How to save money on your car insurance
If you think you’re paying too much to insure your car, you’re not alone. However, there are plenty of ways to reduce those costs. We take a closer look...
The cost of car insurance fell slightly during last year, but you’d be forgiven for still being concerned about the size of your premiums, given that they were at an all-time high in 2017.
One reason why premiums shot up to that level was that Insurance Premium Tax was increased from 6% to 12% between 2015 and 2017. A contributing factor in the reduction in insurance bills in 2018 was simply that the Government didn’t raise this tax further.
At the time of writing, the average annual premium for car insurance is £471, according to the Association of British Insurers – £14 less than last year. Other price trackers, such as the AA’s, suggest that premiums have dropped by nearly 10% over the same period.
Another factor in pushing prices down is the expectation that the cost of whiplash claims will come down when the Civil Liability Bill comes into force later this year. This law is aimed at reducing the amount paid out for personal injury claims.
However, there’s still no room for complacency when it comes to renewing your car insurance. In fact, spending some time doing research ahead of renewal time could help you shave hundreds of pounds off your premium. As well as comparing quotes from a number of different sources, it’s worth checking out the potential savings offered by multi-car and multi-cover policies.
The most obvious mistake most people make is not bothering to shop around. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been trying to stop consumers from what is known as ‘price walking’ – where someone stays with the same insurance company year after year and the premium increases annually. It believes this is costing consumers a collective £4.1 billion a year, or £877 per person who has a variety of household policies.
Compare up to 100 car insurance brands with What Car?'s partner, GoCompare.
In 2017, the FCA made it mandatory for insurers to include details of the previous year’s premium on renewal notices to prompt people to shop around for cheaper cover. However, that hasn’t got the message over to enough people; around five million drivers in the UK are still allowing their car insurance to auto-renew.
That prompted Citizens Advice to launch a super-complaint in September, because loyal customers who stuck with the same insurance company were being ripped off. In response to this, the FCA has begun a review of the insurance market.
Auto-renewal: is it legal?
Your insurer can automatically renew your cover when it expires, as long as it lets you know in advance of its intention to do so and gives you the chance to cancel. Many insurers do this because they say it prevents people from unintentionally driving on the road without insurance if they forget to renew their cover.
In some ways, this is a good thing, because if you’re caught driving without insurance, you’ll get a fixed penalty fine of at least £300 and six penalty points on your driver’s licence.
And if you don’t get around to switching your insurer before the renewal date, you can cancel a policy that has auto-renewed up to 14 days afterwards, usually without incurring a fee. After that time, you’re likely to be hit with a cancellation fee.
Top 10 tips to cut the cost of insurance
1. Fit a black box
If you’re a new or younger driver, you could net big savings by opting for a black box or telematics insurance policy. This involves having a small device fitted to your car that records the speed, distance travelled and time of the day the car is driven.
It can also monitor your driving style by recording how heavily you brake and accelerate. This information is relayed to the insurance company and in some cases you’re rewarded with a discount or other things for good driving. The downside is that your premium could go up or your insurance might be cancelled altogether if you drive badly or break curfews that are in the policy.
We knocked nearly £1000 off the cost of insuring an 18-year-old on a 2007 Renault Modus by opting for a black box policy. The best telematics quote we found on comparison website GoCompare was £1506 with Wise Driving Black Box, whereas the cheapest non-black box premium was £2490 with Churchill.
However, many black box policies are for under-25s only, and those that cover older drivers often aren’t the cheapest option. InsuretheBox quoted £650 for a 55-year-old male engineer, living in Swansea, to cover a 2013 Mini Paceman – £291 more than the cheapest non-telematics policy quote we found on GoCompare.
2. Pay in full
If you have enough cash or a 0% interest credit card, you could save quite a bit by paying for a year’s cover up front. For our Swansea man’s Paceman, the policy with the cheapest monthly payments on GoCompare would cost £445 over the full year, but if we opted to pay annually, the cost was £359 – a saving of £86.
3. Renew early
Don’t leave renewing until the last minute. Research carried out for GoCompare revealed that 89% of drivers could get cheaper cover by buying early. Insurers offer better deals for those looking for cover three to four weeks ahead of the policy’s start date, and the biggest savings are offered a week in advance. In contrast, prices rise significantly if you search for cover the day before you want it to start.
Mark Gutteridge from GoCompare said: “Drivers need to be alive to the fact that insurers are finessing their pricing this way and that leaving things until the last minute could cost more than they might think.”
According to the research, an 18-year-old could save as much as £265 by buying cover in advance – a 12% reduction on an annual premium of £2209.
4. Renew in February
Research by MoneySuperMarket has revealed that car insurance renewal premiums are at their lowest in February, while December is the priciest month to renew your cover. It stated that a comprehensive policy bought in December would cost £644, whereas the same policy bought two months later would be 15% lower, at £544.
Don’t worry if your policy doesn’t run out in February; most insurers allow you to renew up to 30 days in advance.
If you need to cancel a policy to take out a new one in February, however, check in advance how much any cancellation fees would be, because these could wipe out any savings you would make.
5. Limit the mileage
Be as accurate as you can when selecting your annual mileage. If you underestimate it, you risk invalidating your insurance or having to pay more for additional cover. It’s worth keeping the miles down as much as possible, though, because it can have a sizeable effect on the cost of cover. We doubled the mileage on our Paceman from 8000 to 16,000 miles and the cheapest premium we found on GoCompare went up from £359 to £445.
6. Raise the excess
If you’re the gambling type and aren’t too risk-averse, you could opt to pay a heftier excess if you have an accident in order to reduce your premium. However, doubling the voluntary excess on our Paceman from £250 to £500 shaved just £13 off the premium.
7. Be careful about your stated profession
It can pay to try out a few different variations in the name of your profession. Being less specific about the profession of our fictitious engineer by dropping any reference to the building or construction industry lopped £10 off the premium for his Paceman.
8. Improve your driving skills
Saving: up to 30%
Some insurers offer discounts of up to 30% to drivers who’ve taken extra training or gained an additional qualification. However, to get the biggest discounts, you’ll need to complete a course, such as the advanced driving course run by IAM RoadSmart, and get insurance through its bespoke insurance service.
The course costs £149, and although you’re likely to save no more than £108 on your annual premium, you’re likely to gain your money back in two years. You’ll become a more skilled and safer driver, too.
9. Get a dashcam
Saving: up to 20%
More than 11 million motorists in the UK now have dashboard-mounted cameras, which record footage of the road ahead while you’re driving. Adrian Flux, AXA and Sure Thing are among a number of insurers that offer discounts of up to 20% for cars fitted with dashcams. Adrian Flux has a list of camera brands that will qualify for its discount, while the other two offer the discount only if you have a Nextbase camera fitted. The Sure Thing policy provides the policyholder with a voucher to buy a Nextbase 112 dashcam.
We weren’t able to obtain a quote for our Swansea-based Paceman driver with AXA, and the quote we got from Sure Thing was for more than £2200. However, AXA did provide a quote of £214 on the same car driven by a 55-year-old man living in Tonbridge, Kent. Although this was £14 pricier than the cheapest policy we found on GoCompare, it included some useful add-ons, including wrong-fuel cover and 90 days’ European roadside assistance.
So, fitting a dashcam might be worthwhile for certain drivers. Check with your insurer before getting one, though, because some view them as modifications and might increase your premiums or even void your cover.
Read our guide to find out which are the best dashcams for less than £150
10. Multi-car or home and car policies
Saving: up to 20%
A growing number of insurers are offering discounts in return for bundling the cover for more than one car, or your car and your home, together. Aviva provides a 20% discount on any second or subsequent cars added to an existing policy, and Admiral says some of its customers have saved as much as £345 by choosing a multi-car policy.
We put the Aviva discount claim to the test by getting quotes for a 2013 Mini Paceman and a 2007 Renault Modus owned by our Swansea driver and his partner. The prices we were quoted by Aviva were £609 and £476 respectively when treated separately, whereas a multi-car policy brought the total down to £863 – a £222 saving. However, this was still £300 more than the best quotes we had obtained for these cars separately elsewhere.
We also obtained an online multi-cover quote from Admiral for our two cars and building and contents cover for a house in Tonbridge. Although the car quotes came out much cheaper, at £239 and £105 respectively (our other best quotes were £359 and £200), the house cover was £627, which was far pricier than the cheapest comparable quote of £243 obtained elsewhere. Overall, then, the Admiral multi-cover worked out £168 more expensive than buying cover separately.
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