What is a Certificate of Motor Insurance?

Of all the documentation issued by motor insurers, the Certificate of Motor Insurance stands alone as the most important document. Its primary purpose is to provide evidence that at least the minimum level of insurance cover required by the Road Traffic Act is in place on a given vehicle. According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, “a policy of insurance shall be of no effect until (a certificate) is delivered by the insurer to the person by whom the policy is effected.’

What information is in a Certificate of Motor Insurance?

All certificates of private motor insurance follow a prescribed form as laid out in the Motor Vehicles Regulations 1972, in order to assist authorities. They must be written in black and white, contain no advertisements, but enclose the following required pieces of information:

  • Certificate number
  • Name and address of the insurance company
  • Registration of vehicle
  • Name of policyholder
  • Class of use
  • Inception and end date of the insurance policy.
  • Persons entitled to drive        

What is a Certificate of Motor Insurance used for?

In addition to serving as proof of valid car insurance on UK roads, the certificate also acts as adequate evidence that the required minimum level of motor insurance is in place on the vehicle when driving in the EU.

The certificate has rendered the Green Card virtually obsolete for European travel.  Obtaining a Green Card is now only required if driving through the countries that are not members of the EU or who have not signed up to the EU Directive (see Driving Abroad articles).

Traditionally, the certificate served as an essential document that motorists needed to produce in order to tax their vehicle, as it was proof that insurance was in place.  This all changed toward the end of 2013, as together with the much-publicised planned removal of tax discs, the Government decided it was no longer a requirement to produce a valid insurance certificate when taxing the vehicle either online or at the Post Office – instead, there is now an electronic insurance check carried out through cross-referencing the registration number with the DVLA and the insurance industry’s databases (MID). The changes, once fully implemented, should drastically cut down on paperwork when renewing vehicle tax.

Do you need to return your Certificate of Motor Insurance if you cancel your policy?

During the cancellation of an insurance contract, the certificate once again plays an important role. In order to complete the cancellation process and have any refund processed, the certificate must be returned or ‘surrendered’.  In accordance with the Road Traffic Act, if the certificate was delivered by post, then the insured wishing to cancel must return the certificate to the company that issued it within 7 days of the cancellation date If for whatever reason the certificate has been lost or destroyed, then the insured will need to complete and sign a statutory declaration confirming the certificate is no longer in existence.

With the advent of certificates being delivered electronically through email, the rules on surrendering certificates when cancelling are slightly altered. There is still a requirement to return the certificate, however, this must be done by emailing a copy of the certificate to a given address stated by the insurance company.

If a copy of the electronic certificate no longer exists then an email containing a written statement from the insured confirming that they no longer have possession of the certificate will suffice. Failure to surrender the certificate in the proscribed manner may result in the insurer refusing to process the cancellation and/or any refund that may be due.                         

The certificate of insurance is therefore a very important document and should be treated as such.