The consumer group warned that exclusions hidden in the small print of policies could leave drivers out of pocket, with gaps in cover for everything from personal belongings and cash to legal expenses and courtesy cars.
It analysed 73 elements of cover across 49 policies from 34 different insurers and found that many of them featured the same loopholes which could leave drivers out of pocket despite believing they had comprehensive cover.
While most policies included personal belongings cover, digging down into the details found that just two policies (4% of all policies) covered cash and documents and only three (6%) covered credit cards stolen from a vehicle. It also found that 40% of the policies specifically excluded mobile phones from the cover.
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Examining legal cover also revealed some common gaps that could leave drivers facing significant bills. Just a quarter of policies would cover the cost of reclaiming illegal clamping or towing fees, and only 31% offered protection against legal costs associated with a car’s licence plate being cloned.
Which?’s money editor Jenny Ross said that with the soaring cost of living such loopholes could be “disastrous” for drivers on low or fixed incomes.
The research also found that while most policies included courtesy car provision as standard, the level of assistance can vary greatly. Just one in five policies offer a temporary replacement vehicle if yours is stolen and the same proportion do so if the car is written off.
However, it found that the least common feature was guaranteed cover for driving other cars. Just 2% of policies automatically included such cover despite widespread belief that it is included in fully comprehensive policies. Recent research by Direct Line insurance suggests a third of drivers believe their fully comp policy automatically provides cover to drive other cars.
Which? found that while almost all the policies had a “driving other cars” section, only one provided the cover as standard to all policyholders. In other cases age- and job-related restrictions were applied and in a third of cases the cover was only for “emergency situations”.
Jenny Ross commented: “Our research shows that motorists risk facing hefty bills when things go wrong as a large number of policies don’t cover incidents or possessions you might expect. With the cost of living biting, this means car problems could be disastrous for those on low incomes, or with limited savings.
“We would urge drivers to read the small print. If you’re comparing two similarly priced policies, the bills you can rack up by falling foul of car insurance loopholes could dwarf the extra amount you would pay for the more expensive cover.”