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Third party car insurance explained

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When you buy car insurance, you’ll be given the choice of three different types of cover: third party, third party, fire and theft, and fully comprehensive cover. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at third party only insurance, explaining how it works and what it includes. We’ll also compare it to the other levels of cover, to see which is the cheapest car insurance policy.

What is third party only insurance?

Third party insurance is the minimum level of car insurance you need to legally drive on UK roads.

But as it’s insurance for third parties, it will only pay out for claims made by other people, such as the drivers of other cars that were involved in an accident or your passengers.

Third party insurance won’t cover damage to your car or your medical bills if you’re injured.

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What does third party insurance cover?

Third party car insurance provides the lowest level of cover from the choices available, as it only covers the cost of claims made against you if you’re at fault in an accident.

Put bluntly, it exists purely to protect other road users, which is why it’s the minimum level of car insurance required by law.

Third party insurance covers

  • Injuries suffered by passengers in your car
  • Personal injury claims made against you (this might be from one of your passengers or the driver of another vehicle)
  • Damage to other drivers’ vehicles in an accident that was your fault
  • Damage to somebody else’s property in an accident that was your fault
  • Your legal costs if a claim is made against you

Third party only insurance doesn’t cover

  • Repairs to your car after an accident
  • Damage caused to your car if you’re hit by an uninsured driver
  • Damage to your car that is caused by a fire or an explosion
  • Your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident
  • The theft of your car

Note that third party only insurance is different to third party, fire and theft which, as its name suggests, will also pay out if your car is stolen or damaged by a fire.

What happens if I am involved in an accident and have third party only car insurance?

If you’re involved in an accident, it’s important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you aren’t likely to be claiming on your policy.

Your insurer will want to know:

  • When and where the accident took place
  • What happened
  • The conditions at the time, including the weather and visibility
  • Any information you can offer about damage to other cars or property 
  • Whether anybody was injured
  • Contact and insurance details for other drivers involved in the accident
  • Contact details for witnesses who weren’t directly involved
  • Whether the police attended the accident and, if so, whether you have a crime reference number

What happens next will depend on whether you were at fault.

If the accident was your fault: Your insurance provider should pay for any claims made against your policy by other people. This might be the cost of fixing another driver’s car, repairing a homeowner’s wall or paying a personal injury claim from a passenger, another driver or pedestrian. If you’ve built up a no-claims discount, you’ll likely lose some of this. Your insurer will let you know how many years you’ll lose once it has processed the claim.

If your car was damaged in the accident, you’ll need to pay for repairs or a replacement yourself. You won’t be able to make a claim on your insurance if you’re injured.

If the accident was not your fault: You should be able to make a claim against the at-fault driver’s car insurance. This means you shouldn’t have to pay for repairs to your car and could potentially make a claim for any injuries you suffered. However, the catch is your own insurer won’t pursue these claims for you. You’ll need to liaise directly with the insurance company concerned or pay a claims company to do it for you.

Your no-claims discount should not be affected because you’re not making a claim on your own insurance policy.

What’s the difference between third party and comprehensive insurance?

Third party only insurance is the lowest level of car insurance you can buy, while fully comprehensive is the highest. That means there’s a substantial difference in the amount of cover provided and the potential payout if you need to claim.

In a nutshell, third party only insurance covers other people, while comprehensive car insurance covers you, your car and other people.

This means if you’re involved in an accident and are at fault, a comprehensive policy will cover the cost of repairs to your car or replace it if repairs aren’t feasible. With a third party only policy, you’ll have to foot the bill for repairing or replacing your car.

A comprehensive policy may also pay out if you’re injured or your car is stolen, while third party only cover won’t.

Fully comprehensive cover may offer a range of additional benefits that aren’t included in third party only cover, such as:

  • A courtesy car while yours is being repaired after an accident
  • Cover for your personal possessions
  • Windscreen cover
  • Cover if your keys are lost or stolen
  • Cover for driving other cars
  • Cover for putting the wrong fuel in your tank
  • Cover for getting home after an accident

Why might I choose third party insurance instead of fully comprehensive?

There are several reasons why some drivers might choose to buy third party only car insurance instead of comprehensive.

It may be that you’re driving an old car that isn’t worth much, so it wouldn’t make financial sense to shell out for repairs. Alternatively, you might feel that you don’t drive much and would be happy to pay for repairs yourself should you need to.

There are also some drivers who may struggle to get comprehensive car insurance, such as people with driving or criminal convictions. In these cases, third party only cover might be the only option available to them.

However, as third party only car insurance offers the lowest level of cover, it should only be considered if it’s sufficiently cheaper than third party, fire and theft or comprehensive car insurance, which both offer a higher level of cover.

Are third party only policies cheaper than fully comprehensive insurance?

In theory, third party only policies should be the cheapest type of car insurance, as they offer the lowest level of cover required to legally drive on UK roads. 

However, while this might have been true in the past, it’s now rarely the case. This is because third party only insurance is popular among higher risk drivers who claim more frequently, pushing up prices.

This means it’s often cheaper to buy comprehensive cover, even if you only need or want third party.

How much does third party only insurance cost?

According to MoneySuperMarket, the average cost of third party only car insurance is £620 a year. This compares to an average of £753 a year for third party, fire and theft.

Fully comprehensive is the cheapest option, coming in at an average of £560. This is despite the fact that it offers a much higher level of cover than third party only or third party fire and theft.

So, while it certainly makes sense to compare prices for a variety of cover levels, for most drivers, fully comprehensive insurance will offer the best value for money.

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What information do I need to get a quote for third party car insurance?

To get a quote for third party car insurance, you’ll likely need to supply the following information about yourself and the car you’d like to insure:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your job title
  • Your driving licence number
  • Details of your driving history (including any driving convictions)
  • Any previous car insurance claims
  • The make, model and age of your car
  • Any modifications to your car
  • The value of your car
  • The date you need the policy to start

Third party car insurance frequently asked questions

No, third party only insurance won’t pay out if your car is stolen. If you want cover for theft, you’d need a higher level of car insurance, such as third party, fire and theft or fully comprehensive.

You can often buy added extras with third party only car insurance, just as you can with fully comprehensive car insurance. Available extras will vary between insurers, but they’re likely to include breakdown cover and motor legal protection.

Yes, third party only is the minimum level of car insurance required to legally drive on UK roads. Even though it won’t cover you or your car, it ensures that cover is in place if somebody else is injured or other vehicles or property are damaged in an accident where you’re at fault.

Third party, fire and theft insurance is a step up from third party only insurance. In addition to covering everything included in a third party only policy, it will pay out if your car is stolen or damaged by fire.

Paying for your third party insurance monthly might help you budget, but it normally means that you’ll pay more for your car insurance overall. This is because most insurance companies charge interest on monthly payments, so it’s best to pay annually if you can afford to.

Yes, most insurers should let you add a named driver to your third party only car insurance. It’s important that other drivers are aware they’ll only have third party cover, even if they have fully comprehensive car insurance on their own car.

Yes, you can build up a no-claims discount on third party and fully comprehensive car insurance policies. For every year you don’t claim on your insurance, your discount is increased (although most insurers set a maximum period of around 15 years).

Amy Reeves


Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.