The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

What is a Certificate of Motor Insurance? (and when you need it)

What is certificate of motor insurance?

A certificate of motor insurance is proof that you hold the minimum 3rd party insurance for your vehicle, as required by law. It is a one- or two-page document that you can get from your insurance company or broker, if you used one. You should keep a copy in your vehicle, in case you have an accident and the attending police want to see it.

What's included in the certificate of motor insurance?

There are some standard features on each certificate of motor insurance. While details might vary slightly depending on your insurer and the specific coverage of your policy, the certificate will include a description of your vehicle (via the registration/number plate, and possibly the make, model and year of production) as well as identify who can legally drive the vehicle and what types of driving are excluded from cover (e.g., business use if you haven't declared it, racing your vehicle, etc.). Here's what you'll find on your motor insurance certificate:

1. Vehicle registration and descriptionThe numbers and letters on your car's number plate; possibly the make, model and year of production (not on all certificates).
2. Name of policyholderThe name of the policyholder (e.g., you)
3. Start of coverThe date the period of insurance begins
4. End of coverThe last day of the period of insurance (typically 365 days after the start of cover date)
5. Permitted driversThe list of drivers (e.g., the policyholder and any named drivers) permitted to drive the vehicle, provided that the person holds a licence to drive the car and is not disqualified from holding or obtaining such a licence. There may also be mention that the policyholder can drive another car (subject to the owner's express consent, and sometimes only in case of emergency) which:
  • does not belong to them
  • is not a rental car
  • is not hired to them under a hire purchase or leasing agreement
6. Limitations and class of useThis section will describe which vehicles are covered by the policy (e.g., the main vehicle covered by the policy, and possibly also any other vehicle loaned to the vehicle policyholder for a maximum number of days from a garage, motor engineer or vehicle repairer while the main vehicle is being either serviced, repaired or having an MOT test) and a description of use, which describes the type of driving (i.e., the class of use) you're covered to do:
  • Social, domestic and pleasure
  • Commuting (i.e., travel to or from a place of paid employment)
  • Business use by you (Business Class 1)
  • Business use by you and spouse (Business Class 1)
  • Business use for named drivers (Business Class 2)
  • Commercial travelling (Business Class 3)
ExclusionsUnless you have declared and been accepted for cover, you'll typically be excluded from using your vehicle from a number of activities, such as but not limited to:
  • hiring out the car, the carriage of passengers or goods for payment and the carriage of goods or property which does not belong to you as a courier or for takeaway food or fast food delivery
  • any purpose in connection with the buying and selling, repair, servicing, cleaning, maintenance, inspection, testing, alteration or treatment of motor vehicles
  • any competitions, race, trial, performance test, including off-road events

Sample certificate of motor insurance

While each certificate of motor insurance is unique (and will differ from other types of certificates of insurance), here's a sample document to give you a rough idea of what one looks like. You are likely to have different conditions and language. In this sample, note that the vehicle is covered for commuting but is not covered for 'business use' driving. And the policyholder has 3rd party cover to drive other people's vehicles.

Picture of a sample certificate of motor insurance

When do I get my certificate of insurance?

According to The Motor Vehicles (Third Party Risks) Regulations 1972, every certificate of insurance shall be issued within four days after the date on which the policy to which it relates is issued or renewed.

How do I get my certificate of motor insurance?

According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, a certificate of motor insurance is considered to have been 'delivered' to the policyholder if:

  • 1. it is transmitted electronically by the insurer to the person in accordance with subsection (1B) below, or
  • 2. it is made available by the insurer to the person on a website in accordance with subsection (1C) below

That said, you can still receive your certificate in the post—but it might cost you as you'll probably need to pay postage and your insurance provider might charge an admin fee for doing so. Car insurance providers typically charge admin fees for sending documents up to around £30 or so, but if you're lucky it won't cost anything. Alternatively, print your own copy if you're able to, which you'll get via email or through your insurer's customer portal.

Where can I get a copy of my certificate of motor insurance?

You can get a duplicate copy of your certificate of motor insurance from your insurer or the broker that arranged your cover. A number of insurers have invested in sophisticated online customer portals where you can download a pdf copy of your certificate of motor insurance in minutes (e.g., Aviva, Hastings, More Than, etc.).

Does my certificate of motor insurance show I'm able to drive other cars?

To find out if you're able to drive other vehicles, check section 5 of your certificate of motor insurance—it will be titled something along the lines of 'Persons or classes of persons entitled to drive'. If you don't have your certificate, here's where to get a copy.

When do you need to show your certificate of motor insurance?

You must produce a valid certificate of motor insurance if you've been involved in an accident and a police officer requests it. If you don't have one on hand, you may be asked to bring the certificate to a police station ASAP.

Do you need your certificate of motor insurance to tax your vehicle?

No, while supplying a copy of your certificate of motor insurance was a requirement years ago, now you can tax your vehicle online or over the phone without a physical copy in hand—these days the tax authorities perform an electronic insurance check by checking your car's registration number with the Motor Insurance Database (MID) to confirm your car meets the minimum 3rd party insurance requirements.

Are certificates of insurance still required for cars?

Yes, a certificate of insurance is required to prove that you have at least the minimum 3rd party liability cover to drive legally on the road.

What happens if I have more than one certificate on insurance?

Some drivers have two certificates of motor insurance—for instance, a delivery driver might have one social, domestic and pleasure car insurance policy and a separate top-up hire & reward policy that works as their delivery driver insurance. In that case, the driver should check the certificates to ensure that all of their driving is covered, but that there are no overlaps (e.g., you wouldn't want commuting to show up on both policies as this could cause confusion and delay in event of a claim).