UK vehicle insurance

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Original post by Neil Clements 7/23/13:

So, I have still not started on a gasser, but I have made batches of charcoal and finished off welding up a manly sized 55 gal drum bar-b-q. You may say I’m skirting around the issue of getting on with a Simple Fire. Anyway, I have been pre-occupied with the sticky wicket that is vehicle insurance. For all you not blessed with a UK driving licence, our insurance system is like taking a bath with a blind piranha. As soon as you make a wrong move your manhood gets bitten off! The insurance companies are looking for an excuse to void your policy and not pay in the event of a claim. Fit aftermarket alloys and not inform them, WHAM! Do inform them and your premium goes up. You will never win.

I’m rambling…

Back on topic. I have been trying to sniff out an insurance company that will insure a road going vehicle, fitted with, and running off a gasser. It’s not like I’m trying to part the red sea here but do you think I can find anyone? No! A lot of companies have not the courtesy to reply to emails and contact forms, while others are quick to get me off the phone once I have explained the technical of the setup.

So, I went down a different route. I’ve gone to an insurance company who specifically deal with alternate vehicles. This company specialises in road going steam vehicles, vintage, classic and trains (up to a modest 2ft gauge). I have had no reply yet but if this company says no then there is no hope for the future of wood gas on the British roads…

Neil, I hate to say this but… I wish you wouldn’t. If you tell them all about woodgas vehicles, it could make it very hard for those who prefer “dont ask dont tell”. Think about it.

If insurance companies won’t go for alloy wheels you can bet they will be scared stiff by a homemade fire-machine in the back of your vehicle. There’s nobody that will insure one in case of a wreck. Nobody. The only question is whether you can insure it in the meantime, under normal circumstances… by law all motorists must carry insurance. If you can’t get insurance then you can’t drive at all.

You might be pushing us all into super-expensive high risk insurance, or worse into being uninsurable… just something to bear in mind.


I am with Chris 100% Don’t ask don’t tell is how i feel about it. I would appreciate it if you were to back off on this.

Thanks, Peter C.

Well. Let me first account my run ins with the law;

Age 17, fresh licence and in charge of my very first car, a MK2 Polo. I set about tidying it up and generally fiddling with it. I re-sprayed the back box in HT silver then clipped a tail pipe trim to the existing pipe. From a glance it seemed I had a racing exhaust. After being followed for a mile by a copper I got pulled. After a friendly meeting he confided he was drawn in by the theatrics of the exhaust and had checked my plates. Finding that the car was insured as un-modified he soon pulled me. I did get a compliment for a job well done.

Age 19, a foggy night and I’m on the side of the road in my old Landy. The full beam switch had got stuck and I was in the foot well addressing the issue. Blue lights soon appeared and I got quizzed as to why I wasn’t using my hazard lights nor my fog lights. I had to inform the officer that the age of the vehicle pre dated the mandatory inclusion of these components. Red rag to a bull, he combed my Landy for anything to stiff me with. He found it too. It was insured as a three seater, but the previous weekend I had removed the centre seat for better access to the handbrake drum. I had to get it re-fitted, pay for a mechanics report to prove it was correctly fitted, then produce my licence, insurance cert, mechanics report and bring the vehicle to the police station as well to prove that I was above board.

Driving my van with pallets in the back. I get pulled over and grilled about my load. Was it for business? I informed the copper that it was for my parents log burner. I was then asked if I had received any payment to fetch them. My van insurance is “social, domestic, pleasure and commuting”. If I had said that I was getting any cash for the load then my insurance would have been voided right there.

A work colleague recently had a rear end smash. Not much damage and the person who hit him admitted a lapse of concentration, causing the accident. All was well, the insurance approved repairers took the car away and filed their report as to the damage extent and repair costs. “Damage to the LPG tank mounting bracket”. This then got ugly, fast. He did not inform his insurers that his car was dual fuel. The insurance company voided his policy. The driver at fault was asked if he would like to sue for damages. Luckily he was a man of character and said no. The police were less than kind. A small court case got him out of the fine and points on his licence after pleading ignorance, but the insurance company never paid up.

A school friend never informed his insurance company that he de-restricted his moped. when he got caught it was a fine, licence points plus an impounded vehicle.

I don’t know how American insurance works but the UK version is pretty tight. Having a traffic cop as a friend I can tell you how it would go. I don’t declare the gasser setup and drive on wood/charcoal regardless. I get pulled over for something, maybe a routine check or a copper wondering why my “unmodified” car looks like a prop from Mad Max. Finding out the AGA is not declared and the vehicle is far from standard my insurance is nulled on the spot, leaving me with none. I have my vehicle seized and get issued with hefty fine, and points on my licence. I can, of course have my vehicle back, once I pay the towing cost, daily storage fee and provide a valid insurance certificate. Of course I won’t be able to produce insurance for a gasser, so my car ends up getting crushed.


You can ask for forgiveness but you will not find it over this side of the pond.

Do you prefer we all go around all cloak and dagger and hide what we do in the shadows? If that is so, why have a website advertising the fact? Why meet up at Argos once a year and make a big deal about it? Why have signs on your vehicles advertising the fact?

If you prefer I not “ask for permission”, then my interest in wood gas ends here. I live in an upstairs maisonette with no outdoor space. I cant run a wood gas fuelled generator, I have no need for a wood gas fuelled lawnmower. Transport is my only use. If you all prefer I don’t find out the legal way of doing things then I cant run a road going vehicle. What’s the point in continuing this interest? I may as well delete my account on this site and ditch all the data I have on wood gas.

Good luck to Mr Brian Hughes, mainly on getting insured on a charcoal fuelled Landy. Thank you to Mr Gary Gilmore for turning my understanding of gassing upside down and completely re-educating me.

Just to add;

“Well, we already insure vehicles with an on-board fire. Would you be willing to provide a more technical account as to the inner workings of the proposed wood gas system so we have a better understanding”

A direct extract from the, very optimistic, return email from the specialist insurance company I contacted. I also got a good quote for my ride on railway too.

Neil, I wish you the best with the specialist insurance company. It may be that steam engine insurance will work out for woodgas vehicles as well. If so, that’s great and I’ll switch. Lets hope its not outrageously expensive.

I still say that informing most mainstream insurance companies of all the properties of woodgas vehicles is foolish and will get you nowhere. Consider:

  • Blazing coals which may be spilled in a rollover
  • red hot metal within a few feet of a fuel tank
  • homemade = uninspected = not DOT approved
  • no prior data. You don’t fit the normal pigeon holes.

Would any sane insurance agent take that risk?

Again I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get accurate insurance. It appears you have no choice. Just be aware that in general these folks are not on your side, and will drop you at the first sign of abnormality. The more they think about it, the worse it sounds to them.


Yes, in the states officers don’t generally check insurance details as closely as you’re describing. Presenting proof of insurance (and a license) is all that they require.

Since you recounted your run-ins, here’s two of mine - with a woodgas truck.

Last year, coming home on wood, about 8pm and dark, “Woodgas Powered” door signs applied and going slow. Officer pulls me over for a brake light out. All he wanted was license and proof of insurance. He noted the woodgas system (because of the signs) and thought it was neat. I tried in vain to repair a fuse to avoid the ticket, but it turned out it was a bad bulb.

This year I went to register the new Dakota. An officer came out to do a full inspection on the truck as it was out of state. We tested lights, wipers, brakes, horn, checked the VIN. He never mentioned anything about the gasifier. He pointed out a cracked tail lens (I’m not the best at backing), and told me that could get me a ticket. On his way back inside he tossed me a roll of red tape and said “Have a nice day”.

Wayne’s been ticketed for speeding on woodgas. No mention of the gasifier, again just insurance and license. When Wayne pointed out the gasifier, the officer didn’t appear to believe him.

I’ve been in traffic following, followed and nearby to many different officers (two different ones just today). I watch their reactions. Never a second look.

Hi Neil, I think a general (with exceptions) trend among the wood gas crowd would be rural living access to wood and low density living. I would never undertake this project in a built up setting since there are many elements of it that can raise red flags. To add to Chris’ list how about generating a poisonous explosive gas. I have not undertaken a road vehicle because of possible liabilities. I have chosen to play with small engines and tractors instead… My two cents… David baillie


Looks like you need a move to the country, or perhaps a move to another country. Seriously, though, it doesn’t seem like you’re going to have much success trying to educate the un-educatable. Remember, trying to argue with an idiot is like mud wrestling with a pig - it only gets you dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Alex, To whom would you be referring to as “un-educatable idiots” ??

The correct spelling is uneducable.

It’s pretty funny that Peter is commenting on the subject as we live in one of the only states (possibly THE only) that doesn’t require you to have car insurance. New Hampshire might become a hotbed (pun very much intended) for woodgas trucks for this reason.

One would have to wonder how deep in doodoo you would get if your woodgas truck was in an accident and it wasn’t registered or insured as such. I suppose it all depends on the situation and the other guys lawyer, but I struggle to believe that it would be better for “the world” to find out about these vehicles due to a really bad accident than full transparency.

Although I agree with Chris’s assessment that an agent would be nuts to approve a policy on a woodgas truck, I feel that is completely a product of the system, not logic. Is truck with a small fire in the back any more dangerous than a natural-gas vehicle that would essentially have a bomb strapped to it whenever the tank was full? The only real difference is that the woodgas industry does not yet have lobbyist (and I’m certainly not volunteering for that job).

If one was to “crush” any of the common vehicles full of: ( gasoline, CNG, propane, or diesel ) and compare it to the “puff” of a fully loaded wood powered vehicle, I think we would be considered safer. But of course that will never happen, and we will never know. . . . unless one of you knows someone with a car crusher and a “myth busters” mentality. Hey, maybe we could get them to do it for us. Chrisky can write a suggestion letter, and Terry L can donate his pos. Sorry Terry, I feel your pain brother.


I assure you, I was not being critical of anyone on this site. I was referring to the British apparatchiks Neil is dealing with that insist on everyone living by their cookie-cutter regulations. Sorry for the ambiguous criticism. I even learned a new word - I guess that makes me “educable” :slight_smile:

Apologies having been made, suppose a wood burner gets T-boned by someone who ran a red light. The fuel hopper spills over onto the hood and through the likely broken windshield of the offending vehicle, and incinerates the occupants. What is the likely outcome of such an incident? Can a civilian vehicle be held to the same standard as a commercial transporter who failed to display his “explosive gas” sign on the side of his truck?

Don’t get me wrong - I wholeheartedly agree with the “Don’t ask - don’t tell” position on this. But I’m wondering what kind of knee-jerk reaction there will be from our American apparatchiks if such an incident occurs.

In your hypothetical scenario we both probably know the answer. If the news media got wind of the incident the politicians would feign outrate and rush to pass a law banning gasifiers on public roads. If there were no cameras to grand stand in front of there would be no interest from the politicians and nothing would change. Such is the nature of politicians I guess.

The average wood gas vehicle will usually have enough explosive gas to take the vehicle a couple hundred yards . The average gasoline vehicle may have enough to drive them across the state . The farmers and contractors pickups with the on bed tanks (off road fuel tanks ) may have enough to drive several thousand miles. I wouldn’t want to even guess the amount of energy in the LP tankers and gasoline tankers .