You can (usually) go without being insured for 2 years before your no claims bonus expires.
But all insurance companies do things a little differently, so always read your policy documents and double check.
If you haven't had your own car insurance for a little while (maybe you sold your car, stopped driving or moved overseas), most car insurance companies will honour your old no-claims discount when you take out new cover.
Unfortunately, this grace period only tends to last for two years. If you go longer than that without having insurance, you won't get any discount on your new policy. And that (usually) means you'll have to build up your no claims bonus from scratch.
That's not always the case, though. You might find an insurer who's willing to accept some of your old no-claims discount. It usually depends on:
If you stand to lose a big bonus, it's worth speaking to your old insurance company when you're shopping around for new cover. They might agree to recognise some of your expired no claims bonus if you sign up with them again.
No claims bonuses only apply to the "main driver". That means if you're married (or living with someone) and you share a car, you can't share your no claims bonus. Only one of you can be the main driver.
They're usually the owner of the car, or its 'registered keeper', but not always.
It's the main driver who gets the reward for no claims, even if there are other named drivers on the policy or the car is owned by someone else.
There are some companies that will let you transfer a no-claims discount to someone else, a husband who's stopped driving, to his wife, for example. It's pretty unusual, but not unheard of.
But there are other ways to get around it. One way is to switch the main driver every year. That way, neither of you goes more than a year without being insured, so your no claims bonus is safe.
But you have to be really careful with this. The main driver has to be the person who drives the car the most. If a named driver does the bulk of the driving, that's a kind of fraud called "fronting".
Most temporary car insurance policies don't add to your no claims bonus - even if they're comprehensive.
That's because no claims discounts only apply for every full year of insurance you go claim free.
On the other hand though - if you already have a NCB, and you lend out your car to someone using short-term insurance, you'll be protected even if they make a claim.
That means you can't keep hold of your no claims bonus for longer than 2 years if you're only driving as a named driver on other people's policies.
If you've been driving someone else's car as a named driver and then decide to take out your own car insurance, you won't get any benefit from not making any claims on their policy.
There are a few companies that will let you build up a no claims bonus as a named driver, but you'll only be able to use it if you take out your own car insurance with them.
If you're a named driver as well as having your own insurance, and you make a claim as a named driver, you won't usually lose your no claims bonus. Most of the time it affects the policyholder.
You can transfer your no claims bonus to a new car, if you switch your car mid-way through your policy.but you'll (usually) lose the no claims bonus you've built up for the year.
But if you buy an additional car, you won't be able to use your no claims bonus on that one too. It's one car at a time.
If you've been driving a company car and your employer pays the insurance, you might be able to get some kind of discount when you take out your own insurance.
It's not guaranteed though, so you'll need to prove that:
To prove it, you'll usually need a letter from your boss or fleet manager.
But even then, a lot of insurers won't accept it. (It's pretty open to abuse.)
Generally, you'll only be able to do this if you're getting insured with the same company that insures your company car, because they can go check their records to make sure it's not made up.
Classic car insurance works a little differently. With most classic car policies, you won't build up a no claims bonus, and you can't use your existing no claims bonus to make it cheaper.
Instead, the cost of the policy is based on things like how:
Some UK insurance companies recognise no-claims discounts from other countries. You'll need to have written proof of your no-claims history, though. And usually in English.
Check with your insurer if they do this, if so, find out exactly what information they'll need to honour your foreign no claims bonus.
No claims bonus protection is where you pay an additional fee to protect your discount. It can make sense if you've built up a nice big bonus and are worried about losing it all if you have to make a claim.
Your protection covers you for the time you have an active, valid insurance policy. If you cancel the insurance, you're also cancelling the no claims bonus protection, so no more safety net for you.
No claims bonus protection can get a little complicated. Usually it only protects you for a single claim - anymore than that and you'll still lose some of your discount.
Protecting your no claims bonus doesn't mean your price won't go up if you claim, either.
If you've a big enough no claims bonus, it might make more sense financially to buy a dirt-cheap car insurance policy just to keep your insurance going, so that you can get a massive discount when you start driving again.
But that doesn't mean you can insure a car you don't drive. You need an "insurable interest" to take out a policy on something.
That basically means you have to have an actual reason to want to protect the thing you're insuring - and some random car you don't drive probably doesn't count.
In theory, you could keep hold of your no claims bonus by:
You'd get most of your money refunded for the insurance policy, but you'd still get a record of having been insured at the end of the year when your renewal rolled around, which would stop your insurance from expiring.
But you'd have to declare the car "off-road" (by "SORNing" it) after you cancelled the policy. Cars have to be insured all the time, unless they're off-road.
When you tell the government that your car is off-road - this is called "declaring a Statutory Off-Road Notification", if you want to be all fancy about it - your insurance stops being valid. (But SORNing doesn't cancel your policy.)
And that means you can't leave it off-road and expect it to keep building up no-claims.