In Ireland, if you drive a car, or keep it on a public road, you must have at least third-party car insurance. It is a criminal offence to drive without car insurance.
Types of car insurance
There are three main types of car insurance:
- third-party, fire and theft
This is the minimum legal requirement needed to drive a car in Ireland. It only pays out for claims that other people make against you for damage or injury you cause to them. Third party cover is not widely available from insurance companies in Ireland.
Third-party, fire and theft
With this cover, you can also claim for loss or damage to your own car as a result of fire or theft (attempted theft is also covered), but not accidental damage to your own vehicle. This type of cover costs more than basic third-party cover.
This gives you third-party, fire and theft cover, and also allows you to claim for damage to your own car, no matter who is to blame. You can expect to pay more for comprehensive cover than for third-party, fire and theft cover. The benefits of comprehensive policies vary between insurance companies, so you should check the policy for full details. Some of the benefits that may come with comprehensive cover include:
- Windscreen and glass cover. Some insurers are now imposing excesses here.
- Cover for damaged or stolen personal belongings. This usually applies to items stolen from a locked boot or glove compartment. This is not standard cover and you will need to check the policy schedule or policy document for details.
- Recovery service and emergency breakdown assistance. This may not always be a standard cover, and the age of the vehicle could have a bearing on this being offered.
- Replacement or hire car. The cost of this may be covered if your own car is off the road as a result of an accident, and usually for a short time only.
- Driving other people’s cars. This covers you for any damage you do to another car or person while driving someone else’s car. It does not cover any damage to the car you borrowed or personal injury to you if you cause an accident. Note: This excludes cars owned by the insured person or their partner. There are restrictions with certain insurers based on the engine size of the other vehicle; it must be taxed and have a valid NCT; and some insurers require that it has valid insurance in place on it. Some insurers will also give comprehensive cover on the borrowed vehicle, but with some restrictions.
- No claims bonus protection or step back protection.
- Named driver on car. You may want to insure someone else to drive your car, such as your son or daughter. As a named driver they will be covered under the policy.
- Open driving. This allows anyone with a full driving license to drive your car with your permission.
- Driver personal accident cover. This means the driver can receive compensation for death or serious injury suffered as a result of an accident they are responsible for.
- A common misconception is that comprehensive cover will cover your medical expenses and injuries if you are injured in an accident. This is not always standard and there may be very limited cover in place. You will need to check this with your insurance provider.
- When choosing car insurance, always check what it does and does not cover. The policy offering the lowest cover does not always mean the best value for your needs.
- As most insurance policies include an ‘excess’, you should always check how much it is. The excess is the first part of any claim you must pay, which is usually up to a few hundred euro. You will not be able to claim for amounts less than the excess. The higher the excess, the lower your insurance premium should be.
- Most Personal Contract Plans’ (PCPs) terms and conditions strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive car insurance.
Examples of when you might choose different car insurance policies
Kate paid €2,000 for her car and picks a third-party, fire and theft policy. She feels the cost of comprehensive insurance is not worth it as the car is only worth €2,000. However, there have been a number of car break-ins on her street lately so she also chose fire and theft protection.
Julie bought a car for €15,000. She chooses a comprehensive policy to insure it, as she would not be able to afford to replace the car if she had an accident that she caused herself. She also has seven years’ no claims bonus and wants to protect this, so she adds no claims bonus protection to her policy.
What to think about when choosing car insurance cover
- What type and level of cover best suits your needs? Think about the type of cover you need for your current circumstances. You may want additional benefits such as breakdown assistance, courtesy car, and so on. If your car is old or low in value, think about whether comprehensive cover is worth the extra cost.
- Ask about any restrictions on the policy, for example, if only named drivers are covered.
- Ask what each policy covers, the exclusions and the amount of the excess.
- Think about whether you should protect your no claims bonus.
How is your premium calculated by insurance companies?
Insurance companies use a number of factors when calculating insurance premiums:
- driving experience (including whether you have a provisional or full license)
- claims history
- where you live
- type of car
- age of car
- your age
- what you use your car for
- type of cover required
- Always give the insurance company accurate, up-to-date and relevant information when taking out the policy, and inform them if something changes during the policy. If you are not sure whether the information is relevant, contact the insurance company and let them decide.
- Insurance companies use this information to calculate your premium and to decide whether to pay out on any claims you make. If you do not disclose all the information they ask for, they can cancel your policy and it may be difficult in the future to get cover from other insurance companies.
The table below explains the level of protection given by each type of insurance:
|Third party||Third party fire and theft||Comprehensive|
|Claims by another person as a result of damage caused by your car:|
|Damage to their car||Y||Y||Y|
|Damage to their property e.g. wall or bicycle||Y||Y||Y|
|Claims by you:|
|Damage to your car as a result of fire or theft||N||Y||Y|
|Theft of items from your car||N||N||Y
Note: you will need to check your policy document as this is not always offered.
|Damage to your property, for example, wall, fence and so on||N||N||Y|
Note: you will need to check your policy
Tips on cutting car insurance costs
|Tips on cutting costs||More information|
|Shop around and bargain||
|Think about how you buy your insurance||
|Pay your insurance in one go||
|Get your full licence||
|Try to be as realistic as possible when estimating the value of your car||
|Avoid driving convictions and penalty points||
|Change where you park your car||
|Think about adding named drivers to your policy||
|Build up your no claims discount||
|Pay a higher excess||
|Choose your car wisely||
|Decide if you need to use your car for work – if so, you need different cover||
|Try to get insurance in your own name||
What is a no claims bonus?
Your no claims bonus (also called your no claims discount) is a reduction in your insurance premium based on the number of years since you made a claim, or a claim was made against you. Only the policyholder can earn a no claims bonus.
Usually, the maximum number of years that you can receive a no claims bonus for is five years. Your no claims bonus does not increase any further after six years as this is the maximum discount. Therefore, whether you have eight or 15 years of no claims, the discount that you receive will be the same. Note: some insurance companies may give you a discount for more than 5 years no claims. However, it must be stated on your no claims bonus that you are entitled to it and most insurers will state five years only.
Your bonus may be reduced or lost if you make a claim or a claim is made against you, even if you were not at fault. If the accident was not your fault and the insurance company can recover their cost, your bonus may be restored.
- Your no claims bonus can be transferred from one insurance company to another and from one car to another. However, if you have two cars, you will need to work up a no claims bonus for each car. Each no claims bonus is specific to one vehicle at a time. This means that if you buy a second car, you would not automatically get any benefit from your existing no claims bonus. However, some insurance companies may give you an introductory discount if you have a good claims record on your main vehicle.
- A full no claims bonus can have a significant impact on the amount you pay for your insurance.
Some insurance companies will allow you to pay to protect all or part of your no claims bonus. The following are some of the options you can choose:
- full no claims bonus protection
- step back bonus protection
- no claims discount protection for fire and theft claims
If you find yourself in a position where you need to make a claim on your insurance, you can find a step by step guide here to help you.
Full no claims bonus protection
With full no claims bonus protection, if a claim is made against your policy, you will not lose any of the years of no claims bonus which you have built up. Always read the small print of your policy documents for any exclusions or limitations to your no claims bonus protection. Many insurance companies may only protect your no claims bonus for a fire and theft claim, or for a certain number of claims within a particular time period. No claims bonus protection does not make you immune to a claim, you still must disclose the claim and it may carry a loading. No claims bonus protection ensures you keep your discount if you have a claim. This means that your premium will not be impacted as much as it would be if there were a claim made.
Step back bonus protection
Step back bonus protection means you will not lose all of your no claims bonus if you have to make a claim, or if a claim is made against you. The amount that you lose depends on the terms and conditions of your policy.
No claims bonus protection for fire and theft claims
This means you would still keep your no claims discount if you have a claim for fire or theft only.
Did you know?
If you have no insurance in your own name for two years or more, many insurance companies will not give you your no claims discount when you apply for cover again.
What insurance companies should tell you before buying insurance
Insurance companies must:
- tell you how long their quote is valid for, and make sure you are aware of any special conditions or restrictions that apply to the cover they are offering you
- tell you about any discounts that apply or any extra premium being charged when they give you a quote
- tell you that your cover or any claim you make could be affected if you give incorrect or incomplete information when applying for cover
- tell you that you have a cooling off period of 14 days after you agree to buy the insurance policy
- issue your policy document within five business days of providing you with cover
Refused car insurance?
An insurance company can refuse to sell you car insurance as long as they are not in breach of equality law. However, the refusal must be in writing and given to you within five business days of refusing you.
If you have been refused cover by three or more insurance companies, you can contact the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland. Insurance Ireland is the representative body for insurance companies in Ireland. They will get an insurance quote for you (usually from the first company you approached) unless there are public policy reasons why you should not be given car insurance. It is important that you keep note of the order in which you received your quotes.
You can also contact the Declined Cases Committee if you feel a quote is too high or the conditions attached are so severe that it amounts to a refusal to insure you.
Is my car insured if I take it abroad?
In general, if you buy a car insurance policy from an EU-based insurance company you will have third party insurance to drive your car in any EU country. You can usually take your car for up to 31 days to another EU member state for no extra charge – this will be set out in your policy. However, you may want to arrange additional cover for your trip. You should also check with your insurance company if you want to travel outside the EU.
You should always tell your insurance company if you plan to take your car abroad and check with them what exactly is covered on your policy.
What to do if you have an accident
What to do if you have a car accident:
- don’t say it was your fault
- get the names, addresses, telephone numbers and car insurance details of all the other people involved in the accident
- make a note of the registration number and the make and model of the other car(s) involved in the accident
- take the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses
- where possible, take a video or photos before the vehicles are moved
- contact the Gardaí immediately, and if they write a report, get a copy of it
- contact your insurance company as soon as possible giving them as much detail as you can
- even if you do not think you will claim through your insurance and settle the matter directly, it is important to notify your insurer – this is to protect you if costs start running high or in the event of an injury arising later
- Check the excess on your policy – you will not be able to claim less than the excess amount.
- When filling in a claim form, give as much information and supporting evidence as possible, for example photos, videos, Gardaí reports and so on.
If you think the accident was not your fault
If you think the accident was not your fault, depending on your policy type, you may have two options:
- you can make a claim directly from the other person’s insurance company or,
- if you have comprehensive car insurance you can claim on your own policy
If you choose the second option, your insurance company will recover its costs from the other person’s insurance company. The accident will count as a claim on your policy until your insurance company recovers their costs. This means your no claims bonus could be temporarily affected and you may have to pay the excess on your policy. However, the excess should be refunded once your insurance company recovers their costs.
If you think the accident was your fault
If the accident was your fault, you should tell your insurance company as soon as possible. If your insurance company is satisfied that the accident was your fault, they will arrange to deal with any relevant costs the third party has claimed for. In addition, if you have a comprehensive policy, they will arrange for the costs of repairing your own car. If you have third party, fire and theft cover, then your insurance company will only cover the costs of the other person’s claim.
If you are injured
You don’t have to accept the amount an insurance company offers for a personal injury claim. You can decide to reject their offer and refer your claim to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). PIAB will decide the amount of compensation you should get for your personal injuries. You can submit the claim yourself and you do not need to use a solicitor. More information on making a claim can be found on the PIAB website.
If the other driver was not insured or can’t be identified
Repairs to your car following a claim
Some insurance companies may ask that you use one of their approved garages to repair your car or ask you to provide estimates before you can get the car repaired.
If your insurance company decides that it is not feasible or economical to repair the car, they generally offer you the car’s current market value and take the car from you. This is known as an insurance write off. There are different categories of insurance write offs. More information can be found on the Road Safety Authority’s website.
After a successful claim, insurance companies can deduct VAT from your total settlement amount in a number of situations:
- if you are self-employed/VAT registered
- if the insurance company is paying the garage directly, they may deduct VAT as it is a business to business transaction
Examples of when VAT should not be deducted from your total settlement amount:
- if you are paying for the repairs yourself and being refunded by the insurance company
- if you are a private individual receiving the payment from an insurance company
What an insurance company must do when you make a claim
- if a claim form has to be filled in, the insurance company must send you one within five business days of being informed of the claim
- offer to help you with the claim
- tell you that you can use a loss assessor to deal with your claim, but that you will have to pay for this service yourself
- provide you with the contact details of the loss adjuster appointed by the insurance company and notify you that the loss adjuster will act in the interest of the insurer
- make sure that any offer made following the claims process is fair to the policyholder
- inform you within 10 business days of their decision on the claim
- allow you 10 business days to accept or reject the offer
- pay out on the claim within 10 business days of you accepting the offer
- if your claim is refused, they must tell you the reasons why in writing or another durable medium such as email or PDF
- An insurance company cannot refuse to pay a claim when the consumer makes a genuine mistake and gives inaccurate or incomplete information in the application process. However, where the consumer gives fraudulent information in the application process, the insurance company can cancel the policy and avoid paying a claim.
- An insurance company cannot automatically refuse a claim on the basis that the claim was not notified to them within the timeframes set out in the policy document if it does not negatively impact them.
More information on what insurance companies have to do during the claims process can be found in the Central Bank of Ireland’s Consumer Protection Code 2012.
What if your insurance company goes out of business?
A liquidator will usually be appointed to the insurance company and they will establish if the insurance company has enough money to:
- refund customers’ premiums and
- pay out on outstanding claims
If the insurance company is not in a position to refund you the premium you paid, you will be out of pocket. If you pay by direct debit you should contact your bank and cancel the direct debit immediately. Either way, if you want to continue to drive your car you must buy a new insurance policy.
If the insurance company is not in a position to pay out on claims, the liquidator can make an application to the High Court to approve payments out of the Insurance Compensation Fund. The total amount the Fund can pay out for a claim is 65% of the amount due to the person making the claim. If you have commercial insurance you cannot claim under the Fund.
If your insurance company goes out of business you should contact the liquidator directly for more information.
How much notice does your insurance company need to give you?
Drivers generally renew their car insurance every year. By law, your insurance company must send your insurance renewal notice, including your no claims bonus certificate (NCB), at least 20 working days before your current policy ends. If your insurer does not wish to invite a renewal, it must also give you at least 20 working days’ notice. Your policy renewal document must include quotes for each type of policy they offer, for example third party; third party, fire and theft; and comprehensive policies. Some insurers do not offer third party only; in this case they don’t have to provide a quote for third party only. You will need your NCB if you want to move to a different insurance company.
At this stage, the terms of the policy including restrictions and limitations, should be provided, along with your NCB. In addition, if it is a renewal, any changes to the policy terms, including restrictions and limitations, should be provided.
On the same page that shows your renewal premium price, your insurer must state the following:
- the premiums paid for the policy in the previous five years
- a list of any claims, including third party claims paid by the insurer to the consumer or to a third party(ies), in the previous five years
- if there was a mid-term adjustment during the previous policy year, the insurer must then also include:
- an annualised premium figure for the previous policy year (excluding fees or charges applied for that adjustment)
- a statement that the annualised premium shown may not be what was actually paid in the previous policy year
Consumers are not required to give any additional information to the insurance company at renewal time unless the insurance company has specifically asked for it.
If immediate cover is required, the detailed information set out above may be provided to you in writing immediately after the insurance cover has been provided.
- If you pay by direct debit, your current insurance company will usually renew your policy for another year if you don’t cancel your current policy with them before it ends.
- Policies and quotes can vary significantly between insurance companies so it’s important to shop around – you can use our car insurance shopping around checklist.
- You can also look at our tips on cutting your insurance costs.
Switching to a new insurance company
The ideal time to switch insurance companies is when you are renewing your annual insurance policy after you have shopped around. After getting a number of quotes, don’t be afraid to bargain with insurance companies, including your current provider, to try and get the best price possible.
If you change your mind after switching, your insurance company must give you a 14-day cooling off period. During that time, you can cancel the policy and get a full refund, less administration charges (where relevant). Administration charges should be set out in the insurance company’s terms of business which should be given to you before they sell you a policy.
It is also possible to switch insurance companies during your policy. However, your insurance company will usually charge you a penalty fee. You need to check the terms and conditions of your policy to find out the cost of switching and based on this, decide if it is worth switching during the policy.
What do you need to do to switch insurance company?
- notify your insurance company in writing that you are cancelling your policy if your policy is still in place
- if you are paying by direct debit, contact your insurance company in writing to cancel the direct debit and send a copy of the letter to your bank. You may also be able to cancel a direct debit through online banking
- get a copy of your no claims discount from your previous insurance company and send it to your new company
- send your new insurance company a copy of your current driving license
- some insurance companies will require a copy of the Vehicle Licensing Certificate (VLC) to prove ownership and the National Car Test (NCT) certificate to prove roadworthiness
If your insurance company cancels your car insurance policy, they must give you 7-14 days’ notice. The insurer also must:
- repay the full balance of premium for the unexpired term
- provide the reason for cancellation
- not impose any financial cost on the consumer where a contract is cancelled
Making a complaint
If you are not satisfied with your insurance company, you can make a complaint to them directly. If you are not satisfied with their response, you have the right to complain to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. We have more information on how to make a complaint to a financial services company.
Last updated on 29 November 2022