Riva Menon, a PR consultant from India, was driving to work when she suddenly noticed her fuel tank was empty. She quickly parked the car and stepped out, but in her nervousness left the keys inside the car and locked the door. Menon called her boss to explain why she hadn’t reached work on time. He bailed her out. “There must be a sticker with an emergency dial-in number on the left side of your windshield given by your insurance company,” he said. Menon checked immediately. It was there.

A roadside assistance vehicle arrived with fuel for her car in 15 minutes. The technicians also opened the locked door.“I had no clue that my auto insurance provides such quick roadside assistance,” she says. Like Menon, many people tend to treat their auto insurance as a mere formality that needs to be completed in order to drive a vehicle in the UAE, so they rarely check what benefits they’re entitled to.

Here is a checklist of ten things you need to know.

Roadside assistance

The emergency number might be on the insurance card that you are expected to carry whenever you are driving, or on a sticker on the left side of the windshield.
Most insurance companies tie up with companies such as AAA Middle East. They handle mechanical repairs, vehicle towing, battery boost, flat tyres, lockout and emergency fuel delivery, which are applicable across all GCC countries.

Cover the GCC

Robert Mitchen, a British national and an engineer working with an oil company, was travelling with his family by road to Muscat from Dubai. “A day before [I was to] travel I was told I needed car insurance in Oman. I panicked only to find out later that I was already covered.”
From all GCC countries to only a few, the cover varies according to the insurance company. Mahnoor Malik, Customer Service Representative of Oman Insurance Company, says, “We cover insurance for damage to your own car in Oman and Qatar but if you want third-party coverage, the easiest way is to buy insurance at the border. It costs around Dh90 for five days.”

Agency repair coverage

After an accident, Deepak Patel, an Indian businessman based in Bur Dubai, realised that the premium he had paid entitled him to garage repair but did not cover him for agency repair (which means you get it repaired from the manufacturer’s workshop). Usually, under comprehensive coverage, a car is entitled to agency repair for five years from the date of manufacture but this differs from company to company.
Sharfa Rizvi, Sales Representative at AIG Insurance Company, says, “After the car is two years old one needs to pay a slightly higher premium to avail agency repair.”

Off-road travel

Only 4x4s such as a Prado, Jeep or Land Cruiser can be insured for off-road travel but this does not cover activities like dune or wadi bashing. “By off–road travel we mean travelling on an unmarked road,” says Rizvi. “For off-road coverage one will have to pay an extra premium and pay a compulsory excess of Dh1,500.”

Windscreen cover

Malik says Oman Insurance Company’s comprehensive insurance covers the windscreen for Dh3,000 and doesn’t charge any extra premium, but Rizvi says that for an extra Dh10, the AIG Insurance Company covers the windscreen for Dh5,000. Drivers don’t need a police report to claim insurance for windscreen repair.
Age of the car and policyholder While some companies maintain a strict policy of not insuring older cars, others do not offer comprehensive coverage once the car is 10 years old. After that, the premium depends on the condition of the car.
There are also some restrictions on the age of the person applying for car insurance in the UAE. “Usually people above 25 years are eligible but we extend policies to people between 21 and 24,” says Rizvi. “The premium is decided according to a person’s driving experience.”

No-claims bonus

No-claims bonus is a special discount given on the premium to people with an accident-free record for over a year. If you are coming from overseas and settling down in the UAE, it is sensible to bring a no-claims bonus certificate with you. This might help you secure a discount of up to 40 per cent on the premium.
Rizvi says, “Many people from the UK with no-claims bonus certificates avail competitive prices here.”

Personal accident benefit cover for driver and passengers

A personal accident benefit for the driver and his or her family or co-passengers is usually available up to around Dh200,000 but you have to pay an extra premium for that. “It usually [costs] an additional Dh60 for the driver, and then for each extra member it is an additional Dh15,” says Malik.

Comprehensive insurance versus third-party liability

Third-party liability is the basic insurance you need according to UAE law. With this you are not covered for any damage to your vehicle unless there is another party at fault, and they are insured, and a claim can be made against them. But it does cover death or bodily injury to any third party as well as property damage caused by the insuree’s vehicle.
A comprehensive insurance policy will cover you against your own loss or damage as well as third-party property damage. This policy also ideally offers emergency medical expenses and insures against theft, fire and natural disasters.

Compulsory excess

“I always ensure that the premium I pay covers the complete value of the car and there’s minimum compulsory excess,” says Sujoy Banerjee, Director of Finance of a hotel chain in Dubai.
Malik says, “We charge the excess according to the vehicle model and value. For instance, if it is a 2009 Nissan Sunny then the voluntary excess will be around Dh200 and if it is a brand-new Honda Accord the excess charged will be around Dh300.”