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Revealed: six surprising things your car insurance won’t cover

When taking out car insurance, it’s easy to think that your policy will cover you for everything and anything that goes wrong. This isn’t always the case, however, and there are a number of different ways your car insurance policy can be invalidated – meaning your insurer will not pay out if and when you need to make a claim. From personalised number plates to putting in the wrong fuel in your car, Which? takes a look at six surprising things that your car insurance won’t cover if you ran into trouble with them.

Personalised number plates

Personalised number plates plates are becoming an increasingly popular investment for cars – last year almost 375,000 were sold by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). One unique and highly sought after number plate that spells out ‘TAXI’ sold for GBP92,000 at an auction at the end of February. Unfortunately, despite the sentimental and cost value that personalised number plates have, most car insurance[1] providers won’t cover them.

Research by GoCompare revealed that out of 302 comprehensive car insurance polices, only 19 specifically covered the loss of a personalised number plate if your car was lost or stolen. Only 16 car insurance policies provided cover for GBP5,000 or more. But why is this a problem?

Well, the registration number belongs to the car, not the individual. If your car has been written off, you’ll either have to buy back the personalised plate from your insurer. If the insurer gets rid of the car, all rights to your personalised plate go with the vehicle, meaning you’ve lost your investment.

Considering that some personalised plates can cost more than GBP25,000, this could leave some drivers severely out of pocket. If you find yourself in this position, you have to arrange for the number to be transferred to another vehicle or retained on a certificate in sufficient time before the claim is settled. According to GoCompare, if a car with a personalised plate is stolen and not recovered, its owner will have to wait 12 months to get the number plate back.

To reclaim the personalised plate, they will also have to prove that the car had a valid MOT and tax at the time of theft. It’s important to check your car insurance policy before taking it out to see if your personalised number plate will be covered. If you already have car insurance, contact your provide before getting a plate made to check if your policy could provide any cover should the worst happen.

Matt Oliver from GoCompare told Which? Money that ‘when you register a personalised plate to a vehicle you need to tell your insurer immediately, otherwise your policy could be invalidated and, particularly if you’ve paid a lot for a registration number, you should consider whether it’s properly insured.’

Modified cars

Most car insurance policies will not cover the cost of repairing or replacing non-standard modified car parts. Car modifications can include but are not limited to the following:

  • adding a turbo or supercharger to your engine
  • modifying your car wheels
  • fitting uprated breaks
  • removing or replacing seats
  • tinting windows
  • changing the steering wheel.

Optional extras and accessories offered by car manufacturers, as well as adaptations made due to a disability, may be covered by some policies but must be delcared and agreed by your car insurer before you take out cover.

Ian Flower, Motor Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual said: ‘It is also important to inform your insurer of any modifications to your vehicle as these could potentially invalidate your claim.’

Insuring the main driver as a named driver

Your car insurance policy will be invalidated if you name the main driver on your policy as the named driver, which is often referred to as ‘fronting’. This could include a scenario where you insure your daughter or son as an additional driver on your policy when, in fact, they will be the main user of the car. This may seem like a tempting way to reduce the cost of insurance, for younger drivers in particular, as the premium price will be based predominantly on your driving history and not theirs.

But doing this runs the risk of invalidating your insurance altogether, leaving out of pocket when you come to make a claim. Black box car insurance[2], also known as ‘telematics’, can help younger drivers get cheaper car insurance. For more information take a look at our short video.

Putting the wrong fuel in your car

Using the wrong fuel by absent-mindedly putting petrol in a diesel car (or vice versa) is a common mistake that affects around 150,000 people a year.

It can have very costly consequences – but most car insurance policies will not cover it. According to Defaqto, out of 300 car insurance policies on the market, 240 (80%) exclude cover for putting the wrong fuel in your car. While Defaqto also found that 149 out of 300 car insurance policies do provide cover for using the wrong fuel under ‘accidental damage’, most of these will require you to pay an excess and potentially lose any no claims discount you’ve earned.

If you have used the wrong fuel that you don’t start your engine and get your tank drained and cleaned immediately. Prices for this start at around GBP130, but your car insurance policy won’t cover this as standard. A very small number of car insurance polices, 23 out of 300 (8%) offer misfuelling cover as an optional ‘add-on’ feature, instead.

But it will, of course, come at an additional cost.

Using your car for business purposes

Most standard car insurance policies will not cover your car if you use it for business purposes. Before you take out a car insurance policy, your provider will ask you to specify what purposes you will be using car for which will affect the price of your premium. These usually fall into three categories: social, commuting and business.

Most standard car insurance policies are designed to cover social and commuting purposes such as driving to the shops, visiting friends, or driving to and from work. Drivers using their car for business purposes are treated differently because they are often seen as higher risk and might need to undertake activities like:

  • carrying extra equipment
  • driving on unfamiliar roads
  • using their car more regularly.

Business car insurance often comes at a higher premium but if you try to rely on standard policy, your car insurance could be invalidated should the worst happen. If plan on using your car to chauffeur other people, you may need to get taxi insurance instead.

Taxi insurance includes private hire cars, minicabs or black Hackney carriages. Ian Flower at NFU Mutual said: ‘As is general practice in the insurance industry, we require customers to declare the type of use of their car eg personal, commuting or business, so that they are properly protected in the event of an accident.’

Track racing or events

Your car insurance policy will not cover you if your car is used for racing of any kind, including formal track racing events. It is possible to get track day cover, which is designed to cover the cost of repairing or replacing your car if you experience any damage while taking part in a race event.

Track day insurance often comes at a higher premium and with a hefty excess to cover the higher level of risk that racing brings.

For help finding the best car insurance policy for you, take a look at our newly released independent car insurance scores[3].

Which? experts have analysed the standard policies of more than 30 car insurance companies[4] and surveyed thousands of policyholders to generate impartial scores to help you decide which insurer is right for you.


  1. ^ car insurance (
  2. ^ Black box car insurance (
  3. ^ car insurance scores (
  4. ^ car insurance companies (

Research reveals the cheapest areas to live for mortgage borrowers

The average UK homeowner spends less than a third of their monthly income on mortgage repayments, according to new research. Data from Halifax reveals that mortgages in the UK are at their most affordable level in over a decade, with homeowners spending 29% of their disposable income on mortgage payments. Here, we assess the data at regional and local authority level and reveal how much people in your area are spending on their home loans.

  • If you’re thinking of moving home and would like impartial advice on your mortgage options, call Which?

    Mortgage Advisers[1] on 0808 252 7987.

Cheapest mortgages in a decade

A new study from Halifax shows that mortgages are considerably more affordable than they were a decade ago, when homeowners were putting an average of 48% of their income towards repayments. The bank says this improvement in affordability is predominantly down to historically low mortgage rates in the wake of the financial crash. And despite the first base rate increase[2] in a decade last November, affordability still improved marginally year-on-year in the last quarter of 2017.

Mortgage payments: region by region

At regional level, there are significant differences between the most and least affordable areas of the UK.

The biggest change in the last decade has come in Northern Ireland, where mortgage payments now make up just 18.8% of monthly income, compared to 63.1% a decade ago. And perhaps unsurprisingly, London (44.8%) and the South East (40.2%) were the areas where homeowners were most stretched in the final quarter of 2017. In the chart below, you can use the drop-down menu to compare mortgage affordability from region to region over the last year, the last decade, and the average change from 1983-2017.

Local variations in mortgage affordability

At local authority level, the differences in mortgage affordability from area to area are even more stark. People living in Copeland in the North West of England spend the lowest proportion of their monthly income on mortgage payments at 14.9%. At the other end of the scale, homeowners in Brent in North London spend more than 60% of their income repaying their home loans.

Most affordable local authorities

Local authority district Region Mortgage payments as % of income (Q4 2017) Copeland North West 14.9% Inverclyde Scotland 15.7% North Ayrshire Scotland 15.9% West Dumbartonshire Scotland 16.2% Renfrewshire Scotland 16.4%

Most unaffordable local authorities

Local authority district Region Mortgage payments as % of income (Q4 2017) Brent London 61.1% Haringey London 60.5% Harrow London 57.7% Elmbridge South East 56.3% Hillingdon London 56.2%

How much do people spend on mortgages in your town?

The table below includes all of the local authorities in the UK. Simply type the name of your local authority into the search box to see the average for where you live.

How to get the best mortgage deal

The proportion of your income that you spend on mortgage repayments will vary depending on the deals available to you – and it can be hard working out the cheapest option. Even if you’ve currently got a mortgage, there might be a better deal out there for you – especially if you’ve come to the end of your fixed term[3] and have been transferred on to your lender’s standard variable rate[4].

With that in mind, it can be beneficial to get advice from an impartial, whole-of-market mortgage broker, who can assess your individual circumstances to find the right deal for you.

  • If you’d like to speak to an expert from Which? Mortgage Advisers[5], fill out the form below for a free callback or phone 0808 252 7987.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which?

Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which?

Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.


  1. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (

  2. ^ base rate increase (
  3. ^ fixed term (
  4. ^ standard variable rate (
  5. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (

Steganos Safe

Replacing a stolen computer may be costly, but it’s totally possible. Clawing back sensitive data the thief extracted from the computer, well, that’s not so possible. Worse still, the cost of losing that data could be much greater than the price of the computer itself.

Don’t leave yourself open to that kind of data breach–use encryption[1] to protect your sensitive files! Steganos Safe makes creating secure, encrypted containers for your sensitive files simple, and it offers some uncommon advanced features. The latest edition, version 19, adds two-factor authentication for unlocking your data containers, and the ability to convert an existing disk partition into an encrypted container.

For £39.95, you can install Steganos Safe on up to five PCs. This isn’t a subscription. Rather, it’s a one-time fee.

You only pay again if you want to buy a newer version. Folder Lock and Ranquel Technologies CryptoForge[2] cost about the same, while Cypherix PE and CryptoExpert go for £45 and £59.95 respectively. These are also one-time prices, but they just give you a single installation.

The five-license package that Steganos offers is a distinct bargain. In addition to this standalone product, Steganos Safe is an integral part of the full Steganos Privacy Suite[3]. This suite also includes Steganos Password Manager and other useful tools.

What Is Encryption?

Throughout history, queens and generals have needed to communicate their plans in secret, and their enemies have toiled mightily trying to crack their secret communication systems.

A cipher that simply replaces every letter with a different letter or symbol is easy enough to crack based on letter frequency, so old-time cryptographers needed something stronger. France’s Louis XIV used a system called The Great Cipher, which held out for 200 years before anyone cracked it. Father-son team Antoine and Bonaventure Rossignol conceived the idea of encoding syllables rather than letters, and letting multiple code numbers represent the same syllable.

They also included nulls, numbers that contributed nothing to the cipher. But even this long-unbroken cipher pales in comparison with modern encryption technology. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)[4], the US government’s official standard, runs blocks of data through multiple transformations, typically using a 256-bit key.

Bruce Schneier’s Blowfish algorithm[5] should be even tougher to crack, as it uses a 448-byte key. Whatever the size of the key, you must transmit it to the recipient somehow, and that process is the weakest point in the system.

If your enemy obtains the key, whatever its size, you lose. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)[6] cryptography has no such weakness. Each user has two keys, a public key that’s visible to anybody and a private key that nobody else has. If I encrypt a file with your public key, you can decrypt it with your private key.

Conversely, if I encrypt a file with my private key, the fact that you can decrypt it with my public key proves it came from me–a digital signature.

Getting Started with Steganos Safe

The Steganos encryption utility’s installation is quick and simple. Once finished, it shows you a simple main window that has two big buttons, one to create a new safe and one to open a hidden safe. In this context, a safe is just the name for an encrypted container.

When a safe is open, it looks and acts precisely like a disk drive.

You can move files into and out of it, create new documents, edit documents in place, and so on. But once you close the safe, its contents become totally inaccessible. Nobody can unlock it without the password–not even Steganos.

Like Editors’ Choice tools CertainSafe, AxCrypt Premium[7], and Folder Lock, Steganos uses AES for all encryption. However, it cranks the key size up from the usual 256 bits to 384 bits. CryptoExpert and CryptoForge offer four different algorithms, and Advanced Encryption Package goes over the top with 17 choices.

Few users have the knowledge to make an informed choice of algorithm, so I see no problem sticking with AES. Steganos pops up a warning if you try to close a safe while you still have files from the safe open for editing. In addition to the basic safe, Steganos can optionally create portable safes, partition safes, and cloud safes.

I’ll cover each safe type separately.

Create a Safe

The process of creating a new safe for storing your sensitive documents is simple, with a wizard that walks you through the steps. You start by assigning a name and drive letter to the safe–the program’s main window displays the name. By default, Steganos creates the file representing your safe in a subfolder of the Documents folder, but you can override that default to put it wherever you want, including on a network drive.

Next, you define the safe’s capacity, from a minimum of 2MB to a maximum that depends on your operating system. Unlike Cypherix PE[8] and CryptoExpert, with Steganos the initial capacity doesn’t have to be a hard limit. You can create a safe whose size grows dynamically.

Folder Lock works a bit differently. While you must set a maximum size at creation, it only uses as much space as its current content requires. A newly created Cypherix volume requires formatting.

With Steganos and others, the safe is ready for use immediately. The next step is to select a password. If you’ve created a master password for Steganos Password Manager[9], the password dialog should look familiar.

Steganos rates password strength as you type. If you wish, you can define the password by clicking a sequence of pictures rather than typing it. This PicPass feature is cute, but doesn’t produce a strong password.

To foil any possibility of password capture by a keylogger, you can enter the password using a virtual keyboard. Folder Lock and InterCrypto Advanced Encryption Package[10] also offer a virtual keyboard.

If you wish, you can store the password on a removable drive, making that drive effectively the safe’s key. By default, a safe opened in this way closes automatically when you remove the key.

In itself, this isn’t two-factor authentication, as you can unlock the safe using either the key or the password, but it’s certainly convenient. In a similar situation, you can configure InterCrypto CryptoExpert[11] to require both the master password and the USB key. New in version 19, Steganos offers actual two-factor authentication.

You can use any authentication app that supports the standard Time-based One Time Password (TOTP)[12] algorithm. Google Authenticator is a well-known example, but there are plenty of others. To link the app with your safe, you snap a QR code displayed by Steganos, and enter the code that your app returns.

Now unlocking the safe requires both your master password and the ever-changing TOTP code. There’s a special option that only appears for safes smaller than 3MB. If you’ve chosen an acceptable size, a link appears explaining how you can create a hidden safe.

Steganos can hide a small-enough safe inside a video, audio, or executable file. After creating the safe, you click it, choose Hide from the menu, and select a carrier file. Steganos stuffs the entire safe into the carrier, without affecting that file’s ability to function as a program or audio/video file.

To open it, you click Open a Hidden Safe on the main window, select the carrier, and enter the password. Just don’t forget where you hid the safe! Once you hide a safe inside a file, it can no longer resize dynamically as needed, which makes sense.

Here’s a very strong warning. DO NOT attempt to hide a safe that’s protected by two-factor authentication[13]. You will lose all data from that safe.

What happens is that Steganos requests the password but not the two-factor code, and then reports that the password is wrong. My contacts at Steganos duplicated this problem and said the developers plan to add a warning. I’d be happier if they just made two-factor authentication work with hidden safes.

Portable Safes

For additional security, consider creating a portable safe that you store in a secure location when not using it.

The process is similar. You start by selecting the target device, which can be a USB storage device or an optical drive. You define the size and create a password, just as for a regular safe.

From there, the process diverges. Steganos creates and opens what it calls a prepackaging drive. You drag the desired files into the prepackaging drive.

When you click Next, Steganos creates the necessary files on the target device. By observation, the prepackaging drive isn’t needed after the initial creation step. If the portable safe is small enough, not much more than 400MB, Steganos creates what it calls a SelfSafe by default.

As with the hidden option for regular safes, this option only appears when the safe size is small enough. The SelfSafe is a single executable file called SteganosPortableSafe.exe that contains both the necessary decryption code and the data representing the safe’s contents. For larger portable safes, it stores the contents in a folder called Portable_Safe and adds a file called usbstarter.exe.

Either way, launching the program lets you enter the password and open the portable safe. In testing, I did run into one surprise. It turns out that a portable safe is not completely portable.

It requires the Steganos encryption engine. You can only open and work with your portable safe on a PC on which you’ve installed the program. Fortunately, you have five licenses.

Cloud Safes

As noted, you can open a portable safe on any PC on which you’ve installed Steganos Safe.

Creating a cloud safe is another way to share your encrypted files between PCs. Steganos supports the cloud storage services Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive[14]. Whichever you choose, you must install that service’s desktop app.

The help points out that Google Drive and OneDrive must re-sync the entire safe when there’s any change, while DropBox can selectively sync changes only. My test PC didn’t have any of the desktop apps installed, and the cloud safe creation dialog reflected this fact. For testing purposes, I installed the Dropbox app.

As with a regular safe, you select a name and drive letter and then choose the safe’s size.

For a cloud safe, you don’t get the option to have the safe expand as needed, but you can use two-factor authentication. Create your password, wait for the safe’s initialization, and you’re ready to go. The safe syncs to the cloud each time you close it, and you can use it on any PC that has both Steganos and the proper cloud app installed.

Partition Safes

New in version 19, you can now convert a hard drive partition into a safe.

Doing so requires restarting Steganos Safe with administrator privileges. When Steganos turns a partition into a safe, it wipes out all existing data, so tread carefully. Naturally you don’t set a size, as the safe occupies the entire partition.

You do enter a master password, with the option to invoke two-factor authentication, or store the password on a USB device. Just to see what would happen, I tried converting the main Windows partition into safe. I expected Steganos to simply point out that’s not possible.

Instead, it seemed to proceed with the conversion, but terminated with an uninformative error message. When I chose a non-system partition, the process went smoothly, if slowly. Converting a 20GB partition to a safe took about 40 minutes.

Of the four types of safes, this one’s my favorite. Just unlock it and you’ve got a whole drive partition to store important stuff in. Lock it and nobody can touch your stuff.

Note that the original partition, in my case drive E:, still shows up in Windows Explorer, but to Windows, it looks like it a drive that’s corrupt or not formatted.

Advanced Safe Features

Click a safe and click Settings to bring up the administration dialog. Here you can change the password, name, and file location for the safe, but that’s not all. On the main page of the dialog you can color-code the safe, and choose whether Windows should see it as a local drive or a removable drive.

On the Events tab, you can choose whether to open the safe when you log on, and whether to close it on events such as screen saver activation or going into standby. There’s an option to run a specific command right after the safe opens, and another right after it closes. For example, you could configure it to automatically launch a file that resides within the safe after opening it, or automatically make a backup copy after closing it.

I’m not sure how many consumers will use this feature, but I imagine it’s popular with security geeks. Perhaps most interesting is the Safe in a Safe feature. This defines a separate safe, hidden within the normal safe, occupying a user-defined percentage of available space, and having its own password.

Depending on which password you use to open the safe, you either open the Safe in a Safe, or the original safe that contains it. Sneaky! But take care.

If you overfill the outer safe, its contents can wipe out the super-secret Safe in a Safe.

Steganos Shredder

Putting your most sensitive files into an encrypted safe is smart, but if you leave the unencrypted originals on disk, you haven’t accomplished much, security-wise. Even if you delete the originals and empty the Recycle Bin, they’re not really gone, because their data remains on disk until new data overwrites it. For true privacy, you must use a secure deletion tool that overwrites file data before deletion, something like this program’s file-shredder component.

The easiest way to use the shredder is to right-click a file or folder and choose Destroy from the menu that appears. Steganos overwrites the file’s data once and then deletes it. This should be sufficient to foil software-based file recovery systems, though it would still be theoretically possible for a hardware-based forensic tool to get back some or all of the data.

Folder Lock, by contrast, lets you choose up to 35 overwrite passes, which is overkill, as there’s no added benefit after seven passes. AxCrypt, CryptoForge, Cypherix SecureIT, and several others also offer secure deletion of original files.

Launching the full File Shredder from the main window’s menu reveals that it does more than just securely delete files. Like Folder Lock[15], Steganos can overwrite all the free space on a disk.

Doing so wipes out all traces of previously deleted files, in effect shredding them after the fact. Free space shredding can take a long, long time, so you may want to use the scheduler to set it for a time when you’re not using the computer. You can also schedule daily or weekly free space shredding.

Note that if you stop and restart the free space shredding process, it skips quickly past previously shredded areas. Finally, there’s the nuclear option, Complete Shredder. Choose this to completely wipe out all data on a drive, including partition data.

After shredding a drive, you must format it before you can use it for anything. Like shredding free space, this process can take quite a while. By observation, you can’t shred the active Windows volume, which makes sense.

When I tried, there was no error message, but it did nothing.

Trace Destructor

One last component, Trace Destructor, seems almost hidden. It doesn’t show up in the program’s main window the way the file shredder does. Rather, you access it by right-clicking the Steganos icon in the notification area and selecting it from the resulting menu.

Like the similar feature in Folder Lock, this tool aims to wipe out traces of your browser and computer use, for privacy’s sake. For Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, it can wipe out the cache, cookies, history, saved passwords, and form data. It also wipes the list of recently downloaded files for Firefox.

On the Windows side, it can wipe temp files, clear the Recycle Bin, and eliminate various lists of recently used files and programs. You can select any or all of these for erasure.

Steganos remembers which items you chose to destroy. Once you’ve made an initial selection, you can choose One-Click Destruction from the tray icon menu to repeat the cleanup process.

A simple settings dialog lets you configure the tool to erase browser data each time you close the data. In addition, you can exempt specific cookies from the browser cookie cleanup.

Comprehensive Encrypted Storage

Steganos Safe focuses on the singular task of creating encrypted storage containers for your sensitive files, and it does that task very well. It’s easier to use than most of its competitors, and its Safe in Safe and hidden safe options are unique.

You can only use its portable safe and cloud safe features on PCs that have the program installed, but your purchase gets you five licenses. However, Folder Lock does most of what Steganos does, and quite a lot more. Its features include encryption of individual files and folders, secure storage of private data, and (at an extra cost) secure online backup.

AxCrypt Premium is even easier to use than Steganos, and it supports public key cryptography. CertainSafe Digital Safety Deposit Box[16] protects your cloud-stored encrypted files against any possibility of a data breach.

These three are our Editors’ Choice products for encryption, but Steganos is a worthy contender.

Steganos Safe

Bottom Line: Steganos Safe creates secure encrypted storage for your sensitive files.

It’s very easy to use, and it offers some unique options for maintaining privacy and secrecy.


  1. ^ encryption (
  2. ^ Ranquel Technologies CryptoForge (
  3. ^ Steganos Privacy Suite (
  4. ^ Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) (
  5. ^ Blowfish algorithm (
  6. ^ Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) (
  7. ^ AxCrypt Premium (
  8. ^ Cypherix PE (
  9. ^ Steganos Password Manager (
  10. ^ InterCrypto Advanced Encryption Package (
  11. ^ InterCrypto CryptoExpert (
  12. ^ Time-based One Time Password (TOTP) (
  13. ^ two-factor authentication (
  14. ^ Microsoft OneDrive (
  15. ^ Folder Lock (
  16. ^ CertainSafe Digital Safety Deposit Box (