Where to buy vehicle insurance ;
At a licencing station – each has a few insurance vendors
Online – some of the larger companies offer websites where it is possible to purchase your policy instantly
From a broker – this can get you a cheaper price, great service, and extra assistance if things go wrong. I highly recommend Guardian Insurance Brokers – when we had an accident back in 2010, despite it not being our fault and our car being fully comp insured, we still had problems (see section on dealer repairs) and they were able to assist us in having our car properly sorted and the claim brought to a conclusion. They have offices in AD and Dubai and can courier policies out on a cash-on-delivery basis to other locations.
What to watch for:
Unless you can read arabic, make sure your insurance certificate is in english.
Similarly it is worth phoning up the company to ensure their call centre operators can speak english fluently – you will find that useful if you have a claim!
13 months? Why?
When you register your car it is due for renewal exactly 12 months later, however, you have a month’s grace so can re-register it up to 13 months after the last registration. Hence, insurance is always 13 months from the date of registration to ensure continuous cover. If you stay with the same company then in subsequent years you will pay for 12 months insurance, if you renew the registration at the 12 month mark.
Most companies exclude offroad accidents from their insurance policies but at least 3 include it – RSA, AXA and Zurich. I’ve heard of some companies being a bit reticent to pay out on offroad claims but providing all is in order then these three are known to pay up.
If you do have an accident offroad then chances are you will have to recover the vehicle to the roadside – some companies may pay out for retrieving a vehicle deep in the desert but I am not aware of any who do. (If you need outside assistance to recover a vehicle offroad then AAA in Dubai are your best bet.)
If offered, then take it. Some companies charge as little as 50aed per year and that entitles you to roadside assistance – repairing vehicles at the side of the road is illegal in the UAE, so in reality the tow truck will take your car to a garage of your choice, within reason of course. They will also come and jump start your car if the battery goes flat – batteries have a short life in the UAE and often give out with no warning, or deliver a can of petrol if you run out (incidentally the AD police will also do this for you!).
Age of vehicle
Most companies offer comprehensive insurance only to cars under 5 years old. Once you have insured your 4 year old car with a particular company they will probably continue to offer fully comp insurance until it is 7-10 years old. Some companies do offer fully comp for older vehicles but the only one I came across issued certificates of motor insurance in arabic.
Most companies include this option to cars up to 5 years old but it is worth checking. If you have a car accident – even one that is not your fault – and you have not specified and paid for dealer repairs, your car will be sorted at a backstreet garage appointed by the insurance company. We once had a bad experience with this!
Very important if you like exploring. If you don’t have this option then you can buy third party insurance at the Oman Border Post – it is not expensive but it is only third party and Oman has an even higher incidence of accidents than the UAE!
Personal accident benefit for passengers
Probably the most important add-on and the one that most people don’t bother with.
If you are at fault in an accident and one (or all) of your passenger(s) are injured, then you will have to pay them blood money. This can be a small amount, such as a few thousand dirhams for a minor injury to 200,000aed each in case of death, more if there are multiple injuries. It doesn’t matter if the injured are your friends or even if they are close relatives, the money still has to be paid.
Now here’s the thing – you, the at-fault driver, will be locked up in jail until the amount is paid. If there is not enough money in your bank account then your relatives and friends will have to raise the money to pay it – because you won’t be able to work as you will be in prison. So it makes a lot of sense to have such liability covered by your insurance! Here’s an excellent short article by The National to explain blood money.
Good luck in your search for the right insurance – hopefully you will never need it but having the right cover gives you peace of mind if an accident does happen. Safe driving everyone!