Driving with a pet not secured properly can void your car insurance policy and even mean a hefty fine of up to £5,0001. And with an increase in Brits buying new pets in lockdown, it’s even more important to make sure you’re sticking to the rules.

Car insurance is a legal requirement for motorists, and your insurer needs to have accurate information about you and your vehicle in order for it to be valid. Providing false information or failing to update it can mean that your insurer refuses to pay out for claims, or even cancels your policy.

With lockdown restrictions lifting across the country, many people Brits will be planning summer staycations, but before packing up the car for a long drive, it’s important to check that you’re not accidentally invalidating your insurance policy. That’s why CarParts4Less.co.uk has shared 10 easy-to-make mistakes that might be invalidating your car insurance.

1. Driving with pets

Our pets have become more of a lifeline than ever during lockdown and what better way to reward them than a dog friendly getaway but if you’re planning on taking your pet on holiday with you, it’s important to remember that you are legally required to make sure they are secured. Unsecured pets can make a car more at risk of accidents, as they may distract the driver or even physically get in the way of driving. If you crash with an unsecured pet in the car, it’s likely that your insurance company will refuse to pay for your claim.

2. Not informing your insurer about any car modifications

Before preparing for a staycation, it’s common to install roof or bike racks so everything that’s needed for the holiday can be packed. However, some drivers may be unaware that these additions can be counted as modifications by some insurers and this could require a change in your policy. Before installing, contact your insurer to let them know of your plans.

Car modifications can affect your insurance premium for two reasons; if they increase the likelihood of an accident, or if they increase the likelihood of theft. For brand new cars, optional add ons, including fitting a SatNav, can impact insurance so it’s important to ensure these options are noted when applying for a policy.

3. Lying about your main address

Insurance premiums vary depending on the postcode, as some areas have higher rates of thefts and break ins. It can be tempting to put down your home address as somewhere different – your house when you’ve been staying at your partner’s over lockdown for example. However, doing so can mean your insurer can refuse to pay out, for example, if your car is broken into in the location it actually resides.

4. Using more miles than you thought

If you’re planning on driving for a domestic holiday this year, it’s a good idea to consider whether the trip will fit into your insurance plan. Many policies use your annual mileage as one of the factors to calculate your insurance premium; the higher the mileage, the higher the cost. Accuracy is important when providing this figure, so even though many drivers won’t have driven much over lockdown, if a long trip will take you over your estimate it’s best to contact your insurer in advance to check that you’re covered for it.

5. Ignoring your morning commute

There are three types of car usage that insurance covers; social only, social and commuting, and business. Social only insurance covers driving for social or leisure use, going to the supermarket, etc. The commute to and from work, or even to and from the train station, are not covered by this policy, so upgrading to social and commuting is necessary, even if you only commute a few times a month. Insurance companies may dispute or refuse claims made during a commute if the policy is social use only, even if it is claimed to be only a one off.

If you use your car for work purposes outside of commuting, for example using it to get to meetings, or carrying equipment, you will need to get business cover.

6. Letting other people drive your car

Long journeys can be tough for the driver, and it may be tempting to swap drivers during the journey. If you are considering doing this on the way to your holiday destination, it’s vital that they are added as a named driver onto your policy.

While it’s possible for your friends or family to have insurance policies that allow them to drive other people’s cars, it is unlikely these policies cover damage to the vehicle in the event they are in an accident, and your policy may only cover damage caused when a named driver is behind the wheel. So while your friend can legally drive the car, you may not be able to claim for accidents.

7. Not informing your insurance company of minor accidents

In the case of small bumps or minor accidents where only cosmetic damage occurs, it’s common for motorists to have their car fixed without making a claim. However, even if you intend not to claim, it is important to inform your insurer of any damage received, as not doing so is a breach of policy. This helps in the event that the other driver changes their mind and decides to claim, and also ensures damage is accounted for if you do need to claim after future incidents – damage which is inconsistent with a claim may mean that you are denied.

8. ‘Fronting’

Insurance for young drivers often costs more than other groups, and one way some motorists try to get round these higher premiums is by having a low risk driver, such as a parent or partner, named as the main policy holder, and adding the real motorist as a named driver. If you get caught ‘fronting’, your policy will immediately be cancelled, and any claims denied. These cases are often taken to court and classed as insurance fraud, with outcomes including fines of up to £5,000 and six points on your license.

9. You’ve recently changed jobs

Your current occupation is one of the factors used to determine your risk profile, so it’s important to update your insurer if you have changed jobs or occupations. This is especially true at a time when many people have unfortunately lost their jobs and moved on to new employment. Failure to do so may mean any claims made after a job change can be denied by your insurer.

10. Charging for lifts

Some policies specifically exclude cover for car sharing, whether you make a profit or not. For those whose policies do allow lift sharing, it may be void if you charge people for journeys – many state that you may only make enough to cover petrol and driving costs. Earning money from giving lifts can identify you as a ‘taxi hire service’, voiding manya policies.

It’s important to always read the terms and conditions of your car insurance policy, to ensure that you have not accidentally invalidated it. Keep your insurance provider up to date with any change of circumstances, regardless of whether you think it’s relevant, as some seemingly unrelated life changes can impact your premium.

To find out how to legally reduce your car insurance costs, visit https://www.carparts4less.co.uk/blog/10-tips-to-reduce-your-car-insurance-premium