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Car insurance cover notes

If you're taking out car insurance, you might be issued with a cover note. Read on to find out what it's all about.

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There are lots of things to take on board when you buy car insurance, and it's easy to get confused by all the different terms.

You might be issued with a cover note. This is not the same as a certificate of insurance or your policy document, but it's an important piece of paperwork that you may need to produce if you have to make a claim.

Don't forget to check the details on your documents as soon as you receive them

It's a legal requirement to have at least the minimum level of insurance in place before you drive a vehicle, and you also need an insurance document in order to buy a car tax disc.

So if you receive a cover note once you've chosen your car insurance provider, here are some things you might need to know:

Why have I been sent a cover note by my new insurers?

A cover note is a temporary document. You might have been sent it whilst the insurance underwriter completes the paperwork or looks more closely into the risks of issuing you with an insurance policy.

The cover note stands in place of the certificate of insurance and the policy document until these are issued to you.

Are the terms the same as in the full policy?

The policyholder (you) will be covered by the same terms and conditions as are listed in the full policy document, although there might be a few limitations due to any potential risks involved in insuring you that the underwriters might be looking into.

For example, the insurance firm might reserve the right to cancel your cover immediately, whereas ordinarily they would have to give you at least seven days' notice.

How long will the cover note last?

The length of time a cover note is valid for depends on the insurer and on the policy, but 60 days tends to be the maximum cover period.

The timescale must be stated on the cover note, and it is an offence under the Road Traffic Act to note a date or time pre-dating the issue of the note.

What information should the cover note include?

The cover note will include the same details as are listed on a certificate of insurance, such as the name(s) of anyone entitled to drive the vehicle, the vehicle make and model, and the extent of cover.

It will also state whether your insurance cover is fully comprehensive, third party only or third party, fire and theft.

What happens next?

Shortly after the cover note has been issued, the insurers should forward your permanent documents. These will include the certificate of insurance, a schedule and/or policy document and a policy booklet.

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Your certificate is the document that proves you are insured to drive whilst the policy and booklet tell you everything you need to know about your insurance and how to get in touch with the insurance firm should you need to make a claim.

You can find out more about these other documents in our guide to the basics of car insurance.

What happens if the cover note expires and the permanent documents have not been issued?

If your cover note runs out and the permanent certificate has not been sent to you, you should be sent an extension cover note. You must check that this new document starts at the exact time the previous note expires.

Do I need to keep these documents?

Yes, you should read them carefully and then keep them in a safe place. You might need to produce your certificate if stopped by a police officer or you might need to check the terms of your policy if you are involved in an accident.

Don't forget to check the details on your documents as soon as you receive them. The insurer might have made a simple mistake, such as misspelling your name or getting your date of birth wrong. This might not seem important, but it could make a real difference if you have to make a claim.

Why haven't I been sent a cover note?

Some car insurance companies don't issue cover notes. Some have a policy of issuing the certificate of insurance on the day you accept the insurance.

Many insurance companies also issue a confirmation email within 24 hours of you accepting the policy.

By Rebecca Lees