About Time: You Discovered the Hidden Traps of Car InsuranceBy Angelica Malin
After 17 long years of waiting you have a provisional license in your wallet. Your hazard perception is second to none. You’ve passed your theory test, mastered the art of the three-point turn and are now ready to take the actual driving test.
How exciting – motoring freedom and independence is finally in sight! You will no longer have to rely on your parents to drive you around, avoiding that awkward moment when you have to wait for them to pick you up from a social event while your friends drive themselves home.
But wait. There is just one tiny little thing you may not have considered in all your excitement to get behind the wheel. Actually, it’s not such a tiny thing at all. It’s the cost of driving.
In the last five years the cost of getting a young driver on the road has increased by 18% to £6,800. No small figure, particularly when you are still in school and your income is minimum wage from a Saturday job.
How can it be that expensive, you cry? Well, before you even buy the car itself you have the cost of driving lessons and tests, then once you have bought the car you must insure and tax it – which, unfortunately, is not a one off. After all that you have a yearly MOT, must service it regularly, not to mention the ongoing petrol costs and unexpected trips to the garage.
Car insurance makes up a third of the bill at an average of £2,232 because, unfortunately, young drivers tend to get the worst deal when it comes to this. Insurance providers base their quotes on the likelihood of you making a claim. One way they do this is by looking at how much driving experience you have; in their eyes the less you have the bigger risk you pose, regardless of covering trucks that may be included, which is why your first insurance policy will invariably come with an astronomical price tag.
However, although this will go down significantly as you build up years of experience and no claims, motorists in general are actually facing higher insurance premiums, despite the fact that the insurance industry has saved around £520 million due to the dramatic drop in personal injury claims.
That being said, insuring your car is a necessity that gives you peace of mind you won’t be stopped by the police for breaking the law and that you are covered should the worst happen. That is until the worst does happen and following an accident you discover that the policy you forked out so much money for isn’t quite as good as you were led to believe. When claiming on it – perhaps for an accident that wasn’t even your fault – gives you a bigger headache than the crash itself.
Unfortunately for 22-year-old Jade Rattan, she found this out first hand, the hard way – so much so that the minor accident, which happened two years ago, is still causing her no end of stress and frustration.
Recalling the accident, Jade explains “I had my accident on a roundabout – which resulted in a little bump at the front of my car and at the back of the other driver’s. She had cut me up, but only at around 25 mph so everyone was fine. We both pulled to the side and the other driver instantly got out of the car, apologised and hugged me.”
However, after phoning her husband, the other driver’s attitude changed, telling Jade she was a ‘young driver’ who ‘was probably speeding’ and ‘doesn’t know how to drive.’ A very generalised view, coming from the mouth of a woman who moments ago had all but admitted fault.
The other driver’s unwillingness to cooperate meant Jade then had to ‘prove’ that she was in the right – easier said than done. Meanwhile, the driver at fault was ignoring calls and letters from both Jade’s insurer and her own, to the point where court action was threatened. Jade explains: “Because of all her delays I had to renew my insurance twice in that time. I decided to stick with the same company as the prices were a little more money BUT they had assured me on multiple occasions that once the accident had been settled I would get all of the premiums back. This was told to me on the phone, in emails and in writing.”
Finally, just a couple of months ago, the argument was settled due to the fact that the other driver hadn’t replied for nine months. “The last correspondence they had from the driver was a statement of what happened, which actually showed me to be in the right.”
Unfortunately it doesn’t quite end here for Jade, “I was then given a number to call to get my premiums back.” She explains, “I didn’t know how much but I had worked out that it would be around £500 to £600. When I got through they said they owed me £46.”
Understandably Jade was incredibly angry, but after ongoing phone calls, she says: “They basically told me ‘sorry I know you have been told you can get all of your money back, but we can’t give you it.’ They said I am now in a ‘risk category’ that means they are allowed to charge me more.”
According to confused.com, some insurers’ data shows that drivers who were in an accident that wasn’t their fault are more likely to be in an accident again that is considered their fault within the next few years. Which is why you may find your premiums go up even after a non-fault accident – even if you claim from the other person’s insurance.
A small accident that should have been easily resolved has resulted in Jade losing a huge amount of money and being seen as a ‘risky driver.’ And she isn’t the only one, many careful drivers have been penalised by their insurance company for the mistakes of more careless ones and when the time has come to renew, found their premiums going up due to an ‘incident’ despite the fact they weren’t the ones at fault.
If you are a young driver and are now concerned about your policy, don’t be! While there are insurance traps just waiting to snap closed on you, there are also ways to both avoid and get out of them. Plus, not having insurance will prove far more costly and you would, of course, be breaking the law.
There are a lot of online car insurance sites offering very competitive deals, but you need to be careful not to be scammed. Money Advice Service recommends using a price comparison site or even better, a broker, and suggest that they you have a go at haggling the price down once you have a few quotes to compare.
Once you have found one you think might suit you, it is important to know and understand the finer details of your policy. Sometimes traps, like the one Jade found herself in, are only discovered when you find yourself in that specific situations.
However, one way you can avoid being put in the ‘risky’ driver category is by enabling your insurance company to see exactly how you drive.
22-year-old Charlotte Little, who passed her test this year, explains, “I have a black box with my insurance company. It plugs into your car and monitors: speed, acceleration, time of day, harsh braking and length of journey.”
“It gives you a ranking for each trip you make,” she continues. “There is an app you can download which ranks you as either bronze, silver or gold, with a breakdown of information for each individual trip”.
The black box, which can now be found in more than 300,000 cars, didn’t only save Charlotte £70 on her insurance, it also made her a better driver. “It has made me more aware of how I am driving because I am determined for my points to remain in the gold.” However, she did say that it can be overly critical of your driving and Khadia Evans, who also had a black box as part of her policy during her first year of driving agrees, saying: “Sometimes it was annoying because it kept telling me I was accelerating too hard, when I wasn’t.”
However, Khadia, who no longer uses the black box, says: “Other insurance companies were offering me between £1,400 – £1,800 without any extras, but with a black box my existing company offered around £1,200 including breakdown cover and so on.”
While Charlotte’s was self-installing and will be easy to remove Khadia’s was more complex. She had to have an engineer install hers and she explains that “They didn’t tell me I had to pay £100 to remove the black box, which is annoying.”
Which goes to show that even the black boxes can catch you out. Khadia explains: “I didn’t have any restrictions with my driving. There were a couple of other insurance companies that offered around the same price, but you couldn’t drive past 10pm or drive when it was dark.”
However, having had the opportunity to prove that she is a safe driver, Khadia’s insurance is now significantly cheaper. If it saves you money, encourages you to be a safer driver and can be used to prove that you aren’t a stereotypical young driver should you find yourself in a situation such as Jade’s – it can only be a positive, surely?
There are various things you can do as a young driver to ensure you get the best car insurance for your personal circumstances, such as including an older, more experienced driver on the policy. Likewise when it comes to renewal, it is in your best interest to shop around – many drivers assume they will be rewarded for their loyalty if they stay with the same company. Actually, on the contrary – they are likely to bump up your premiums, giving the better quotes to new customers.
As for traps, they will always be there to try and catch you out – you just need to be aware of them, so you can do everything you can to avoid them.