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Dummies' guide to car insurance

September 23, 2009 13:53 IST
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All of us having motor vehicles have to go through the yearly ritual of buying insurance on our car. This article attempts to demystify the jargons of motor insurance and processes involved.

The basic jargon:

Insured: Owner of the private car

Insurer: The insurance company

Under the provision of the Motor Vehicles Act all vehicles -- owned by individuals -- should be covered by an insurance policy. The car insurance policy can be either

  • Third party or
  • Comprehensive insurance policy.

Third party car insurance policy covers only the inter-alia accountability of the vehicle owner for loss or damage to life or property of the third parties.

Whereas comprehensive car insurance policy covers in addition to third party accountability, loss or damage to the vehicle itself by way of accident, theft, etc. and other specified dangers.

Motor insurance policy covers

Section 1 - Loss of or damage to the vehicle insured

The company will reimburse the insured against the loss or damage to the vehicle insured for the following:

  • by fire, explosion, self ignition or lightning
  • by burglary, housebreaking or theft
  • by riot & strike
  • by earthquake
  • by flood, typhoon, hurricane, storm, tempest, inundation, cyclone
  • by accidental external means
  • by malicious act
  • by terrorist activity
  • whilst in transit by road, rail, inland-waterway, lift, elevator or air
  • by land slide, rockslide

Cost of protection to the nearest car repair service - Rs 1500.

Vehicle valuation

The car is neither to be insured for reinstatement value nor for depreciated value. It is to be insured for second-hand value in the local market for a similar type of car for a similar model. In the event of loss, the liability of insurance company is the maximum compared to the market value or the amount of insurance whichever is less.

Factors determining premium of a car

  • Cubic capacity
  • Year of car
  • Geographical location
  • Value of car proposed
  • Various extensions opted for

What does company pay in case of claim for comprehensive cover?

In case of an accident, the insurance company pays for cost of damaged parts which are to be replaced and the labour cost to repair the vehicle.

Will I be eligible for complete reimbursement?

No, it is all subject to a deduction or depreciation at the rates mentioned below in respect of parts replaced


For all rubber/nylon/plastic parts



For fiber glass components



For all parts made of glass


For all other parts depreciation will be as below

Age of the vehicle

% of Depreciation

Below 6 months


6-12 months


1-2 Years


2-3 Years


3-4 Years


4-5 Years


5-10 Years


Exceeding 10 Years


The insurance company will not be liable to make any payment in respect of:

  • Consequential loss, depreciation, wear and tear, mechanical or electrical breakdown, failures or breakages
  • Damage to tyre and tubes unless the vehicle is damaged at the same time, in which case the liability of the company shall be limited to 50 per cent of the cost of replacement
  • Any accidental loss or damage suffered whist the insured or any person  driving the vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs

Section II - Liability to third parties

  • Death of or bodily injury to any person including occupants carried in the vehicle (provided the occupants are not carried for hire or reward)
  • Damage to the property other than property belonging to the insured

Section III - Personal accident cover for owner diver

Due to bodily injury/death sustained by the owner-driver of the vehicle by violent accidental external and visible means which independent of any other cause shall within six calendar months of such injury results in

Sl. No

Nature of injury

Scale of Compensation





Loss of two limbs or sight of two eyes or one limb & sight of one eye



Loss of one limb or sight of one eye



Permanent total disablement from injuries other than named above


Apart from the above covers the private car insurance policy can include the following endorsements at discounts and payment of additional premium:

  • Discount for membership of recognised automobile associations
  • Installation of anti-theft device
  • Personal accident cover to the insured or any named person other than paid driver or cleaner
  • Personal accident to unnamed passenger other than insured and the paid driver and cleaner
  • Personal accident cover to paid drivers


It means the minimum amount which cannot be claimed:

  • Compulsory deductible - Rs 500 for each and every claim
  • Voluntary deductible - The client whilst taking a policy can decide on voluntary deductibles through which the insured may avail a discount on the premium
  • Legal liability to employees of the insured other than paid driver who may be traveling or driving in the employers car

The sample insurance policy detailed above is the traditional insurance policy still operated in India. Few insurance companies like Cholamandalam, TATA AIG have launched new motor insurance policies which cover even depreciation, loss of driving license, daily allowance whilst at the garage.
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