Making Cents: Car insurance travelling in the right direction

There was some good news for motorists in the most recent CSO statistics, with insurance prices to December 2018 reported to have fallen 7% on the previous year, writes Grainne McGuinness

This backs up a recent survey of more than 5000 people by AA Car Insurance which found that one in three drivers saw their premiums decrease in 2018.

This is cheering for the many motorists facing their annual renewal but managing director Jonathan Hehir suggests shopping around is still needed to get the best value.

“Regardless of whether premiums are going up or down, insurers will always charge different rates to different people, depending on who their target market are,” he says.

“So, a young driver looking for his or her own policy having just passed their test, is unlikely to get the best rate from an insurer whose key market is of 35-54 years.

“These young drivers should instead be approaching insurers who specialise in the younger market,” he says. Mr Hehir believes there is an improvement in the off-puttingly expensive quotes faced by new drivers in recent years, with better quotes available to those who research the market and contact a number of insurers.

Some insurers appear to have realised that many younger drivers with one or two years claims free driving are actually a relatively good risk and if they haven’t messed up in the first year or so, then they are unlikely to do so. We’ve seen big cuts for these drivers from some insurers but not all,” he says.

However, younger drivers are not the only ones looking for better value in the insurance market. In addition to getting more than one quote, there are other steps motorists can take to bring down the overall price.

I advise people to bear insurance in mind when buying their car in the first place. If you have a particular model or engine size in mind, get a couple of quotes and factor them into your decision when buying.

Older cars naturally tend to be cheaper but in insurance terms are seen as more likely to break down and therefore a bigger risk. The engine size you choose could also affect your annual premiums for the lifetime of the car, as bigger engines are in a higher insurance category. When buying it is also worth looking at what security the vehicle has as a car with an alarm or immobiliser will be cheaper to insure than one without security.

If you are renewing insurance on your existing vehicle rather than changing cars, there are still ways to bring down the premium. One of the first is to update its value. Your existing insurer will tend to leave the value at what you set it when you first spoke to them, so you need to find out what it is now.

As the AA advises: “You can only claim whatever the insurance company’s assessor deems is the value of the vehicle so if you over-value your car when taking out cover you may end up paying more than you need to for your insurance premium.

Check out or other ads to get an idea of what your car is currently worth, based on ones of similar age and with similar mileage.

It may sound like stating the obvious but safer driving will also help bring your premium down.

Obviously being accident-free is a major factor but avoiding any penalty points will also help. Insurance premiums are calculated based on the likelihood of a claim so a penalty-point-free licence will make a difference when it comes to cover. Some insurers are taking this an extra step, and offering extra discounts to drivers who are willing to prove they drive safely.

This can be done using a telematics box installed in your car or through an app. Check with individual insurers to see what options they offer in this area.

If you can at all, pay your insurance in one go, as most insurers charge extra to spread the premium and pay by monthly direct debit. If the quotes you are getting are still too high, you can also look at the policy excess. This is the amount you have to pay in the event of an accident. Many insurers allow you to increase the excess to reduce the premium.

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