Any driver who has been involved in a car accident or car theft knows how thoroughly it can disrupt your life. The last things you need to worry about are extra costs for car hire, taxis or public transport. If you’re going to be without a car for even a few days, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “Does my insurance provide me with a courtesy car?

Other questions usually follow: “What sort of car am I entitled to? How long can I keep it?

As with so many other questions relating to car insurance, the answers aren’t always straightforward. Usually, it depends on your individual policy. Here’s some essential information to help you understand how things work.

Standard or optional courtesy car

Some insurance companies include a courtesy car as a standard feature if a policyholder’s car is involved in an accident. If so, the premium automatically includes the cost. In other cases, you can choose to add this on as an optional extra.

You should check any quote to find out what’s included and what you might have to pay extra for.

Is it worth it as an optional extra?

The cost for including the extra cover is usually not high. The expense will be much lower than you’d pay if you hired a vehicle yourself, even for a couple of days. When you consider that your own car could be off the road for two to three weeks, it’s a reasonable cost.

Many drivers also prefer the peace of mind it brings to know that they won’t be without a car if the worst happens. With everything else going on, they don’t have to make the car hire arrangements, either.

What sort of courtesy car will I get?

Always check your policy wording. You’re probably not guaranteed a like-for-like vehicle unless you’ve paid extra for that level of replacement vehicle cover.

At the very lowest level of cover, some policies don’t guarantee a courtesy car at all. If demand is high and the repair centre doesn’t have a suitable car available, you might not get one. Other agreements will guarantee your entitlement to a basic courtesy car, which could be a small, 1000cc hatchback.

If you absolutely must have a larger car, or you want a higher spec vehicle than the basic model that is the norm for a replacement courtesy car, look for a package that gives you those options.  Be prepared to pay a little extra, though.

How long can I keep a courtesy car?

A courtesy car is usually only available whilst repairs are being completed or until a write-off settlement is agreed. A limit will be set, however; a maximum of 14 or 21 consecutive days is most common, if you have more than one accident in a 12-month period of insurance, there may also be a limit to the number of days in total that you’re entitled to a replacement car. Some insurers set a limit of 21 to 28 days.

Before purchasing any new policy, make sure you check the Terms and Conditions, as every insurer has their own rules and exclusions.