Securing cover

Shopping around for motor and home insurance has become much easier in recent years. You can get quotes by phone or use the internet to get special deals. There are also many price comparison sites available. However, using the services of a broker that deals with a selected panel of insurers can have significant advantages.

The broker will look to provide a policy that meets your needs as well as your price range. It will automatically check the premium each year to make sure you are getting the best deal and, potentially most valuable of all, it will help speed things up if you need to make a claim and ensure that you do not lose out.

Comparing insurance policies on price alone can be risky. Different policies have different terms and conditions. Cheaper policies may provide lower levels of cover. This is fine if you know what you are getting but otherwise you could get a nasty shock when you come to make a claim – so beware!

When buying motor insurance there are many differences to look out for. If you are dependent on your car, for instance, one of the key features to check is the provision of a courtesy car when yours is being repaired after an accident or is written off. Most insurers offer to provide a replacement while repairs are undertaken, though with some it is now an optional extra. Where it is a standard feature, be aware that a courtesy car may be ‘subject to availability’ rather than guaranteed.

If you have accumulated a decent no claims discount, you will probably want to preserve it if possible. Most insurers nowadays offer the option of a protected no-claims discount but the terms vary with some policies – for example, allowing two claims in five years while others will allow you to claim twice in three years.

You may want to be covered to drive other people’s cars so make sure this is allowed by your policy as not all insurers permit this nowadays. And if you are keen to take your car abroad, check for free foreign usage. Some policies do not incorporate this in their standard cover, or they only allow it for a restricted number of days, while others give up to 365 days of free foreign usage.

If you have valuable audio or satellite navigation equipment in your car, you should also make sure the cover is adequate. Some policies will give you less than £250 of cover while others have limits of £1,000 or more. The standard amount of cover for personal belongings in a car is usually only £100 so if you are transporting more valuable items it is important that these are covered under your home contents insurance policy.

Personal valuables

Home contents and buildings insurance come in two forms – bedroom rated and policies which are rated on the sum insured. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Bedroom rated policies will provide you with a fixed amount of cover, saving you the worry of having to work out how much the value of your contents will be. But they can mean you pay for more cover than you really need as the insurance companies tend to fix relatively high limits to be on the safe side.

With sum insured home policies, you will have to work out how much cover you need. The risk then is that you set the amount of cover too low. With contents policies, many people under-estimate the replacement cost of belongings such as their clothing or their CD and DVD collections. With both types of policies it is also important to make sure that the individual item limit is sufficient. It is advisable to tell your insurer about high-value items so they are listed on the policy as this will ensure there is no argument if you have to make a claim.

Cover for items taken out of the home should be added to the policy as an extra, such as sports equipment, jewellery and electrical items. If you do any work from home it is also important to make sure your insurer knows about any business equipment that you use.

A very important extra benefit to home insurance policy is family legal protection cover. It normally costs approximately £15 and will give legal expenses cover of around £50,000. Such cover can be very valuable and is often overlooked. It doesn’t only cover property related issues. It will also enable you to take legal action if you have contract disputes with, say, retailers or holiday companies, or suffer a personal injury.

Travel insurance is another area where policies can differ greatly. Although medical expenses limit which account for the bulk of claims are normally more than enough, luggage and cash limits vary. It is also extremely important to check out the exclusions if you are planning to do anything sporty on holiday such as scuba diving. If you going abroad for a longer period and want to work while you are away, make sure that your policy will cover it.

Buying any type of general insurance on price alone could prove a false economy. Always make sure your policy provides all the cover you need. A broker service will help you achieve this by giving advice and not leaving you in the dark.

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