One in three drivers would not be covered by their car insurance if they put the wrong fuel in their car, according to the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA).
There are around 150,000 annual cases of misfuelling – putting diesel in a petrol car or vice versa – and only two thirds of car insurance policies would cover this cost.
Drivers of diesel vehicles are more likely to misfuel than petrol drivers, the BIBA research shows, with 95 per cent of annual instances of misfuelling due to people putting petrol in a diesel car.
Some car insurance companies will not cover the cost of repairs resulting from misfuelling if the driver knowingly drives the car after putting the wrong fuel in it, because they would be said to have failed in their duty of care.
In the event that a vehicle is filled with the wrong fuel, the BIBA advises motorists not to start the vehicle, which can damage the engine, but to notify the petrol station and a breakdown company immediately.
"Nobody is immune to misfueling," comments Graeme Trudgill, technical and corporate affairs executive at the BIBA, "it is easily done." For motorists who want protection against this occurrence, he suggests: "speak to your insurance broker to arrange a fully comprehensive policy that covers these unexpected risks."
BIBA insurance broker, Michael Edwards, explained that Monday mornings and Friday evenings are common times for misfuelling, when drivers are preoccupied with the week ahead or getting home at the end of the week. Some car insurance companies will cover it under accidental damage, but in instances where drivers have third party, fire and theft, or a misfuelling exclusion in their policies, "then the motorist is unlikely to be able to claim at all," he said.
Commenting on the findings, Will Thomas, head of car insurance at Confused.com, said "There is no hard and fast rule" across the car insurance industry for misfuelling, because it depends on whether or not the car has been driven with the wrong fuel in it – this can mean a difference in cost of £300 for draining the tank or £5,000 if the engine has been damaged.
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