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Buying 3rd party cover

Third party car insurance used to be a cheap option for motorists and motorcyclists who needed to buy insurance but who didn't have a lot of money to spend. Times have changed. Often 3rd party, or third party, fire and theft cover can not only be a poor bargain but it can actually be dearer than comprehensive cover. This is partly because a lot of insurers don't like it, and some simply won't offer these policies at all, or do so only sparingly.

What will/won't it cover?

Whilst comprehensive cover should recompense you for most of the cost of repairing or replacing your own vehicle if it is damaged or destroyed in an accident, for which you were judged to be at fault, the lower levels of cover will not. TPFT cover should, of course, cover you if the vehicle is stolen and not recovered, or damaged by fire. Some policies will cover damage to the car caused by break-ins to steal goods in the car, such as fitted radios etc. They will not usually provide indemnity, however, for personal goods which are left on display, and an insurer may refuse to pay for entry damage too, on the grounds that the owner was negligent in leaving stealable goods in the car, where they were visible.

It should, however, pay most of the cost of damages or injuries caused to other people in a car accident that you were held responsible for (subject to policy conditions).

Why don't insurers like it?
Uninsured driving is a major problem and a lot of motorist who commit this offence claim that they thought that, if they were driving someone else's car, they were covered under the 'any vehicle not belonging ... etc' clause. This is true (subject to policy details) for a lot of comprehensive policies, but very few others, if any. Unrecovered losses caused by uninsured drivers are often paid for by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) who claim to handle over 20,000 cases a year; and the money comes straight out of the pockets of the insurers who underwrite the scheme. The fewer non-comprehensive policies there are, the fewer claims there may be to the MIB.

In the days before MOTs and SORN many drivers owned 'old bangers' which were not worth a great deal. If they were destroyed or badly damaged, replacing them was a fairly cheap option. Those days are gone and owing to legislation and relative affluence the cars on the road today are in far better shape, and therefore worth more. This means that the demand for cheaper levels of insurance has fallen, considerably.

Apart from all of this, insurers are wary of motorists who are trying to cut corners, financially. A driver with pride in his or her motor is likely to be more careful with it that one who looks upon it as a disposable item. Also, someone who pays that bit extra to fully insure a car is more likely to attend to repairs and maintenance more enthusiastically than someone who is probably having to count the coppers.

In short, some of them feel that there is more likelihood of an accident involving someone who chooses not to have comprehensive cover. This means higher pay-outs, and so higher premiums.

The bottom line

The truth is that it can be very difficult for many motorists, especially young ones, to justify paying the extra cost that comprehensive cover sometimes entails. However, it may not be as bad as you think. Get a third party quote by all means; but get a comprehensive one, as well. Read the policy documents carefully to see just what you're getting for your money, and then you can make a reasoned decision on which one to go for.

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