When Comprehensive doesn’t necessarily mean comprehensive . . .

Since my last blog on motor insurance, I have been asked to define what Comprehensive cover means – the implication being that it is not necessarily the same from one quote to another. It’s an excellent point and one I’d like to explore further.

Taking out Comprehensive protection is not as simple as just adding accidental damage to a policy. An array of bolt-on options can be added and that means there’s often a significant difference in the premiums quoted – and cheap premiums could result in a shortfall in cover.

First and foremost, check the policy excess. When you’ve been in an accident, this is the amount you will pay for any repairs (usually between £100 - £500) and an increasing number of insurance companies are quoting a higher excess in order to reduce premiums. This must be disclosed – and sometimes it’s hidden in the small print. Know your excess and you might avoid a nasty shock when it comes to settling an invoice.

Other possible additions (or not) to a Comprehensive policy include:

Broken/Damaged Windscreen cover: the excess for this is £60-£150 but, if you decide to use your own repairer, the insurer might increase that figure.

Personal Belongings cover: if your vehicle is stolen, your CDs, iPod or portable satnav will be insured. However, be aware that this option is sometimes dropped to reduce premiums.

Audio Equipment cover: when fitted as standard by the manufacturer most Comprehensive policies provide unlimited protection. However, some underwriters set a low limit of, for example, £250 compensation.

No Claims Bonus cover: this is particularly relevant when you reach the maximum level. If you are at fault in an accident, you will retain your maximum NCB rather than automatically being stepped back a few years.

Courtesy Car cover: make sure you are aware of when you are entitled to a courtesy car. We try to ensure that clients have a replacement vehicle while their own is being repaired, if it has been stolen and is unrecovered and if it is judged uneconomic to repair (courtesy cars are not always included in the latter two instances). It is also possible to take enhanced cover if you need a specific vehicle for business reasons.

Breakdown Assistance/Extended cover for travelling abroad: we always recommend choosing these two options ¬– check whether they are included as standard.

Finally, consider how you use your vehicle. Most people believe that they are automatically covered for travelling to and from work – but that is not necessarily so. For example, if you are self-employed and regularly move between different locations, you will probably need to have Class 1 Business Use protection.

As always, do get advice from an experienced broker. Comprehensive motor insurance is a complex area and it pays to have a close look at what is – and isn’t – covered.

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