What is a cover note for car insurance?

Find out what a cover note is, when you might get one, and how it differs from a car insurance certificate.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 21 November 2022  | 3 min read

What is a car insurance cover note?

A ‘cover note’ is a temporary car insurance document provided by insurance companies. It can be used to prove you’ve got cover until your final documents can be sent.

It’s designed to cover the gap between you buying the policy and the insurer’s underwriter completing the paperwork and evaluating the risk of insuring you.

Cover notes usually last for 30 days and are replaced by the insurance certificate and policy documents once they’ve been issued.

Key points

  • A cover note is a temporary document that provides proof you have car insurance until your final policy documents are sent to you
  • The insurer’s underwriter may still be making checks and evaluating the risk of insuring you while you have a cover note
  • You should either have a cover note or your Certificate of Motor Insurance before driving a car on the road
  • Insurers have the right to cancel your cover immediately during the period when your cover note applies

When are cover notes issued?

Not every insurer issues a cover note and some send an email confirmation instead. But, depending on the insurer or situation, you might be sent one if:

  • You’ve applied by post or phone
  • The underwriter wants to investigate the risks associated with insuring you more closely
  • You’re amending your policy - for example, temporarily adding another driver or vehicle
  • There’s a delay in processing your application

Can I use a cover note as proof of insurance?

Yes, your cover note proves you’ve paid for car insurance but you don’t yet have your full car insurance certificate.

Police will accept a cover note as proof that you’ve got cover, but only during the period it’s valid.

What information is on a cover note?

Cover notes generally contain the same or similar information to your Certificate of Motor Insurance.

They usually include:

  • Your name as the insured driver and your address
  • The car make and model, including its registration number
  • The type of cover (e.g., social use)
  • The level of cover (e.g., comprehensive)
  • Your excess
  • Who can drive the car
  • The expiry date
  • Policy numbers
  • Any other special conditions and terms and conditions your policy may have

What should I do if there’s a mistake on my cover note?

Once you receive your cover note, it’s important to check all the information is correct.

If there are any mistakes, it might invalidate your insurance and you may not be eligible to make a claim.

If something is wrong, or your details have changed, you need to let your insurer know as soon as possible.

This can also help to make sure everything is correct when you receive your insurance certificate.

What happens if my insurance certificate doesn’t arrive?

If your certificate doesn’t reach you before your cover note runs out, you’ll need to let your insurer know straight away.

In rare situations where the cover note expires before the insurance certificate is sent, some insurers will agree to send a cover note extension.

How long does a cover note last?

A cover note is typically valid for 30 days, depending on the policy and insurer. But 60 days tends to be the maximum cover period.

It’s unusual for a cover note to expire before the insurance certificate arrives, but if it does you may be able to get a cover note extension from your insurer.

Are the terms in a cover note the same?

When you receive a cover note, you’ll be protected by the same terms and conditions that are listed in your full policy document.

For example, your cover note may still allow you to drive other cars and entitle you to a courtesy car while your car’s being repaired.

However, there may be a few limitations to your cover if the underwriter is looking more closely into any risks involved with insuring you.

For this reason, while you’ve got a cover note, your insurer has the right to cancel your cover immediately - whereas ordinarily, you’d normally be given at least seven days’ notice.

What’s the difference between a cover note and a car insurance policy?

A cover note provides a stopgap until you get your final documents. It acts as a temporary car insurance certificate until your Certificate of Motor Insurance is issued.

On the other hand, a car insurance policy is a much more comprehensive document that contains all the details of your cover and the terms and conditions that apply.

Keep your documents safe

Just like your other vehicle documents, when you receive a cover note, you’ll need to keep it in a safe place.

You might be asked to show it if you’re stopped by the police. And you might need the cover note to check the terms of your policy if you’re involved in an accident.

Don’t forget to check all the details on your documents when you receive them.

Even a slight misspelling of your name or a wrong digit on your date of birth could invalidate your cover and void a claim.

Next steps

You should receive your permanent documents shortly after the cover note has been issued - there shouldn’t be any gap in cover between the cover note and receiving the full documents.

Once your application is approved, you’ll be sent your Certificate of Motor Insurance, a schedule or summary of cover showing the main cover, terms and conditions, and a policy booklet.

These documents will tell you everything you need to know about your insurance and how to make a claim.

If your cover note expires before you receive the final documents, your insurer should send you an extension cover note.

Contact your insurer directly if you don’t receive an extension or if you need an update.

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