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Tony Levene is a renowned financial journalist, who has previously been a columnist for Guardian Money. He has written several books, including 'Investing for Dummies' and won the ABI Lifetime Achievement award and the Headline Money award.


New rules for your car cover

Ever felt tempted to put off renewing your motor insurance because you were on a long holiday and the car was out of the way on your drive? If you have, you can't do so any longer.

From 20th June 2011, failing to renew motor insurance could mean a fine of up to £1,000 and the car going to the crusher – and that can apply even if the vehicle is locked away in a garage with its wheels removed.

The new rule is called Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) and it's the biggest legal change to motor cover since insurance was made obligatory nearly 80 years ago.

If you own a car, it must now be insured at least against third party risks at all times whether it’s on the road or off, unless the owner has made a formal Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

There will be constant comparisons between the DVLA register of vehicle keepers and the Motor Insurers Database (MID). And when there is a mismatch, owners will be sent warning letters to remind them of
the new law.

Quotation MarksThe new rule is called Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE).Quotation Marks

But if they fail then to buy a policy, they face firstly an automatic £100 penalty followed by the more drastic clamping, seizure and possible destruction of the vehicle and a criminal court prosecution with a fine of up to £1,000.

As these penalties can apply to vehicles on private land, they are additional to existing police powers which have focused on moving vehicles on roads – you previously had to be stopped and found without a valid insurance certificate to face prosecution.

Drivers who fall foul of CIE, even the “forgetful”, may face a fine.

Why is this change being made?

CIE is the latest salvo in the long running battle to ensure all motorists are covered – currently it’s estimated that around one in twenty-five drivers are driving uninsured at any one time. That's down from the one in twelve driving without cover in the 1990s but it still represents a major cost for the
legitimate majority.

Uninsured drivers are thought more likely to cause accidents mainly because they tend to be younger and drive less roadworthy cars. According to the Motor Insurers Bureau Stay Insured campaign, claims for injuries they cause, 160 deaths and 23,000 injuries last year, add around £30 to each legitimate motor policy. Claims resulting from these deaths and injuries are met by the Motor Insurers' Bureau which  is funded by the insurance industry.

The MIB does not pay for damage to innocent cars or other property caused by uninsured drivers. The new law frees police time to chase those who have no tax, insurance, MoT or even registration documents.

Some car insurance policies have a built-in automatic renewal via direct debits. But these arrangements can be problematic if your circumstances change and you fail to notify the insurer – you could be locked into an unsuitable or poor value policy.

The only way out of CIE is SORN – the mechanism already used to cancel the road tax disc if you take a vehicle off the road. You can apply for a SORN at a post office – ask for form V14 or online at

You can also check the Motor Insurer's database to see if your car, van or motorbike is shown as covered. It's free of charge at

This new law does not apply in Northern Ireland.

For further tips and advice, please see our quick guide (PDF).

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