insurance mistakes you should avoid at all costs

These car insurance blunders could mean you pay a bigger premium, invalidate your claim or risk committing fraud.

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The car insurance mistakes you should avoid

It's easy to make mistakes when it comes to your car insurance policy that can mean you pay more, invalidate your claim or even end up on the wrong side of the law.

If you want to keep your premiums down and ensure you aren't breaking any rules, avoid these daft mistakes.

Not declaring previous convictions

Not telling your insurer about previous motoring or criminal convictions could invalidate your insurance.

With harsher penalties now in force for speeding and using your phone behind the wheel you should make sure you don't fall foul of this costly car insurance mistake.

The new rules mean that, if you're caught driving 31mph in a 20mph zone or use your phone while driving you can now have up to six points added to your licence as well as a hefty fine.

Significantly, extra points on your licence can lead to more expensive insurance premiums. Price comparison site Comparethemarket estimates that someone with six points on their licence could face a £328 hike on the cost of a new policy.

But there's no point lying about your convictions to try and lower your premium; your cover will be withdrawn as soon as your insurer finds out you've lied on your application.

So, always be honest: declare all driving offences committed in the past five years, plus any criminal convictions not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Not paying in one go

Always pay for your car insurance in one lump sum. If you choose to pay in monthly instalments, then expect to be charged interest rates of 30%+ APR.

It's much cheaper to spread the cost with a 0% on purchases credit card if you can't afford to pay for it all upfront.

Not mentioning previous accidents

It's your responsibility to tell your insurer about any accidents you've been involved in, even if they weren't your fault or you didn't make a claim.

If this information later comes to light, any claim will be rejected and your policy could be cancelled.

Generally speaking, insurers will want to know about your claims history for the past three to five years.

Not getting your eyes tested

The DVLA requires motorists to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres (66 feet) for number plates made after 1 September 2001.

Drivers who have difficulty doing so – either unaided or with the help of corrective lenses – are breaking the law and could have their driving licences revoked.

What's more, failing this sight test could invalidate your car insurance, which could prove extremely costly when you come to make a claim.

'Fronting' a younger driver

'Fronting' is where a parent or other experienced driver claims to be the main user of a vehicle which is, in fact, being largely driven by a younger or less experienced motorist.

While fronting another driver may reduce his/her premium, both drivers are committing insurance fraud.

This deception can lead to policy cancellation, a criminal conviction, a driving ban, and a court fine or even imprisonment.

Not shopping around

Insurance companies rely on 'policyholder inertia' (customer laziness). This enables them to rob existing customers to reward new customers. Stick with one insurer and you can expect yearly premium hikes until the day you die.

So, shopping around online for car insurance makes perfect sense. Instead of renewing with the same insurer, always gather new quotes each year.

Not revealing modifications

If you modify your car with additions such as alloy wheels, a turbocharger or a special paint-job, you must tell your insurer.

Premiums are higher for modified or souped-up cars, as insurers see them as riskier to cover, thanks to their higher cost of repair.

Under-insuring

Be sure to insure your car for its full value. If it's worth, say, £10,000, then insure it for £10,000 and not a penny less.

Under-insuring may lower your premium, but if your insurer finds out, it could cancel your policy or pay out much less than your car is worth when you claim.

Likewise, it makes no sense to over-insure a car, so check your vehicle's market value before getting quotes.

Understating your mileage

You should also try to be accurate on how many miles you expect to drive in a year.

So, there's no point claiming you will do 3,000 miles a year when your commute means you do 11,000.

Not having a voluntary excess

As well as the normal policy excesses that apply when you make a claim, you can opt to pay a further voluntary excess of, say, £50 to £1,000.

By doing so, you share the cost of future claims with your insurer, which rewards you with a lower premium.

However, don't choose a sky-high voluntary excess if you can't afford to pay it when a claim comes along.

Buying budget or cut-down cover

There's not much point in buying a 'minimalist' policy if it doesn't suit your needs. In other words, buying a budget or cut-down policy could be a false economy.

Equally, why buy third-party, fire and theft (TPFT) cover, when shopping around could reveal a fully comprehensive policy for just a few pounds more?

Before buying, get quotes for various coverage levels and always read the small print.

Not checking for errors

Several crucial factors influence your insurance premium, such as your age, gender and occupation, your address and postcode, your car's specification and where it's kept.

Be sure to get these and other details accurate on your insurance proposal or you could find your insurer may be able to reject your claim.

Not demanding discounts

It's worth asking insurance companies for discounts.

For example, you can get money off your premium for anti-theft devices (car alarms or immobilisers), advanced-driving classes, and sometimes, covering two or more cars with the same insurer. Surprisingly, adding another 'named driver' to your policy could mean paying less, not more.

Not improving your driving skills

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) teaches motorists to improve their standards of driving.

By taking the IAM's Advanced Driving Test, you can become a safer driver. After passing this test, many insurers will reduce your premium.

For young or recently qualified drivers, a six-lesson course called Pass Plus helps to cut premiums to a manageable level. In some cases, passing can slash a third off a young driver's premium.

Not protecting personal information

Don't reveal too much personal data on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Cunning criminals use these sites to find out when people are on holiday, before popping round to steal valuables, including cars.

Some insurers refuse to pay-out if you mention dates you are away or reveal location information and have not made your social media accounts private.

Not driving carefully

Get involved in a needless accident and you could lose something very valuable: your no-claims discount (NCD).

Careful motorists with many accident-free years of driving can have NCDs worth 70% off their yearly premiums.

So, drive carefully and courteously, obey speed limits, keep your eyes open, and take a break if you're tired or unwell. Driving defensively will help reduce the risk of unnecessary bumps, collisions and crashes.

Not using your garage

If you've got a garage, use it to store your car and not piles of old junk.

Insurers tend to view this as safer than leaving it parked on the street or even your own drive.

Not locking your car

Always lock your car when leaving it unattended, even if you're only going to be gone for a short time.

Also, take your keys with you – many unlocked cars are stolen from forecourts every year. Imagine how foolish you'd feel if this happened to you...

Not maintaining your car

You are required by law to get an MOT on the third anniversary of your vehicle's registration or every year if it's over three years old.

Neglecting your car can prove very expensive indeed, especially if poor car-care leads to an accident.

If you're involved in an accident or fatality, then you could face criminal charges for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

For extra peace of mind, you should get your car serviced every year and also check your tyres, lights, engine oil and coolant levels on a regular basis.

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