AskMid is one of the most popular tools for UK drivers. Millions have already used it and the site currently registers up to 50,000 requests each day. These are impressive numbers for a website which essentially only does one thing and looks like it was programmed in the earliest days of the Internet.
So what is AskMid and what does it do? Why are so many people flocking to the site and what makes it so valuable? Who’s behind the site and how does it work? And: Can you trust it?
Despite the mystery, there are very simple reasons why AskMid has become utterly essential. In fact, if you haven’t already used it, we’d bet that you will very soon.
Let’s take a closer look at this portal – and how best to put it to your advantage.
AskMid: Checking your insurance
The basic functionality of AskMid is strikingly simple. Just like google, it consists of little more than a small field for entering a search query. Below and to the left of it, there are a few explanatory notes.
The way AskMid works is: You enter a vehicle registration number into the search bar. The VRN is identical to the license plate. Its purpose is to identify the car. After pressing enter, the website will tell you whether or not this vehicle has a valid insurance or not.
It does this by comparing the number you’ve entered with the entries in the MID, the Motor Insurance Database. If your car is included in that database, you’re okay. If it is not, there may be a problem.
More about that later.
Who runs AskMid?
There is a direct link from the DVLA’s website to AskMid. So you might assume that AskMid is also an official government information provider.
However, it is not.
More precisely, the website is maintained by the MIB, the Motor Insurance Bureau. This organisation was set up in 1946 with the declared goal of protecting drivers who got caught up in an accident with an uninsured car.
Although it is privately held, it works closely together with the government. Importantly, for example, it is funded by mandatory contributions made by insurers. By paying your insurance fees and insurance companies then passing part of these fees on to the MIB, you are actively protecting yourself from financial disasters.
Just as an aside: The MIB still gets a lot of flack for its cold calls. In fact, these calls were performed by spam companies trying to trick drivers. The MIB is perfectly reputable and deserves credit for its social role in the insurance business.
WARNING: Who can use AskMid?
As long as they’re entitled to it, everyone can use the site.
However, there is a caveat: Not everyone who drives a car is automatically entitled.
Importantly, too, you are not allowed to just randomly enter a license plate you may see on the road into the search field and start a query. There are, in fact, severe penalties on doing just this. Make 100% sure you have the right to use AskMid – and to err on the side of caution if you’re not.
So, who’s entitled to use AskMid?
The website clearly details what gives you the right to start a query:
- The car is registered to you.
- You own the car.
- Either you or your employer have insured the car.
- You are permitted to drive this vehicle.
- You are an Insurance Broker or agent and acting on behalf of your client.
And that’s it. No more and no less. Of course, in practise, this means you should usually be able to look up the relevant information for your vehicle.
But I can’t look up other cars’ insurance status?
The reply to this question is: No, but …
On the one hand, you are not legally allowed to use AskMid for any vehicle which does not fall under the five situations mentioned before. On the other hand, you can still look up the insurance status of another car. You just need to use another tool to do this.
This tool is appropriately called the ‘Other Vehicle Look Up Service’.
To be able to use this service, you will need to fill in a form specifying:
- Your name,
- your reference or initials,
- an email address,
- the registration number of your car as well as
- the other car’s registration number and, last but not least,
- the date of the accident.
You will also need to describe how, exactly, you were involved – i.e. as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a car driver etc …
Whereas using AskMid is completely free, the Other Vehicle Look Up Service will set you back £4.50 per query. Taking into consideration how important this information is, however, this seems like a perfectly reasonable amount in our opinion.
What AskMid is for #1: Insurance Status
Let’s now look at the three main reasons for using askMid. The very first one is pretty trivial: You may want to check your own car’s insurance status.
Of course, your car should always be insured. So it’s a good thing that it’s very hard to forget doing so. However, if you’re still unsure, don’t take the risk of driving around with an ininsured car.
If you’re caught doing this by the police, you risk one of the following:
- A potentially unlimited fine (however, driving without an insurance is not imprisonable and will not appear on a criminal record)
- The offence will show in your records. This may make future insurance policies more expensive.
- Being disqualified from driving
- The police are, in special cases, allowed to take possession of the car and even to destroy it.
As you can see, it makes sense to check your status in case of doubt!
What AskMid is for #2: Buying a used car
If you’re buying a used car, you will want to know whether or not its previous owner bought appropriate insurance cover. Of course, as we said earlier, this should definitely be the case. Still, you’d be surprised how often buyers were caught out in the rain by buying without actually checking this.
In itself, even buying an insured vehicle need not be a problem for you personally. After all, after buying a car you will need to insure it either way. It only becomes an issue when you start driving around with it without insuring it yourself first.
So why would you want to know this information?
Because, as Carveto have explained, it may indicate serious underlying problems warranting further investigation:
- The car may be stolen.
- The car may be cloned.
- It may have a hidden history of problems.
The police will actually use the database to do just this. If recent statements are corrects, it still detects up to 500 cars each day as being uninsured this way.
One thing’s for sure either way: The previous owner has been irresponsible. This alone should make you weary of buying from her.
By using AskMid, you can very easily verify the insurance status of the car you intend to buy. It’s a step we recommend to everyone before committing to a purchase.
What AskMid is for #3: Accidents
The original reason for setting up AskMid was to allow for a quick verification of the insurance status in case of an accident. This remains one of its primary functions to this day.
The reason why AskMid is so useful isn’t hard to understand: If the other car is not insured, you need to take action quick or risk having to cover the entire damage yourself. So if you run into an accident, the website provides valuable information very quickly and, usually, reliably.
So I can always expect AskMid to be exact and up to date?
If you browse car forums long enough, you will find plenty of reports claiming that askMid is not very accurate.
So, first off, the bad news: It is indeed true that it can take up to seven days for updated insurance information to show up on the site. Also, there are cases where cars, which were clearly insured, were not shown as such online. It is easy to see how this could get you into serious trouble.
The good news is that this is very rare. In most cases, askMid works just fine and very quickly, too. It is updated up to 10,000 times each day, which is an impressive feat.
Ultimately, it is within the responsibility of your insurer to get the correct information into the database. So if you encounter any issues with AskMid, you will need to make sure they’re doing their job right.
All in all, you should now know how to use AskMid and to appreciate its value. Insurance is never an easy or pleasant topic, regardless if you have a traditional one or a telematics car insurance – so it’s good to know there are at least a few things you can truly rely on.