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What you need to know about insurance

You buy insurance to protect or cover yourself against unexpected financial loss which can result, for example, from injury to yourself or someone else, illness, or damage to your property or personal possessions. This page explains what kinds of insurance are available and where you can buy it.

Types of insurance cover

There are many types of different insurance cover and you may need to take out several policies to make sure you're covered for all the risks in your life. Types of insurance policies include:

  • motor insurance
  • household contents insurance
  • buildings insurance
  • critical illness insurance
  • travel insurance
  • private health insurance
  • life insurance (often called life assurance).

Do you need insurance?

Some insurance polices are compulsory. For example, you must have motor insurance if you drive a vehicle. Or you may not be able to take out a mortgage without having buildings insurance. Other insurance is optional but well worth considering. For example, if you're going on holiday, you should always consider taking out travel insurance.

You may already have extra insurance with an existing policy or as part of your current account package. If you're employed, you should also check your employer's benefits package to see whether they also offer extra cover, such as health insurance or income protection insurance. They may also offer extra benefits, such as sick pay.

However, if you do have extra insurance, it's always worth checking what it covers and whether it's suitable for your needs.

Where can you buy insurance

You can buy insurance:

  • direct from an insurer
  • through a bank, building society, travel agent, or high street retailer.
  • through a comparison website (although not all insurers are listed on these sites)
  • through an insurance agent. An insurance agent is usually employed by one insurer
  • through an insurance broker or an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). They may not be tied to any one particular insurer but they may receive commission for selling you an insurance policy. Worth considering if you want insurance for something special or need advice about the best policy for you.

Compare prices and cover

Once you have decided that you want insurance it's a good idea to get a few quotes from different companies. It's important to compare like with like and not go with price alone.

A cheaper quote may mean that there are more exclusions or a higher excess. Exclusions are things for which you're not covered, and the excess is the amount of money you will have to pay towards the claim, usually the first £50 to £100.

Insurers should give you a summary document that includes key facts about the insurance cover you’re thinking of taking out. This will help you to compare prices and the level of cover between different insurers.

Firms selling insurance have to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which ensures that the firm has to meet certain standards. You should make sure that the insurer you choose is authorised by the FCA to sell insurance.

Other useful information