What Is Car Insurance?


May 6, 2024
Team Pineapple

Insuring Your Ride: The Pineapple Guide to Car Insurance in South Africa

Civilisations have been wary of risk since ancient China's Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), which caused the Chinese government to establish an insurance system. Merchants and traders could purchase a government-issued certificate to guarantee their goods and ships against loss or damage while in transit.

This system of safeguarding goods has now been recognised as the oldest predecessor to modern insurance.

More than two millennia have passed since then, and the topic of risk and insurance is as relevant in today’s era as it was back then.

Insurance acts as a safety net, ready to catch us when unexpected events threaten to upend our lives. Your possessions are precious, and knowing that life can come at you fast means having a protection plan is imperative.

In this article, we will specifically focus on car insurance, the origins of car insurance in South Africa, the types of policies available, car insurance premiums and excess, and the difference between car insurance and motorbike insurance.

Lastly, what can void an insurance policy and how you can get affordable car insurance.

What is Car Insurance?

Car insurance is a contractual agreement between the policyholder (you) and the insurance company. The policyholder agrees to pay a specified amount, known as an insurance premium.

In return, the insurance company agrees to provide financial support for damages or injuries resulting from a car accident, theft or any other incident.

Car insurance is a legally binding agreement between both parties, and the policyholder has to pay the premium as per the agreement.

For their part, the insurance company must provide coverage and pay all valid claims per the agreement.

The contract outlines the terms and conditions of the coverage, including what is covered and any exclusions or limitations.

Unlike other parts of the world, car insurance is not a legal requirement in South Africa; however, it is a wise financial decision for vehicle owners nationwide.

What is the History of Car Insurance in South Africa?

The history of car insurance in South Africa is seemingly shrouded in mystery. We searched the internet for credible sources and actual dates, only to be bombarded with contemporary insurance companies encouraging us to get an insurance quote.

Because of the incomplete information, we managed to scrap together, the insurance industry was thought to have begun sometime in the 1800s and was introduced by British invaders shortly after their arrival on South African shores.

The earliest recorded insurers, United Empire and Continental Life Assurance Association and the Alliance British and Foreign Fire and Life Insurance Company, began operations in 1826.

And with constant development in the country and industry alike, the inception of car insurance eventually followed.

Initially, wealthier individuals and businesses primarily used car insurance in South Africa.

However, during the 1950s and 1960s, the South African government began to place stricter regulations on the insurance industry, requiring all car owners to have insurance coverage. This led to the establishment of several local insurance companies that specialised in car insurance.

South African insurers soon sprung up, with companies like SA Fire & Life Assurance Company in 1831 and Old Mutual in 1845, each appearing in the newly blossoming industry.

The increase in vehicles on the road also increased vehicle-related accidents; the Road Accident Fund (RAF) came.

The RAF is different from car insurance in that it is a government-funded programme that compensates individuals injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents within the borders of South Africa.

The cover is compulsory and is extended to all users of South African roads, citizens and foreigners alike. The RAF is designed to compensate for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering.

On the other hand, car insurance is a policy that individuals purchase to protect themselves financially in the event of an accident.

What are the different types of Car Insurance?

Third-party or Liability cover:

Third-party cover, also known as liability insurance, is a type of car insurance that covers another individual in the event of an accident should you be held responsible for any damages to their car, injuries, accidental death and damage to property.

Policies offer limited cover as they only protect the person that sustains injuries caused by you. However, they do not cover you for any damages due to an accident.

Third-party insurance is ideal due to its low price; it is the most affordable car insurance policy offered by insurers.

So if your vehicle is fully paid off or you can afford to repair any damages sustained, this type of insurance is perfect for you.

Third-party Fire and Theft insurance:

This insurance coverage protects other motorists should you be liable for causing an accident resulting in injuries, damage to property and accidental death.

In addition, this policy protects you against accidental damage caused by fire, theft, and hijacking.

Third-party Fire and Theft cover is also affordable for motorists who tighten their belts during these challenging economic times.

Comprehensive Car Insurance:

Comprehensive car insurance covers damages to your vehicle from collision and non-collision events such as theft and hijacking, vandalism, or natural disasters such as hailstorms and other weather-related disasters.

In a claim event, you are only responsible for the excess to repair or replace your vehicle.

Comprehensive car insurance can be more expensive than other types because it provides a broader range of coverage.

This policy can also offer additional benefits like a courtesy car/car hire, towing and credit shortfall, resulting in a higher cost of coverage than other types of policies.

Comprehensive car insurance is perfect for all motorists; the peace that comes with knowing your vehicle is fully covered can’t be emphasised enough.

How Do Car Insurance Premiums Work?

A car insurance premium is the cost of an insurance policy and the money a policyholder agrees to pay their insurer monthly in exchange for coverage.

Premiums are calculated based on the policyholder’s risk profile, so no two are identical.

When considering a client’s risk profile, age and location, numerous factors affect car insurance premiums differently.

Generally, younger drivers are considered higher risk and therefore pay higher premiums. The older a person is and the more experience they gain, the lower their premiums are.

Young drivers (under 25): this age group is considered high-risk and, as a result, pays the highest premiums. They are more likely to be involved in accidents and make claims, which is why insurance companies charge them more.

‘Middle-aged’ drivers (between 25 and 55): They are considered less risky and pay lower premiums than the former age group. Typically, they are more experienced and less likely to be involved in accidents.

Older drivers (usually 55 and over): Lastly, this group is considered to pose the least risk and, as a result, will pay the lowest premiums. They have the most experience on the road and are considered safer drivers.

Geographical location also affects the outcome of a policyholder’s premiums. Premiums tend to be higher in urban areas because there is more road activity, which means a higher likelihood of accidents, theft and damages.

In contrast, rural areas tend to have lower premiums because of less traffic congestion, fewer accidents and a lower crime rate.

Insurance companies consider this information when offering coverage because some areas are more at high risk than others.

What is Car Insurance Excess?

When an accident happens and your car is damaged, as a policyholder, you have the right to file a claim with your insurer, and they will pay out the amount needed to fix the vehicle. In the case of a total write-off, that would be the retail value of your car.

But before you receive any monetary compensation from your insurance, you must pay a small fee relative to the claim.

That is known as car insurance excess.

In car insurance, excess exists as a way for the policyholder to share some of the risk with the insurer and is typically a fixed amount outlined in the policy agreement.

Paying an excess helps reduce the overall insurance cost for the policyholder, as they take on some of the risk themselves.

Additionally, it protects the insured community from submitting unnecessary claims and over-claiming for minor damage and incidents.

Excess in car insurance can also act as a deterrent to making fraudulent claims.

Much like car insurance policies, excess also comes in different types:

  1. Basic Excess - This is an amount the policyholder must pay towards any claim they make, regardless of the circumstances. It is compulsory and often set by the insurer.
  1. Additional Excess - This amount applies when specific car insurance policy clauses are voided. The additional excess is paid on top of your already existing excess.

A once-off additional excess may apply once per claim if, for example,

  • You are under 25,
  • The regular driver/spouse of the regular driver is not driving the vehicle at the time of the incident,


  • You happen to claim within 6 months of your policy start date.

  1. Windscreen Excess: This excess applies to claims for the car’s windscreen and windows and is almost always reduced compared to the standard car excess.
  1. Zero Excess: Some insurers offer this, whereby a person can submit a claim without paying any excess. However, this may come at a higher cost for your monthly premium.
  1. Excess Waiver: This option reduces or eliminates the excess a policyholder would pay in case of a claim. This usually happens when clients prove they were not responsible for the incident.

The relationship between car insurance premiums and car insurance excess is one of a contrary nature; when one goes up, the other comes down.

A higher excess will result in a lower premium because the policyholder is taking on more risk. Conversely, a lower excess will result in a higher premium, as the insurance company is taking on more risk.

Choosing the correct excess is a balance between getting a policy that suits your needs and your budget. It’s essential to pick an excess you can afford to pay in case of a claim.

How does Car Insurance differ from motorbike insurance?

Car and motorbike insurance differ in several ways, namely the type of vehicle covered, the level of coverage required, and the insurance price. Other examples include

  1. Cost: Although motorcycles cost less to purchase than motor vehicles, they are more expensive to insure than the latter. This is because motorbikes have a higher risk of accidents, injuries and fatalities and an increased chance of write-offs.

  1. Add-ons: Motorcycles can be customised, making it harder for insurance companies to determine their retail value, so insurance policies for motorbikes may have different coverage options and exclusions than car insurance.

  1. Personal Injury Protection: Cars have more safety features than motorcycles, e.g. airbags, seat belts, and crumple zones. Motorbikes do not, and because of this, motorcycle insurance policies may require additional coverage like personal injury protection.

What Can Void Your Car Insurance and Why?

Most car insurance companies operate on an honesty-is-the-best-policy system, and the information you supply is taken to be the absolute truth. So if you tell your insurer that the colour of grass is purple, they will not dispute this information.

Due to this, it’s imperative to provide accurate and honest communication, as this helps with the validity of your policy and, most importantly, helps the claim process run smoothly.

Non-disclosure of important information is a common reason for disputes when a claim has been lodged or rejected.

Other factors that could void your car insurance premium include

  1. Lying on your application: Providing false or misleading information on your insurance application can cancel your policy.

  1. Misuse of the vehicle: Using your car for illegal activities or in ways that violate the terms of your policy, like for ehailing services (Uber, Bolt and so forth), without your insurance company’s knowledge, may affect your policy negatively.

  1. Illegal activities: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drag racing, previous criminal convictions and reckless driving can all lead to your policy being cancelled.

  1. Modifying the vehicle: Making significant modifications to your car that the insurance company does not approve can void your policy.

  1. Non-payment of premium: Failure to pay your monthly premium will result in your insurance company cancelling your policy.

By understanding these factors, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that your car insurance policy remains valid and that you're covered in the event of an accident, incident or loss.

To Sum It Up:

To answer the question, “What is car insurance?” a lot can be considered when describing it. However, car insurance can simply be described as a lifeline in times of trouble.

In addition to the protection from financial loss in the event of an accident or other covered events and added benefits like roadside assistance and towing, car insurance provides the priceless perk of offering the policyholder peace of mind.

Knowing that you are covered for repairs or replacement of your car in an accident offers policyholders an enormous sense of relief.

As well as the knowledge that should you be held responsible for another person’s injuries, damage to property or even a fatality, your insurer will still offer assistance where necessary, saving you time, energy, and effort.

Although the cost of living is relatively high and seemingly increasing yearly, saving money by skipping over insurance may seem wise. But in actuality, this can be detrimental to your savings.

A valid car insurance policy can save you money in the long run, providing financial protection in vehicle accidents, theft, or other damages.

Without insurance, you would have to pay for these costs out of your pocket, which can be pretty costly.

While paying for insurance can be an additional expense, it can save you money in the long run.

Lastly, since insurers are different, it is essential to shop around, compare quotes and find the best coverage at the most suitable price. Read the fine print and understand what is and isn't covered in a policy before signing on the dotted line.

How To Get Affordable Car Insurance:

Look no further than Pineapple, affordable car insurance is a few clicks away and only begins with a simple quote.

It only takes 90 seconds, and if you like what you see, we strongly suggest starting your policy with us as soon as possible.

After all, life is unpredictable, and accidents can happen at any time. So save yourself the hassle and heartbreak; be a Pineappler today by visiting our website https://www.pineapple.co.za/car.

Pineapple (FSP 48650) is underwritten by Old Mutual Alternative Risk Transfer Insure Limited, a licensed Non-Life Insurer and authorised FSP. T&Cs apply. Premium is risk profile dependent.

Team Pineapple

Team Pineapple comprises our company’s top talents, who are dedicated to creating clear, high-quality content on essential vehicle insurance topics. This diverse group, including actuaries, accountants, data scientists, and insurance professionals across South Africa, collaborates to produce enlightening and empowering articles.

Each piece is thoroughly researched, factually accurate, and rigorously reviewed to ensure quality.

*We say they’re the finest because we want them to keep writing for us!

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Please Note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as legal or financial advice.

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