There are lots of jobs when buying a new car, from arranging the road tax, to thinking about whether it needs a MOT check, to shopping around and choosing car insurance. None of these aspects of car ownership are optional, and it is a legal requirement in the UK to have insurance on your car before you get behind the wheel for the first time. Insurance is there to meet the cost of any repairs and damage to your car if it is stolen or involved in an accident, and also the cost of fixing any other cars which are damaged in an accident ruled to be your fault. It’s easier than ever to buy insurance, as we can go online at any time of the day or night and buy insurance with just a few clicks or taps.
One of the things you’ll notice when buying insurance is that after you have been given the price for the basic level of cover, there is usually a page which urges you to consider additional add-ons to your base policy, giving you everything from breakdown cover to legal expense cover. One of the add-ons which is becoming increasingly commonplace is tyre insurance, but what is this, do you need it, and what exactly does it cover?
One of the main routes for sales of tyre insurance is through a dealer when you purchase a brand new, nearly new or used cars. Dealers will offer a whole host of insurance extras such as a policy to cover the cost of repairing dents or scratches, GAP insurance to provide a “new for old” service on a subsequent car purchase, or breakdown cover. Tyre insurance is one of these products which many dealers will offer customers.
Tyre insurance, as the name suggests, it cover that will pay out if one or more of the tyres on your vehicle is so badly damaged that it cannot be repaired and you need to buy a replacement. The policy will cover things like driving over debris or a pothole in the road and having a puncture, or even damage from driving error like kerbing your car. It also covers malicious or deliberate damage by someone else, after vandalism like having a knife put through your tyres.
It's also important to state what tyre insurance is not. Tyres are not ever-lasting, and will require replacing after your car has driven a certain number of miles. This is part and parcel of everyday motoring, and an expected expense just like the cost of fuelling a car and putting it through a MOT each year. Tyre insurance is not designed to cover a predictable expense, so wouldn’t pay out when your tyres are wearing a bit low on tread. It is only designed to cover replacement for sudden, unexpected events.
In the past, it was only drivers of expensive vehicles with alloy wheels or very wide, expensive tyres who would be advised to consider taking out tyre insurance. This is because the cost of a single new tyre for a SUV or top of the range sports car can be very high indeed. However, an increasing number of manufacturers are following the lead of BMW and Mini by fitting “run-flat” tyres to their cars. This design means that a puncture doesn’t cause a blow-out as it may have done in the past, and will allow you to drive safely home or to the nearest garage without having to wait on the side of the road. The downside to the run-flat technology is that the tyres are not designed to be easily repaired, so the only option is a complete replacement of the tyre, even when the damage itself is minor.
When calculating the price for tyre insurance, it is based on the make and model of the car, the performance and the size of wheels, all of which affect the cost of buying and fitting new tyres. This means that you will pay less for tyre insurance on a small family sized car used for running the kids to school than you will for a large, expensive supercar with top of the range wheels and tyres. Whatever sort of insurance you are thinking of buying, shopping around is key. Never take the first price you are offered without doing a bit of research to see if it is a competitive offer.
Tyre insurance is about replacing tyres in the event of accidental damage from an accident or a deliberate act of vandalism such as someone taking a Stanley knife to your tyres. If that happens then the insurer will pay the cost of buying equivalent new tyres, having them fitted and your wheels balanced. If the damage is minor and can be prepared, then insurance won’t pay out and if you decide to replace your tyres anyway, you will have to bear the cost.
Wear and tear will not be covered by insurance. Any insurance policy is designed to protect you from an event which you were not expecting, whether that is someone crashing into your car, a house fire or a puncture on a tyre. Tyres wearing down over time is to be expected. New tyres are sold with around 8mm of tread cut into the surface of the rubber, and the legal minimum for a tyre in the UK is 1.6mm – the same as the depth of the dots on a 20p coin. If your tyres are down near the minimum tread depth when you wish to place a claim then you may discover that you are not covered. Insurers generally have fairly strict about what they will and will not cover. They are unlikely to pay out for a full new set of brand-new tyres if the ones which were on your vehicle are only just above the legal limit.
Tyre insurance is becoming more difficult to arrange, and fewer companies are offering the service. This is down to a few reasons. Firstly, drivers don’t often see the benefit in tyre insurance unless they are driving a car with very expensive tyres and have been in the situation of having to pay out for a new set of tyres in the past. Most drivers are happy to take this risk, and just bear the cost of paying out for new tyres if they need to do so.
Tyres aren’t cheap items to replace either, and retailers and suppliers are not making huge profits at any stage of the supply chain. This means there isn’t much money in it for insurers either, as they are having to pay top prices for the tyres they source for customers, or charge customers more for taking out tyre insurance in the first place. Rising prices for tyre insurance makes customers less likely to buy the insurance, so the market shrinks and the trend continues.
As with any insurance policy, prospective customers should think about the cost of the insurance, the value of the vehicle which is being insured, and what you think is the likelihood of having to make a claim given the miles you drive, and your driving style. As with all types of insurance, a tyre insurance policy will have a cost to be paid when you take out the policy (known as the premium) and a contribution towards the cost should you need to make a claim (known as the excess).
Policies generally run for a set period of time, which is usually three years but may be shorter or longer depending on the company. Any customer has to weigh up the cost of paying for the policy and the excess if they need to make a claim, against the likelihood of having to make a claim during the duration of the policy. If you live rurally and regularly drive through potholes, or in an urban area with high crime figures, then you might decide that on balance, it’s probably better to pay out for insurance. However, if you drive a relatively small number of miles over the course of a year on roads which are generally well-maintained, you might make a different decision.
For most tyre insurance policies, the premium will be roughly equivalent to the cost of replacing one tyre on your vehicle. The premium is around £25 per claim, but can be higher or lower depending on the terms and conditions of your individual insurer. So if you pay the premium cost and then need to claim for two tyres or more, then you are probably coming out ahead. This is the balancing act you have to perform with any type of non-compulsory insurance. 9
Remember though that if your tyres are almost down to the minimum tread at the time of the claim and would have needed to be replaced shortly anyway, your insurer may not pay out the full amount for a brand-new tyre. There is lots to think about so take your time to consider the advantages and disadvantages, and never feel pressured into signing up to something you’re not sure about by a pushy salesman in a car dealership.
Price isn’t the only consideration when buying tyre insurance. Each policy will have its own rules about what it covers and what is excluded, and some other conditions which you have to stick to in order to keep the policy valid. Some of the most common features and conditions found in a tyre policy are: