Why flipflops (or a naughty pet) could hit your car cover: How to avoid simple mistakes that can render your insurance worthless
- Choice of footwear could potentially invalidate any claim you make
- Caution should also be taken when driving with pets
- You should not obstruct windscreens with satnavs, stickers or air fresheners
Swotting up on the finer details of a car insurance policy and the rules of the road might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it could prevent you discovering that a simple mistake has rendered your insurance worthless.
Drivers may not be aware, for example, that choice of footwear could potentially invalidate any claim they make.
Driving in flipflops or barefoot is not illegal, but the Highway Code states that drivers should ensure ‘clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner’.
Drivers may not be aware that wearing flip flopswhilst driving could lose them money
Not only might failure to follow these rules increase the risk of an accident but it could also limit an insurance payout.
Caution should also be taken when driving with pets. Research from comparison website MoneySuperMarket shows that almost a quarter of drivers allow their pets to sit unrestrained in their car, yet the Highway Code states that pets must be ‘suitably restrained’ in a seat belt harness, carrier or cage.
If unrestrained pets are found to be the primary cause of an accident, motorists could face a £5,000 fine and a rejected claim.
There is the issue, too, of obstructing windscreens with satnavs, stickers or even air fresheners.
Simon Williams of the RAC says: ‘Anything which can detract from the driver’s ability to see what’s going on could be illegal and result in prosecution, a fine or even penalty points. It could also lead to an insurance claim being denied if the obstruction was considered a contributory factor to an incident.’
He adds: ‘Increasingly, insurers deem stickers – stripes and logos – as modifications that they need to be told about when a policy is purchased. However, with regard to football club stickers, or similar with political or religious statements, which could incite vandalism, insurers are not allowed to discriminate for personal views. But some insurers will avoid this by not quoting where a sticker or modification has been declared.’
Fronting is when a more experienced driver is named as the main driver on a car policy to help reduce costs, but the less experienced driver is the main user of the car
The illegal practice of ‘fronting’ is another big issue to watch out for, particularly for parents whose child has recently learnt to drive.
Fronting is when a more experienced driver – often the parent – is named as the main driver on a car policy to help reduce costs, but the less experienced driver (often the son or daughter) is the main user of the car.
The consequences of fronting can be serious – not only is the policy likely to be cancelled and any claims rejected, but it can also result in fines and penalty points.
Lift sharing can also invalidate car insurance, particularly if money changes hands. Helen Robinson, of website Carparts4less.co.uk, says: ‘Some policies specifically exclude cover for car sharing, whether you make a profit or not.
‘For those with policies that allow lift-sharing, they may be void if you make a profit from giving lifts. Many state you may only make enough to cover petrol and driving costs.’ Similarly, a car should not be overloaded with either people or goods.
It is a legal requirement for all passengers to have their own seatbelt, while loading up the vehicle should not take it over its official weight limit as this can affect brakes and tyres.
It is also important to be cautious when lending the car to friends or family. Although they may have insurance that allows them to drive other people’s cars, it is unlikely this will cover damage to the vehicle if they are in an accident.
In most cases, only those who are named on the car owner’s insurance policy will be covered.
Take care when parking, too. RAC warns drivers not to park near an airport runway as some insurance policies do not cover any loss or damage from pressure waves caused by aircraft travelling at or above the speed of sound. Plus, if a car is damaged while in the care of a valet, insurers may refuse to pay out.
Finally, those planning to take their car to racetracks or off-road rallies should talk to their insurer first. Standard insurance will not be valid, but some insurers offer specialist cover for track days.
How to keep policy valid
Report modifications: These can increase the cost of cover so anyone planning to make changes to their vehicle should discuss first with their insurer.
Maintain the vehicle: Regularly check for oil leaks, cracks in the windscreen and low tyre pressure.
Avoid withholding information: Any damage to the car, no matter how minor, should be reported to your insurer, as should any change in job title or address.
Do not guess the annual mileage: MOT certificates and the vehicle’s service record can help when calculating annual mileage.
Renew the vehicle’s tax and MOT on time: Driving with an expired MOT certificate or without road tax is illegal and is most likely to invalidate the insurance policy.
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