It's important that you have a car insurance policy before you actually drive the vehicle in question. It's illegal to drive a car on UK roads without a relevant policy for it. This applies wherever you are simply driving a car from one house to another or going for a long journey on a motorway – you must have a car insurance policy to be within the law.

It's even illegal to drive the car from the point of purchase to your home if you do not have a policy in place. This may seem strange as some people might be worried about buying a car insurance policy for a vehicle they have not yet sealed a deal for. The way around this is to get someone who has fully comprehensive cover allowing them to drive other vehicles to drive the car back to your home address for you. Alternatively, whoever it is you are buying the car from may allow you to put down a deposit, a proportion of the final sale price, to secure the car while you go away and sort a cover policy before driving it away and paying the full amount .

The main point is that there are no exceptions when it comes to the law, you must have a relevant policy in place before you drive a car on public roads. The police take a dim view of those who are caught. You can end up in court and face penal points on your license plus a fine. Persistent offenders may end up with a driving ban, and those who routinely break the law can even find themselves going to prison.

Although many people are still tempted and fail to get a policy, current technology means it is easier for officers to catch offenders. Something called automatic number plate recognition or ANPR technology means the police can simply use a camera to record the registration numbers of passing vehicles and compare them immediately to a database to see if they have a policy on them. Any questionable vehicles flagged up by the system will probably find themselves immediately dropped over.

Car insurance is also still needed if you are a learner driver, and you will need something in place before you take to the roads with your L plates and qualified driver in the passenger seat. Many people use a relative's or friend's car and are put on its insurance policy as a 'named driver' before taking to the wheel. Cutting corners is not advised and remember when you do get a car policy, cover comes in different levels – third party only is the minimum legal requirement.

To recap, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • You need a policy before driving a car on UK public roads.
  • Insurance needs to be in place before you take to the wheel, whatever your reason for driving that car.
  • Learner drivers also need to be covered when driving on public roads.
  • Penalties for driving without a policy can include points on your license and heavy fines.