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'Fully Comp' or 'TPF&T' - An Insurance Headache

Should it be 'Fully Comprehensive' insurance? Or will 'Third Party, Fire & Theft' do, or even just 'Third Party'? The latter are so much cheaper ...

Well, that depends. The premiums may be cheaper for the Third Party versions (considerably, in many cases) but then the real expense will come if – or when – you are involved in an accident. In fact, for some strange reason, they are not actually always cheaper – so if you do choose the lesser option(s), always get a quote for Fully Comprehensive as well; you may find you can get the better insurance for a lower price!

So, what are these options, precisely, and what do they cover? 'Third Party' is the absolute basic level of insurance, the legal minimum required to go on the road. With this the insurance company will pay for any damage to other vehicles, people or property if you have an accident, but that's all – your car and you yourself are not covered at all. 'Third Party, Fire & Theft' (TPF&T) is the same but includes damage to your car if someone tries to (or does) steal it, or sets it on fire. Fully Comprehensive cover includes all this and also damage to your car occasioned by an accident and damage to yourself, ie medical expenses etc.

In practice, usually just one question really needs to be asked – if your car was written off in an accident, could you afford to just accept the loss of its value and pay for another one (or live without a car)? If the answer is no, then you should get Fully Comprehensive cover. It generally works out that a low-value car doesn't warrant more than TPF&T, while an expensive one does, but not all the time.

Of course, there are other things to consider – for instance, although it is called comprehensive cover, that doesn't mean that a Fully Comprehensive policy will actually cover *everything*, most policies will have exclusions that you need to take a note of when choosing which policy you intend to buy. Items such as provision of a courtesy car (a replacement while yours is being repaired), legal costs if it goes to court, and the amount of the excess (the part of any claim you have to pay before the policy covers the rest) can make a big difference to both the premium cost and the value of the policy to you.

This is where the ubiquitous comparison websites come in useful – you only have to take the time to give all your information once, and they show you clearly what is offered by each policy and how much it will cost. Of course there are a handful of companies that refuse to be included there, and if you're willing to go through it all again then you may get a better deal from one of these – but it's a good idea to go the comparison website route as well, their offer is not necessarily going to be the best!

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