A person holding a car key

What is a Courtesy Car and When Can You Get One?

November 9, 2023

Whether it be an accident, car theft, or car maintenance, life can very quickly become difficult without a vehicle, especially if you don’t live in an urban area with lots of affordable public transport nearby. If you’re without your car for a sustained period of time, a courtesy car can be a real boon - but what exactly is a courtesy car, and when are you eligible to receive one?

Generally, courtesy cars tend to be offered by car insurance companies or garages if your car is undergoing maintenance or you recently had an accident. In simple terms, the garage or insurance provider will temporarily loan you a car until your own is ready to get back on the road - but how do you get one? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a Courtesy Car?

As we explained above, a courtesy car is a temporary vehicle provided to a car owner by either replacement car insurance, a garage, or a car repair shop while their vehicle is being repaired or serviced. The primary purpose of a courtesy car is to minimise the inconvenience of being without transportation; this car isn't necessarily a like-for-like replacement, but serves to bridge the gap between the period of repair or service.

Who Can Get a Courtesy Car?

So, under what circumstances may you qualify for a courtesy car? Here are the most notable examples:

Accidents and Vehicle Repairs

Accidents are a major reason for needing a courtesy car; whether it's a minor fender bender or a significant collision, repairs can often take time. Especially in scenarios where you're not at fault, having a courtesy car can ensure you're not unfairly penalised by being left without transportation.

In the case of a non-fault accident, if your insurance policy doesn't offer a courtesy car, a replacement car insurance provider can step in to provide a vehicle until yours is back on the road.

Routine Maintenance and Extended Service

While accidents are unpredictable, routine car maintenance, such as MOT tests or extended servicing, can also leave you without a vehicle for a day or longer. Some service centres, understanding the inconvenience this can cause, offer courtesy cars to their clients. This gesture not only provides customers with convenience but also serves to enhance the reputation of the service centre.

Insurance and Courtesy Cars

It's essential to understand that not all car insurance policies automatically include the provision of a courtesy car. Often, this is an added feature or an optional extra, requiring an additional premium, so when considering a car insurance policy, it's worthwhile to check the details surrounding courtesy cars - both in terms of availability and the conditions under which one would be provided.

Additionally, while your policy might cover a courtesy car in the event of an accident, it might not offer one for routine services or repairs not stemming from an accident. Always read the fine print and ask your insurance provider for clarity if needed.

man driving a convertible with eyes on the road

Benefits of Courtesy Cars

The primary benefit of a courtesy car is continuity. Having transportation ensures that your daily routines, like commuting to work, school runs, or other commitments, are not interrupted. It eliminates the need for alternative, often more inconvenient or expensive, transportation methods like public transport or rentals. Plus, knowing that this option exists provides peace of mind in case of unexpected vehicular issues.

Procedures for Requesting a Courtesy Car

Once you've identified the need for a courtesy car, the process to acquire one often begins with a simple request. If the need arises due to an accident, inform your insurance company or the involved garage about your requirement during the initial reporting of the incident. If it's for routine maintenance or servicing, it's advisable to ask about the availability of a courtesy car when booking your service appointment.

Don’t forget that most providers will require you to meet specific criteria to qualify. These may include:

  • Being above a certain age, often 21 or 25, (but younger than 75) due to insurance considerations.
  • Having a valid driving licence.
  • Agreeing to certain terms and conditions, such as mileage restrictions or refraining from allowing other drivers to operate the vehicle.

Remember, if you have any doubts or specific needs, such as needing a larger vehicle for family or work-related tasks, communicate these upfront.

Duration and Usage Limitations

Another important point is to be aware of the potential limitations associated with courtesy cars. Most notably, the duration for which you can use the vehicle and any usage or mileage restrictions:

  • Duration: The length of time you can keep a courtesy car typically depends on the time needed to repair or service your vehicle. If the work is prolonged due to unexpected issues or parts availability, you might need to negotiate an extension.
  • Usage or Mileage Restrictions: Some providers might place a limit on the number of miles you can cover in the courtesy car. Exceeding these limits could lead to additional charges. Moreover, the vehicle should be used for the purpose stated in the agreement, like personal use, and not commercial purposes unless explicitly agreed upon.

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, a courtesy car can be a lifeline during the inconvenience of car repairs or servicing. However, it's essential to understand your rights, the terms, and any associated limitations. Whether it's included in your insurance package or provided by the service centre, always communicate your needs clearly and ensure you're fully aware of the terms of usage.

The presence or absence of a courtesy car provision can also be a deciding factor when choosing an insurance policy or a repair centre: after all, the primary goal is to ensure continuity in your daily routine.