Car insurance loopholes risk leaving motorists with eye-watering bills, Which? reveals

Common car insurance loopholes could leave drivers in the lurch if something goes wrong, Which? research reveals, with gaps in cover for personal belongings, often toothless legal expenses cover and surprising exclusions for courtesy cars.

Car problems can be financially disastrous if you are on a low income, or have limited savings, especially if you rely on the car for work – so comprehensive car insurance cover is essential.

But when the consumer champion analysed 73 elements of car insurance across 49 policies from 34 insurers, it found that certain problems encountered by many drivers are not covered by a significant number of policies.

Almost all policies contain some personal belongings cover – which helps you repair or replace loose items damaged in or stolen from your car.

However, Which? found that not all belongings are included, with just two policies protecting cash and documents and only three covering credit cards. Four in 10 (40%) policies with personal possessions cover exclude mobile phones.

Legal expenses cover can provide invaluable access to legal advice and funding, but can also prove toothless in certain scenarios.

Which? found that only a quarter (24%) of policies will pay for you to recover illegal clamping or towing fees, while just three in 10 (31%) will help you deal with legal costs related to your car’s licence plate being cloned.

Almost all policies have some provision for courtesy car cover as standard – but only a fifth offer a temporary replacement vehicle if yours is stolen, and just a fifth – again – do so if it is written off. Most policies do have options to upgrade this feature to make it more comprehensive, but drivers should not consider full cover a given.

The rarest feature offered by insurers is guaranteed cover for driving other cars. This type of cover is useful if, in a pinch, you needed to quickly borrow a friend’s car. While almost all the policies Which? reviewed have a ‘driving other cars’ section, in all but NFU Mutual’s policy, it is not automatically accessible to all policyholders.

Drivers of certain ages (usually under 25) are generally excluded from this cover, as well as those in certain occupations – and in over a third (37%) of policies, it only applies in emergencies. This means that before making that innocuous trip to the shops, drivers should check carefully that they have suitable cover on their policy schedule.

Seven in 10 (69%) policies offer help in the event you fill your petrol tank with diesel – or vice versa – but only one in five (18%) will assist with both draining the tank and repairing the engine. Half (51%) of policies do one or the other.

To find the standout providers that can be relied upon to deliver both quality of service and cover, the consumer champion surveyed more than 1,800 policyholders who have made a car insurance claim in the past two years – asking them how satisfied they were with their provider and how likely they would be to recommend it. It also analysed the standard policy of each firm rated.

Of the 13 firms receiving both a ‘Customer Score’ and a ‘Policy Score’, NFU Mutual topped the table with customers praising the insurer’s ability to deal with queries and value for money.

NFU mutual also achieved a top rating in 47 of the 73 policy elements Which? examined, including guarantees of repairs and a guaranteed courtesy car. Its ‘Total Score’ (the average of its Customer and Policy Scores) was 86 per cent.

Other top performers included LV (78%), Saga (78%) and Direct Line (76%). Admiral (63%), Hastings Direct (65%) and Aviva (66%) meanwhile achieved the lowest total scores.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, said:

“Our research shows that motorists risk facing hefty bills when things go wrong as a large number of policies don’t cover incidents or possessions you might expect. With the cost of living biting, this means car problems could be disastrous for those on low incomes, or with limited savings.

“We would urge drivers to read the small print. If you’re comparing two similarly priced policies, the bills you can rack up by falling foul of car insurance loopholes could dwarf the extra amount you would pay for the more expensive cover.

“Anyone who’s unhappy with how their insurer has handled a claim should always shop around when it’s time to renew. You could save hundreds of pounds by switching insurers, while getting the right cover to suit your needs.”


The 10 rarest elements of car insurance policies:

Area of coverage

Percentage of policies


Guaranteed cover for driving other cars



Personal belongings – cash



Personal belongings – documents



Personal belongings – credit cards



Misfuelling (fuel drainage and engine damage)



Legal expenses (as standard)



Replacement vehicle (total loss as standard)



Misfuelling (fuel drainage)



Temporary replacement vehicle for stolen car (as standard)



Legal expenses – illegal clamping or towing fees


Source: Based on a December 2021 Which? survey of 34 insurers about the cover offered by 49 of their policies.

Notes to editors

  • In December 2021, Which? analysed 49 standard and non-standard policies from 34 car insurance companies.
  • In November 2021 we surveyed 1,876 insurance customers who had claimed with their current insurer in the previous two years.
  • Policy Scores were calculated by analysing 73 elements of each insurer’s standard policy. Customer Scores reflect the overall satisfaction, and likelihood of recommending their provider, of policyholders in our survey.
  • 13 providers received both a Customer Score and a Policy Score.
  • Which? guide on how to find cheap car insurance:

About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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