Insurance companies refuse cover for using the wrong fuel

insurers don't always cover misfuelling

In the past, if you made the mistake of putting the wrong fuel into your car, your insurance company would usually cover it. In recent years, however, many are declining to pick up the bill.

According to new research by Defaqto, payouts for putting the wrong fuel into a car have been declining since 2016. Using the wrong fuel can potentially destroy your engine, and cost thousands to put right. This has lead insurers to back away from covering it under ‘accidental damage’ in their policies.

In 2016, 49 percent of insurance products on the market excluded misfuelling damage, although 51 percent would have covered the claims. In 2020, nearly two thirds (59 percent) exclude it.

insurers don't always cover misfuelling

As insurance providers ditch misfuelling, breakdown providers are more likely to cover costs of recovery. In 2016, 49 percent excluded cover for this, compared with just 36 percent who exclude it today. 

Running an engine with the wrong feel can be catastrophic. However, just because you’ve filled up, that doesn’t mean the damage is already done. If you realise before you fire the car up, the fuel can be drained and the cost mitigated.

insurers don't always cover misfuelling

“It is easy to put the wrong fuel in your car by mistake, particularly if you are driving one that you’re not used to,” said Michael Powell, consumer motor expert at Defaqto.

“If you do have breakdown cover, call your provider and ask if they can help. Otherwise, you may need to call a repairer and pay for the costs involved. Either way, it is essential that you do not start your car’s engine as the potential damage could be very expensive to repair.”

Misfuelled your car? Here’s what to do:

  • Push, don’t start. Save your engine by not firing up
  • Call your breakdown provider. They may be able to recover you
  • Check if your recovery also covers draining the fuel
  • Check if the repairer will be able to get you the right fuel

What’s worse? Diesel in a petrol, or vice versa?

insurers don't always cover misfuelling

Petrol in a diesel car is generally worse news, and unfortunately is more common. Diesel acts as a lubricant in a diesel engine system. Petrol, however, causes more friction. It can be especially damaging to high-pressure common-rail diesel systems.

Diesel in a petrol, while inconvenient, shouldn’t be as bad. It’ll clog the spark plugs and the fuel system, but the AA says petrol engines shouldn’t sustain permanent damage: the engine simply won’t start when fed diesel. It’s also harder to put diesel in a petrol car, as the fuel nozzles usually don’t fit.