Is your car really insured?

It’s surprisingly easy to invalidate a car insurance claim inadvertently. Here are some key pitfalls.

Pets in your car must be suitably restrained © Getty
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Insuring your car is one of the biggest drains on your finances. The average annual premium is £666. And to make matters worse, many of us are accidently invalidating our car insurance.

“Drivers may not be aware, for example, that choice of footwear could potentially invalidate any claim they make,” says Rachel Wait in The Mail on Sunday. Driving in your flip-flops may not be illegal but the Highway Code does state that your footwear must not “prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”.

A quarter of us travel with our pets unrestrained in the car, according to research by But the Highway Code says they should be “suitably restrained”.Anything that can stop the driver seeing “what’s going on could be illegal and result in prosecution”, Simon Williams of the RAC tells The Mail on Sunday. “It could also lead to an insurance claim being denied if the obstruction was considered to be a contributory factor to an incident.”

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When you renew your car insurance you should also be very careful about the details you give on your application. You could be invalidating your insurance while you are in the process of buying it.

For example, you can often reduce car-insurance premiums by adding an older, more experienced driver to the policy as an additional driver. That is perfectly legal. But don’t make them the main driver. “Placing the experienced driver as the lead motorist will dramatically reduce costs but can be illegal,” says Luke Chillingsworth in the Daily Express. Keep in mind too that satnavs, stickers or air fresheners could obstruct the view through the windscreen. “Increasingly, insurers deem stickers – stripes and logos – as modifications that they need to be told about when a policy is purchased,” says Williams.

Check your car-insurance policy before you start car sharing too. “Lift sharing can invalidate car insurance, particularly if money changes hands,” says Wait.

Keeping costs down

There are a number of ways you can cut your car-insurance premiums without risking invalidating your policy. Always shop around and avoid auto-renewing. Auto-renewing adds an average £40 to your premiums, according to

Pay for your policy annually to avoid the interest charges added to monthly payments. Opting to pay each month adds an average £55 to your premiums, according to

Finally, fiddle with your quote. See how much you could save if you cleared out the garage and put your car in it. Look at whether adding a family member as an additional driver might reduce your premiums. Check the price of installing an approved immobiliser and how much that would reduce your premiums.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.