Should I get comprehensive or third party car insurance?

3 minute read

Close-up of scratched car bumper

Car insurance is a legal requirement if you want to drive on UK roads. It’s needed even if you want to park your car on a public road or in your garage and never drive it (unless it’s been declared as off the road via a Statutory Off Road Notification known as a SORN). When researching car insurance policies to take out you'll see mentions of third party and comprehensive cover, but what's the difference between them, and which is best for you?

This post outlines the two different types of insurance and what they cover to help you make your decision.


Comprehensive vs third party cover:

What does third party insurance cover?

Third party insurance is the least amount of cover that you should legally have on your car.

Third party only (sometimes referred to as TPO), covers any damage to other cars in the event of an accident caused by you but does not cover your own vehicle. This means that repairs to your own vehicle following a crash will need to be paid for by you.

If you’re travelling with a passenger in the vehicle and you get into an accident, third party insurance will also compensate these passengers for their injuries.

Lots of people will take out third party insurance as they believe it to be cheaper than comprehensive cover, however, sometimes it can actually cost you more. This is because it is commonly young motorists, drivers with convictions or drivers that are considered a risk that take out this kind of insurance. This increase in risk usually boosts the cost of third party protection. Therefore it’s always worth comparing the cost of this type of insurance against comprehensive cover.

Third party fire and theft insurance is an additional add on to TPO that you may want to consider. This insurance typically includes the same policies as TPO, however, you will also receive compensation if your vehicle is stolen or involved in a fire.


What does comprehensive car insurance cover?

Comprehensive insurance, sometimes referred to as ‘fully comp’, covers you and your vehicle as well as any other vehicles that are involved in an accident, regardless of whether it was your fault or not. Not only could comprehensive insurance be cheaper than paying for third party cover, but if you get into an accident, your insurance company may pay for the damages to your vehicle.

You may receive compensation when the fault can’t be proven too. For example, if someone has hit your car while it’s been parked in a car park and then driven off. Without comprehensive cover, you would have to pay for any repair work. If your vehicle was written off, you would have to pay to replace the whole thing.

Your comprehensive insurance could also cover damaged windows or windscreens, replacement locks, trailer cover, and any audio or telephone equipment. You could receive monetary compensation for any personal belongings that are stolen or damaged too. Third party insurance would not cover these features. For example, optional extras that you can pay for include motor legal protection and key protection.


Will I be able to drive another vehicle on my insurance?

While some insurance policies include cover that allows you to drive someone else's car, not all do. So you should always check what your own policy allows.

Driving Other Cars (DOC) is only supposed to be done in an emergency. It’s not designed for frequently driving your partner’s car or borrowing the car of a friend. If you drive someone else's vehicle regularly, you should be added as a named driver on their insurance policy. This can be done through their insurance company for an additional fee. It’s worth remembering that if your own insurance policy does allow you to drive someone else's car without being listed as a named driver, you will only be covered on a third party basis.

If your insurance is Third Party Only cover (TPO), it’s likely that you won’t be able to drive someone else’s vehicle. If you have comprehensive cover, you’d need to check with your insurance provider whether you’re covered or not. In some cases, you might have to request this as an additional extra and pay more for it. Please take a look at our detailed guide on driving another vehicle on your insurance policy for more information.

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