Sunday, 13 May 2018

Renewing insurance policies

It's an annual pain, multiplied by the number of policies one has. And one can have many of them. My personal circumstances mean that thankfully I don't have any of these:

No life insurance (no dependents).
No pet insurance (no pets).
No medical insurance (I have a healthy diet and lifestyle, and do nothing physically dangerous. I'm also 'in the system' with the NHS, a patient being monitored and regularly having tests. Besides, I can't afford the extraordinarily high cost of the premiums at my age)
No mortgage or payment protection insurance (No mortgage; being retired, job redundancy can't touch me; and illness will never affect my pension income).

But of course I do have these:

House insurance, structure and contents.
Car insurance, on a market-value basis, comprehensive with a protected no claims bonus.
Caravan insurance, currently new for old, but without any contents element (as I never leave valuable items in the caravan at home or on holiday).
Road rescue insurance (free if I keep on using a Volvo dealer for annual servicing. I have another policy that includes mishaps with the caravan I tow on my holidays)
Travel insurance (free with my bank account).

I am well aware of how little one can pay for decent insurance cover, if prepared to look around and switch. At the moment this is no more than an interesting point as regards my house and caravan insurance, as the premiums I pay for these items aren't so large that I'm strongly tempted to change the insurers. (It was £178 to LV for the house last November, and £364 to the Caravan and Motorhome Club for the caravan in March)

The car insurance is the one to take a hard look at.

It gets renewed in May. Last year's premium was £465. It would have been less, but I had a bump with the car in October 2014 - I was backing out of a tight space in a North Devon car park, and slowly reversed into another car, a hired car, that had suddenly appeared, parking directly behind me. I was concentrating most on not scraping the vehicles on either side of me, and didn't notice the arrival of the other car. It was a case of not having enough eyes to watch every side, and the warning 'bleep' of the rear parking sensors came too late. Still my fault, of course, although I carefully followed accident protocol and admitted nothing.

There was not the slightest damage done to Fiona: her fixed rear towball acts as a stout battering-ram, protecting her rear end but inflicting harm on whatever gets too close. (I don't fear tailgaters: they will suffer very badly if they venture too close!) It was a slow and soft collision. The plastic towball cover wasn't even scratched. But I'd popped a small dent into the hire car's nearside wing.

There was no claim on my side. But that dent had to be fixed - and it has cost me dear ever since, in higher premiums, even though it was a very minor accident. If I hadn't touched that hire car I'd probably have been paying something closer to £350 in 2017, not £465.

And the knock-on effect of that accident lasts for five years. It's evidence that in late 2014 my driving was not perfect, and may still not be. I am presently a riskier proposition than average. Time will show that it was a one-off, and not typical of my current driving. Once that accident drops out of sight - and it will for my 2020 car insurance renewal - I expect to be treated once more as a driver with a low insurance risk, who deserves to pay less. If LV don't offer me a significantly lower premium in 2020, I'll become an insurance tart and switch like lightning.

Meanwhile my researches this year suggest that there is little advantage in trying to switch to another insurer until that blot on Fiona's escutcheon has been removed.

For instance, this year I obtained an online quote from Volvo insurance, which is underwritten by Allianz. The initial quote undercut LV's by £40 odd, worth switching for, although I had to accept a heftier excess and a less generous personal accident payout (so was the saving in premiums really worth that loss in cover?) But then when checking the details I'd entered, I saw that I'd selected the wrong description for that October 2014 accident - having put in 'no claim, no fault'. Changing it to 'my fault' immediately sent the quote rocketing up by another £100, to £550 odd. No way.

LV had held their quote to £464, fractionally less than last year, despite the hyped-up media reports of woefully big increases in car insurance over the last twelve months, and the ongoing effect of my 2014 accident. Oh well. £464 wasn't too bad for a big, powerful Volvo driven by a lady with a blemished reversing record. I paid by credit card, and the renewal was out of the way for another year. Task ticked.

To end, here is my personal list of Car Insurance Tips, designed to keep the cost of car insurance to its lowest:

# It is always, at all times, worth going online to check what other insurers might be quoting. Try at least two of the big price-comparison websites, if only to get a general picture of what's presently happening with car insurance. It's also worth looking at the insurance companies individually, if you have heard about one that is highly recommended. Not all of them are on the price-comparison websites.
# As regards cover, it's essential to compare like with like.
# To speed up any Google search, try using a phrase like 'Insurance Volvo SC10 CUR' (or whatever your car's make and registration number is). Nowadays all insurers have access to the full specifications of your particular car, if you enter its registration, and they can speedily provide an accurate quote for your car in particular.
# It's no crime to stay with your existing insurer if you want to, and no justification is necessary. Sentiment shouldn't come into insurance, nor blind loyalty, but there's no point in severing a long connection for the sake of a very minor saving.
# It's clear that cheaper premiums with another insurer may come with disadvantages, such as reduced cover. All companies need to be profitable and none really want to give value away. So with some low-cost insurers, reporting a minor motoring offence might lead to an increase in premiums, on the basis that it may be a minor transgression but you are clearly now a riskier person, and their slim margins won't tolerate the extra likelihood of a future claim.
# As already mentioned above, any accident you report may reveal you as a high-risk customer. Your existing insurer may be more understanding about this than a new insurer. New insurers don't know your record in detail, and may be averse to offering a low cost deal, at least until the accident is spent.
# A vital consideration is customer service: if the existing insurer is great with that, and deals with the aftermath of an accident smoothly, sympathetically and reasonably, then that might be a very good reason to stay with them.
# There is no need to cover very unlikely risks, nor those covered by other policies.
# If you can easily stand the loss from your own pocket or purse, then don't insure it. What is the general excess? If that's (say) £350, then you will never be making a claim to fix or replace any item costing that or less, and it's not worth insuring.
# Don't 'auto-renew'. They tell you it's to ensure continuity of cover from year to year, even if you forget that the annual insurance needs to be dealt with, or you happen to be on holiday and can't get in touch. What nonsense. You don't have to be super-organised to make a big red note on a calendar. Besides, they contact you with the renewal quote weeks ahead of the expiry date, to secure your renewal agreement before rivals have a chance to poach your business. In any case, I rather fancy that if you refuse to auto-renew, they know they must woo you afresh every year, because it's so easy for you to let the connection lapse and embrace some other insurer, and be gone forever. Who knows - maybe they offer people like me, who challenge them to do some wooing, a deal midway between the ultra-attractive one offered to new customers and the poor-value one heaped onto lazy or unsavvy auto-renewers.
# If you possibly can, pay the annual premium outright, and not in monthly instalments. It avoids the expense of finance (i.e. interest on the premium) and gives you more to spend in other ways every month. (So this is one reason to save up)


  1. I'm with LV and really can't fault them. Unlike other insurers I've tried (Halifax being far and away the worst) they don't bump up the renewal premium for the 2nd year by an inordinate amount. Our little Hyundai will obviously be much cheaper to insure than Fiona, but with 2 drivers and protected no-claims bonus I was very happy with last February's renewal price of £188.

  2. Phew! The benefits of running a small car! You must think me mad to spend so much on Fiona. Then again, only a big car can tow a caravan safely and well.


    1. I don't think you mad at all. The extra £276 you pay goes towards several happy weeks with your caravan. It would buy me less than one week in a holiday cottage.


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