Coronavirus: changes to services
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, there may be changes to the way you make claims for policies, as well as what the policy covers. If you are facing financial difficulties or a change in circumstances, you should contact your insurance company for advice.
Why shop around?
When it comes to insurance, loyalty doesn’t pay. Many insurers offer better deals to new customers. They rely on the fact that existing customers often leave it too late to find another provider or simply don’t compare prices before they renew.
Even if you don’t want to change, it’s worth checking what’s available so you can try to negotiate a better deal with your current provider.
How to shop around
You can use price comparison websites or ring round different insurance providers to get quotes. Bear in mind that some insurance providers don’t appear on price comparison sites or their special deals might not be listed. Check with your bank or building society if they offer different insurance products, too. As phone lines are busier during the coronavirus outbreak, you are advised to contact providers online.
If you use a price comparison site:
- always use more than one site - no one site can list all the different providers
- the cheapest policies may not be the best value - for example, they may not cover everything you need
- the first result that comes up may not be the best
- clicking on a quote will take you to an insurance provider’s website – they may try to sell you extra products
- double-check the information you give, and the policy, before you buy. If the details aren’t right, you may not be covered.
The Money Advice Service has more information about using comparison sites.
If you have complex needs or special requirements, it’s better to contact insurance providers directly, or use an insurance broker or a financial adviser. A broker may be able to give you expert advice. They earn their money from commission, so they won’t charge a fee. You can find a broker on the British Insurance Brokers Association website. You can search for a financial adviser via the Society of Later Life Advisers.
With any insurance policy, check the terms and conditions and any exclusions (things that aren’t covered) before you buy. Check the excesses as well. An excess is the amount you agree to pay in the event of a claim, before the insurance provider pays anything. Agreeing to pay a high excess may result in a cheaper policy, but can leave you out of pocket if you have to make a claim.
Many people stay with the same home insurance company for years but it’s really worth shopping around before you buy or renew your policy. You should base your decision on the cover provided, not just the price.
During the coronavirus outbreak, you may be living with relatives or staying in a hospital/care home. If your circumstances have changed, you should contact your home insurance provider to see what your policy covers.
If you own your home, you’ll need buildings insurance. It’s usually a condition of your mortgage but you should have protection even if you own your home outright. If it’s a leasehold flat, the buildings may be insured by the landlord who owns the freehold but check your lease to find out who’s responsible.
You need to insure yourself for the amount it would cost to completely rebuild your home. This isn’t the same as the price you paid for it. You can find advice about working out the cost of rebuilding your home on the Association of British Insurers website, as well as a free calculator.
You’ll also need insurance to cover the contents of your home in case of theft or damage caused by fire or flooding. Buildings and contents insurance are often sold together. If you’re renting, you don’t need buildings cover but you should consider taking out contents insurance.
You may be able to reduce your home insurance premiums if you have good security, such as alarms or good quality locks, and if you’re in a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. Some companies offer policies tailored to older people, who may be considered lower risk.
When you take out a policy, be honest about the security that you have and how you use it. If your home is broken into and you weren’t using the measures you said you had, your insurer may reject all or part of your claim. If you’re not sure what level of security your insurance policy requires, check the small print or phone your insurance company to find out.
Make sure you understand what the policy covers. Does it offer new for old for example, to cover the cost of replacing items? Are there limits to the amount you can claim? The Money Advice Service has a guide to what a good contents insurance policy looks like.
When buying home insurance, compare levels of cover and check the exclusions. The following may not be included as standard:
- personal belongings cover – insurance for things you own that you take outside the home, such as jewellery or a laptop
- comprehensive accidental cover – cover for damage you cause yourself by accident
- home emergency cover.
The Money Advice Service has more information on getting a good deal.
You must have car insurance if you want to drive. The minimum level of cover you need is third party insurance, which means you’re covered if you cause injury to a person or damage to another car. However, the cheapest policy isn’t always the best and a fully comprehensive policy may be better value.
Older drivers may have to pay more and your premiums could go up significantly the first time you renew after you reach the age of 70. It’s worth taking the time to research your options. Don’t leave it till the renewal date.
You may be able to reduce your premiums if:
- you park your car in a garage or driveway
- you have an alarm, immobiliser or other security devices that are Thatcham-approved
- your car has low mileage – but make sure you give an accurate figure or your insurance may be invalid
- you drive a popular make and model that’s cheap to repair
- you can demonstrate that you are an advanced driver by taking additional training such as Pass Plus
- you pay annually rather than in instalments
- you’ve built up a no claims discount.
Check any add-ons like breakdown cover. You may already have this, through your bank account for example, or you may be able to get it cheaper elsewhere.
The Money Advice Service has a guide to what makes a good car insurance policy.
If you need to cancel an existing policy due to coronavirus, you should contact your insurance provider to see how your premiums will be affected if you choose to restart your policy in the future. Some providers are also beginning to issue refunds, following the government's advice to stay at home. You should check with your company to see if they are offering refunds on a case-by-case basis or to all customers.
Travel insurance can become more expensive as you get older, especially if you have a medical condition or disability. You must declare any pre-existing medical conditions or you may not be covered, even if you’re not currently affected by your condition.
Contact organisations that deal with your condition or disability for advice. It may be worth using a broker to help you find the best policy. The Money Advice Service has more information about travel insurance for the over 65s and medical conditions.
If you’re travelling in Europe, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle you to free or reduced-cost healthcare but this is not the same as travel insurance. It won’t cover any private healthcare costs or the cost of travel back home in an emergency, for example. There will be no changes to the EHIC before 31 December 2020. You can continue to use your EHIC in the country you were visiting on 31 December 2020 for the duration of your stay.
Travel insurance typically covers:
- medical cover
- baggage and personal belongings
- personal liability
The Money Advice Service has information about what to look for in a good travel insurance policy.
You should buy your insurance as soon as you’ve booked so that you’re covered if you need to cancel. However, be wary of buying insurance that’s offered with your holiday. You may get better and cheaper cover elsewhere. Your bank may offer free travel insurance with your account but check the terms and conditions to make sure you’re covered.
If you had booked travel plans before the coronavirus outbreak, any policies you took out may be affected. Your insurance provider should be in contact with you about any policy exclusions that have occurred. If you are stuck abroad due to travel restrictions, most travel insurance policies have been automatically extended to cover you if you need emergency medical treatment.
Tips for shopping around
- Try to get at least three quotes, including one that isn’t available on a comparison site
- make sure you’re comparing like with like – check things like voluntary excess payments, for example
- check the terms of the policy carefully, especially the details that are important to you, and make sure you get the right amount of cover
- answer all the questions honestly and accurately
- seek expert advice if you have special or non-standard needs.
If you have a complaint
If you have a complaint about an insurance provider, try to resolve it with them first. If you're not satisfied with their response, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, it may take longer to resolve complaints.