13:43 24 December 2012
With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, you probably wouldn't think twice about going back to your car to offload one lot of presents before setting off on Phase Two of your gift-buying mission.
However, recent research from M&S Bank has shown that this practice could cost you dear and even potentially ruin your Christmas.
M&S estimates that our car boots contain around £263 worth of goodies per festive shopping trip, making it an obvious target for thieves.
And worse still, if you were unfortunate enough to suffer a break-in, your car insurance may not be robust enough to cover the value, which is a lot of thought and money out of the window. Here we take a closer look...
Check your car cover
If you are likely to be leaving a car boot-full of presents unsupervised for any length of time in the lead up to Christmas, it's vital that you check that your car insurance policy will adequately protect you against them being stolen.
Every policy is different and it will depend on your own insurer as to whether this is something covered within the policy (and to what value) or if it's an optional extra that comes at additional cost.
Firstly, if you have third party or third party fire and theft cover, you will not have adequate protection. These policies do what they say on the tin and would not cover any of your own personal costs.
If you have a fully comprehensive policy, your insurer may offer protection for your contents as standard. Levels of cover however, will differ, so it's important that you read the small print.
For example, M&S car insurance offers £200 for personal belongings, along with an extra £300 cover for shopping purchases made in M&S stores. This is included in its comprehensive car insurance policies on either the standard or premier cover option. LV= also includes cover for up to £200 worth of personal belongings with its comprehensive car insurance policy.
However it's important to check what the stipulations are for claiming on your policy. LV= states that the presents would only be covered if they had been locked in the boot. You would therefore need to make sure you had taken reasonable care to lock your gifts away out of sight - stashing them on the back seat in full view could well risk your claim being invalidated. Again, check the wording of your own policy before setting off.
Check your home insurance too
If you find that your car insurance policy doesn't cover you if your presents were stolen from your car, it is worth checking your home insurance policy too.
Tesco home insurance, for example would provide cover for customers who had purchased its 'finest' policy. This provides a totally cover limit of £3,000 for items carried outside the home, which is known as 'all risks'. The single item limit cap is also £3,000.
Customers who have either its 'standard' or 'value' home insurance policy at Tesco however, would only be covered if they purchased additional cover of 'unspecified personal possessions.'
Again though, this comes with stipulations. Tesco said that the cover would only be valid if the presents had been concealed, the car had been locked and that there was clear evidence that forcible or violent entry had taken place.
LV= would also cover your gifts under your home insurance policy too, so long as you purchased the optional personal possessions cover add-on. This would cover you for items such as jewellery, watches and mobile phones carried away from home, but again, only if they are locked in the boot. The limit you could claim for any one item here is £1,500.
How to protect your presents
At any time of the year a car break-in is an unpleasant experience, but during the season of 'good will' it is even more difficult to stomach. The following tips will make sure you don't give thieves an easy ride:
• It sounds obvious, but be vigilant when locking your car, especially if you use a fob. Christmas shopping can be hard work and for most of us, our minds are occupied thinking about the next thing on the list. Walking away without taking two seconds to double check could have severe consequences.
• If you're out late-night shopping, try to park in a well-lit area so that if thieves were out on the prowl, it would make it difficult for them to be discreet.
• Stash anything expensive out of sight such as bags, your sat-nav or radio - don't give thieves any more temptation than they need to break in to your car.
• Don't leave your receipts in your shopping bags. Instead put them safely away in your purse or handbag. You may need these as proof when putting in an insurance claim.
• Check exactly what your car insurance policy covers and consider purchasing additional cover if you find that you are not protected.
• If you do suffer a break-in and can't claim on either your car or home insurance, you may be able to claim on your credit card (so long as you used it to buy the items) under the Consumer Credit Act. But again, the outcome of this will still depend on how much care you exercised in keeping the gifts safe and out-of-sight - so in any scenario, vigilance is key.
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