What’s the difference between third party cover and Comprehensive?

Whether you’re looking to buy your own policy for the first time, or just want to better understand the cover you might have now, knowing what sets the main car insurance types apart is essential.

Car with damaged bonnet
Cover for accidental damage is the main extra benefit of Comprehensive cover

Car insurance that provides cover in the event your car causes damage to someone else or their property is a compulsory legal requirement in the UK. It's the 'someone else' that is the third party, and car insurance is built on the basis that innocent third parties should never suffer a financial loss because of an accident and should be fairly compensated if they do.


The table below shows the main differences across the three main levels of car insurance - Third Party Only, Third Party Fire & Theft, and Comprehensive. Sometimes you might hear people talking about 'fully comp' - that's just an older way of referencing Comprehensive cover so don't get too hung up on which name an insurer gives it.

Third Party Only

Third Party Fire & Theft

Comprehensive

Injury to someone else or damage to their vehicle or property

Yes

Yes

Yes

Damage to your car caused by fire, theft or attempted theft

No

Yes

Yes

Theft of your car

No

Yes

Yes

Damage to your car by other causes such as accidents, vandalism and hit while parked

No

No

Yes

Windscreen and other glass

No

May be optional

Yes

The above table assumes the incident that causes damage to your car is your fault. Regardless of your level of cover if someone else hits your car - you’re the innocent third party - so their insurance should pay to repair your car.


There are many additional benefits that insurers will either include as standard on some of these levels of cover, or offer as an optional extra to add on top, but the crucial thing you need to decide is whether you want cover for damage to your own car that's caused by an accident that may be your fault or if the damage was caused by an unknown third party such as vandalism or hit while parked.


As I mentioned in my Wiki post about how you may be able to reduce the cost of your car insurance, just because you get less cover on Third Party and Third Party Fire & Theft than you do with Comprehensive, don't assume those levels are cheaper.


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