You’ve got your driving licence. You’ve bought or leased your first car. But there are three important things you have to have in place before you can legally drive on the UK’s roads.

One of these is an MOT to demonstrate if the car is fit to be driven or if it needs repair.

The second is Vehicle Excise Duty or car tax.

But you also need to arrange suitable insurance coverage. This is not an optional extra: every driver must have an insurance policy in place.

Why is car insurance needed?

Car insurance is needed – at a minimum – to protect other people in the event of a car accident. In the UK, it has been the law that all drivers on public roads must have third-party vehicle insurance since 1930. This is insurance that would cover another driver or person if you happen to hit them or be involved in an accident with them.

Most drivers choose to insure their cars with a policy that is bigger than third-party. It is normal for many people to take out fully comprehensive insurance coverage. These sorts of insurance policies mean that you are also covered for damage to your own car if it is involved in an accident, as well as covered for damages to the other vehicle.

Which vehicles do NOT need to have insurance in place?

Vehicles which are only driven on private roads or fields do not need to have insurance in place. However, private land to which the public has a reasonable right of access (like supermarket car parks during opening hours) also requires insurance to be in place.

The only other exception to needing insurance is if a vehicle has a SORN certificate. A ‘Statutory Off Road Notification’ (SORN) is a document issued by the DVLA for vehicles that are declared off the road. For example, if you are storing a car in a garage and not intending to drive it you can apply for a SORN. This is done directly with Driving Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA). A SORN means you will not have to pay car tax while it remains off the road.

How can you discover if a vehicle is insured?

If you want to find out if a vehicle is insured, then you can look at the askMID database.

What is askMID?

All of the vehicle insurers in the UK have pooled together their records on car insurance in the Motor Insurance Database (MID). So askMID is the web page which allows people to access this pooled information to find out whether a car is insured or not.

Any company which offers motor insurance in the UK must be a member of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) and also is required by law to share data with the MID.

How do the authorities and police use askMID?

The askMID database is comprehensive that is used by those checking cars are insured. This includes both the Driving Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) and the police force. The police have linked askMID with their Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. They can then work out which cars or other vehicles are not properly insured.

The ‘continuous insurance enforcement’ system is created under UK law and is the legal framework which the police and DVLA enforce.

If you are pulled over by the police who suspect you of not having car insurance, then the situation is serious. Always remember it’s your responsibility to prove you have it, not theirs to prove you don’t.

How often is askMID updated?

The Motor Insurance Database (MID) aims to update its contents every 48 hours. However, in some circumstances, it can take up to 7 days for the system to be updated.  This means that if your policy does not appear on askMID it might be because it is so new.

But what if your car insurance policy is over a week old and still isn’t showing up during an askMID check? If this happens, then contact your insurance provider and make sure the policy is correct. Also, check with them that they have passed on your insurance details to askMID.

What are the penalties and fines for not having car insurance?

If you are suspected of driving a car without insurance, the penalties will follow a staged approach:

  • You will receive an Insurance Advisory Letter (IAL) that will ask you to prove you have car insurance.
  • If you cannot prove you have car insurance then there is a fixed penalty notice of £100. There is also a good chance your vehicle is clamped and it will cost another £150 to get it unclamped.
  • In more extreme cases, the vehicle can be seized and this will also bring six points to your driving licence.
  • The most serious breaches of car insurance law will also result in a court prosecution and a maximum fine of £1000.

Whatever stage you deal with an IAL, it may still impact on the costs of future insurance. Because you have a track record of failing to insure your car properly it will probably be more expensive than if you had stayed within the law.

How can you check insurance coverage on askMID?

We have built an online tool which can check the askMID database to find out if a vehicle is properly insured.

To get an accurate report, all you need is a car registration number. It includes numbers and letters and is found on the front and rear of the vehicle. Your registration number or number plate is also sometimes referred to as your VRM (Vehicle Registration Mark).

Just type in the required car registration number below and a vehicle insurance history will be created that tells you the insurance status of a vehicle.

You will also need to tick the box and confirm that you’ve read the Data Protection Declaration.

How reliable is our askMID check?

We take our data straight from the official askMID database. This means it is totally reliable, very up-to-date, and can be used with confidence.

Can you use askMID to check if someone else has valid insurance?

Yes, the askMID database is open to everyone.

Why would you search askMID to find out about a vehicle you do not own?

This can be crucial if you have been involved in an accident and then want to check if the third party involved in that accident has valid insurance.

If you search askMID for details on a vehicle which you do not own, the process of searching is totally private. This means that the third party won’t be made aware of your search.

To use our askMID check tool, just type in the required car registration number below and a vehicle insurance history will be created that tells you the insurance status of a vehicle.

You will also need to tick the box and confirm that you’ve read the Data Protection Declaration.

What happens if another person’s vehicle is involved in an accident but isn’t covered by askMID?

If you find out that another person’s vehicle has been involved in an accident but isn’t covered by askMID, don’t despair.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) has developed a fund which compensates the victims of road crashes caused by uninsured or untraced motorists.

Can you check either your MOT or road tax on askMID?

No, you can only check on car insurance on askMID. If you want to check your road tax or MOT status you can use our tool here.

What happens to your car insurance if your vehicle has failed its MOT?

Your car insurance is linked to the road safety of a vehicle. This means it will no longer be valid once your MOT has expired. So if you are arrested for driving without an MOT, then you could also be charged with driving without valid insurance.

What does a car write-off mean?

Writing a car off is a decision taken by an insurance company. They use it to classify whether it is possible to take insurance on a vehicle.

The ‘write off’ is basically the decision not to insure the car further by an insurer. The reasons for writing a car off will vary, but the two main ones are:

  • That the car has been involved in an accident and is so badly damaged that it isn’t safe to drive. In these circumstances, the insurance company will sometimes insist the car is scrapped too.
  • The car has been damaged but the cost of repairing it is deemed higher than the value of the car.

Your insurance company will let you know if your car is a write-off or not. The decision to write off a vehicle or not is theirs.

Written-off cars do not need insurance if they are not going to be driven again. However, if they can be repaired then they will need to be insured again.

Does writing off a car mean it cannot be driven and insured again?

Cars that have been written off but are still safe to be driven if they are properly repaired.

They can then be insured with another insurance company and driven. They can also be sold on, often to used car dealers.