Confessions of a car insurance salesman

How can you get the best deal on your can insurance? Who can you trust? And who should you turn to if you need to claim? Our undercover insurance expert reveals all...


The stories

Q: So what? This doesn't directly affect me.

A: If the third-party insurer has offered to deal with your claim and provide an equivalent hire vehicle, and you later accept a credit hire vehicle, you as the policyholder have clearly failed to mitigate your losses and therefore could directly be liable for the shortfall in cost between the credit hire rates and the cost of an equivalent hire vehicle provided by the third-party insurer directly.

In addition to this, any firm acting on your behalf aside from the third-party insurer clearly has an interest to make as much money as possible, which means your claim may not be dealt with as efficiently or quickly as it could. This could be by delaying vehicle inspection, estimates or putting your car straight into storage if it's suspected to be a total loss.

Most importantly, the reason I advise claiming through the third-party insurer directly is this: in light of the above and the potential for an expensive claim, they will usually bend over backwards to look after you by dealing with your claim swiftly and to your satisfaction. If there are any problems, you are not bound into an agreement with them and can always seek help from your own insurer or an accident management firm later down the line.

Q: What are the best insurance scams or similar stories you have encountered?

A: I used to deal with claims against a large London bus company. If their bus had an incident with another party and it was alleged or the circumstances suggested the bus was at fault, we would deal with the third party's claim on behalf of the bus company.

Incident 1

Bus has minor scrape with a wealthy third party's Bentley Continental GT. Owner contacted his insurer and somehow a cowboy solicitors firm located far away got involved. They were claiming personal injury along with huge costs for repair, credit hire, recovery, storage etc. We insisted on having our own engineer view the vehicle.

There was a tiny scratch on the car – literally something a SMART repair could cover up.

Used Bentley Continental GT 11-present

The damage was far too small to necessitate the huge costs this claim could have incurred. The distance between the incident scene and the storage location was about 15 miles. We noticed from photos in the engineer's report and those from the accident that the recovery firm the cowboy solicitors had instructed had put around 250 miles on the clock of the car, without the third party's knowledge.

Getting to this point had taken quite a lot of work. When we explained to the third party that his solicitors had caused an extra 250-odd miles on his car to appear, he then allowed us to deal with his claim in full. After he'd accepted our services, explaining the solicitors' mistake to them was good fun, to say the least. Claim saving ended up being over £30,000.

Incident 2

Claim received alleging bus has hit two parked cars at 1am in the morning. Both parked cars occupied with a total of nine occupants. Third party claiming damage, replacement credit hire car and so on. Guess how many injury claims received? Yes, you got it, nine, including children – at 1am.

At this point, it doesn't take a genius to work out something dodgy might be going on. We checked out certain intelligence at the office, including social media, and instructed an investigator to check out the third party and produce a full report.

It turned out that bus driver wasn't a real bus driver at all – he had the uniform for this particular company and maybe at least two other London bus companies. He had hijacked the empty bus prior to the incident at a bus stop, getting on and telling the real driver – who was new in the job – that he was a bus company engineer. So Mr Fake Bus Driver drives off, leaving the real driver at the bus stop, stranded.

CCTV showed that Mr Fake Bus Driver did hit one car quite lightly, but the other car alleged to have been hit wasn't struck at all. It turns out there was a total of two or three occupants in the cars, rather than the nine alleged.

Intelligence revealed that the third-party claimant (who claims he was in the driver's seat of the car that was struck) didn't even have a valid driving licence. For various reasons, the entire third-party claim was thrown out and reported as fraud. I wonder how they ever thought they'd get away with it!


Classic cars

Can you get insurance that will keep pace with market values in a rising market for classic cars?

SA: It depends if your policy is a standard motor policy (which if your car was written off would give you market value at time of loss) or a classic car policy with an agreed value. If it's a classic car, nearly all classic car insurers will offer an agreed value subject to receipt of colour photos and sometimes a form being filled out, usually at no cost to the policyholder. I'd always recommend getting an agreed value on a classic car policy.

If your policy is a standard policy, just ensure your vehicle value is as accurate as possible when you renew each year; no need to update mid-term because of minor increases. On a standard policy, if you value your vehicle at £10 at start of policy, it then gets written off six months later and would cost £12 to replace due to rising values on that particular vehicle, you haven't capped your potential payout at £10.

You should get paid out market value at time of loss, as long as the insurer doesn't think you've blatantly undervalued your car at start of the policy to get a cheaper premium.

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