Using your vehicle for work: are you covered?

FB job ads frequently specify “own vehicle”.  These are most common for junior roles such as runners, because most senior freelancers either have their own transport because they’re providing their own kit, or it’s expected that a hire car will be provided.  

So what’s the problem?  

The problem is that not having the right insurance is likely to mean that in the event that you have an accident (even if it’s not your fault) or simply get stopped by the police you will be deemed to be driving without insurance, and that’s a criminal offence.

I’ve been in touch with Hencilla Canworth, a firm of insurance intermediaries who specialise in insurance for the arts and media, to find out best practice and how you can be absolutely sure that you’re covered if you want to use your own car for business.

Most ordinary car insurance covers you for leisure and domestic use, including commuting to work.  That means that the insurer expects you to use a car to travel to work but not to use your car for business purposes.  The insurer is also relying on the declaration you made about your work – an office worker in a 9-5 job with a guaranteed parking space carries far less risk than a tired runner working 14 hours on a film set.   The difference is reflected in the premium they charge, which is why a lot of people are tempted to lie (or not quite declare the truth…).  

What constitutes “business use”?  

Pretty much anything which your employer asks you to do which involves using your car is “business use”.  That could be doing a quick run to the local sandwich shop to get lunches, picking up the camera assistant because she lives just round the corner from you, ferrying the actors from location to the studio, or loading the boot up with the DOP’s prized prime lenses.   Driving yourself there (alone) is probably fine as long as your job declaration fits.

Do be aware that “business use” may well exclude some specific tasks, top of which would be ferrying actors around.  That’s because the claims on insurance if an actor is injured can be sky high, particularly if a film needs to be rescheduled or, god forbid, reshot entirely.   However you do not need “hire and reward” cover, which is for taxis and minicabs.  

What should I call myself?

Most new entrants have a whole bunch of temp jobs which they fit around freelance media work.  And if you mostly work as a temp receptionist, in a retail job or in a call centre then that’s probably what you’ve declared as your work.  My very helpful informant says that in most cases you can declare a secondary job, and it’s really important that you do that before you even think about using your car for media work.  If the drop down list doesn’t have a suitable category then you need to phone your broker.  

Using comparison sites

The problem with comparison sites is that they cherry pick the low risk jobs/vehicles/drivers, so you may well find that they exclude any media-type work.   There are specialists, like Hencilla Canworth, but it will be more expensive and you will need to check the extent of your cover – for instance, you might find that you’re excluded from ferrying actors (because of the “value” of super stars if they get damaged, I guess).   Please, please don’t cut corners on insurance:  a criminal prosecution (and civil damages) would be absolutely devastating for anyone, but particularly when you’re just starting out. 

In most cases your employer is responsible for ensuring that you’re properly covered when you’re working for them, but using your own car is an exception.  That’s why we remind recruiters who use our FB groups to advertise their jobs that they need to check that anyone they employ who will be using their own vehicle is properly insured.