Direct Line magazine

Car insurance jargon buster

Updated on: 15 December 2021

a man uses a tablet while lying on a sofa

We try to make car insurance as straightforward as possible, but despite our best efforts, we know some of the terms can still be difficult to understand.

So, here’s our car insurance and garage jargon buster - we hope you find it useful.


The A-pillar is the part of the car’s frame between the windscreen and the front doors. The pillar extends down to the floor of the car with the front door hinges attached to the lower section. Designed to stay intact in the event of a crash and reduce blind spot out of the cabin, the A-pillar is the most important pillar of your car. 

Approved repairer

A repairer we’ve approved and authorised to repair your car following a claim.

Automatic transmission

Transmission is a mechanism that transmits the power from a car’s engine to its wheels. There are two main types of transmission in most cars on the road today: automatic and manual. In an automatic transmission car there’s no clutch pedal or gearshift. This means the driver doesn’t have to shift gears manually - it’s all done behind the scenes.


All-Wheel Drive - often used to refer to a four-wheel drive car. AWD systems are designed to function on all types of surfaces, both on and off-road, and most of them cannot be switched off. In short, an AWD car drives all of the wheels, all of the time.

Black Box

Black Box insurance uses telematics technology to monitor your driving performance. It often uses a small device to plug into your car. Some providers (including Direct Line) will give you a discount based on your driving. 

Continuously variable transmission

Rather than using gears, a CVT has an infinite ratio between wheel speed and engine speed. This means it can give seamless acceleration without the ‘shift shock’ when changing gears, no frequent gear changing on hills and better fuel efficiency. And did we mention the smoother driving experience?


Refers to the group of components that allow the car to release its full power. This includes the engine, transmission, drive shafts and drive wheels.


This is the amount you must pay towards any claim you make. Car insurance excesses are made up of voluntary excess, where you choose the amount, and compulsory excess that is set by your insurer.

The voluntary excess you set may affect your premium. For example, if you choose a lower excess your premium could go up, and if you choose a higher excess your premium may go down. Keep in mind; if you choose a higher voluntary excess to lower your premium, you’d have to pay this out if you’re involved in a claim for which you’re at fault.

Compulsory excess
+ Voluntary excess
= Total excess you’d pay in the event of a claim

For example, if you choose a voluntary excess of £350 and a compulsory excess of £100 applies, the total excess you’d pay if you had to claim would be £450. If you’re not at fault, then the excess will form part of your uninsured losses claim against the other people’s insurer.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are designed to use more than one means of propulsion. They’re powered by either petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor. They use less fuel and have reduced CO2 emissions when compared to conventional cars.


ISOFIX stands for ‘International Standards Organisation FIX’ and it’s the universal standard for installing child seats into cars. This means all carmakers have to provide dedicated attachment points in new cars to make fitting child seats quick, safe and simple.

Market value

This is the cost of replacing your car with another of the same make and mode,l and of a similar age and condition, at the time of the accident or loss.

Motor Insurers Database (MID)

It holds details of all motor insurance policies in UK. Data from the MID is used by police to help combat uninsured driving and enforce motor insurance law. Insurance companies use it to get details of other drivers when you’ve been involved in an accident.

If your car’s details don’t appear on the MID, you’ll be sent an Insurance Advisory Letter (IAL), unless your car has been declared ‘off road’ by Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

Remember, there’s a risk that your car could be seized if the correct details haven’t been registered.

Multi-car insurance

If you’ve got more than one car to insure at the same address, you could save money by taking out additional policies. Multi-car insurance usually covers different members of your household, and some policies are more flexible than others. 


If you lease your car, this is how much a car will be worth at the end of a lease.


What your insurer pays out for a claim.


Select ‘spouse’ or ‘partner’ if you and the additional driver you want to add to your policy are legally married or have had a Civil Partnership Ceremony.

If you’re a couple living together but are not married or have not had a Civil Partnership Ceremony, select ‘partner’.


Telematics insurance is a way to measure your driving, with a view to check your safety while in your car. It can be known as black-box insurance, and works with a device fitted to your car or through an app on your phone. It can often help with keeping costs of insurance down for new drivers, provided they're driving safely and responsibly. 

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