Loaned cars are not always a courtesy

Drivers are being stung by large and unexpected bills after being given a courtesy car that they believed was an entitlement under their insurance, experts have warned.

Once regarded as a perk, most drivers now expect free use of a courtesy car after an accident. But if you are involved in another crash and damage the car while yours is being repaired, the costs can be high.

Contrary to appearances, the car is not usually provided by your insurer but by a credit-hire company, which provides insurance cover for the car. What many people do not realise is that the excess on that insurance is much higher than on their own, meaning that they could be liable to pay hundreds of pounds after a crash. In some cases, the insurance will cover only the courtesy car. Any third-party damage to another vehicle will have to come out of the motorist’s pocket.

Peter Harrison, a car insurance expert at Moneysupermarket.com, said: “The excess on a courtesy car can be much higher than you would find on standard car insurance.”

Motorists are also being warned to make sure that what they are being offered is a genuine courtesy car. Breakdown companies, garages and insurance brokers have been known to take commission from hire-car companies for passing on the details of drivers who have been in a crash.

The hire company then offers the motorist a vehicle while their own is being repaired. What is not always clear is that these cars are rented and that the driver is signing an agreement to take the car on credit.