Since continuous insurance enforcement (CIE) came into force in the UK in 2011, all cars must have a minimum of third party insurance cover to be road-legal. So even if a car is not being used, it either needs to be insured or subject to a statutory off-road notification (SORN). If you don’t have insurance, you’re risking a £1,000 fine and prosecution — so if you’re not sure whether your car is insured, it’s important you find out as soon as possible.
How to check if your car is insured
If you haven’t knowingly purchased an insurance policy for your car, the chances are it’s not insured. Car insurance is not transferrable when cars are sold, so you’re required to take out your own policy when buying a car. Some car dealers will offer ‘driveaway insurance’ when you buy a new car — this will cover you for a limited period (usually up to a week) until you purchase your own car insurance policy.
If you previously bought an insurance policy for your car and are not sure if you’re still covered, it’s possible that your policy has renewed automatically. Most insurers will send you a renewal notice and automatically renew your cover if you don’t take any action. If you think this might be the case, you can find out by contacting your insurer or checking your bank statements to see if any payments have been collected in the past 12 months.
Is my car insured?
Run a car insurance check
If you’re still not sure whether your car is insured, you can check the Motor Insurer’s Database (MID) online. You just need the car’s registration number and must declare that you are the owner or registered keeper of the car.
The MID is the only centralised database of motor insurance policy information for all insured vehicles, and is also used by the police to run car insurance checks. All insurers must be members of the MIB and are required to add all policies to the database. It’s updated around the clock 365 days per year but may not be updated immediately, so if you’ve just purchased an insurance policy your car may not appear on the database straight away.
The car insurance database shows the car is covered — so can I drive it?
If your car insurance check shows the car is insured, it doesn’t mean anyone can drive it. Insurance policies cover drivers rather than cars, so you’ll need your own car insurance policy (or to be added as a named driver) before you get behind the wheel.
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.
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:
you change address
if you modify your car in any way, such as the installation of alloy wheels
if you incur penalty points
if your car is parked somewhere new
if you start using the car for business
if you change jobs
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.
Insurance claims after an accident
Beginners’ guide to car insurance
Checking a car’s history
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.