Every driver on the UK roads is obliged by law to have motor insurance. Insurance will pay out if you are involved in an accident or have your car stolen, and will pay for repair or replacement, not only to your car but also to any other car which has been damaged by your actions. It will also cover damage to any property such as a wall you have demolished, or medical claims from other drivers or their passengers. This is the type of car insurance which we’re all familiar with. Fail to take out motor insurance, and you are risking being stopped by the police and hit with both a fine and points on your driving licence.
There are lots of other motor insurance extra policies around however which aren’t compulsory, and which cover other aspects of your driving. You might choose to join a breakdown recovery company to protect against the risk of bills for roadside recovery if you break down. Or tick the box for additional protection against legal expenses for a few pounds more when you buy your insurance online to meet the costs of legal advice should you need it. One of these added extras is cosmetic repair insurance, which is a relatively new option on the market. This product isn’t widely understood, so read on for our ultimate guide to the topic. We’ll explain exactly what Cosmetic Repair insurance is, and help you work out whether it’s something you might think of buying.
Standard car insurance policies, or similar policies for other classes of vehicle, are designed to deal with the big stuff. They are there to step in if your car is stolen and never recovered or recovered badly damaged, or if you are involved in an accident which causes serious damage to your car or someone else’s. Thankfully, serious accidents and thefts aren’t things which happen every day. It’s perhaps far more likely that you dent the car door when a gust of wind catches it or someone allows a supermarket trolley to roll into it, that you scratch a panel in a parking mishap, or a vandal decides to take a coin along the length of your paintwork. You get the picture; it’s all of those minor issues which can damage the car, but not to the extent that it would fail a MOT test or be unsafe to drive. Cosmetic damage is more about the appearance of your car than how mechanically sound it is. Cosmetic repair insurance is designed to address these minor repairs to your vehicle, making it look as good as new.
Cosmetic repair insurance is also sometimes known as scratch and dent insurance and is there to cover minor damage to the bodywork and paint finish of your car. Remember: this is an optional extra policy which you are free to take or refuse. You are not obliged to take the insurance, whatever the car dealer is telling you. There are some circumstances in which it is a very good idea.
All drivers are aware of the idea of no claims bonus – a discount which builds up each year which you don’t make a claim on your motor insurance and should make your policy cheaper each time you come to renew. Many drivers are deterred from claiming for cosmetic damage on their main insurance policy as they know this will affect their no claims bonus. Having a separate policy allows you to claim on the policy to fund the repair, and retain your good standing and discount with your main insurer.
If you have suffered dents, dings or scratches on your car, then the first thing to do is find out the best way of having it repaired. The good news is that in most cases, the repairs will come to you and any damage can be repaired with the car parked outside your house or on the drive. Cosmetic car repairers uses a system called SMART, which stands for Small and Medium Area Repair Technology. This technology allows for the repair of small areas of damage without the need to replace any parts, and in your chosen location such as home or work. The work is quick in most cases, and can be completed in just an hour or two.
Minor damage to car bodywork is not unusual. As dents and scratches can happen multiple times over the course of a year, many cosmetic repair insurance policies are limited. There may be restrictions on how many times you can claim on the policy per year, or a capped value of claims which they will pay over the lifetime of the policy. Each policy differs in its terms and conditions, which is why is it so important to shop around when you are considering making a purchase and compare the terms and conditions of a few policies rather than simply choosing the first one you come across.
One of the main criticisms of cosmetic repair insurance is that it is unnecessary as dings and scratches are covered on your main car insurance policy, so cosmetic repair insurance is not needed. This is partially true, but there are lots of reasons why you wouldn’t want to claim for scratch or dent repair on your main policy. The main one of these is down to your no claims bonus. If you claim too often, then you risk losing your no claims discount which means premiums are much higher when you come to renew. This could end up costing you more than it would have been to take out the extra cosmetic repair insurance.
The other main issue is around excesses. Every motor insurance policy comes with an excess, or the amount you will be expected to contribute towards a claim. With a motor insurance policy, this is usually anything upwards of £200. As repairing dents and scratches is inexpensive when compared with major mechanical work, an excess could mean that you are still paying for most of the repair out of your own pocket.
Cosmetic repair insurance covers all manner of minor cosmetic damage to the exterior of your car. This includes things like stone chips, scuffs, dents, scrapes and scratches. Cosmetic repair insurance will pay out if you have caused the damage yourself by careless parking or similar, or when the damage has been caused by someone bashing your car in a car park or causing damage deliberately and maliciously.
A long list of exclusions is common to many car insurance policies and cosmetic repair policies have exclusions too. These also vary from policy to policy, which is why it’s important to read at least the summary of cover when thinking about buying a new policy. The main thing which is excluded from cosmetic repair is any element which is considered a working part of the car such as the windscreen, headlights or indicators. Damage to these has to be claimed for on your main motor insurance policy. Some other policies will exclude bumpers and hubcaps.
Another thing to look out for is the level of damage which cosmetic policies will cover. As these policies are supposed to be used to remedy minor damage to bodywork, there will usually be a stated limit to the size of dent which can be claimed for. A typical exclusion would be any dent wider than around 30cm or deeper than 3cm. Again, these limits will vary according to the policy, so make sure you know what you are signing up to.
The good news is that compared to what you are paying for your main car insurance policy, cosmetic repair insurance is relatively cheap. The standard price is around £10 a month, but it will vary depending on the make and model of car, the annual mileage and how many miles you intend on driving. It stands to reason that very expensive cars with an expensive metallic paint finish will cost more to insure against cosmetic damage than a cheaper run around with a standard paint as they cost more to repair. Also, prices will be cheaper for cars which are parked up overnight on a private driveway outside your house and not left on the public road or in a car park where it is at more risk of getting dents and scratches.
With any optional insurance policy, buying cosmetic repair insurance is only worthwhile if you think you stand a good chance of using it. If you’ve found in the past that you are often paying out to have small dents and scratches repaired, then it might be worth thinking about taking out a policy in the hope of saving money in the long run. On the flip side, if you can’t remember ever having to pay to have dents and scratches fixed, or can easily meet the cost of the occasional repair to the bodywork of your car, then you might think it’s not worth the money.
One common situation where it’s useful to have cosmetic repair insurance is when you are leasing a car, or buying one on a personal contract plan or PCP. These agreements will impose often quite severe penalties if there is damage on the car at the end of the agreement and want to hand it back. Getting all of the dents and scratches polished out before the car’s condition is assessed can be a financially wise move. Just check carefully that the cosmetic repair policy can be used to cover a vehicle which you are driving, but which you are not the owner of. Most do, but it’s always worth double checking.
There are a couple of ways of buying cosmetic repair car insurance. The first is by ticking the box when buying your standard car insurance to select it as an added extra on the same page where you can choose to add legal expenses cover or breakdown cover. Price comparison sites allow you to select and deselect these added extras to see how this affects the premium.
The other option is to buy a separate policy from a different provider, independent of your main car insurance. There are lots of specialist companies which offer cosmetic repair insurance among other financial products and MotorEasy is a good place to start your search. You might also be offered the chance to buy cosmetic repair insurance from the dealer when you make a purchase, especially when you are buying a brand-new car. A specialist broker can also help you by looking at a wide range of different products from different insurers and help you find the one which meets your needs best.
Cosmetic car insurance allows you to make claims for minor damage to the bodywork of your car, and to have it repaired without worrying about the excess or about the effect on your no claims bonus. Prices for cosmetic repair insurance are also good value for money, and this sort of cover can cost less than £10 per month, depending on the car.
There are disadvantages too, in that the cover is limited and you may find that you are not covered for dents and scratches over a certain limit in size set by the insurer. Excesses on policies can also vary, and this could mean that if the damage is fairly minor, then you might end up paying most of the cost yourself anyway. There are also likely to be limits on the number of claims you can make, or the overall value of those claims. Shop around if you are thinking about purchasing cosmetic repair insurance, and look at the level of covered provided rather than being guided purely by price.