Car insurance

Drive with confidence

Insuring your car can give you peace of mind if things go wrong, but it's important to choose the right type of insurance to suit your needs. 

Here we explain the different levels of cover, how to choose, and how factors like your age can affect the cost. 

Types of car insurance

Main types of car insurance

There are four main types of car insurance:

  • Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance - Also known as a 'green slip', this covers death and injury to people if you are involved in an accident. Each state and territory has different rules about this type of cover, so check your state or territory traffic/transport authority for more information.
  • Third party property insurance - Covers the repair costs of property damage your car causes. Some policies also include an 'uninsured motorist extension' that covers you if you are in an accident caused by another driver, and they are not insured.
  • Third party property, fire and theft - Covers damage to other people's property and provides limited cover for damage to your own car caused by theft or fire.
  • Comprehensive car insurance - Covers damage to your own car and other people's property if your car is in an accident (including fire) as well as theft.  

The table below shows the coverage offered by different types of car insurance:

Type Damage to your car Damage to other people's property (e.g. other cars) Damage or loss caused by theft of your car Injuries or death to other people in an accident
Compulsory third party cross cross cross tick
Third party property cross tick cross cross
Third party property, fire and theft cross tick tick cross
Comprehensive tick tick tick cross

Other types of car insurance

  • Add-on insurance - Offered by car dealers and may include gap insurance, consumer credit insurance, or breakdown insurance. Some of this insurance is not very good value and you may already have some of this cover. Find out more about the insurance extras sold by car dealers
  • Usage-based insurance - Insurers track your driving habits using technology installed in your car. They will track things like your speed, distance travelled and how hard you brake and accelerate. They may also consider where your car is driven and where it is usually parked. Your premium is then calculated using this information.
  • Pay as you drive (PAYD) insurance - The premium is based on the number of kilometres you expect to drive in the coming year. If, during the year, you think you will drive further than planned, you can 'top up' your kilometres for an additional cost. However, if you exceed your elected kilometres and don't tell the insurer, your level of cover may be reduced.

Need help to factor in the ongoing costs associated with buying a car?

MoneySmart Cars app

Car insurance for people on low incomes

If you are on a low income or your car is not worth much, it's still worth insuring if you don't have the money to replace it. Good Shepherd Microfinance has worked with insurance companies to create affordable and simple insurance policies for cars worth up to $5,000. These policies have flexible payments options and premiums can even be deducted from some Centrelink benefits.

Find out more about the Good Insurance program on the Good Shepherd Microfinance website.

What type of car insurance do I need?

By law you amust have CTP insurance.

On top of CTP cover, decide what level of additional cover you need. Ask yourself:

  • If I crash into a luxury sports car could I afford their repairs?
  • Is my car likely to be broken into?
  • How will I get around if my car is stolen or written off?

For most people, having (at least) third party property insurance is the way to go because it means you won't have to pay a hefty sum for someone else's damaged vehicle.

Case study: Richie's lack of car insurance gets him into debt

Young man with no car insuranceRichie decided not to get any extra insurance on top of his CTP because his car was very old. A few months later, he hit a brand new sports car, which needed $20,000 worth of repairs.

Because he was not insured for damage to other cars, Richie had to take out an expensive personal loan and work extra hours to pay off the debt over 5 years.

How to choose a car insurance policy

Insurance policies for cars are based on either 'agreed' or 'market' value. An agreed value policy has a set dollar value for your vehicle. Market value policies value your car based on the make, model and condition. The agreed value is usually higher than the market value.

Here are our tips to get the best deal on your car insurance:

  • Shop around and compare premiums for the same type of cover.
  • Weigh up the difference between having a high premium and low excess versus the opposite. You may be able to save on your premium by increasing your excess.
  • Check if a no claim bonus is really saving you money on your premium, or see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.
  • See what discounts an insurer offers if you bundle other types of insurance with them.
  • Consider adding security devices to your car, as this may reduce the premium.
  • Don't make unnecessary modifications to your car, as this may increase the premium.

Car insurance for young drivers

The cost of insurance is determined by the level of risk your insurer is taking on. As more young drivers are involved in accidents than older drivers, most insurance companies charge a higher premium for drivers under 25.

Young drivers may also have to pay an additional 'age excess' when making a claim, so always check the policy carefully to see what excesses might apply.

If you are a parent who lets a young driver use the family car, you will have to pay extra insurance. It's important to tell your insurer who uses the car, otherwise they may not pay for damage if the driver has an accident.  

Car insurance exclusions

Make sure you understand the level of cover before signing up. Below are some typical car insurance exclusions to watch out for: 

  • mechanical failure, depreciation, rust and wear and tear
  • damage caused because your car was unsafe or in a race
  • intentional damage
  • damage caused by an unlicensed, drunk or drug-affected driver
  • damage caused by a driver who wasn't covered by the policy.

Why you need to be honest with your car insurer

Making a mistake in the information you give your insurer - whether it's deliberate or not -  can affect the premium you pay and may result in a claim being rejected. 

Inform your insurer if your circumstances change, as they could also affect your premiums. For example, if you:

  • modify your car (e.g. adding rims, tinted windows, woofers, or lowering the car)
  • move house
  • have additional drivers
  • start using your car for work.

Making a claim on your car insurance

If you have an accident, contact your insurer straight away. Depending on how serious the accident is, you may need to fill out a police report. Get details from any other parties involved and, if possible, take photos of the damage to the vehicles. When you're making the claim, provide as much detail as possible.

Claims for some incidents may result in you paying multiple excesses. Check your policy to see what your excess will be for likely incidents.

You should also check the wording of your policy to understand the impact making a claim has on your no claims discount and premium.

If you're unhappy with how your claim is handled

You can make a complaint through your insurer's internal dispute resolution team if you feel your claim is not being handled properly, or if you're being treated unfairly.

If you're not satisfied with the outcome, you can lodge a complaint for free with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) by calling 1800 931 678.

You can also get free legal advice from a community legal centre about your rights and responsibilities when making a claim.

Motor vehicle accident problem solver

The Financial Rights Legal Centre's Motor vehicle accident problem solver is a tool that helps you to navigate your car insurance if you have an accident.

Selecting the right insurance for your vehicle is very important and could save you lots of money if something goes wrong. At the very least, consider getting third party property cover so you don't end up in debt if you have an accident.

Related links

Last updated: 04 Jul 2019