Snow worries for motorists

Snow worries for motorists

With the extreme temperature lows of winter, vehicle breakdowns and car insurance claims may soar. But many cold climate-related car troubles could be avoided if you take the necessary precautions when driving in snow, sleet or heavy rain this month.

Keep your cool

If you’re hitting the slopes in the final weeks of the ski season and plan to drive in near freezing temperatures, you’ll need to check your antifreeze in your vehicle. Antifreeze is a chemical compound that is added to the water in your radiator to reduce the freezing point to a temperature below the lowest temperature that the car is likely to encounter.

Well-oiled machine

In any climate, drivers should regularly check that their car oil levels are topped up to avoid engine damage. You can easily do this by inspecting the car’s dipstick under the bonnet and topping up when necessary.  

See and be seen

In bad weather visibility can be reduced so it’s vital to check that your wiper blades are up to scratch and that your windscreen-wash tank is topped up. To ensure other drivers can see you in poor driving conditions replace faulty break lights, indicator lights and headlight bulbs.

Positively charged

With winter’s shorter days and often reduced visibility many drivers will flick on their headlights when driving during the day. Forget to switch them off when you leave the vehicle and you may return to find your car battery is drained.

Tread carefully

Balding tyres can cause big problems on the road, particularly in extreme weather conditions. While you’re down inspecting tread, check the tyre for correct inflation pressure too – details on this can be found in your vehicle handbook. It’s easy to forget about your spare tyre, so remember to check its condition before you hit the road.

Chain reaction

If it’s snowing there will be signs on the road to fit chains to your car’s tyres. Chains are compulsory on all vehicles in Victoria including four-wheel drives, but are only required on two-wheel drive vehicles in NSW. Have a test run fitting chains to your tyres before visiting the snow and carry a pair of gardening gloves to fit them.

To be sure

During the ski season, car insurance provider RACV says it can rescue as many as 300 motorists – and that is accounting for just one snow region near Mt Buller, Victoria. So it pays to check that you have the correct level of car insurance and roadside assistance for your vehicle before you drive in extreme temperatures this month.

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Learn more about car insurance

Can I drive a new car without insurance?

It is illegal to drive a car in Australia without insurance. Most states require that you get your insurance in place before you drive the car off the dealership’s plot. So, the answer to whether driving a new car without insurance is no, it is not allowed.

The only time you can possibly legally drive an uninsured car is when you have to get the vehicle registered. You should drive straight to an inspection station or your state's vehicle registry. You must also make sure that you take the most direct or convenient route possible.

It is important to note that your compulsory third party insurance (CTP or green slip) isn’t valid until your car is registered.

Driving an unregistered or uninsured vehicle can have severe legal repercussions. If you are involved in an accident, and are driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, you will be personally liable to pay compensation to anyone hurt, as well as for damages. If you are caught driving a vehicle without insurance, you may be fined or even have your vehicle seized.


Does insurance cover a stolen car if keys were in the car?

A car insurance policy that covers the theft of your car, such as third party fire and theft insurance, usually covers a stolen car, even if the keys were in the car’s ignition.

However, your insurer may deny the claim if you live in an area where there have been several car robberies reported recently. They will see you leaving the keys in the car as a case of negligence. In such cases, your insurance provider may even expect you to have installed anti-theft security measures in your car. 

You may need to confirm whether or not you left your keys in your car, and if they had been stolen or misplaced, before filing your car insurance claim. The loss or theft of your car keys may be covered by a comprehensive car insurance policy, but usually as an optional item.

If you can confirm that your car keys were stolen, mention this in your claim as this will help establish that your car was not stolen as a result of your negligence.

Can you insure your car for 6 months?

Most Australian insurers won’t offer you a 6-month car insurance policy, so you may need to buy a policy that covers your car for damages and cancel it after six months. You will need to purchase comprehensive car insurance to protect your car from accidental damage, theft, vandalism, or natural disasters.. 

Consider checking whether your 6-month comprehensive car insurance will cost more if you pay monthly or six-monthly premiums instead of a one-time annual premium. Another question to ask the insurer is whether you’ll need to pay administration or cancellation fees when you cancel the policy.

Alternatively, you can look for a suitable ‘pay as you drive’ car insurance policy, which usually offers you the coverage of a comprehensive car insurance policy but only requires you to pay for the distance driven. Such a policy may not be the ideal 6-month car insurance plan as it is based on how much you drive rather than for how long. If you need to drive a lot, you may end up paying more than you’d pay for regular car insurance.