You must have motor insurance to drive your vehicle on Irish roads.
Motor insurance is principally intended to protect you against liability in the event of an accident. In its most basic form, it will cover the costs of the other driver's property and injuries if you are found at fault for an accident. If you are involved in an accident and found not to be at fault, the insurance of the responsible party will cover your costs.
Upon buying a motor insurance policy from an insurance company, you will receive an insurance disc and a certificate of insurance. You must clearly display a current insurance disc on your vehicle at all times when driving and you must produce a current certificate of insurance to pay motor tax.
This document aims to provide practical guidance and advice on how motor insurance works in Ireland. It includes information on:
- Types of insurance cover
- Cost of insurance cover
- How to shop for insurance
- Motor insurance and driving abroad
- Brexit and driving in Northern Ireland and the UK
You can access detailed guidance on what you must do if you are involved in a road traffic collision on An Garda Síochána’s website. The Government of Ireland has also published information on how to make an insurance claim if you are involved in a road traffic accident.
Brexit and driving in Northern Ireland and the UK
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, there will be no change in the current system of insurance recognition which has operated between the Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, until 31 December 2020. You can find further information on Brexit and Green Cards from the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).
Types of insurance cover
There are 3 types of motor insurance available in Ireland:
- Third party
- Third party fire and theft
- Comprehensive insurance
Which you choose will depend on the level of cover you require and how much you are willing to pay.
If you are involved in an accident and are at fault, third party insurance will only compensate the other parties involved. This could be for damage to their vehicle or any injuries that they sustain (including your passengers). You will not receive any compensation for damage to your vehicle or injury to your person.
Third party insurance provides no cover for loss or damage to your vehicle due to fire or theft.
Third party fire and theft
Third party fire and theft is the most popular type of motor insurance in Ireland. It provides the same level of cover as third party but with added cover if your vehicle is stolen or damaged by fire. If you are at fault for an accident, third party, fire and theft will not cover you for damages to your vehicle or any injuries that you sustain.
Comprehensive insurance is, in most cases, the most expensive coverage on the market. It provides the same cover as third party fire and theft; however, it also allows you to claim for accidental damage to your own vehicle, no matter who is to blame in the case of a collision.
But although comprehensive insurance generally provides you with the most cover in the event of an accident, such policies typically only cover the cost of damage to the vehicle and do not compensate drivers for injuries to their person.
Driving without insurance
Failure to have motor insurance or driving without insurance in Ireland is generally punishable by:
- A fine of up to €5,000
- 5 penalty points; and
- At the discretion of the court, a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months.
The court may decide that you be disqualified from driving instead of incurring penalty points. In that case, you will be disqualified for 2 years or more for a first offence and 4 years or more in the case of a second offence committed within 3 years of the first.
You should note that where a member of An Garda Síochána believes that a vehicle registered in Ireland (or outside Ireland) is being used in a public place without insurance, the vehicle may be impounded.
Accidents involving an uninsured driver
In the case of accidents with uninsured or untraced drivers, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) is the body which compensates the victims.
At the same time, any claim for personal injury must be sent to the Personal Injuries Assessment Boar (PIAB). This is the statutory body which provides independent assessment of personal injury compensation for victims of workplace, motor and public liability accidents.
Cost of insurance cover
An insurance premium is the monthly or annual payment you make to an insurance company to keep your policy active.
The cost of your premium is determined principally by the level of risk an insurer considers you to pose as a driver. In some cases, an insurer may impose an extra charge to a standard premium to reflect any additional risk assumed. This is referred to as a ‘loading’.
You must disclose all relevant information to an insurer when initially buying or renewing your insurance. Otherwise, the policy you purchase may subsequently be deemed null and void. If you are unsure whether certain facts are relevant, you should disclose them to the insurer and it is then up to the insurer to decide.
Factors that determine the cost of your insurance
Insurance companies will consider the following factors in calculating the cost of your premium:
Experience. In general, the less experience you have as a driver, the higher your premium is likely to be. Whether you are driving on a full or provisional licence makes a huge difference to the cost of your motor insurance premium. If you only have a provisional licence, you can expect to pay hundreds of euro extra on your premium.
Claims history. All insurance companies will ask if you have ever had insurance in your own name before. If not, they will ask if you have ever driven under someone else's insurance without incident. This will be taken into account when calculating a premium. Insurance becomes less expensive with experience and a clean driving record.
Where you live. Those living in a major city, particularly Dublin, will normally have a loading imposed. Some companies will also impose a loading if the vehicle is not kept in a garage or driveway at night.
Size of your vehicle. The larger your vehicle’s engine, the more expensive it will be to insure. This owes to the fact that, statistically, the faster and more powerful your vehicle is, the more likely it is to be involved in an accident.
Age of your vehicle. The older your vehicle, the more difficult it can be to insure. Many insurance companies believe that older vehicles are more accident-prone.
Value of your vehicle. The value of a vehicle is taken into account when calculating a premium for third party fire and theft, and comprehensive insurance. A new vehicle is more expensive to replace than an old vehicle and will cost more to insure.
Your age. The young and the old are considered by insurance companies to represent high-risk categories of driver and are consequently obliged to pay higher premiums.
Profession and use. A standard motor insurance policy will only cover the vehicle for social, domestic and pleasure purposes, but not for the carriage of goods. If the vehicle is being used for business purposes, then a loading will apply. If the vehicle is being used commercially, then an even higher loading will be imposed.
Level of cover required. In most cases, third party insurance will incur a lower premium than third party fire and theft cover, while comprehensive insurance is generally the most expensive form of cover. Many insurers also offer optional extra forms of cover that increase the cost of your premium. These additional forms of cover may include: no claims bonus protection, windscreen cover, damaged or stolen personal items, emergency and recovery service, and cover for a rental vehicle in the event of your own vehicle being off the road.
Excess. Most insurance policies contain some type of an excess clause. This means that you are liable for an agreed amount towards the cost of any claim (e.g., the first 250 euro). You will not be able to claim for amounts less than the excess. In most cases, opting to pay a high excess on claims lowers the cost of your premium.
Note: insurers can no longer quote a different price for motor insurance based on gender.
What is a no-claims bonus and how does it work?
Most insurers offer a premium discount for motorists with a claims free record: this is referred to as a ‘no claims bonus’ or a ‘no claims discount’. You are typically awarded a percentage discount on your premium on a sliding upward scale for each year of claims free driving up to a maximum of five years. The ceiling for a no claims bonus is usually around 60%, leaving someone who has never had a claim with only 40% to pay.
Your no claims bonus can be transferred from one insurance company to another, and from one vehicle to another. However, each no claims bonus is specific to one vehicle at a time; therefore, if you have two vehicles, you will need to work up a no claims bonus for each vehicle. If you have no insurance in your own name for 2 or more years, many insurers will not give you your no claims discount when you reapply for insurance cover.
If you are refused motor insurance
Individual insurers have the right to refuse you cover, but they must provide you with a reason for the refusal should you ask for one. If you have been refused cover, you are entitled to go to the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland who will obtain an insurance quotation for you. In order for the Committee to consider your case you must first have sought and been refused quotations in writing from at least three insurers.
How to shop for insurance
Before buying motor insurance, you should shop around and get quotes from a number of different companies to identify the policy that best meets your needs and budget.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CPCC) has published a useful checklist (pdf) you can use to compare the policies offered by different insurers, as well as detailed guidance on practical steps you can take to cut the cost of your premium. This includes:
- Paying your insurance in one go
- Getting your full driving licence
- Avoiding driving convictions and penalty points
- Parking your vehicle in a secure location
- Adding experienced named drivers to your policy
- Paying a higher excess
- Avoiding using your personal vehicle for professional purposes
If you are a young driver, you should consider joining a parent's insurance policy as a named driver. This will enable you to establish a safety record and may reduce the cost of your premium in the future. Some companies offer discounts to young people seeking insurance in their own name if they have been a named driver.
However, you must not engage in the practice of ‘fronting’; that is, where the main driver of a vehicle (typically a son or daughter) declares a more experienced driver as the main driver (usually a parent) to reduce the cost of their insurance premium. Fronting is illegal and can result in the cancellation of your motor insurance policy or a fraud conviction.
You may wish to consult an insurance broker (or ‘intermediary’) when searching for the policy that best meets your needs. Regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, the role of an insurance broker is to provide expert, impartial advice to individuals and businesses seeking to purchase insurance. They may also be employed to negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of their clients to get the best possible deal. You can search a database of registered insurance brokers throughout Ireland.
Renewing your motor insurance
In most cases, you will need to renew your insurance policy every 12 months. This can generally be done online, in person or over the phone. Be aware that premiums frequently change at the point of renewal so it pays to shop around and get quotes from different companies before renewing your policy with the same insurer.
Your motor insurance company must issue your insurance renewal notice at least 20 working days before the date of expiry of your insurance policy. Your no claims discount certificate also be included with the renewal notice. You will need this certificate if you want to renew your motor insurance with a different insurance company.
When your insurance is due for renewal, your insurance provider must give you:
- Details of the premium paid for motor insurance in the previous year
- Quotations for all the policy options available to you, such as comprehensive, third party fire and theft, and third party only
Motor insurance and driving abroad
Driving in the EU
In general, if you buy a motor insurance policy from an EU-based insurance company you will have the minimum compulsory level of insurance required to drive in any EU country. However, you should always tell your insurance company if you plan to take your vehicle abroad and check with them what exactly is covered on your policy.
You can usually take your car for up to 31 days to another EU member state for no extra charge. Your existing cover can be extended for stays of up to 60 or 90 days duration but you may have to pay an additional fee for this cover. You may also wish to pay for additional forms cover while driving abroad, such as break down assistance.
Find out more about your rights and entitlements if you are involved in a road traffic collision with an insured or uninsured driver in another EU member state.
Driving outside the EU
If you wish to drive your car in a non-EU country, you should check with your insurer to find out about what you need to do to make sure that you are covered in the relevant jurisdiction.
In some cases, your insurer will issue you with a Green Card. The Green Card system is a protection mechanism for victims of cross-border road traffic accidents consisting of 48 member countries. The Green Card demonstrates to local law enforcement authorities that you have the minimum compulsory level of insurance required to drive legally in a participating jurisdiction.
The Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) has published detailed guidance on Green Cards.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman deals with complaints and disputes between policyholders and their insurance companies when the company's complaints procedure fails to resolve the problem. The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman's decision is binding, if you are unsatisfied with the decision you may take your case to the High Court.
The Insurance Information Service (IIS) is an information and complaints service operated by the Insurance Ireland, which many insurance companies in Ireland belong to. Its purpose is to answer policyholders' questions and help them resolve problems. It has no binding powers and complaints that cannot be resolved are generally referred to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
If you have been refused a quotation for motor insurance, you can email the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland who will help you obtain a motor insurance quotation.
The Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland exists to compensate genuine victims of uninsured and untraced driving in Ireland. It fulfils a further European role to ensure claims arising from foreign motoring in Ireland or Irish motorists abroad are properly handled and settled.
You can find more information on motor insurance on ccpc.ie. You can also access detailed information on: