Courtesy Car Insurance: The Definitive Guide
If you rely on your car for getting around, you'll want to know that if your own car is out of action after an accident, your insurer will help you out with a courtesy car.
But do you know exactly what your policy covers? It might exclude cover if your car has been stolen, and might be "subject to availability" - which isn't much help when you need to get to work, or take the kids to school.
In this article we'll explain how courtesy car insurance works, what's included and what's excluded, and how you could improve your cover with a guaranteed car hire policy.
What is courtesy car insurance?
Courtesy car insurance covers you for the cost of a replacement car you can drive while your car is in for repairs after an accident.
It's intended as a short term measure to keep you mobile while your car is in the garage. Most policies are limited to either 14 or 21 days.
A courtesy car, meaning a car provided "as a courtesy" to customers, was originally a service provided by some garages when customers' cars were in for extensive repairs. Now, courtesy cars are more often included in insurance policies and paid for by the insurer, though you'll still often be getting the courtesy car from the garage you use for repair.
How do I know if a courtesy car is included in my policy?
You need to check the policy details to see if courtesy car cover is included. But it's likely that if you have a fully comp policy, you'll also have courtesy car cover.
Many insurers now provide courtesy car cover as standard with their fully comprehensive car insurance policies. In fact, it has gradually become the norm for fully comp policies to give courtesy car insurance cover as standard - only a minority of policies now exclude it. According to Defaqto, more than 200 policies out of 226 they looked at offered courtesy car cover.
So if you have fully comp car insurance, courtesy car cover is probably included, but you should check your policy to make sure. Insurers who don't give courtesy car cover as standard on fully comp policies include:
- My Policy
- Only Smart Drivers
- Sky Insurance
Some insurers also offer courtesy cars with Third Party Fire and Theft cover, if the car is damaged by fire and needs to be repaired.
If your insurer doesn't offer courtesy car cover as standard, you may be able to add it an an extra. They may also offer an upgrade to extend the normal cover to more situations and to include better cars.
Compare the best courtesy car insurance deals
The majority of insurers now offer courtesy car cover as part of fully comp insurance, but you'll want to compare both the price, and the cover they provide. We've looked at insurers offering courtesy car cover and found out the conditions that apply - the table below shows our selections. The quote is for fully comprehensive cover including courtesy car.
|Company||Quote (Annualy)||Courtesy car cover||Extra cover|
Some insurers also offer courtesy car cover for fire damage under its Third Party Fire and Theft insurance policies.
What does courtesy car insurance cover?
Courtesy car insurance offers you a car while your car is being repaired. It's usually limited to 14 or 21 days, and courtesy car provision may not be guaranteed. It often only covers you if you're using one of the insurer's approved repairers.
Remember to read the small print. Courtesy car cover provided as part of a fully comp policy has certain limitations.
- It won't normally cover the car being stolen or written off. If you have to buy a new car, you won't get a courtesy car in the meantime.
- It won't guarantee you get a courtesy car - it's subject to availability.
- It won't provide exactly the same car you drive. Usually, you'll just get a small hatchback, even if you've insured a top of the range BMW.
When can you get a courtesy car?
You will normally get a courtesy car if your car is damaged in an accident, and needs to be repaired. Most policies exclude theft and write-offs - if you need to buy another car, you won't get a courtesy car.
When an accident is the other driver's fault, your insurer will ask the other driver's insurer to pay for your courtesy car. In this case, it doesn't matter whether your policy covers you for a courtesy car or not. In a non fault accident, courtesy car cover will be provided.
If the accident is your fault, or no other driver is involved, then your own insurance policy needs to cover you, so you need to check that it includes courtesy car insurance cover. (On the other hand, you won't get a courtesy car in the event of a breakdown.)
And there are exceptions. The AA will provide you with a courtesy car if your car is stolen, and most upgrade policies will include this cover, too.
|Courtesy car provided|
|Your car breaks down||No|
|An accident is the other driver's fault||Yes|
|An accident is your fault||Depends on your policy: check the small print|
|An accident isn't your fault but doesn't involve another driver||Depends on your policy: check the small print|
|Your car is stolen||Normally, no|
|Your car is written off||Normally, no|
What courtesy car will I get?
Normally, you'll get a small hatchback as a courtesy car - for instance, a Ford Ka, Fiat 500 or Nissan Micra. These are referred to as "Class A courtesy cars".
If this presents a problem for you - perhaps you have a large family and need more space - sometimes a larger car may be available, but there's no guarantee that this will be the case. Instead, you might decide to buy additional courtesy car cover to ensure you're automatically entitled to a roomier vehicle.
Equally, if you drive an up-market or performance car, you may want like-for-like courtesy car cover. You won't get that as standard with any fully comp policy.
Disabled customers who use the Motability scheme will be glad to know a Motability courtesy car will be made available if their car's being repaired at an RSA Motability approved repairer.
What is the car insurance courtesy car trap?
Some drivers involved in accidents that weren't their fault have been given a courtesy car by the other driver's insurer - only to find that they had to pay for it later!
This can happen when the car belongs to a third party car hire firm which asks its customers to sign an indemnity. For instance, an Enterprise courtesy car will generally be provided only if you sign such an agreement. Usually, the company recovers its costs from the other driver's insurer, but if they can't, they could come after you for the money - plus legal costs.
Even drivers who are entitled to a courtesy car on their own policy can run into trouble if they're upgraded to a car their policy doesn't include, or have the car for more than the period stipulated in the policy.
The Association of British Insurers isn't happy about the credit hire scam, claiming it inflates the costs of courtesy car hire and the cost of car insurance policies by more than £80m. However, it hasn't managed to stop some car hire companies from trying it on.
You can help to protect yourself by following a few basic tips:
- Always query a surprising upgrade. If you're expecting a Ford Ka and you've given a BMW, ask why.
- Check the contract and be clear who is responsible for the cost of the courtesy vehicle.
- Talk to your insurer and make sure you are covered.
- It's better to accept a courtesy car directly from the insurer, rather than from an accident management company or car hire firm.
- If repairs are taking longer than expected, is this an attempt to make you keep the courtesy car for longer?
Is courtesy car insurance cover worth it?
Courtesy car insurance that comes with your fully comp policy is definitely worthwhile. Whether or not you'll benefit from paying for a higher standard of cover depends on your circumstances.
If any of the following apply to you, then it may well be worth paying for the extra cover.
- You live somewhere that doesn't have good public transport links, so you depend on your car to get around.
- You don't have access to a second car in the family.
- You need to be able to drive for your work.
- You have children who need a parental 'taxi service'.
If your car is a necessity, not a luxury, for your daily life, you might benefit from the peace of mind that extended cover can give you.
Good to know
Extended cover could cost you about £20-30 a year. If you had to hire a Vauxhall Corsa for a week, you'd end up paying around £150 - and obviously, if your car was in the garage for longer, you'd pay more.
On the other hand, if you use your car mainly at weekends and use the Tube, Metro or bus to get to work, you may feel you could manage without extended cover.
How to get quotes for courtesy car cover?
You can easily see whether an insurer provided courtesy car cover as standard when you're searching for quotes - and search for only quotes which include it.
But you might also want to look for upgraded cover, often described as 'car hire insurance' or 'replacement car cover'. This can add several benefits;
- It may cover you for a courtesy car if your car is stolen or written off, while you're looking for a new car;
- it often covers like-for-like cover, so if you drive a larger car, it's useful;
- it guarantees you will definitely get a car - some standard insurances are subject to availability;
- time limits are sometimes longer than on the standard insurance;
- some policies let you take a cash benefit to pay for travel - this could be useful if you're hurt in an accident and can't drive comfortably, for instance.
Am I insured to drive a courtesy car?
If an insurer provides you a courtesy car, it will normally be insured for you and any named drivers on your policy. However, the level of cover that you get might not be the same as in your main policy - you should definitely check.
Good to know
If a garage provides a courtesy car, you might need to look after the insurance yourself or pay for extra insurance. You could use temporary car insurance to cover the gap.
Do check that you're insured. Remember, the law says you must be insured - and it's your responsibility to make sure that you are.
Is a named driver insured to drive a courtesy car?
Many insurers, like Admiral, will allow all named drivers to drive a courtesy car. However, this isn't always the case. You need to check the policy to be sure.
Do garages give courtesy cars?
Some garages, but not all, will give you a courtesy car if your car is booked in with them for repairs.
However, a good insurance policy will ensure that whichever garage you need to use, you'll get a courtesy car.
Another advantage of a policy that covers you for a courtesy car is that your insurer will usually arrange the insurance for you and any other named drivers to drive the courtesy car.
A courtesy car from a garage might not be insured, or the garage may charge extra for insurance, or not offer the same level of insurance cover that an insurer does.
What are the alternatives to courtesy car insurance?
There are several alternatives to courtesy car insurance.
- You may decide that if your car is off the road for a while, you'll simply rent a car.
- In a multi-car household you could just ask to be added as named driver for a partner, parent or child's car. There will probably be a small administration fee charged for this.
- If you know a local garage that is prepared to give you a courtesy car you can take out temporary car insurance to allow you to drive it. Arrange this yourself and you'll probably get it cheaper than going through the garage.
What happens if you crash a courtesy car?
If you crash a courtesy car, whatever insurance you have for the courtesy car will pay out. You should be entitled to another courtesy car.
However you'll have to pay the excess on any damage to the courtesy car. If the accident is later found to be non-fault (another driver's fault and your insurer can recover the damage from their insurer) you'll have the excess refunded.