Despite car insurance being a legal requirement, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) estimates that there are around one million uninsured drivers on UK roads. Furthermore, 2020 saw the two millionth vehicle seized by the police since new enforcement powers were introduced in 2005.
If you are found to be driving without valid insurance, having your car seized is not the only possible outcome. You can also face penalties such as 6 points on your driving licence, fines, and in extreme cases, a driving ban. But even with the threat of such penalties, knowing whether your car insurance is still valid and remembering to renew your policy can prove difficult.
Thankfully, you can take steps to avoid your vehicle becoming uninsured. In this article, we’ll explain how you can check the car insurance status of your vehicle and others, how to find out when your insurance policy expires, and how to ensure that your car is always correctly insured.
So, let’s jump in!
How can you check if your car is insured?
The easiest way of checking whether your car has valid insurance is to take its registration number and run it through the Motor Insurance Database’s insurance checker, askMID. The MID is a national database that holds information on all the insured vehicles in the UK. It’s available to all registered insurance companies and car owners to check insurance information. It’s also used by the police and the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) to enforce vehicle insurance laws.
The MID does not resell its data to other organisations, so you will not be able to access it unless you use its askMID service. Searches on the database are free, but there is a fee if you require more specific information, such as the name of your insurance company and more specific insurance details.
Can you check if someone else’s car is insured?
Yes, you can check if someone else’s car is insured. This is useful if you’re in an accident and want to check whether the other party has car insurance.
Running an insurance check on someone else’s vehicle is as simple as checking your own — you’ll need the vehicle’s registration number and access to the Motor Insurance Database. If you only need the name of the other insurance company, there will be no charge for using the service. However, if you require further details about the other party’s insurance, there will likely be a fee.
How can you check which company your car is insured with?
It can be easy to forget which insurance company you’ve taken out a policy with, particularly if you have other insurance policies on the go, such as home insurance, or if you switch insurance providers regularly. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to identify which company your car is insured with:
- Search your emails: enter ‘car insurance’ in your email search bar and check the results to see whether you’ve received any emails from your car insurance provider. You may also need to check your trash and junk folders as well.
- Check bank statements: look through previous bank statements for outgoing payments to a car insurance provider. To narrow it down, look at the time frame your insurance is due.
- Log into quote comparison sites: if you usually compare insurance quotes online, log into the comparison site and see if you can find the quote.
- Submit a Subject Access Request: you can request your insurance history from the MIB and identify which provider you have taken out your policy with. However, unlike the other methods of checking, you may be charged a fee for using this service.
How can you check when your car insurance runs out?
Looking at your insurance documents, you can check when your car insurance expires. Some insurance brokers allow you to create an online account when you take out a policy with them. You can then use your login details to sign in and access these documents. Alternatively, you can also contact your insurance provider and ask them for the policy’s expiry date.
Your insurance provider may also send you a renewal reminder a month before the policy expires. It’s worth regularly checking your emails so you don’t miss them — remember to check your spam or junk folder.
What happens if my car shows up as uninsured on the database when it is insured?
You may be surprised to know that this is a pretty common occurrence. So if you’ve searched for your car using the askMID service and it’s showing up as uninsured even though you know it has valid insurance, don’t panic.
The askMID service is updated every few hours, so if there has been a recent change to your insurance, it may be worth checking back later to see whether this sorts the issue. However, if you haven’t altered your insurance, the more likely cause is that some of the details have been entered into the database incorrectly. The best course of action is then to contact the MID directly and ask them to check the details and amend them as necessary. You could also contact your insurance provider to make sure that all the details they have are correct.
Does your car need to be insured?
The rules for vehicle insurance differ depending on whether your car is in use and if you are a motor trader. In this section, we’ll cover the rules for:
- Vehicles in use
- Vehicles not in use
- Exceptions: motor traders
Vehicles in use
If you intend to use your car on roads and in public places, you need to insure it with a minimum of Third-Party motor insurance.
If you are found to have an uninsured vehicle, you could face:
- Your car being clamped, seized, or potentially even crushed
- Court prosecution, with the possibility of a £1,000 fine
- A fixed penalty of £100
You’ll still have to pay for your insurance and any fines you receive.
It is also worth noting that the rules for the UK state that it doesn’t matter who is driving the car. Even if you aren’t driving the vehicle, you can be penalised for being the registered owner of an uninsured car.
Vehicles not in use
In the UK, there is a rule known as Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE), which means that the registered keeper must insure all their vehicles at all times. However, there is an exception which allows you to declare your car off-road if you are not using it and don’t plan to for some time — this also is known as a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). A SORN states that your car is officially not in use, and it exempts your car from needing an MOT certificate, car insurance or road tax until you decide you want to use it on public roads again.
If your vehicle is not in use and without valid insurance, you must declare it off-road – to do this, you’ll need to notify the DVLA and apply for a SORN.
Exceptions: motor traders
If a vehicle is between registered keepers or registered as ‘in trade’ with the DVLA, the Continuous Insurance Enforcement rule does not apply, provided it is not kept for personal use.
What happens if you drive a car without valid insurance?
Driving a vehicle on the road or in public places without valid insurance (minimum Third-Party) is against the law. Even if the vehicle you are driving is insured, you can still be penalised if you’re not correctly insured to get behind the wheel.
If you are found to be driving without the proper insurance, you face the following penalties:
- Six penalty points on your driving licence
- A fixed penalty of £300
- The car being seized, or potentially even destroyed
You may also be taken to court, in which case you could receive an unlimited fine and a disqualification from driving.
What kind of insurance do you need for a car?
As previously mentioned, you must have the legal minimum of Third Party insurance for your car. This said, there are three main levels of car insurance that you can choose for your vehicle depending on your personal requirements. These include:
- Third Party: the legal minimum for car insurance. This level only covers damage to the other party’s vehicle in the event of an accident and injuries to the other driver. This means there is no cover if you are injured, or your car is damaged.
- Third Party, Fire and Theft: the next level of insurance covers you for the same things as Third Party insurance, as well as providing protection in the event of your car being stolen or damaged by fire. Damage caused by fire includes deliberate and accidental.
- Fully Comprehensive: the highest level, Fully Comprehensive offers you the most coverage for your car. This is particularly useful if you have an expensive vehicle or require additional extras, such as protection against chipping, scratching, or accidental damage.
It is a common misconception that Fully Comprehensive car insurance is the most expensive level of cover. Furthermore, you can get specialist car insurance policies that will cover you for vehicles such as classic cars and modified cars. Here at A-Plan, we have specialists who understand the implications of owning such a vehicle, so if you’re unsure which car insurance is right for you, we can help you get the best option for your needs.
How can you check if a car is taxed and has an MOT?
Unless your vehicle has a SORN, you need to ensure it has vehicle tax and a valid MOT certificate before you can drive it on public roads. If you’re not sure whether your car is taxed and has an MOT certificate, you can check using the government’s free car check service.
Can you legally buy an uninsured car?
Yes, you can legally purchase a car that does not have valid insurance. Many car dealers offer a 7-day ‘drive-off’ insurance so you can drive your new vehicle home — this starts the second you leave the dealership. You’ll then need to sort out your own insurance to cover the car once the seven days have elapsed.
However, if you are purchasing a car from a private seller, there is unlikely to be any temporary insurance available. In this case, it is your responsibility to insure the car immediately after you buy it. The easiest and safest way to do this is to stay with the car off the road and phone your insurance company to sort out an insurance policy. Once you have done this, you can drive home with peace of mind knowing you’re properly covered for the journey.
Are you insured to drive other cars if you have insurance?
This will depend on your car insurance policy. Many standard insurance policies will not cover you if you drive someone else’s car. So, before you borrow a friend or relative’s car, check with your insurance broker to see how far your policy extends.
How to help make sure your car is always insured
Remembering when your insurance policy needs renewing can prove tricky. To help ensure your car is always properly covered, here are some things you can do:
- Set up auto-renewals: the majority of insurance providers offer auto-renewals which means that your policy will automatically be renewed unless you contact your broker.
- Schedule a reminder on your phone: once you have taken out an insurance policy, set up a phone reminder to notify you in 11 months’ time that you need to renew your policy. This will give you ample time to consider your current policy and compare car insurance quotes to get the best option for you.
- Write it in your diary: if you also have a diary or calendar, write yourself a reminder for the month before your policy expires.
There is never an excuse to drive an uninsured car. If you are found to be driving an uninsured car, you face the following penalties:
- 6 points on your driving licence
- A fixed penalty of £300
- Your car being seized or even destroyed
If you’re not sure whether your insurance is still valid, you can run the registration number through the Motor Insurance Database checker, askMID. You can also use their services to find the insurance details for other vehicles, which may be useful if you’ve been involved in an accident.
To avoid your car becoming accidentally uninsured, set up a reminder on your phone and write a memo in your diary when you know which month your insurance expires — do remember to allow yourself ample time to renew your policy.
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