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19th September 2023

Car insurance jargon busting: all your questions answered

SORN, black box, excess… are you baffled by car insurance jargon? This blog makes plain English of all the confusing words and phrases you might hear.

Car Insurance from just £125 per year

When it comes to renewing or acquiring new car insurance, it can be a nightmare to understand the jargon used by insurance companies and which type of cover you will need. 

In this blog we answer all your questions about the jargon you hear when trying to negotiate your new motor insurance deal.

What does excess mean in insurance?

Excess is the amount of money that you pay in the event you need to make a claim before you’re given your payout by the insurer. There are two types of excess. 

Compulsory excess, which is the amount you have to pay depending on your age, driving experience and type of car, and voluntary excess, which is the amount you set that is added to your compulsory excess. This can lead to cheaper insurance premiums.

car insurance

What does ‘insurance group’ mean?

Insurers rank every car into an insurance group between 1 and 50 which helps determine how much you will pay for insurance. Cars in group 1 are the cheapest to insure, while those in group 50 are the most expensive. The more powerful and luxurious cars are in the higher groups. 

You can often lower the cost of your insurance by choosing to drive a car in a lower insurance group. 

What does comprehensive insurance mean?

Comprehensive car insurance, also known as fully comprehensive or fully comp, is the highest level of cover you can take out for your vehicle. It provides all the cover and benefits of third party, fire and theft (TPFT) insurance (which covers repairs to other vehicles if you’re at fault, as well as repairs from fire or theft), but also covers damage to your own car. This applies even if you’re at fault for the accident.

What does third party insurance mean?

Third party is a policy that covers damage to other vehicles, people and properties where an accident is deemed to be your fault. This doesn’t cover any damage to your own car.

Your broker may offer you third party only (TPO) or third party, fire and theft which offers all the benefits of third-party only, but you’re also covered if your car is stolen or set alight.

What does commuting mean on car insurance?

Most insurance policies cover you for social, domestic and pleasure purposes. If you plan to use your vehicle to drive to and from your place of work you will need to tell your insurer you will use the vehicle for commuting. 

What does declined car insurance mean?

Declined car insurance means an insurer has refused to provide cover for you. This may be because you have not met the right criteria for the policy, or that your driving or personal history makes you too high a risk to insure. If your insurance is declined, call Sterling insurance to get a quote that will take into account your personal circumstances. Alternatively, request a callback at a time that suits you.

More insurance jargon you may come across

Black box insurance

Black box insurance, otherwise known as telematics insurance, calculates your premiums according to the way you drive.

Essentially, this could help to reduce your premiums if you drive safely.With Sterling’s black box insurance, you’ll get daily feedback on the way you’ve driven, allowing you to correct your mistakes on the road.

Breakdown Cover

Breakdown cover is usually an optional extra for your car or van insurance. Essentially, it is there to provide roadside assistance in the event your vehicle breaks down and you are stranded.  Sterling offers breakdown cover for the United Kingdom, throughout the European Union and in other countries such as Azerbaijan that are not part of the EU economic zone.

Green card insurance

A green card is documented proof a British motorist has adequate cover for the country they are driving in, whether it’s an EU or Non-EU country.

If you’re driving across Europe or further afield, you may want to look into dedicated green card cover ahead of your trip. This motor insurance certificate is proof that a motorist has adequate cover for the country they are travelling in. Sterling’s annual prices start from £295.

Whether you’re planning on motoring through the EU on a short break or an extended trip beyond Europe, you may want to explore Sterling’s green card insurance before you leave. 


An immobiliser is a piece of technology that stops a car from being started until it’s deactivated by a key or fob. This effectively stops a car from being “hot-wired” by a thief. It won’t stop the car from being broken into, but it may stop it from being driven away.

Limited mileage

As a general rule, driving under 7,500 miles a year is considered a low number of miles to drive, so you may be best to look into getting limited mileage insurance. It provides the same level of cover, but can be cheaper providing you stay under the limit set by your insurer.If you drive fewer than 7,500 miles a year, you could be eligible for low mileage car insurance.

Main driver

Some people mistake the ‘main driver’ as the person who bought the vehicle. However, it simply means who will drive the vehicle the most during your insurance policy. This is especially important when adding younger drivers to a policy, if they drive more than you, they need to be named as the main driver otherwise your insurance could become invalid if you’re caught lying to your insurer.

No claims bonus

No claims bonus (NCB), or no claims discount (NCD), simply means you have not made a claim during your policy. You will gain one year’s no claim bonus for each year of claim free driving. However if you drive in intermittent years over a seven-year period, it does not mean you have earned seven years no claims bonus as you have not been driving throughout that period.

Your premium will start to reduce after your first year and goes up for each extra year, up to around five or six years, and the usual discount is around 65-70% maximum.

Protected no-claims bonus

If you protect your no claims bonus, you’re allowed to make a certain number of claims over a certain amount of time without impacting your bonus. This is usually a small amount of extra premium. Protecting your no claims bonus doesn’t stop your insurance from going up if you have an accident, but does stop you from losing the no claims discount. 

Short-term insurance

There may be occasions when you only need car or van insurance for a short period of time, such as a day, a week or a month. That’s where short-term insurance comes in handy. Drivers will be covered during the short-term without having to buy a year’s worth of cover.

Whether you’re borrowing a friend’s van, learning to drive or sharing the driving on a long journey Sterling can find the right cover for you. We cover a wide variety of vehicles and drivers. 


You need to make a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) when you take a vehicle ‘off the road’ and you want to stop taxing and insuring it. Your vehicle is off the road if you do not keep or use it on a public road, for example if it’s in a garage, on a drive or on private land.

You must make a SORN in any of the following situations:

  • your vehicle is not taxed
  • your vehicle is not insured (even for a short time, for example because there’s a delay renewing your policy)
  • you want to break a vehicle down for parts before you scrap it
  • you buy or receive a vehicle and want to keep it off the road (you cannot transfer a SORN from the previous keeper)

You can still insure a SORN vehicle for accidental damage, fire and theft cover if you want to.

Usage types

Essentially insurers want to know what you will be using your vehicle for so they can determine how likely you are to make a claim. The range of uses are:

Business use:  Covers the car in connection with your job, such as driving to different sites away from your main place of work.

Commercial travelling: Covers the car to be used for such things as door-to-door sales.

Social, domestic and pleasure: This covers drivers for normal day-to-day driving, such as driving to visit family and friends or shopping.

Commuting: Covers the same as Social, domestic and pleasure, but also allows drivers to drive back and forth to a permanent place of work. Travelling to a railway station, where the car is parked, is also classed as commuting.

Walkabout insurance

Walkabout insurance is a dedicated insurance scheme for those travelling to and around Europe, such as gap year students and backpackers. It’s ideal for touring in a camper or car, making the most of a working holiday, or enjoying the winter sports season.  

Thanks to our expert knowledge and experience dealing with camper, motorhome and car cover, we’re able to cover most vehicles as well as drivers from the UK, Europe and sometimes further afield. 

Young driver 

If you’re a young driver driving your own car or a vehicle owned by a family member, consider taking out a young driver policy after you’ve passed your test. The policy will be in your name and you start building a no claims discount as soon as you’re at the wheel.

We know it can be tricky to find affordable insurance quotes as young drivers sit in a higher risk insurance group. So we try to help by finding you a price that doesn’t hold back on cover. 

Great insurance in simple language

Whatever your insurance needs, call Sterling insurance on 0344 381 9990 for a swift and sensible quote. 

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