Motor Insurance Explained

Read Your Policy!

Motor insurers usually issue three documents.

The Certificate of Insurance – this is evidence of insurance as required by the Road Traffic Act.

A Cover Note – acts as a temporary policy and also as a temporary certificate of insurance for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act.

The Policy Document – sets out in full the terms and conditions of your policy.

You should read your policy carefully – there is no small print or difficult language in modern insurance policy booklets.

The Law

The Road Traffic Act requires all motorists to be insured against their liability for injuries to others (including passengers) and for damage to other people’s property resulting from use of a vehicle on a road. It is an offence to drive your car or allow others to drive it without insurance.

How Premiums are Calculated

Factors taken into account in costing your insurance include who will drive, the type of car, where it is kept, the uses to which it is put, and the type of cover required.

When buying motor insurance you must give the insurer full information.


The policy may only cover driving by yourself or specified people, or it may allow driving by any qualified person with your permission, possibly over a certain age limit. Your insurers will want to know about anyone who is likely to drive – particularly their age, experience, driving record and occupation.

Your Car

Family cars with moderate repair costs are cheaper to insure than large or powerful cars which can be expensive to repair.

Each model is given an insurance group rating. This system is described later in this Information Sheet.

Older cars often attract discounts from comprehensive insurance premiums.


Insurance claims are more frequent in urban areas so motorists in cities usually pay more for their insurance than those who live in the country. The place where the car is kept is a rating factor, so tell your insurers if the car is not kept at your home address.


Your policy and certificate set out the uses for which your car is insured. For example, if you or any authorised driver want to use your car in connection with work, make sure that your policy covers this.

Driving Other Cars

Some policies cover the policyholder in person while driving a car which belongs to someone else.

However, cover will be limited to third party only, even if you have a comprehensive policy. Accidental damage to the borrowed car will not be covered by your insurance.

Make sure you have the car owner’s permission to drive it and that they have arranged comprehensive insurance to cover you as a driver under their policy. If they have done this, then accidental damage claims to their car, while you are driving, will be met by their policy.

Similarly, before letting someone else drive your car make sure your policy does not have a restriction on who may drive it.

Drinking and Driving

Drink driving convictions are taken very seriously by insurers. Convicted drivers returning to the roads may face difficulty in obtaining insurance and will certainly have to pay premium increases. The level of cover may be reduced – for example from comprehensive down to third party fire and theft. These higher premiums and cover restrictions can well last for a number of years.

Giving Lifts

All motor insurers have agreed that if your passengers contribute towards your running costs your insurance cover will not be affected, as long as lifts are given in a vehicle seating eight passengers or less. This agreement does not apply if you make a profit from payments received or if carrying passengers is your business.

Changing Your Car

You must tell your insurers if you change your car. A premium adjustment may be necessary and you will probably need a new certificate.

No Claims Discount

Policyholders with a claim free (not blame free) record normally qualify for a premium discount. Scales do vary but usually range from 30% for one claim free year up to 60% or more after four or five years.

“Protected Discount” policies are often available for motorists with maximum discount. For an extra premium, a number of claims are allowed without affecting the discount. Typically two claims are allowed in a three to five year period.

Motoring Abroad

All UK motor policies provide the minimum cover required by law in other European Union countries or the minimum cover required by UK law if that is greater. This cover does not automatically include theft or damage to your car and it may not completely cover your liability to other people.

If you tell your insurers in advance, they can extend your UK level of cover to most holiday destinations.

Your insurers can also supply a Green Card. This is recognised internationally as evidence that you have insurance which meets local law.

The further information regarding motoring abroad is covered in detail under the heading ‘Driving Abroad‘

Look After Your Car

All insurance policies require you to make sure your car is in a roadworthy condition. If you don’t, you may find that your claim will not be paid.

From time to time vehicles may be subject to a manufacturer’s recall to address a possible safety concern. You should check with your local dealer or vehicle manufacturer to see if your vehicle may be affected.

Tell Your Insurer

You must tell your insurer of any changes in the details given on your proposal form such as address, occupation, type of car and motoring convictions including fixed penalties.

Remember – not only is it an offence under the Road Traffic Act to make a false statement or withhold information for the purposes of obtaining a certificate of motor insurance, but it may also invalidate your policy.

Policy Cover

Two thirds of private motorists have comprehensive insurance. Most of the remainder choose third party fire and theft, with a small proportion taking out more limited forms of cover.

Third Party

This covers:

  • Liability for injuries to other people, including passengers.
  • Liability for damage to other people’s property.
  • Liability of passengers for accidents caused by them.
  • Liability arising from the use of a caravan or trailer, while attached to the car.

Third Party Fire and Theft

As previous plus

  • Fire or Theft – If your car is not normally kept in a garage at night, theft cover may be excluded or subject to special conditions. There may be an “excess” – a part of the cost of the claim for which you are responsible – following an incident of theft. If you are selling your car make sure you receive proper payment before parting with it. Your insurance policy will not cover your loss if your car is taken from you by deception.


As above and previous plus

  • Accidental damage to your own car. There may be an “excess” – part of the cost of the claim for which you are responsible.
  • A personal accident benefit. Certain amounts are paid in the event of the death or specific permanent disablement of the policyholder – and sometimes his or her spouse or family member.
  • Medical expenses necessarily incurred, up to a stated limit.
  • Loss of or damage to personal effects in the car, up to a stated limit.

The Group Rating System

Insurance companies put car models into a varying number of groups, these could be 20, 30 or even 50. This means that each model of car can be accurately banded with cars of similar characteristics.

There can be a significant spread of groups within a particular model range.

How the System Works

Nearly three quarters of all money paid out in motor insurance claims goes on repairing cars. The cost of spare parts and the times taken by repairers are therefore major factors in pricing motor insurance.

The factors used to calculate group ratings are:

  • Damage and Parts Costs
    The likely extent of damage to each car model and the cost of the parts involved in its repair. The lower these costs, the more likelihood there is of a lower group rating.
  • Repair Times
    Longer repair times mean higher costs and the greater likelihood of a higher group rating. Different paint finishes on modern cars are an important factor. These, too, are taken into account.
  • New Car Values
    The prices of new cars identify the higher specification models within a model range.
  • Body Shells
    The availability of body shells (the basic frame of the car) is taken into account in group ratings because they are essential for certain accidental damage repairs.
  • Performance
    Acceleration and top speed are important factors. Insurance companies know very well, from their claims statistics, that high performance cars often result in more frequent insurance claims.
  • Car Security
    Security features fitted as standard equipment by motor manufacturers can help to reduce insurance claims costs. Such features include high security door locks, alarm/immobilisation systems, glass etching, coded audio equipment, locking devices for alloy wheels and visible VIN numbers.

Recommended Group Ratings

The group ratings determined by the Association of British Insurers are recommendations only. Individual insurance companies, depending on their own experience, may vary from these recommendations.

Buying a Car

Motorists planning to buy a new car should check, in motoring magazines, the insurance group rating of the exact model they have in mind. The higher the group number the more will be the premium.

How to Beat the Car Thief

The financial loss of a stolen car is bad enough and although insurance will compensate for this, nothing can help with the shock and inconvenience.

Walk around any car park. You’ll see cars with windows open, ignition keys in the lock, sun roofs open, valuable property and clothing on display on the rear seat.

Be sensible. Follow the checklist below every time you leave your car.

Take Care of Your Property

Remember – if you are careless when leaving your car then your claim for theft may not be paid at all. Your insurance policy requires you to take care of your property at all times.

Have all the windows etched with the registration number of your car. This deters car thieves.

Many insurers allow a special premium discount if your car has a professionally-fitted alarm/ immobiliser system. The American Vehicle Insurance Repair Research Centre checks on vehicle security devices to see if they comply with the criteria of the Insurance Industry Vehicle Security Scheme. The list of those products that have passed is used by insurers as a basis for premium discounts and required security. Ask your insurer what systems they approve or require. They may also require the system to be fitted by a member of the independent Vehicle Security Installation Board. Your insurer can advise you about this.

Check List

  • Where to leave your car
    At night, park in a well-lit place. Thieves like working in shadows. In a ticket-exit car park, take the ticket with you.
  • Remove Car Ownership Information Don’t leave your certificate of insurance and registration document in the car.
  • Hide Property
    Leave property in a locked boot. In a hatchback the rear shelf should be in position. In an estate car cover up property with a sheet or blanket.
  • Remove the Ignition Key
    Don’t leave the key in the ignition – not even for just a few seconds to go into your home, a shop or pay for petrol.
  • Close All Windows
    When you leave the car, close windows. Don’t forget the sun roof.
  • Use an Anti-Theft Device
    Thieves are opportunists. They will probably move on to a car without a device fitted.
  • Always Lock Doors and Boot/Tailgate
    Even when the car is in your own drive or garage, lock it and take the keys with you.
  • Children and Animals
    Never leave young children or animals alone in a parked car. With windows or sun roof open you run the risk of theft. With windows closed there is a grave danger of suffocation.

Skid Control

A basic guide to skid control covering the loss of traction between a vehicle’s tyres and the road surface due to the forces acting on the vehicle. Most skids are caused by driver error, although only about 15% of accidents are the direct result of a vehicle skidding. Skids occurring in other accidents are usually the result of last minute action, by the driver, when faced with a crisis ahead rather than actually causing an accident. Skids can occur both in the dry and wet as well as icy conditions, however, the chances of losing control and having an accident increase by 50% in the wet.

The main causes of skidding are as follows:

  • harsh or sudden acceleration
  • excessive of sudden braking
  • coarse or jerky steering movements

The effects of the above will be enhanced by speed. Combining these effects with non-recognition of adverse road and weather conditions will create problems for the driver.

The main types of skid that a driver could encounter on the public highway fall into three categories.

  • The front wheel skid.
  • The rear wheel skid.
  • The four wheel skid.

Preventive Measures

As well as the recognition of adverse road and weather conditions as a means of preventing skids from occurring, there are a number of other defensive actions that the driver can take.

Accelerate gently as opposed to harshly and in a straight line wherever possible.

Treat all braking operations in the same manner as acceleration.

If conditions are adverse, delicate use of foot controls and gentle shallow movements of the steering wheel are called for.

Ensure that the vehicle’s position, speed and gear are correct before entering and negotiating the hazard.

Reduce speed in good time if conditions show any sign of deterioration.

Make sure the vehicle is correctly maintained, especially that tyre pressures are correct and the tyres are in good condition. Also have the vehicle’s shock absorbers professionally checked; they are all that is holding you on the road.

If conditions look at all treacherous, allow extra time for the journey.

The Front Wheel Skid


The car tends to take a course outside of the expected course that the driver has steered (understeer); see figure 1.


Excess speed on entry to a hazard i.e. a corner or bend, or sudden braking to reduce the speed when negotiating the hazard. Both of these actions will have the effect of destabilising the vehicle making it more vulnerable to a loss of control.


The inclination is to turn the steering wheel further to counteract the understeer. Should adhesion to the road surface be just within the limits, then adding a little more steering may be enough to counter the problem. If not, remove the cause by taking the right foot off the brake or accelerator pedal and fully depressing the clutch pedal, and if necessary reduce some of the steering; these actions should be simultaneous. The vehicle should now start regaining traction, but be prepared for the steering to ‘snatch’ when the vehicle gets back onto a less slippery surface. If the loss of control is exceptionally severe, then following the above action plus straightening the steering momentarily, to allow the front wheels to regain traction, and then steering gently back onto the original course will help to regain control.

The front wheel skid

The Rear Wheel Skid


The rear of vehicle swings out of line and gives the impression of trying to overtake the front (oversteer); see figure 2.


As with the front wheel skid, excessive speed into the hazard and sudden braking or acceleration with a rear wheel drive vehicle, destabilising the vehicle, are the main causes of this skid.


Again take the right foot off the accelerator or brake and depress the clutch, then steer in the direction that the back of the vehicle is sliding (steer into the skid). Beware of correcting the steering too much as this may cause the vehicle to slide back in the opposite direction. As with the front wheel skid, these actions should be simultaneous, to prevent the back of the vehicle from building up too much momentum and sliding out of control.

The rear wheel skid

The Four Wheel Skid


All four wheels have locked up and the vehicle is sliding in the direction that the forward momentum is carrying it, with no directional control; see figure 3. It should be noted that both front and rear wheel skids, if unchecked sufficiently early, can develop into four wheel skids.


Harsh or sudden braking has caused the wheels to lock. A sensation of increase in the vehicle’s speed often occurs.


To achieve directional control, depress the clutch and rhythmically pump the brake pedal (cadence braking). This allows the brakes to lock and unlock. While they are unlocked, any movement of the steering wheel will have a positive effect. This is basically the same principle that ABS braking systems work on.

The four wheel skid

Why Follow These Actions?

In each case the cause can be removed by taking the foot off the accelerator or brake and depressing the clutch. The reasons are as follows:-

By decelerating, the vehicle’s speed is lowered, which in turn will start to reduce the magnitude of the skid.

Relaxation of the pressure on the brake pedal will unlock the wheels and allow the tyres to regain traction, enabling the vehicle to be steered.

Depressing the clutch pedal has 3 beneficial effects:

The engine will not stall, enabling the vehicle to be moved quickly from the danger area.

The link between engine (providing power) and transmission is broken; there is no drive to any of the wheels, therefore the vehicle is no longer a front, rear or four wheel drive model.

A very slippery surface can cause the drive to lock up which in turn causes the wheels to lock, keeping the vehicle in a skid situation.

Driving Abroad

Before you go:

  • Prepare your car:
  • Get your car serviced and have your headlights adjusted.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of petrol (but don’t carry any in a petrol can, this is prohibited by ferry companies).

Things you should take with you:

The following items are mandatory in many countries

  • A warning triangle
  • Spare headlight bulbs
  • A first aid kit
  • It is also handy to take a spare clutch cable as most overseas makes don’t fit UK cars.

Don’t give burglars clues that you are away

Some suggestions that will help:

  • Cancel your milk and newspaper deliveries.
  • You can also arrange for the Post Office to hold onto your mail.
  • Programme your radio to come on during the day.
  • Install light timers in parts of your home to give the impression you are in at night.
  • If you are away for more than a month, you should also let the Police know.

Take a copy of your insurance details including the number of your policy, and insurer’s emergency contact telephone numbers.

On The RoadDriving on the right hand side of the road

Most countries abroad drive on the right hand side of the road. It’s easy to forget this when you first get the other side of the channel so to remind yourself:

  • Put a brightly coloured sticker on the driver’s side of the windscreen.
  • Watch your speed
  • Drive slowly at first to get used to the roads. (Don’t break the speed limit as you could face stiff ‘on-the-spot’ fines).
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Tiredness is one of the biggest killers on the road. Take a 20 minute break every two hours and, if possible, try and share the driving with a friend or partner.
  • Keep valuables out of sight
  • Thieves often target foreign owned cars. Never leave any valuables lying on the seats of your vehicle, especially if it is left unattended.
  • Keep money and passports on you.
  • Park your car in a busy well-lit area.

If You Have An Accident FIRST – try to be calm! Check whether anybody is injured. If there are injuries contact the emergency services, including the Police. Make a note of the Police Officer’s number.

Obtain the following details of other driver(s):

  • name and address
  • vehicle number plates
  • make and colour of vehicles involved
  • other driver(s) insurers and policy number.
  • If there are any witnesses, try to get their details.

NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY or make any promise to pay any person involved.

If you are required to sign a document that you do not understand, write on the form ‘DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS DOCUMENT’

If driving in Europe, complete a European accident statement.

If you can, take several photographs of the accident.

If the damage is minor, contact your insurer’s claims line on your return to the U.K.

If your vehicle is badly damaged, contact your insurer’s emergency claims line telephone number for assistance.

Do not contact the Green Card Bureau.

What Insurance Discounts are offered by Graham Sykes?

Keeping the running costs of owning a vehicle is an on going problem. Therefore, offering insurance discounts is always going to be a question to ask.

With the cost of fuel fluctuating up and down most weeks and prices for vehicle maintenance forever raising the need to find areas to help to save money is always welcome.

So what can we do for you that will help to keep at least one part of the costs of running a vehicle at a reasonable level?

Generally the largest insurance discount that is available tends to be any No Claims Discount, up to 60% with some companies. You may have built up during your years of “claim free” driving. However, because Kit cars are frequently second vehicles this discount is not always free to transfer to your new policy.

In these circumstances we are able to offer substantial introductory discounts that can match that of your main car. Further allowances are made for restricting the driving, the main one being “Insured Only”.

Moving on, we have schemes that will offer additional reductions for restricting your annual mileage and the use of your car.

Further discounts are available if you are a member of one of our Approved Clubs, your club will normally make this clear to all their members.

Here is a list of some of the Insurance Discounts available with Graham Sykes:

• Generous Approved Club Member Discounts
• Restricted Driving
• Insured Only
• Insured and Spouse
• Insured and One Named Driver
• Restrict your Annual Mileage
• No Claims Discount up to 65%
• Introductory Discounts
• Multi-Car Discount

Not all insurance companies offer all these discounts and terms and conditions apply.