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Is my car insured?

Lost your car insurance certificate? Can't remember if the car's insured at all? We'll help you get your motoring admin sorted and up to date.

Key points

  • If you're unsure if your car is insured or not, get your vehicle registration number and check it against the details held by the Motor Insurer's Bureau (MIB)
  • You can replace lost certificates of motor insurance sometimes for a charge, but remember to try to access your details online first
  • If you buy a new car, you should always update your details with your insurer immediately

The American humourist Dave Barry has written, rightly, that all of us, regardless of race, religion, age or gender believe that we are above average drivers.

Clearly, that can’t be the case - accidents will happen, and all drivers need car insurance.

Penalties if you're caught without car insurance

Insurance isn't only a good idea; in the UK, all drivers legally required to have it, and there are hefty penalties for driving an uninsured car.

If you are stopped by the police without insurance you could be fined £300 and incur six penalty points.

Moreover, if the police decide to take the case to court, you could face a larger fine and a disqualification from driving.

Even if your car is simply parked in the garage and is never on the road, you’ll usually still need insurance.

Continuous insurance enforcement laws mandate that all drivers must have their car insured at least third party at all times.

The only way around this is to legally declare your vehicle off the road with the DVLA through a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN).

I've lost my certificate of motor insurance

If you’ve lost your insurance details and forgotten who you're insured by (and it's easily done if you annually compare and change car insurers to get the best deal), don't worry, help is at hand.

If you've mislaid your certificate of motor insurance - which happens to the best of us, don’t panic - there are various ways to check the terms of your insurance.

Firstly, run your vehicle registration number through theMIB's Motor Insurer's Database (MID).

This holds all the information for every vehicle insured in the UK - if your car isn’t on it, then it isn’t insured and you need to take action.

The service is free, but if you want more information, such as the name of your insurer or the details of your policy, then it’s £4.

There are other ways as well:

  • Check your bank and credit card statements and search for payments to an insurer - if a name pops up, contact the firm and ask for details
  • An email search could also provide the details you need

It’s easy to find your insurance details - and it'll be a very nasty shock if you’re pulled over by the police and they discover that your vehicle is uninsured.

If you’re involved in an accident and want to check whether the other car is  insured, then you can also check that through the MIB, though there's a charge for it.

The cost of replacing insurance certificates

On 20 September, 2017, GoCompare checked 277 comprehesive car insurance policies on the matrix of independent financial researcher Defaqto and found that 40% charged a fee of between £3 and £32 to issue duplicate documents, such as a certificate of insurance.

Just 12% charged less than £10 for this and 10% charged £20 or more.

What happens if you buy a new car?

If you buy a new car, then your existing insurer may be able to cover it, but your policy charges may change.

A more powerful vehicle might be deemed more of an insurance risk, for example.

Make sure to let your insurer know that you've changed vehicles before you drive it, otherwise your policy won’t be valid.

You also should let your insurer know if:

Your policy documents should tell you what you need to let your insurer know immediately and what you need to tell them at renewal time.

Failing to do any of these could invalidate your policy, which is tantamount to driving without insurance.

This could make getting insurance in the future much more difficult if you're found out.

Proving you have car insurance

The MID should be updated within 24 hours, with your new insurance details, minimising the chance of being incorrectly pulled over by police for not having insurance.

However, administrative mistakes do sometimes happen, so it’s not a bad idea to print off your new certificate of insurance and carry it in the car with you.

By Simon Boughey