Car insurance - things I wish I'd known....

The night before last, the driver of a Crayola blue van smashed into the back of my car.  I know this, not because he left me a nice note to apologise containing his number and insurance details, but because blue paint is imprinted along the side of my motor. How do I know it was a 'he'? C'mon, what's the likelihood of a female doing that?And how do I know it's a van? Well that's an educated guess on the part of  every garage mechanic who has looked at it thus far....

As a result of the damage I spent a chunk of time on the phone, speaking to my insurance company (I might rather be at the dentist getting that nagging filling fixed). Here's what I wish I'd thought about when choosing my insurance policy. Plus what you need to know about getting the damage fixed:

1. Is my no claims capped? By which I mean, even if I have 10 years of no claims, does the company have a maximum cap? Mine does ( I didn't know) and it's 5. 

2. How many years of my no claims will I lose if I claim? See above - the answer in my case is two, which means I'll only have 3 years of no claims left, if I claim. This could make a big difference later, especially if I opt for a higher powered car (Porsche 964 SVD?) in the future. Or worse, if my teenager wants/needs to drive my Mini Clubman

3. How much excess do I have on my policy? In my case the answer is £400 (it gets worse by the minute..)

 So when to claim and when to let a local garage fix it?

5. The first answer is 'when you've got at least two estimates from local garages'. Bob my local fixer says he advises customers to cough up their own cash if the damage is going to be under £1000.

6. According to my insurance company they never advise fixing at the garages of car brand dealers as 'it costs a fortune'. I guess if you are claiming it doesn't make a difference...

7. Note to self and to you: always ask your local garage if you can pay cash on the fix, this helps in obvious ways..

8. Other note to us both: Change insurance policy at soonest available moment...and  try to read the small print or at least ask the questions...I hate that stuff..