Will non-essential travel invalidate my car insurance?

A number of news stories have been circulating recently suggesting that motorists taking unnecessary journeys during lockdown could be invalidating their car insurance.

We looked in more detail at the rules, and spoke with a number of our insurance partners to find out whether this is in fact the case.

What are the rules around essential and non-essential travel?

The government guidance on travel has been very clear; people should only be leaving home for certain purposes:

  • To shop for necessities, including medicine, as infrequently as possible
  • For take one form of exercise a day
  • For any medical need, including to donate blood, escape risk of harm, or provide care for a vulnerable person
  • To travel for work purposes when they cannot work from home

There is some additional advice for individuals or households who are isolating, for the vulnerable who need shielding, and for critical workers.

Where some people have been unsure is whether they can travel to a place for exercise – something on which the National Police Chief’s Council has now issued advice[1]. Driving to countryside and walking, where far more time is spent walking than driving, has been deemed likely to be reasonable.

Can I invalidate my car insurance if I take a journey that doesn’t meet the criteria for ‘essential travel’?

In a word, no. If you are driving within the terms of your policy and need to make a legitimate claim for damage, theft or injury, there is no reason for the nature of your journey to prevent that claim from being processed as it normally would be.

We asked some of our specialist insurance partners for clarification on this matter, given the incorrect claims that have been made in the media.

“Your car insurance won’t become invalid just because a journey you make is deemed inessential,” said Ben Tilson at KGM. “Provided you are driving legally and within the terms of your policy, there is no reason for a legitimate claim to be thrown out just on the basis of your journey being non-essential.

“That being said, we would encourage drivers to stick to the government’s guidelines and only travel for essential purposes during this period of lockdown.”

Adrian Moody from ERS added, “It’s concerning that this kind of misinformation would be circulating, potentially preventing drivers from taking necessary journeys due to concerns about their insurance. We’d like to assure motorists that as long as they are following the law and adhering to their policy terms, any claim would be considered in the same way that it would outside of a lockdown situation.

“If the government rules change and any road closures are implemented, for example, then we would expect drivers to follow those rules.”

What happens if I have to make a claim and my journey was deemed to be inessential?

Again, provided you have been driving within the law and haven’t broken any of your policy terms – for example, driving to work in a car on which you don’t have commuting cover – this should not affect your claim.

What if I’m stopped while driving?

The police do have powers to stop drivers, and to enforce the rules of the current lockdown. If stopped, you should explain the purpose of your journey. In most instances, the police will encourage you to go home if they don’t consider there to be a ‘reasonable excuse’ for your journey[2]. Fines can be issued where people fail to comply with the social restrictions in place[3]; these are typically fixed penalty notices at £60, or £30 if paid within 14 days.

Read more about coronavirus and car insurance with our FAQs here.

[1] This advice is for England only; different rules and guidelines may apply in other parts of the United Kingdom.

[2] BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-52106843

[3] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/regulation/10/made

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