Boiler insurance is one of those things you always intend to get round to, but can never be bothered to actually sort out. But it’s just when your boiler breaks down, in the freezing cold, that you wish you had it. Boiler repair services don’t come cheap but then boiler insurance can cost a lot too. Is it worth the cost, or is it just a load of hot air?
- Why insure a boiler?
- Do you need boiler cover?
- Boiler care insurance policies
- Adding boiler cover to your home insurance
- Boiler insurance customer service
- Self-insuring your boiler
- Our advice
- Help for Homecall customers
British Gas figures reveal that each year, on average one in 14 boilers will fail or develop a fault. At best, it’s inconvenient; at worst, dangerous.
Each year thousands of elderly people are admitted to hospital because of the cold, and if a boiler breaks down, parents of small children may struggle to cope. For everyone else, it’s a real nuisance (say hello to a freezing home and ice-cold showers) and worth avoiding where possible.
People take out boiler insurance policies in the hope that they will have quicker, cheaper access to a heating engineer if the worst happens. But is it worth it and are there alternatives?
Ask yourself these questions to find out if you need boiler cover and, if so, what type:
- Is your boiler new? If it has been installed within the past 12 months, it should still be covered by a manufacturer’s guarantee. You should have been given the relevant paperwork at the time of installation so check it. Also, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, anything you buy must be ‘of satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for purpose’. During the first six months after you buy a product, it is the retailer’s responsibility to prove that it was sold ‘fit for purpose’. They will have to replace it if they cannot prove this – you may need an engineer’s report to show it was faulty at the start.
- Are you already covered on your home insurance? Some insurers automatically cover boiler breakdowns, so you may already be covered. Don’t waste money on extra insurance if you don’t need it.
- Do you personally need cover? If you are only renting, it is your landlord’s responsibility to take out boiler insurance and have it repaired if it breaks down.
- Is your boiler very old? Most boiler plans exclude models that are over 15 years old, and any models older than 7 years may have to undergo an inspection. Remember to check that your particular brand is covered as some of the older makes are sometimes excluded.
- Should you go for ‘Boiler only’ or ‘full heating system’ cover? The cheapest boiler insurance policies only cover the cost of the boiler and controls but if you are willing to shell out a little extra you can ensure cover for your entire heating system, including radiators and pipes. Whether you get this kind of cover or not depends how likely you think it is that these will go, and how much of a problem it would be if they did.
- What does the insurer consider is an emergency? Some insurance providers don’t think that a lack of hot water constitutes an emergency, while others will only rush to fix your boiler in the winter months. If you go for a policy, make sure it’s one that has the same ideas as you about what is an emergency.
- What is their no claims period? Most new plans have a no-claims period now to stop people signing up on the day their boiler breaks down and then making a claim. The majority of no-claims periods last 30 days so that’s another reason for signing up as early as possible (ideally before the winter really sets in.
- Have you shopped around? As with most types of insurance, there’s a big variation in prices and features for boiler insurance. It’s important to shop around, although remember that cheap is not always cheerful when it comes to insurance so check what the policies cover and, where possible, go for companies you know are reliable.
Go to our boiler insurance comparison (also called ‘heating insurance’) here to find the best policy for you.
There’s a variety of plans available.
- Common to most is a free annual boiler service worth £75, which will help to keep your boiler running safely and efficiently.
- Most will also contribute towards the cost of a new boiler if yours is beyond economic repair.
- Make sure you get a policy that includes what you need. For example, with some you may only get the boiler replaced if it is under a certain age. Above that you just get a part-replacement and you have to pay for the rest. Others will evaluate on a ‘case by case’ basis.
Some providers will add boiler cover to your home insurance for an extra fee, which may be lower than buying a separate policy.
Again, if you go for a boiler add-on to your home insurance policy, make sure it is the policy you need. any of them only cover boilers which have had an annual service check, which can cost up to £75. So unless you’ve already had this done, or you can find a good deal on it, you could still be better off with a boiler care policy which includes a free annual service check.
When it comes to boiler care, customer service is crucial. Our friends at Which? carried out a survey of customer satisfaction and Worcester came top with a score of 70%. British Gas scored 55% for customer service and Homeserve just 46%.
Online, each boiler care policy seems to receive both glowing reviews and worrying negative reports of customers left in the cold for days on end. To find out what other customers thought of your chosen policy, go to which.co.uk.
Have you had a nightmare with your boiler insurance? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.
As you know, we think it’s better to ‘self-insure’ where possible, rather than give money to insurance companies (as you can see from this article on which savings pots you should have). This means setting up a special savings account that you only dip into if you have repairs to pay for. The question is, though, how much should you put in it and how likely is it that your boiler will need repairing?
The likelihood of your boiler breaking down depends on a number of factors, principally its age and state of repair. When considering the risk of self-insuring, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my boiler less than seven years old?
- Is it in a good state of repair (has it been checked over by a CORGI registered engineer, and have they mentioned anything that might soon need replacing?)
- If it broke down, do I know a reputable, reliable local engineer I could call? Roughly what would they charge me?
- In an emergency, would I be able to afford a new boiler?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, self insurance may be the way forward. You simply put a set amount into a bank account each month, and use this to cover any repairs. If you decided to set aside £16 a month, for example, you would be left with an annual kitty of £192, which would easily cover the average cost of a boiler repair which is currently around £185.
And of course if your boiler doesn’t break down, you get to keep the cash.
If your boiler is on its last legs then now is the time to set aside at least £1,000 to have it replaced (if you haven’t done so already). Try to save the money up before you have to replace it. Being without a boiler for weeks, particularly in the winter, is not a fun scenario!
If you do decide to take out a boiler care policy, make sure it includes a replacement boiler if yours needs to be replaced. Make sure you compare different policies before you go for one finally. Try our boiler insurance comparison here.
For minor repairs, you are often better off self-insuring, so the main reason for taking out a policy is to protect yourself against higher costs. It may even be worth taking out a policy with a high excess (say £200), which will cover you for higher costs, then self-insuring against the excess.
When we first started this piece we included Homecall’s boiler service. However, recently they went bust, leaving a lot of customers in the lurch. Those that had signed up for their service up to 3rd December 2010 are still covered by Brit Insurance, but anyone who joined after that date is not covered. However, we’ve just been told by Homeserve that any Homecall customers who have Homecall+ can have the ‘HomeServe Home Emergency Cover’ for a year for £1 plus proof they purchased a HomeCall+ policy after 3rd December 2010.