By Maurice Gertski
THE easiest way of cutting the cost of your car insurance is to simply sell your car and buy a bus or rail pass. Maybe you will enjoy walking in the rain to the nearest bus stop and waiting 20-minutes. You might even like standing for long journeys on trains. Missing connecting trains and/or buses is always fun as well – not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you get when delays or cancellations are announced. As for me, I'll stick with owning a car that is parked on my driveway and takes me where I want, when I want, in comfort and with Crosby, Stills Nash and Young playing on the CD player. I will also explain to you how you can get cheaper car insurance without resorting to the last measure of public transport.
Less desirable and low value cars are cheaper to insure
When I was 17 I wanted to own a Ferrari and live life in the fast lane. Even if I could have afforded the car, then I couldn't have afforded the insurance to cover it. At 17 you are brand new to the world of driving and statistically you are more likely to make an insurance claim. Mixing high-powered cars with inexperienced drivers is not something car insurance companies are super-keen about, the chance of a claim shoots through the roof with the price of the premium following it. When you are young and inexperienced, buy a low-powered, low value car to try and keep your car insurance premium to a minimum. If it is worth less then it will cost less to fix/replace when in your youthful exuberance you crash it. The same logic actually applies to everyone, the lower the value of the vehicle and the lower the car insurance policy will be in most cases. Sports and premium cars will always cost more to repair in an accident so the insurance will reflect this. New cars now feature myriads of anti-theft and driver aids that in many cases will help to reduce the cost of insurance so keep an eye on the spec sheet when looking at a new car. A good rule of thumb is that less desirable and low value cars are cheaper to insure.
Age is a concern
I mentioned it above and it bears repeating. Generally the younger you are the higher your car insurance premium. This is down to inexperience and the youthful belief that bad things will never happen to you. The statistics say otherwise, which is often a shock to an unsuspecting young driver who ends up in a crash wondering how it happened to him...Driving experience and age are usually linked and that leads to a method of reducing your insurance premium – whatever age you are you will benefit from advanced driving courses and many car insurers offer discounts for these qualifications. It may only be a five – 10 per cent saving for the course but on a premium of £1000 it's worth having the saving and it will remain with you for years, so it should be a good investment, not to mention make you a better driver.
Keep adding to the no-claims bonus
The more years you can accumulate without making a claim the better as most car insurers will offer a discount on your insurance for this. Effectively you are proving you are good business to have and because you haven't made any claims then you are a good risk for them to underwrite. There's nothing you can do here but keep your nose clean and don't make a claim. If you own a low value vehicle and dent it parking, you'd be advised not to make a claim on comprehensive insurance because it would reduce your no-claims bonus, likely to be for a small amount of money and you may even end up paying for most of it depending on excess. In that case, provided you have not caused damage to any other vehicles or property, keep quiet, fix it yourself and your saving on no-claims bonus will be sweet the following year - in time, when you have built up three or more years no-claims bonus, you can actually protect your bonus, meaning even if you make a subsequent claim you will not lose your bonus.
Convictions aren't cool
If you are an inner-city teenager then an ASBO may be a badge of honour. Insurers are less impressed by convictions though, so it is best to avoid them if you can. Minor speeding offences are certainly not in the same category as serial killer though, so if you have a couple of points it will not be the end of the world or have a major influence on your premium depending on the insurer.
If you've got a garage, use it
What are garages for? If you ask the average person they'll probably say for storing all the kids' toys, the home gym, bicycles, the freezer and tumble-dryer. I have news for you all; the garage is designed to house your vehicle when you are not using it. The fact that it puts a physical barrier between any opportunist thieves and your car is a real good thing and car insurance companies will recognise this and reduce your premium if you park in a garage overnight. Using your garage will save you money; it doesn't get any easier than that.
Most modern cars come with immobiliser and alarms factory fitted and if you notify your insurer it will check to make sure they are to approved standards and will apply discounts if applicable. You can get other devices that slosh around in the passenger footwell until you park and then fix to generally your steering wheel or gear-stick. These are mechanical devices and some do attract further discounts if used, just do your homework before buying. Thatcham is the organisation which grades security devices and generally a decent mechanical security device will feature its Thatcham approval very prominently along with any premium discounts you may expect, so choose carefully.
Use a reputable broker
Car insurance is very big business with around 30million+ vehicles on the UK roads, so there is a wealth of car insurance companies to choose from. Ironically, the big names you are familiar with are probably in your head because of massive marketing campaigns on television, on-line etc. Regardless of the message, those marketing campaigns need to be paid for and that means they may not actually have the best rates, although the sheer scale of some of these businesses means prices will be keen due to buying or underwriting power. The best advice is to compare a couple of different prices from different companies. Call the insurer and then call a comparable competitor and then perhaps a small car insurance broker. Each one will ask you if you have a price already and you should tell them what it is. Generally if they want the business they know what to beat. The moment you get a broker saying they can't match the price then you are probably close to the best market price or else speaking with a broker that is not a specialist in the area.
A word of caution on price comparison sites
There are plenty of price comparison sites around which promise to drive the cost of your insurance policy down – Money Supermarket, Go Compare, Confused etc. They certainly do help reduce the cost of insurance as most of the major players are fighting for business on the same platform. Where these price comparison sites do not perform so well is actually advising you on the sort of policy that's best for you or your car. Would comprehensive be cheaper and more suitable than third party fire and theft? The point is you cannot ask the price comparison site for any advice, that's where car specialist brokers have the edge. Compare it to buying a new house, would you buy one without a survey? You might and then when it subsides into the sea you'll be praying your insurance will cover it...the point is you shouldn't buy insurance without talking with an expert either.
Pick up the phone
The internet is a great shopping and selling tool, you know my feelings on that from previous articles...but I suggest if you speak to a real person at a brokerage then you have a much better chance of getting cheaper car insurance. They can ask more questions, clarify your requirements and if needed they can even delegate the rate (set the price themselves) if they really want the business. There is no substitute for human contact, just make sure you speak to at least three different brokers to get a true comparison.
Got a nice postcode?
If you live in a postcode where there are few thefts and claims then your insurance premium will be lower than living somewhere that is a known crime hotspot. If you can afford it, move to a posh area and you'll benefit from lower insurance premiums. Not the easiest way to save on the cost of insurance for sure...
Mileage and use
The more miles you drive the more chance you have of being involved in a claim. It's simple statistics. The fewer miles covered, the less your insurance premium should cost. Don't tell lies though, if you exceed the stated mileage by a distance then it could invalidate your insurance.
Married with kids?
Insurers like selling car insurance to married couples mortgaged and with kids and jobs. You are very easy to credit check and generally display responsible behaviour which hints at a lower risk for the insurer. That can reduce your car insurance quote.
Don't modify your car
We all see the bling bling cars that haunt Supermarket car-parks late at night and whether you like the tacky neon colours and loud exhausts is neither here nor there – the fact is that any sort of modification is likely to hike your car insurance premium. Modifications can draw attention, invalidate warranties and in the case of loud exhausts, can also be illegal (if above the noise limit). If illegal, then it could invalidate your insurance as well. The fact is that car manufacturers spend a lot of time developing their products so they work well and if you modify them then it's all out the window and your insurer will be scratching his head wondering what he should charge – and it will almost always be more than a standard vehicle.
Maurice Gertski is an expert in car insurance and is dedicated to helping people lower their insurance premiums. Call Westhill Insurance to speak to specialists in car insurance.