Car Insurance GlossaryGlossary of Car Insurance Terms and Conditions
To help vehicle owners make sense of the jargon often used in car insurance, here is a brief guide to motor insurance terminology.

Act of God
An unpreventable and unpredictable event that causes loss or damage. Insurance policies often exclude acts of God or acts of war, although they will usually cover natural disasters such as floods.

A change made to your original policy. For example, if you increase the average distance you will be doing throughout the year or the details of the regular driver.

Approved repairer
A vehicle repairer recommended by your insurance company for car repairs covered by your insurance policy.

Arbitration clause
This is a clause in your insurance policy which states that if neither you nor your insurer can agree on an ‘appropriate claim settlement’ you both hire a mutually agreed appraiser to settle the dispute. The appraiser elects an independent mediator and is neutral to both parties. A majority decision will decide the amount of the claim.

Ending an insurance policy before it is due to finish. Your insurer may charge you if you want to cancel your policy before it is due to end. There may be a cancellation fee to pay as well as a percentage of your premium should you cancel the policy. Your insurer can also notify you of the cancellation of the policy.

Claims history
Insurance companies will look at your claims history (how many claims you have made and what you have claimed for) when deciding on what to charge for your insurance premium or renewal premium. Your claims history provides info of the potential risk you pose as a customer. Some insurance companies won’t look to insure anyone who has previously made a claim.

Comprehensive cover
The highest level of car insurance cover, which usually covers you for:

  • injuries to other people
  • damage to other people’s property
  • accidents caused by your passengers or a driver named on your policy
  • the use of a trailer, while attached to your car
  • fire damage and/or theft
  • accidental damage to your own car
  • medical expenses, up to a stated limit
  • loss of or damage to personal effects in the car, up to a stated limit

Depreciation is a deduction for wear and tear of your possessions.

A change made to an insurance policy which becomes part of the policy. For example if you change your car, the vehicle details will be changed and your new car is insured instead of your old car.

An excess is the first amount payable by you in the event of a loss, and is the uninsured portion of your loss, so when you submit a claim you’ll have to pay an excess. It usually has to be paid to the garage fixing your car once it is repaired before you can drive it away.

When you have to pay an excess for damages arising from an accident, it is irrelevant who was to blame for the accident, this serves to deter customers from submitting minor claims and/or fraudulent claims, and keeping premiums down.

An excess is an agreed amount of money that you the client is liable to pay in the event of a car insurance claim being settled. I.e. If your excess on your car is R3,000.00, and the damages amount to R50,000.00 the insurer will pay the remaining R47,000.00 once you the client has paid your excess to the repairer.

When you are comparing car insurance online, try choosing to pay a higher excess as a way of lowering your premium. Voluntary excess is the amount you must pay towards a claim on top of your compulsory excess. The amount of voluntary excess is selected by the consumer when they take out their policy, and a higher voluntary excess usually means a lower premium. [Also view Insurance Chat]

Insurance companies won’t pay out for certain risks or types of loss or damage. These will be clearly set out in the terms and conditions of your policy and are known as exclusions.

Fault claim
An accident or loss where you are deemed to have caused the accident or loss, or where you or your insurance company cannot recover costs from somebody else.

Some claims will always be classed as fault claims, for example when your car has been broken into and items have been stolen from it. Although you haven’t done anything wrong, there is no one to recover the cost of the stolen items from and the claim becomes a fault claim. If your car is hit while parked, by someone who cannot be traced, this counts as a fault claim.

Non-fault claim
A non-fault claim is simply a claim where the insurer is able to recover all their costs from someone else.

Import or imported vehicle
Vehicles made outside South Africa and brought into South Africa.

This is the main principle of insurance. Insurance exists to replace something that has been lost or damaged, and an indemnity seeks to restore the insured person to the same financial position after the loss as immediately before.

Insurable interest
This applies to ownership of the insured property. To insure a private vehicle, you would have to own it and suffer a financial loss if it was damaged. You can’t for example insure your neighbour’s vehicle. As you don’t own it, there would be no loss to you if it was damaged. A finance company may have an insurable interest in a vehicle if they helped pay for the purchase.

Insured value
The total amount the insurance company will pay out for your car if it’s damaged beyond repair. This will either be the amount you stated the vehicle was worth when taking out the policy, or the current market value at the time of the claim – whichever is lower.

Insurance premium
The price insurers charge for insurance cover payable monthly or yearly.

Main driver or regular driver
The person who drives or uses the car the most is the main driver. You must tell your insurer who this is as they will take it into account when working out how much to charge you for your policy. If you make a claim and your insurer finds out the main driver or rider is not who you told them it was when you took out your insurance, they can refuse to pay your claim or cancel your policy.

Material fact
A material fact would be information that would affect an insurance company’s willingness to accept a policy, or the premium it would charge. Any information that may influence either an insurer’s decision to offer you cover or the premium they charge for it. If you leave out information which may influence a decision to offer cover, your policy may be invalidated.

Any changes made to your vehicle that are NOT classed as factory standard and made after it was produced. This could include engine modifications, alloys, spoiler or sunroof etc. If you don’t tell your insurance company about any modification when you buy your policy, they can refuse to pay out if you make a claim or cancel your insurance.

No-claims bonus
For each year you drive without making a claim on your insurance you might get a year’s no-claims bonus, subject to a maximum. This bonus reduces the cost of your car insurance premium for the following year. This is also sometimes described as a no-claims discount.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance provides consumers with a free, efficient and fair dispute resolution mechanism. It offers consumers with a “no risk” mechanism to resolve disputes with insurers.

Continuing an insurance policy once its initial term ended. For example, if you take out a 12 month policy, and then stay with the same insurer after 12 months, your policy is renewed.

In order for any insurance company to provide an insurance quote they must first evaluate the risk they are quoting for – or the likeliness of a claim being submitted. This generally means looking at the customer’s quote details and assessing them by their claims history, the cost or type of the vehicle they drive and perhaps the area they live in etc.

This gives policy details of how much cover you have (the sum insured), the discount you qualify for (if any), the period of insurance, the premium you have to pay and the sections that apply. With some policies you may get a new schedule when you renew the policy or whenever you change any policy details.

What your insurer pays out for a claim. Also described as the insurer “settling” the claim.

Stripped down policy
A budget policy which excludes some of the benefits you’d normally associate with vehicle insurance such as windscreen or stereo cover. It is designed to keep the cost of car insurance as low as possible, and may have higher excess levels to reduce the price of the policy. This is often found in policies offered by insurance aggregators.

Sum insured
The amount paid out by the insurer when a claim is made on a policy.

Third party
Someone involved in a claim who is neither the policyholder nor the insurer, for example if you are in a car accident, the driver of the other car.

Third party only
Third party cover is the minimum level of car insurance cover required by law and contains no cover for damage to your vehicle. It usually covers your legal liability for:

  • injuries to other people
  • damage to other people’s property
  • accidents caused by your passengers or a driver named on your policy

Third party, fire and theft
Third party fire and theft cover provides the same level of cover as third party cover, but protects you against damage to your vehicle from fire, or theft of the vehicle, as long as you’re not at fault.

An underwriter is employed by an insurance company to decide whether to accept a risk and calculate the premium to be charged.

When the sum insured on your policy is not enough to cover the maximum possible potential loss or damage – For example insuring your car for R110,000 when the car is worth R130,000. Insurance companies will almost always scale down claims as a result.

Uninsured losses
Any losses not covered by your insurance policy, such as your policy excess, any out-of-pocket expenses following an accident, eg a loss of earnings, or compensation for an injury suffered in an accident.

Uninsured loss recovery
Your insurer offers you assistance in recovering your uninsured losses from a third party, where an accident is the third party’s fault.

Use (class of use)
When acquiring car insurance it is important you have the right use for your car. If you have the wrong use, you may find your insurance company will not pay out on a claim. What you use your car for will have a substantial effect on your insurance premium.

The different categories of vehicle use are:

  • Social, domestic & pleasure

You are covered for day to day driving or riding, such as a visiting family, friends or going shopping but not to drive to work. This covers drivers for normal day-to-day driving, such as driving to visit family and friends or shopping.

  • Commuting

Covers drivers to drive back and forth to a permanent place of work. Travelling to a railway station, where the car is parked, is classed as commuting.

  • Business use

You can use your vehicle in connection with your job, such as driving or riding to more than one place of work. Covers the car in connection with your job, such as driving to different sites away from your place of work.

  • Commercial travelling

You can use your vehicle for things like door to door sales.

A damaged vehicle which is not repairable, or costs more to repair than the value of the vehicle before damage occurred.

Year built
The year that the vehicle was manufactured.

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17 thoughts on “Car Insurance Glossary

  1. Heinrich

    To Whom This May Concern,
    I was in an accident and was at fault, there was a 3rd party involved. Question if my insurance refuses to pay the 3rd party am I still liable to compensate the 3rd party? Thank you.

  2. Tiaan

    Good day

    We have been in an accident 2 months ago and the accident was my fault. I drove into the back of the other vehicle. I was not insured at this time due to being unemployed and unable to carry on with insurance. The owner of the other vehicle has got a quote on the car damages and an accesor has evaluated the damages. I have however did request that another company recomended by me also do a quote on damages where owner has just gone ahead and had vehicle repaired. The agreement with the Owner of other vehicle was that we will carry the access required and he has refered insurance company to make contact with us. The insurance company has now however requested that we pay the full amount of damages. Could you please assist if this is legally binding and what other options I could try to cut down on this cost due to I am still unemployed and my family needs almost every cent that gets earned by my spouse to survive.
    Thanking you in advance

  3. nkadimeng

    can you explain to me the market value and the insured car is a write-off and it was insured for R100 000 and i owe R86 000.will the insurance still pay me in the case market value of the car is less than settlement amount

  4. Loura Roux

    I was involved in an accident on the 24/09/2011 there were five cars and a truck. The truck driver lossed control and my car was the thrid vehicle to be hit. I am a student and do not have insurance as it is out of my financial range. I have submited a third party claim aganist the Truck company insurance. i am now with out a vehicle. Is there any law as to how long it should take for the claim to be paid out.I wanted to claim for the towing storage and hire vehicle but the insurance company is refusing to fit these bills. Can you tell me what I am entitled two and how long before this entitlement is allowed to take before payment is made?

  5. Michael Richards

    Involved in a multi car pile-up. I was the third car from the back and my car was damaged front and back. Who is liable. Please help.

  6. Stephanie

    They broke into my car by bypassing the signal of my car remote with another remote. Aparently one thinks you locked your car but by interfearing with the signal you don’t actualy lock the car and then they have full access to your car as soon as you leave.
    They stole valuable items from my car but dit not dammage my car in any way.
    My insurance say they can not pay out the claim – Is this fair?

  7. Cristal

    Car insurance policy is in my husbands name, and I’m the responsible driver. On the 29/10 I was involved in a head on where the other driver was at fault. A collision that couldn’t be avoided by anyone. Insurance company refuses to pay out due to the fact that I have judgements on my name. I was unaware that this suddenly came into place, how is that my financial status jeapordizes this claim or influences my driving ability? URGENT RESPONSE NEEDED

  8. Mpai Kgabo David

    i have a pay as you drive cover and my Vehicle finance institution wants to know if i am still with you. my policy number is : 18734559

  9. J.S. Maharaj

    Good day

    My brother was the driver of my vehicle (not insured) at the time of the accident whom had right of way, through the intersection.

    It’s a “3rd party claim” where the other driver did not stop at the intersection, to ensure all was clear before turning, turned in front of my bakkie.

    Now that guys insurance company says that they will pay out a “proportion payment” of the claim….apparently its a new clause since 2013.
    Please confirm if the above is true…and advise on my way forward.

    Many thanks…

  10. Zachary Phahlane

    I bought a car from a garage and insured it before changing the ownership and I had an accident. So now my insurance company needs the ownership papers, shall I be able to change the ownership yet I have got an accident and a car is not with but insurance?
    I need a help please!

    Thank you

  11. Dwayne Strydom

    My insurance was cancelled due to too many claims, meaning that I am a high risk insured, mostly due to motor claims. I now only have one vehicle, I need urgent insurance, and no other insurance company wants to insure me. Please asssist as I really do need insurance on my vehicle.


  13. Yikita padayachee

    I was involved in an accident and the other driver was at fault. He was in a branded company vehicle. What are my rights to claim from the company

  14. Tebogo Maboe

    I was involved in an accident and my car was a write-off,insunrance rejected my claim and say it was my fault, i want to know what is the process to follow from hereon, is it advisable to sell or fix the car? what is the best advise you can give me?

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