Overnight parking and its impact on car insurance

Does it make a difference to your car insurance where you park your car overnight? The answer is yes, especially if you’re in a big city.

Iona Bain

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Why parking securely matters

When you buy car insurance, you’ll be asked where you park your car overnight. That’s because the cost of your policy is affected by where you keep the car and how safe it’ll be there.

Don’t worry, your insurer’s only interested in where you normally park your car – so you’ll still be covered if you occasionally park elsewhere.

If you have a telematics policy, your black box roughly tracks your car’s location, so your insurer could easily find out if you’re not honest about where you regularly park.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported an 8% increase in motor vehicle theft for the year ending March 2019, so it’s no wonder insurers are wary about security.

The epidemic has been fuelled by convenient keyless car technology that allows criminals to hack into and open vehicle doors remotely without a toolbox in sight.

But even if your car is keyless, it stands to reason that if your car is kept out of sight in a secure garage, the thieves may prefer to look elsewhere. And your motor insurance quote will usually benefit.

Key points

  • Ensure you accurately declare where your vehicle is normally kept overnight
  • Every insurer will treat the risks associated with your overnight parking spot in a different manner, so compare quotes to find the right deal
  • Good security can help keep down premium costs

The best place to park

“It’s all about risk-based pricing,” says Graeme Trudgill of the British Insurance Brokers Association. “If the car is parked in a garage overnight and locked away, your risk of theft in a central city area is much reduced.

“If it’s a car that’s attractive to thieves, having it off-street in a garage will be seen as something worthy of a good discount. You can also get a discount for a vehicle kept on a driveway as it’s less likely to be hit by a passing car – when it’s left on the road it’s most at risk and most on view.”

Less sophisticated thieves will still walk down city streets at dead of night trying all the car door handles. “If you live in the countryside being on street probably doesn’t matter much at all but in the high-risk postcodes it does,” Trudgill says.

If you live in an area with a higher crime rate, parking on the street will be a red flag for the insurer, especially if that area also sees high rates of actual claims.

Parking definitions

Insurers will usually give you the following options to describe where you normally park your car overnight:

  • Driveway: So long as you park your car on your driveway most nights, it should be okay to park on the road now and again.
  • On-road: Insurers class parking on the road as risky, so if you’ve got a garage or driveway, it’s best to use it if you can. Although parking further away from your home is inconvenient, don’t be tempted to park closer on double yellow lines - you must follow the laws of the road for your car insurance to cover you.
  • Locked garage: It sounds obvious, but if you say your car is kept in a locked garage, then it must actually be closed and locked overnight. There might even be a certain time the car must be in the garage – say, after 10pm.
  • Locked compound: This generally refers to a (usually commercial) secure site, fenced all the way around with a gate accessed by a key or code. A secure commercial car park, would be an example.
  • Residential car park: Car parking that’s been designated for the use of residents by the local council.
  • At work: If you normally leave your car in your workplace’s car park overnight. Just make sure this is something your employer is fine with - it should say in an employee handbook document or you can ask your HR department.
  • Other: Like a car port, an unsecure car park or unlocked garage. A locked compound will fall under this section too, if it doesn’t have it’s own option.

Parking and quote calculations

Insurers consider many factors when calculating a quote, such as where you live and the type of vehicle you have. But bear in mind that different providers will calculate the risk of where you park differently.

Some insurers even regard garages themselves as a risk factor. Today’s smaller garages and larger cars mean increased risk of claims for bumps and scrapes in parking. In areas where burglaries are rife, the car may be considered more vulnerable if it’s hidden in a garage which has access from the house.

Honesty is the best policy

Don’t invent a garage or a driveway if you don’t have one – if you lie about where you park your car at night, it’s insurance fraud.

Be truthful, and ready to tell your provider if the car is not guaranteed to be parked in the same way every night.

Once the policy is running, tell them if you change where you park. It might not affect your premium, but it could affect a claim.

Tips for secure parking

It makes sense to reduce overnight parking risk with security measures – it could lower the cost of your premium, and ward off thieves.

Lights triggered by motion sensors and a CCTV camera around your garage or driveway can be a powerful deterrent, as is a car alarm and immobiliser.

If you park on the street, avoid dark areas. Indoors, keep your keys hidden away and store your fob inside a box. All these precautions may not slash your premium, but they may mean you never have to claim.

Insurers do understand that the car may sometimes be elsewhere, perhaps left overnight outside the homes of friends or family, or when on holiday.

If you’re parking somewhere unfamiliar, check the parking laws to make sure you don’t end up with a parking fine for parking illegally.

As to whether parking illegally voids your car insurance, it’s up to your insurer but it’s best not to risk it.

Try to park on a driveway, not in a lonely spot, and whether you’re parking overnight in strange locations or leaving the car behind at home you should consider extra security precautions.

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