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GAP insurance can give you useful financial protection on an expensive car purchase. We’ve teamed up with ALA Insurance to explain the ins and outs

When you’re buying a new car or an expensive used car, you’ll probably be offered GAP Insurance. Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance – to give it the full title – can protect you from possible financial loss if your car is stolen or written-off.

So, what exactly is GAP Insurance, and when should you pay extra for it? We've partnered with ALA Insurance to give you the low-down.

What does GAP insurance offer?

If your new car is stolen or written off, your regular insurance policy will only reimburse you the car’s current market value – not what you originally paid for it. On average, new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first 12 months and around 60% over three years, so you could end up feeling out of pocket. 

To redress that loss, GAP insurance covers the shortfall between the car's purchase price and the amount your insurer will pay out in the event of a total loss. 

GAP insurance can be used to cover cars up to 10 years old, but is most useful for cars up to three years old which experience the fastest depreciation. Most independent GAP insurance providers will offer cover for up to four years, while dealer-supplied GAP insurance cover is limited to three years.

When should you buy GAP insurance?

GAP insurance isn't compulsory, and bear in mind that many comprehensive car insurance policies will replace a brand-new car if it’s written off in the first year anyway, so check with your insurer before buying GAP insurance on top. GAP insurance can be worth having under certain circumstances, though:

1) If you're buying on finance or with a big personal loan, GAP insurance will help to cover any shortfall if the car is a total loss while you're still paying for it.

2) If the car you're buying is likely to depreciate heavily, GAP insurance can help to make up the difference between an insurance payout and the cost of a replacement vehicle.

3) If your car is on a lease or contract hire deal and it’s stolen or written off, you could face a bill for any outstanding finance, as well as covering the vehicle's market value. GAP insurance will help to protect you.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there can be a time limit for getting a GAP insurance policy – sometimes as short as within three months of acquiring your new car. Equally, some major insurers are no longer offering to replace a brand-new car as part of their policy terms and conditions. So, make sure you read the small print.

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Which type of GAP insurance do you need?

Not all GAP insurance is created equal, so it's important to find the best policy to suit your car purchase and ownership case. The most widely offered types of GAP insurance fall into five main categories:

Finance GAP insurance: this helps you pay off any outstanding finance if your car is written off. It's one of the most basic types of GAP cover, and it’s worth noting that policies with broader cover are likely to include finance cover anyway.

Return to invoice cover: pays out the difference between the price you paid for your new car and the amount you receive from your car insurance policy in the event of a total loss.

Vehicle replacement GAP insurance: this goes a step further than return to invoice cover. Instead of bumping up your overall payout to the amount you initially paid for your new car, it pays out enough to buy a brand-new replacement in the same specification, even if the model's list price has since gone up (which they tend to do annually). It is the most expensive type of cover.

Return-to-value (or Agreed Value) GAP insurance: this is a fallback policy for customers who don’t qualify for standard GAP insurance policies, and is best-suited  for more expensive cars that have been bought privately, or have been kept for a long-enough period to be ineligible for other policies. The payout is based on an agreed valuation at the time of the initial quote for cover. 

Lease GAP insurance: useful for when you lease a car. It helps to pay off the rest of the contract, and any early settlement fees, if the car is a total loss.

Don’t forget to read the small print

If you've bought a new car in the past few years you have probably been offered GAP insurance by the salesperson. But it can be significantly cheaper to buy the cover direct from an insurance company, broker or comparison site, so always shop around.

Note that since the Financial Conduct Authority stepped in back in 2015, car dealers are no longer allowed to try to sell you GAP insurance on the same day they sell you a car – they have to wait at least two clear days. They also have to explain the total cost of the policy, its key benefits and its exclusions, and also to make it clear you can buy the cover elsewhere. 

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The main things to look out for are the length of cover, the excess, any exclusions, the claims process and the cancellation process.

Pre-approval is best avoided, too. This stops you from accepting total loss payout offer from your car's insurer without the consent of the GAP insurer. It can be used by less scrupulous GAP insurers to delay payment, or – in a worst-case scenario – reject the claim completely.

In short, always read the small print before committing to a policy.

Click here to learn more about the car-related services from ALA Insurance, and get a 12% discount on GAP insurance with the code AUTOCAR12

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