What is GAP insurance and do I need it?

Mind the gap – it isn’t just a phrase you’ll find on the underground; it applies to cars too.
That being said, when it comes to cars, the gap we’re talking about is GAP insurance. This type of insurance isn’t legally required, but it is an optional extra that’s worth considering, especially if you’re buying a brand-new or nearly new model.
If your new pride and joy ends up getting written off in an accident or stolen in the middle of the night, standard insurance policies will only pay out the amount it’s worth at the time. Unfortunately, that amount could be hundreds – or even thousands – of pounds less than you paid for it.
Want to heal your heartbreak with a brand-new set of wheels or need to pay off your finance without clearing out your savings? That’s where GAP insurance could make all the difference.
Let’s get into the details:

What is GAP insurance?

Guaranteed Asset Protection – better known as GAP insurance – is an optional type of cover designed to make up the difference between your car’s current value and its price when you bought or financed it.
Why could the difference between these two be significant? Well, now we need to talk about depreciation.
That’s the industry term used to describe the value that a car loses over time. It happens to almost every car (except certain classic and vintage models collectors swoon over). In fact, brand-new cars typically lose their value fastest with the AA reporting that a model that’s just rolled off the factory floor will lose 60% within the first three years.
Different factors can affect the rate of depreciation – a car that’s kept in pristine condition and barely makes it out of your garage will likely hold its value better than one that’s already had a few scrapes and bumps as well as clocking up 50,000 miles – but it’s safe to assume your new set of wheels will be worth less than you paid for it almost as soon as you drive it off the forecourt.
GAP insurance can be used to offset this depreciation so that you’re not left out of pocket.  

What are the types of GAP insurance available?

GAP is an umbrella term for six different types of insurance. Here’s your quick-fire guide:

Return to Invoice GAP

This will cover the difference between your car’s current value and the amount you paid for it.

Return to Value GAP

This makes up the difference between your car’s current value and its value when you bought it.

Vehicle Replacement GAP

If you want to replace your car, this cover will fill the gap between its current value and the cost of buying a new car.

Finance GAP

This type of GAP insurance would cover any outstanding loan payments if you bought the car on finance.

Negative Equity GAP

If your car was worth less than the amount borrowed when you took out GAP, this cover will fund the extra costs involved with being in negative equity.

Lease GAP

As its name suggests, lease GAP will cover the payments for the rest of your lease contract and any extra fees involved in ending the agreement early.

What is excluded from GAP insurance cover?

Every insurance policy has its own nuances so it’s important to double-check the terms and conditions (small print readers, it’s your time to shine!)
Typically, you’ll only be able to claim on a GAP insurance policy if your car is judged a total loss either because it’s a write off or has been stolen.
Depending on the policy, you might also not qualify for cover if you don’t have fully comprehensive insurance cover in place – third party and third party, fire and theft won’t usually be accepted by GAP providers.
There are several other factors that could exclude you from making a claim on your GAP insurance cover:

  • If your car is worth more than £75,000
  • If it had more than 100,000 miles on the clock when the policy was purchased
  • If it’s over a certain age
  • If it’s been used for hire or taxi services
  • If you’ve modified the car
  • If you’ve missed any payments or need to pay additional charges

How much does it cost?

Depending on the policy you choose, the make, model, and age of your car, and your individual circumstances, GAP insurance will usually cost between £100 and £300 for up to three years of cover (in other words, the price of one Taylor Swift ticket or a Michelin star dinner for two).
You can buy your policy from the dealership, a specialist insurance provider, insurance broker, bank, or finance and leasing companies. However, if you do plan to buy from the dealership, don’t take it personally if they don’t offer you a policy straightaway; by law, they must wait two days after your car purchase before selling GAP insurance to you.

Is GAP insurance right for me?

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to GAP insurance – it all depends on you, your priorities, and your personal situation.
GAP insurance might be right for you if:

  • You have concerns about being able to afford any outstanding finance owed to lenders
  • You bought an expensive car that’s known to lose value quickly
  • You can only afford to put down a small deposit upfront (or no deposit)
  • Your finance deal has a high interest rate or long loan term
  • You have limited savings available

On the other hand, it might not be the best option if

  • Your car is less than a year old and you have a fully comprehensive insurance policy
  • Your car is older and has started losing value at a slower rate
  • You have savings to cover your remaining finance or lease payments

If you’re having trouble making your mind up, why not take advice from the Association of British Insurers to help better inform your decision? They recommend you check a few key details about your GAP policy before signing on the dotted line, such as:

  • When the policy will start
  • How long it will last
  • Whether there’s a time limit for claims
  • If any exclusions apply
  • How much your car is currently worth on the market
  • How it can be cancelled

How does GAP insurance work on a financed car?

When you buy a car on a type of finance like Hire Purchase (HP), you’ll usually be taking out a loan to cover its full purchase price (minus the deposit).
Unfortunately, while your car will likely lose value over time, your finance won’t follow the same trend. The amount you agreed to borrow at the start of your agreement will stay the same no matter what.
If you write off the car or it gets stolen, your insurance will only pay out the amount the car was worth at the time. You can use this amount to pay off some of your finance, but it might not cover the entire bill, especially if you’re in the early days of your agreement – and you’ll still be liable for paying the full amount.
With finance GAP insurance, you’ll be covered. This cover will step in to make up the difference between your standard insurance pay-out and the outstanding amount needed to settle your finance.

FAQs about GAP Insurance

Can I take out GAP insurance after 12 months?

Unlike other types of insurance, GAP is only available in the 12 months after you’ve bought your car.
Once you and your pride and joy have celebrated your one-year anniversary (a paper gift is traditional, if you were wondering), it will already have started to depreciate, and you’ll have already started paying back your loan. That means the GAP between the purchase price or finance amount has already started to close – and will continue to get smaller as time goes on.

How long does GAP insurance last for?

Unfortunately, GAP insurance can’t last forever. The exact length of time you’ll be able to enjoy this cover will depend on the provider you choose, but you can typically expect it to last between one and five years.

Does GAP insurance cover the car or the driver?

Whether you’ve lent your car to your other half, your child who’s home from university, or another person insured to drive, accidents happen. Let’s assume the car absorbed the impact and they thankfully walked away without a scratch. Great news for them, not so great news for your car.
And what about your GAP insurance? Time for another sigh of relief. You’ll usually be covered as long as the other person is also a named driver on your insurance agreement.

Does GAP Insurance replace normal insurance?

GAP might help you sleep a little easier at night, but it’s not the only insurance you need when you own and drive a car. In fact, it’s more of an optional extra.
In the UK, you must also have normal or standard card insurance to legally drive on the road. The minimum level of cover available is known as third party, which protects other drivers and road users if you get into an accident, but many GAP insurers will require you to have fully comprehensive car insurance to make a claim. This is the highest level of cover available (but don’t worry; that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s also the most expensive!)

Does GAP Insurance cover a write off?

Even the most careful drivers can end up with a write off. While getting involved in an accident and seeing your pride and joy go off to the great scrapyard in the sky can hurt, that pain could be eased if you have GAP insurance in place. That’s because GAP will usually cover a write off, no matter whether it’s a Category S or N. But it’s always worth double-checking the terms and conditions of your cover, just in case.

Is GAP insurance a legal requirement?

Unlike standard car insurance, GAP isn’t legally required. Think of it more as a nice to have – it can step in to pay the difference between your car’s current value and the price you paid (or amount financed), but it’s not essential.