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Ice and snow add to problems for drivers when time comes to renew car insurance

Many drivers will be counting the cost of the recent snow and ice when their motor insurance comes up for renewal.

The chances of having an accident in adverse weather conditions are high. One in four drivers has been involved in a motor accident in snow or icy conditions according to statistics from Santander Insurance, with men being almost twice as likely as women to have caused damage to their own or other vehicles in these conditions.

But you don't have to be speeding. Tail-end shunts at junctions or roundabouts are the second most likely cause of a claim when the roads are icy.

If you have to claim on your motor insurance it will mean the reduction or loss of your no-claims bonus and an increase in your motor premiums at your next renewal.

You can't get out of it by blaming the weather or the council for not gritting the roads, it is whether you make a claim that counts. As AA Insurance spokesman Ian Crowder points out: "They are no-claims not no-blame discounts."

If you have a protected no-claims discount, you may avoid a hike in your premium next time round. The number of claims you can make without losing a discount varies between insurers, but typically you can claim up to twice in either three or five years.

However, it only helps if you stay with the same insurer, and its premium may not be so competitive at renewal. If you want to shop around, you will have to declare all claims when you request a premium quote.

Not having to claim on your insurance could be a good reason for fitting winter tyres. Many people are put off by the cost of buying a second set of tyres but this could be offset by not having to pay higher motor premiums if it means you avoid accidents.

It could become a legal requirement to fit these tyres. The Scottish Government has set up a working group to consider whether they should be made compulsory here as they are in Germany and some other continental countries.

At least one MSP believes that insurers should encourage motorists to use them by charging reduced premiums for vehicles with winter tyres. At the moment, it can be the other way round.

Some insurance companies regard them as a modification and may charge you an extra premium as a result. Most don't, but it still important to check with your company if you do fit them, otherwise you could find your cover is invalidated.

Driving responsibly is a requirement of all motor insurance policies. Among other things this means ensuring your visibility is not impaired by snow or ice. Failing to de-ice your car fully can invalidate your car insurance if you need to make a claim, according to comparison website Gocompare.com.

However, leaving your car running in the morning to warm up and demist the windows while you go indoors should be avoided at all costs.

If it is stolen, your insurance company won't give you any compensation. The Financial Ombudsman Service endorses the industry's stance. An Ombudsman spokesman said: "Leaving your car running with the keys in the ignition is like leaving your laptop in a public place unattended. You have to take due care of your possessions."

If you are involved in a prang due to poor weather conditions, it is always a good idea to take a photo of the conditions, advises Mr Crowder, especially if another car has collided with yours after you have lost control. "In this situation the insurers are likely to meet halfway rather than one trying to recover their outlay from the other."

At this time of year, having home start cover is particularly useful because snow and icy conditions often result in flat batteries.

Most breakdown cover does not start until 24 hours after purchase, but some providers, like the AA, will give you immediate cover although you will have to pay extra if you need help there and then.

After the thaw, potholes are likely to start opening up as the ice will have damaged road surfaces. If your car is damaged as a result of a pothole that the council was aware of, but has not mended, you can ask it for compensation. The council website should include a list of road repairs in the offing which you can check.

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