Everything you need to know about car insurance

Every car needs a motor vehicle liability insurance, otherwise, there is no registration. In the case of an accident that is your own fault, liability only pays the other’s damage. Comprehensive insurance is required to replace damage to your own car. But which car insurance benefits are important? You will find all the answers here: What is important in partial insurance, what is in full insurance? What do the damage-free classes bring? How can you save money on car insurance?

Car insurance – short and sweet
Liability and comprehensive insurance. Motor vehicle liability insurance is compulsory. Partial and full coverage is voluntary. Motor vehicle liability is sufficient for old cars of low value. In the case of more expensive cars, at least partial insurance is useful, for new cars and expensive used vehicles, full insurance. Many questions about car insurance answered briefly in our FAQ Auto Insurance. All detailed information can be found here.

Simply change, save a lot. The price of a policy strongly depends on individual characteristics such as age, job, place of residence and the car. Above all, it depends on the insurer and the tariff. Our car insurance comparison determines inexpensive policies that fit your individual needs. How to cancel correctly is shown below.

Claims categories. For every accident-free year, the customer comes into a better damage-free class (SF). That makes the contribution cheaper. On the other hand, anyone who causes an accident slips into a more expensive SF class. What this can cost is in the Special So Long Insurer. Sometimes it is worth paying a small accident yourself to keep the cheap SF class. Our free auto insurance calculator will show you what level of damage is reasonable.

Important achievements. Many important car insurance benefits are not automatically included. It is important to have the highest possible coverage and, in a comprehensive manner, a clause that the insurance company pays in full even in the event of gross negligence.

Save up. You can save a lot of money with car insurance – for example with annual instead of half-yearly payments, with reasonable excess, with a workshop commitment and many other discounts, such as for parking in a garage. More on this is below.

Motor vehicle liability, partial coverage, comprehensive coverage
The most important thing is motor vehicle liability insurance. It is required by law. That is why insurers have to accept every customer – at least according to the legal conditions and minimum amounts. They can only reject customers in exceptional cases, for example, if someone has not paid the premium in the past, if the insurer only insures selected professional groups, such as civil servants, or if they only have their business area in a certain region and the customer lives elsewhere. If the driver causes an accident, the motor vehicle liability policy covers the damage that the other road user suffers – regardless of whether it is a pedestrian, a driver or a cyclist. Motor vehicle liability does not cover the repair of your own car. Around 20 percent of cars in Germany are only on the road with motor vehicle liability insurance. Most of them are older cars of little value.

Tip: The car insurance comparison from Stiftung Warentest will find the best car insurance for you.

Partial coverage – in the event of glass breakage and bad weather
Another 30 percent of car owners also take a partial insurance policy. On average, this costs around 90 euros extra in addition to motor vehicle liability insurance. The partial coverage pays in the event of theft – if the car is stolen or only individual parts of it, as well as if it is broken into. It also comes into play if the glass breaks, for example, if a crack renders the front screen unusable.

It also replaces damage caused by severe weather: storm, hail, flood, lightning. In the event of storm damage, however, the insurance only applies from wind force 8. Damage due to fire and explosion is also covered, as is short-circuit damage to the cabling. There are also game accidents and marten bites and in some tariffs the consequences of snow and roof avalanches. It is primarily about the damage that the driver cannot influence through his driving style. For this reason, there are no loss-free classes in the partial coverage and therefore no price reductions after accident-free years – but no downgrading in the event of damage.

Partial coverage – marten bite and game accidents
Many tariffs only insure the direct damage caused by marten bites. Replacing a bitten cable is usually not really expensive. The consequential damage is much worse: A defective cooling hose can cause major engine damage. Therefore, when taking out motor vehicle insurance, customers should ensure that the consequential damage is also insured.

A similar trap lurks in the case of game accidents: Many insurers limit this to hair game in the small print. Then accidents with pheasants, a runaway dog ​​or a cow that has been exploited are not covered. It is better if the insurance conditions state “all animals” or at least “all vertebrates”.

Tip: Customers can save on the partial insurance price by taking out a deductible. We recommend an amount of 150 euros. Even higher deductibles only slightly reduce the price of the policy.

Fully comprehensive insurance – useful for expensive cars
Partial comprehensive insurance is automatically included in the fully comprehensive insurance – supplemented by protection in the event of self-inflicted accidents: Anyone who builds an accident receives repairs to their own car from the fully comprehensive insurance. In addition, it is effective in the event of vandalism, for example when strangers scratch the paint or break off the antenna. The comprehensive insurance also applies if the customer has had an accident through no fault of his own and the perpetrator escapes. It can also save nerves in the event of an accident abroad if there is a dispute with the foreign insurance company (further details in the Special Accident Abroad ).

Those affected can then take advantage of their comprehensive insurance. Then the discount will be downgraded, but if the opposing insurance company pays later, the domestic insurer will cancel it. Fully comprehensive insurance costs on average around 325 euros per year. It is advisable for expensive cars. Most fully comprehensive cars are worth 15,000 euros and more. We think a deductible of 300 euros makes sense.

Non-loss classes – save a lot of money
The non-loss classes are important in car insurance. Those who stay accident-free slide into a cheaper SF class every year. Then the bill is lower. The insurers assign a percentage to each class. That is the share of the basic premium that the customer actually pays. For example, after 15 accident-free years, you are usually classified in the SF 15. For many insurers, this corresponds to a premium rate of 30 percent. The customer therefore only pays a quarter of the basic premium. In practice, this works as a discount for certain age groups: Older drivers, in particular, are in the low-cost SF classes.

Some insurers go up to SF 50 or 60
Some insurers even extend the discount scale especially for them. It usually extends to the damage-free class (SF) 35. It is reached after 35 accident-free years, after which it ends. In many tariffs, only 20 percent of the basic fee is due – a substantial discount. Those who remain without an accident will not be classified better. But some companies continue to SF 50, Verti even up to SF 60. More on the subject in our special non-loss classes.

Tip: If the policy becomes much more expensive after a downgrade, it can be particularly worthwhile to change the car insurer at the end of the year. The motor insurance comparison of the Stiftung Warentest gives you cheap policies.

Downgrading after the accident

Anyone who causes an accident is downgraded – often by several stages. The SF discount then deteriorates significantly. The contribution will not only become more expensive in the following year but also in the years after. Depending on the tariff, this can total several thousand euros. It is often the particularly low-priced tariffs in particular, which step down drastically after an accident (details in the Insurers Long section ). The downgrading is only possible in motor vehicle liability and fully comprehensive – not in partial comprehensive. It does not know SF classes, because it primarily insures damage that the customer cannot influence through his driving style.

Tip: If you have caused a car accident, you can use our demotion calculator free of charge. This enables you to quickly find out whether you should pay for the damage yourself after a crash and thus avoid an uneconomical downgrade. After an accident, it is also important not to blindly rely on the regulatory practice of car insurance. In our special claims processing after a car accident, we shed light on how some companies trick claims settlement.

Accident victims are entitled to a free lawyer and expert
Anyone involved in an accident through no fault of their own can hire a lawyer at the expense of the person who caused the accident, no matter how expensive the damage. The victim may also take his own expert. Here, however, there is a minor limit: As a rule, the damage must be above approximately EUR 1,000. You can find more on this in our Special Own Expert for Claims Settlement.

These car insurance benefits are important
The scope of car insurance can vary depending on the provider and tariff. You can find out what they cost with Stiftung Warentest’s car insurance comparison by selecting or deselecting the various services. Here is a brief overview of the most important benefits of car insurance and our tips:

Coverage. This is important in motor vehicle liability insurance. For a small surcharge, it offers higher cover amounts than those required by law. Choose 50 million euros, better still 100 million euros. Such high levels of damage are rare, but they do occasionally occur.

Car. This is also an addendum to motor vehicle liability. For rental cars abroad, the statutory coverage amounts are low in some vacation countries. With this addition, your own liability insurance increases the coverage for the rented car. More on this in the Specials Rental Cars Abroad and No hassle with the rental car.

Foreign Claims Protection. Also an addition in the motor vehicle liability. If the customer is involved in an accident abroad without fault, his own liability insurer will settle the damage with the foreign company. That saves nerves.

Gross negligence. This clause is important in the case of partial and comprehensive insurance: if the driver has contributed to the damage through gross negligence, partial and comprehensive insurance may reduce or completely cancel out the compensation. Many tariffs offer as an extra the “waiver of gross negligence”. Then they also pay when there is a crash, for example, because the customer has run over a red light.

Replacement value compensation. In partial and comprehensive insurance, customers should pay attention to this clause: new cars in particular quickly lose value, often weeks after they have been bought. If an accident then occurs, there is correspondingly little of partial or fully comprehensive insurance. Therefore, the contract should provide compensation at replacement value. The deadline should be at least twelve months. There is a similar thing for used cars. Then the insurer will replace the purchase price.

Consequential damages. Simple partial insurance tariffs often only insure direct damage, for example the replacement of a hose bitten through by martens. Consequential damage is much more expensive. The driver often does not even notice the leaky radiator hose at first. This can lead to a motor defect. Consequential damage should also be insured.

Wild. Many partial insurance tariffs only pay for game accidents if it was hair game – for example, deer, roe deer, wild boar. Accidents involving a cow or a runaway dog ​​are not included. It is better if the contract says “all animals”. How you best behave in the event of a game accident is described in the Special Game Accidents.

Buyback. With the contract clause “claim repurchase”, the customer has six, often also twelve months to pay for the damage out of his own pocket – even if the insurer has already settled. Then the no-claims discount will not be downgraded.

Driver protection. This is an independent addition to car insurance. If someone is injured in a car accident, the person who pays the vehicle’s liability insurance pays. For example, she pays compensation for pain and loss of earnings. However, liability only bears the cost of the accident victim – not that of the person who caused the accident, who was behind the wheel. He doesn’t get anything himself. In this case, a driver protection policy helps. More on this is in the special driver protection .

This is how you can save on car insurance
First of all: You can usually save a lot by changing providers. The car insurance comparison from Stiftung Warentest gives you cheap and good policies . But even without a change there are a number of savings options:

Deductible. In the comprehensive insurance, we consider a deductible to be sensible. Then the customer has to pay the damage up to this amount out of his own pocket. We recommend a deductible of 150 euros in the partial coverage, 300 euros in the fully comprehensive (including 150 euros in the fully comprehensive). Higher amounts hardly bring any premium advantage. Savings: For the 150 euros deductible, usually 10 to 30 percent, for the 300 euros to 35 percent.

Payment date. Instead of paying quarterly or half-yearly installments, it is more economical to transfer the entire annual account at once. Savings: 5 to 11 percent.

Annual mileage. It is worthwhile to estimate the kilometers that you are likely to drive as accurately as possible. If there are too many kilometers on the speedometer towards the end of the year, it is possible to register them. Savings: At 15,000 km instead of 20,000 km on average 10 to 15 percent. You should actually register more kilometers traveled. Some insurers then recalculate the underpaid premium. Many insurers ask for the mileage every few years. What happens when you cheat on the mileage is in the special What happens when you cheat.

Driver circuit. If only the car owner and the partner drive the car, it is significantly cheaper than an unlimited group of drivers. Then only these two people are allowed to drive. If someone else drives, the insurance coverage does not expire. Rather, the insurer may then request a premium lookup. Some also take a penalty, for example, a half or full annual fee. Savings: Often around 30 to 40 percent compared to an unlimited number of drivers. If, in spite of the limited number of drivers, someone else is allowed to drive behind the wheel, many insurers allow this at no extra charge. The customer must register this in advance. More on this is in the special if the driver is not registered.

Workshop bond. In the case of tariffs linked to a workshop, the customer undertakes to only drive to one of the workshops recommended by the insurer after accidents. Many providers have a dense network of partner companies that offer them affordable prices. Workshop rates are only available in policies. In the case of normal repairs or after an accident through no fault of your own – the opposing insurer regulates this – the customer can choose the workshop. Savings: Usually up to 13 percent.

Telematics. With these special tariffs, a small device measures driving behavior. It is permanently installed or inserted in the cigarette lighter. Instead, some insurers work with apps that can be downloaded to their cell phones. They register full braking, cavalier starts, fast corners, high speeds and more. Careful drivers receive a discount. However, some telematics tariffs are more expensive than cheap normal tariffs of other providers even with the highest discount. Telematics can be a tip for novice drivers. Savings: Often 10 to 30 percent compared to the normal rate of the same insurer. More on telematics tariffs in the special telematics in car insurance.

Occupation discount. Some insurers give discounts to certain occupational groups, especially civil servants and civil servants, but also employees of companies on an equal footing, for example, foundations. Savings: Usually 3 to 15 percent.

Garage. If you park in a garage instead of on the side of the road, you should indicate this. The car doesn’t always have to be there. Exceptions are allowed, for example when visiting friends. Savings: around 7 percent.

Property owners. Those who live in their own house or apartment often receive a discount. Savings: Often around 12 percent.

Type of class. If you are still considering which car you want to buy, you should also pay attention to the type of class. The insurers classify all car models into classes, depending on the usual damage and repair costs. In-vehicle liability there are 16 type classes from 10 to 25, in partial insurance, they range from 10 to 33, in fully comprehensive insurance from 10 to 34. The higher the type class, the more expensive the insurance.

Train passengers. Discounts for BahnCard or monthly cardholders for local transport are rare, but they still exist. Savings: About 2 percent.

Payment date. Do not pay the contribution half or quarterly, but only once a year. That lowers the bill by about 5 to 10 percent.

Original owner. Some companies give first-time owners a discount. They assume that buyers of a new car drive their car with particular care.

Construction year. There is an additional insurance discount for new cars or young used cars.

Children. Some insurers believe that caring for underage children is more careful. They give discounts if children live in the household.

Electric cars. Some insurers give discounts for owners of electric cars, both for pure electric cars and for hybrid models. Savings: Different. Allianz, for example, gives a 20 percent discount.

Eco. Some insurers also offer a discount for a, particularly fuel-efficient car.

Safety training. Participation in driver safety training can also bring a price reduction for some car insurance companies.

Change. A price saving of often well over 100 euros can change the insurer. Even if you have been with an inexpensive provider for years, you can save a lot of money as a new customer at another company – especially during the changeover season in October and November. Car insurance comparison by Stiftung Warentest calls low tariffs.

Saving tips for novice drivers
Car insurance is particularly expensive for novice drivers. It is often worth registering your first car as a parent’s second car. After a few years, the beginner can then have the discount transferred to themselves. More savings tips for beginners.

Savings tips for seniors
Even older drivers are strongly asked to pay by the car insurance companies. They benefit from favorable non-loss classes, which acts as an age rating. But from around 60 years old, the contributions for seniors still increase. Statistics from car insurers show that the risk of accidents increases from this age – but only for small sheet metal damage. Serious accidents involving the elderly are rare. In the special, we explain why this is so and what those affected can do, as older drivers are asked to checkout.

Type classes and regional classes
The region in which car owners live has a strong impact on the price. The insurers classify the 444 different approval districts into regional classes – depending on the claims volume in the past five years. There are 12 classes of vehicle liability, 16 classes of partial insurance and 9 classes of fully comprehensive insurance. The insurer’s invoice indicates which regional class applies at the customer’s location. The frequency of accidents in the respective registration area, the road conditions and the number of registered cars are included in this classification. Theft includes theft, storm and hail damage or the number of game accidents. The price differences can vary considerably depending on the region.

Type class – it depends on the model
It also depends on the particular car model. Some types of cars are often involved in accidents or are particularly expensive to repair. The insurers look at the approximately 26,000 different models that are on the road for damage and repair costs over the past three years. Then the cars are divided into type classes. In motor vehicle liability insurance there are 16 type classes from 10 to 25, in partial comprehensive insurance 24 type classes from 10 to 33, in fully comprehensive insurance 25 type classes from 10 to 34. A look at the type class is particularly recommended for car buyers. There are often big differences in the same car model, depending on the engine. The diesel variants are often more expensive than the petrol engines.

A lot of information in the FAQ car insurance
Our car insurance FAQ answers many other questions relating to vehicle policies. For example, does car insurance with discount protection make sense? And what is the difference to discount protection? Are direct insurers worse at claims settlement? Can grandparents transfer their no-claims discount to grandchildren when they hand in their car? What about special rates for the disabled? What is a workshop tariff?

Compare prices, change and save
Our car insurance tariff calculator helps you
There is enormous competitive pressure in motor insurance. Especially in autumn, providers try to chase customers away from each other – especially by lowering prices for new customers. It is therefore worthwhile to compare prices every year. The car insurance comparison from Stiftung Warentest helps here. Changing the car insurer is not difficult. We explain what you have to pay attention to step by step here.

Step 1: scheduling
Cancel on time. Most contracts run through December 31 and then automatically renew for a year. Then the notice of termination must be with the insurer by November 30th. It is different from the few contracts that always end during the year on the date on which the insurance was taken out. The notice period expires one month before this date. An informal letter is sufficient: “I hereby give notice.” Don’t forget the signature, contract number and license plate number. Also ask for confirmation of termination. If none comes, send the whole thing again, this time by registered mail.

Missed the appointment? The annual accounts usually come in October or November. Sometimes, however, only in December. If you wait so long, you have missed the notice date and will remain committed to the insurer for another year. If the annual invoice has not arrived by mid-November at the latest, you should cancel in advance. If it later turns out that the previous insurer is the cheapest, you can simply take out a new policy there. There is usually a special discount for new customers.

Tickle out the loyalty bonus. If you don’t want to take the trouble of switching, you can also call the insurer. Often the hint is enough that you have a cheaper offer elsewhere and are considering changing – some clerks will conjure up a loyalty bonus or something similar.

Your rights. If your insurer has increased the premium, you may terminate the contract extraordinarily with one month’s notice from receipt of the invoice – i.e. also after November 30th. As a rule, there is a comparative contribution to the annual financial statements. This is the amount you would have had to pay if the new no-claims discount had already applied in the previous year. If the comparison contribution is below the new contribution, the price has been increased. Take a closer look: some providers hide the comparison contribution in the small print.

Step 2: define services
Check your insurance coverage. Motor vehicle liability is sufficient for old cars of low value. For well-preserved used cars, partial coverage should be added in order to be insured at least in the event of storm damage, broken glass, and theft. Fully comprehensive insurance makes sense for expensive cars. Individual benefits are also important, such as the insurer’s waiver of gross negligence, expansion of game damage coverage to all animals (not just hair game), insurance for consequential damage after marten bites, as well as compensation for replacement values ​​for at least twelve months.

Step 3: Compare prices with a car insurance comparison
The price pressure on the market for car insurance is enormous. Around 70 companies offer policies. The price often depends heavily on individual characteristics such as age, job, place of residence, annual kilometers, car model. Therefore, even a tariff, which is otherwise rather cheap, can be expensive in individual cases. Only an individual price comparison helps. The Stiftung Warentest offers you an independent car insurance comparison. We determine the policies that suit you and save you the most.

Step 4: sign a new contract
After that, it is time to conclude a new contract. You can write to the insurer by post and ask for an offer or go to a branch. The conclusion via the Internet is particularly easy. On the screen, the insurers immediately state the price for the new contract. The customer receives the policy by post a few days later.

Compulsory acceptance in motor vehicle liability, not in comprehensive insurance
Most car owners can follow this pattern. It can be different with particularly expensive cars. There is compulsory acceptance in motor vehicle liability. The insurers have to take every customer. But not in the hull: you can reject applications. In practice, this is extremely rare. But this can happen with particularly expensive cars. Some insurers do not offer fully comprehensive insurance for cars with a value of more than 60,000 euros or take additional charges. Others are not based on the price, but on the type class. Owners of such cars should first take care of a new contract and only then terminate the existing policy.

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