I'm checking the terms and conditions for various car hire insurance/excess coverage policies and I see a lot of lines like this one (this one from http://www.insurance4carhire.com):

We will not reimburse Your Excess or any financial loss or expense in the following circumstances: ...

6.13 Where Damage is the result of driving off-road, or on an un-made up road, or a road which is not designated as a public thoroughfare.

I can't find any definition of these. I'm planning on driving in South Africa and Lesotho and while I'm not planning on going off road, it'll be impossible to avoid some pretty poor quality roads.

Is there any standard definition of this? Would it include an official road, marked on maps, that is in a poor state of repair, or perhaps one that was never paved or sealed?

This company is a UK one who serve worldwide, there seems to be a UK definition of "unadopted road" as:

‘Unadopted’ roads are those roads not maintained by a highway authority as defined by Highways Act 1980. The description of such roads covers a wide range of circumstances.

...but that could well be an unrelated term more in the context of town planning than anything else. I can't find any obvious official definition of "unmade-up road".

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    For reference, "unadopted" in the UK context is more of a town planning term as you've guessed. While strictly speaking it doesn't convey any meaning with regard to the road quality, the fact that it applies to roads which aren't maintained to Highways Agency standards means that many unadopted roads are unmade/unmetalled.
    – MorayM
    Sep 21, 2016 at 7:55
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    @Mourndark Phrasing it as "it applies to roads which aren't maintained to highways agency standards" suggests that it only applies to such roads. Many unadopted roads are perfectly well maintained; it's just that they're not maintained by the usual public bodies. Sep 21, 2016 at 8:49
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    @DavidRicherby Sorry, yes I should have made it clear that they are not required to be maintained to that standard!
    – MorayM
    Sep 21, 2016 at 8:51

5 Answers 5


You'll want to check what jurisdiction/venue the insurer would look to settle disputes in. Assuming the UK angle was correct, in the absence of a definition supplied by the insurer themselves I'd be inclined to fall back to the most relevant piece of primary legislation that does include a definition.

Section 329 of the Highways act 1980 includes a definition of "made-up" as:

“made-up carriageway” means a carriageway, or a part thereof, which has been metalled or in any other way provided with a surface suitable for the passage of vehicles;

"Unmade-up" is probably reasonable to conclude as the opposite of this term, although if you end up in an important discussion where that distinction is sufficiently critical to the outcome clearly you'd need to defer to someone qualified to give advice on contract terms.

Note that unadopted has a rather different meaning - Byways open to traffic (BOATS) would be considered adopted for example and hence "unadopted" would not exclude this road.

  • +1 I like this answer and the approach, but "any other way provided with a surface suitable for the passage of vehicles" doesn't feel much less vague or open to interpretation than "made up"! Could be interpreted as any road that's had any surfacing done. Also, that Welsh road in the link looks pretty good based on my experience of African roads, if every road off the motorways is like that, I'll be happy! Sep 21, 2016 at 18:19
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    @user568458 You need to ask another question: "What's a “surface suitable for the passage of vehicles” in terms of car hire insurance? :)
    – Berwyn
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:59
  • If I was being facetious I'd try to argue that running a rake over some sand was good enough, but I think a more pragmatic interpretation might draw the line around compacted gravel tracks.
    – Flexo
    Sep 21, 2016 at 19:51
  • @Berwyn you're clearly just saying that so you could answer with "Made-up roads are suitable surfaces for the passage of vehicles" and put me in an infinite loop! Sep 21, 2016 at 20:46

According to the Free Dictionary, for made-up:

  1. (Civil Engineering) (of a road) surfaced with asphalt, concrete, etc

Also (thanks to @user568458) from Collins:

  1. (of a road) surfaced with asphalt, concrete, etc
  • Haha I didn't even think of looking for definitions of the opposite i.e. "made-up road"! D'oh... seems so obvious now! Collins also have a near-identical definition and might be a better reference than FreeDictionary. Sep 20, 2016 at 16:42
  • @user568458 Yeah, I thought un-made-up might be harder to search for than made-up :). Added your link in too, cheers
    – Berwyn
    Sep 20, 2016 at 16:56
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    So, does a gravel road count as a made-up road, or not?
    – Yakk
    Sep 20, 2016 at 20:31
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    I'd argue a gravel road is a kind of road surfacing, and so qualifies as made-up. Certainly I think they'd have a hard time enforcing the contractual provision as it's vague...
    – Joe
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:40
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    @Joe I'd argue that a made-up road needs to be sealed, but I can't find a definition that guarantees that though
    – Berwyn
    Sep 21, 2016 at 0:26

In Australia we don't say "unmade up road" we just say "unmade road".

Assuming there isn't a technical rather than just a dialectal difference, our classier way to say that is "unsealed road".

And the less classy way to say it is "dirt road".

I feel I'm only making a very slight risk by assuming it's the same in the UK.

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    Yeah, "unsealed road" has a very clear meaning Sep 20, 2016 at 16:26
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    In the US we'd go with unpaved road for anything that was either dirt or gravel. In context I'd probably be able to figure what unsealed road was; but never saw it or unmade road before today. Sep 20, 2016 at 19:57
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    "Unmetalled" in the UK too. Sep 20, 2016 at 23:03
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    "I feel I'm only making a very slight risk by assuming it's the same in the UK." It is indeed the same in the UK. But the asker is hiring a car in South Africa. Sep 21, 2016 at 9:00
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    @DavidRicherby: D'oh! By the way I've never heard "unmetalled" before so it's probably not used in Australia. Sep 21, 2016 at 11:54

In Africa, the term seems to apply to dirt roads, made from the surface of the land through which it passes, as well as those with gravel. Here's an example in Namibia, courtesy of Alamy stock photos.enter image description here

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    Well yes that's one of the types of road I was wondering about but do you know if this is what they mean? Sep 20, 2016 at 15:25
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    @user568458 yet to find a definitive answer but it's not encouraging when Avis terms state 'Damage and/or total loss caused as a result of the vehicle being driven on a road that was not suitable for that vehicle as determined in the sole but reasonable discretion of the Company.'
    – Giorgio
    Sep 20, 2016 at 16:01
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    Haha that line in the T&Cs is one of the reasons I'm looking to get additional cover from a 3rd party! It does sound like "You will give us the $$$ if the Company wants the $$$". Sep 20, 2016 at 16:21
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    @user568458: The language seems more reasonable than contracts which would suggest that parking a car on any non-paved surface would void coverage even if the vehicle was driven with care. What the companies are most interested in I think is saying that coverage is void if the car is operated with wanton disregard for the possibility of damage, without having to niggle over exactly what constitutes "wanton disregard".
    – supercat
    Sep 20, 2016 at 20:17
  • Yeah, actually judging by this video they produced of the Sani Pass maybe AVIS South Africa aren't so strict about imperfect roads! Sep 20, 2016 at 22:01

This answer is along the same lines as the other answers, but wanted to add my experience as we came across a similar thing whilst renting in New Zealand. It literally meant any road that didn't have tarmac. New Zealand has quite a few gravel roads and these were what they meant.

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    Welcome to the site! Please don't write "the above", since a feature of this site is that the order of answers can change due to both voting and user preferences. So what's "the above" for you might not be "the above" for other people. You can click the "edit" link to add a link to the answer you're referring to, and you can get hold of that link by clicking the "share" link under that answer. Sep 21, 2016 at 8:55
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    @DavidRicherby. If you write [edit], it comes out as a handy link, thus: edit.
    – TRiG
    Sep 21, 2016 at 11:37
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    edited my answer as it follows the same as pretty much all the other answers.
    – Bex
    Sep 21, 2016 at 11:49

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