Car insurance can be confusing, especially when it comes to making a claim. Insurers will be looking for reasons to not pay out, so it’s crucial to be honest and maintain your car in line with the wording on your policy.
One area where motorists can get stung by their insurer is tyres. If your tyres are below the legal tread depth or are structurally unsafe, it could invalidate your insurance premium – leaving you in a difficult position if you have to make a claim.
Here, we take a look at tyre types which could invalidate your cover, as well as ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
- Can Part-Worn Tyres Invalidate Insurance?
- Can Winter Tyres Invalidate Insurance?
- How to Prevent Tyres Invalidating Car Insurance
Yes, part-worn tyres can invalidate car insurance, but only when they fail to meet UK standards and are deemed unsafe.
When you make a claim, inspectors will check the roadworthiness of your car on behalf of your insurer, including the tyres. If they don’t meet UK standards, your insurance will be void.
Driving on part-worn tyres that aren’t roadworthy carries a maximum fine of £10,000 and 12 penalty points. This, coupled with the risk of invalid insurance, is why it’s so important to triple-check the safety of part-worn tyres before you buy.
If you do your research and buy from a trusted supplier, there are substantial savings to be made in purchasing part-worn tyres. They are a fraction of the price of new replacements, and you could get premium-branded tyres for less than you would if they were new.
Here’s what to check and ask when buying part-worn tyres:
- Where are they from? – Ask the supplier if they know where the tyres come from. Some part-worns are imported from the EU, where legal tread depths differ. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the country of origin. For example, if they’re from Germany, they’ll likely have plenty of tread left, as the minimum there is 3mm.
- How much tread? – Get an accurate tread depth from the supplier before you buy, as they might not have taken the time to measure each tyre. If it’s close to the legal limit, it might not be worth it from a legal and financial standpoint.
- Any damage or suspicious marks? – Request to have a look at the tyres before they’re fitted, so you can check for signs of damage and repair.
So, should you buy part-worn tyres? Despite the low prices, it’s always a gamble. Yes you can find decent part-worns if you do the legwork, but there is risk involved and it may be a false economy if you have to change them soon after buying.
For more tyre help and advice, check out our guide on finding the right tyres for your car.
For the reassurance of added grip on slippery roads, some motorists fit winter tyres during the colder months. With a different tread pattern, these seasonal tyres are designed for driving in snow and ice, and offer improved grip on wet surfaces.
But there’s a problem: winter tyres could invalidate car insurance.
Given the safety benefits of winter tyres, this sounds baffling. How can something designed to improve safety wind up invalidating insurance?
It comes down to whether your insurer classes winter tyres as a modification, a change to your car which goes against its original design. Many insurers stipulate that drivers must alert them to modifications, or their cover may be invalid – and this can include fitting winter tyres.
Back in winter 2019, the Express reported that out of 600 UK insurers, only 70 acknowledged that winter tyres aren’t an unsafe modification. This is despite the Association of British Insurers (ABI) introducing a ‘winter tyre commitment’, wherein insurers pledge not to charge extra to those who fit winter tyres.
That means if you’re covered by any of the 530 remaining insurers, you must let them know if you fit winter tyres or it could invalidate your insurance. You may need to pay extra on your premium too, as not all insurers have signed up for the ABI’s winter tyre commitment.
So, should you fit winter tyres? For most people, it’s probably not worth it. While winter tyres do provide more grip, they don’t offer much more benefit than standard all-year tyres, especially for everyday driving on well-maintained roads. Add to that the potential insurance issues which can arise from fitting winter tyres, and it’s something you might want to think twice about.
Most car insurance policies include a section on maintaining your car in a roadworthy condition – and this extends to the tyres. If your tyres aren’t in a safe condition and insurance inspectors decide this has contributed to an incident, it could invalidate your cover.
Here are a few tips on how to make sure your car’s tyres don’t invalidate your insurance.
- Check the tread depth regularly – the UK’s minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, which is roughly the outer edge of a 20p coin. Use this as a quick check, which you should carry out at least once a month. Bear in mind that front tyres wear quicker than rears, so you might want to rotate them every so often to ensure even wear.
- Make sure they’re inflated to the correct pressure – tyre pressures change more than you realise, with temperature and air pressure affecting inflation. Check them every fortnight, as this will help avoid damage and ensure peak performance.
- Check the sidewall for damage – have you recently hit a pothole or curb? It could be worth checking the sidewall of your tyres for damage. Look for marks, scratches and bulges, which could result in a slow puncture or blowout if left unchecked.
We hope this guide has helped clear up any confusion about how tyres can affect car insurance. For more motoring advice and features, take a look at the rest of the Holts blog, or visit the homepage for our full range of DIY car maintenance products.