Let’s face it, insurance is a dirty word and one that strikes fear and trepidation into the hearts of many young drivers and their parents purely and simply because of two main facts:
1. You HAVE to have insurance to drive. Without it you are committing a crime and if caught (and remember the police can access to most information about most cars and whether they are taxed or not with just a quick check) you’ll not only face a fine of around Â£200, but will lose that hard earned licence.
2. Insurance is EXPENSIVE. Especially if you are male. Females statistically have a safer driving record, so for now the insurance is cheaper. However, in December 2012, after rulings on sex discrimination from the European Courts insurance companies won’t be able to charge different rates based on gender. So insurance for the girls will definitely go up – but the question is, will it come down for the boys?
If you are learning to drive thinking about how to find the best insurance is probably the last thing you want to think about. But you should – if only to start saving up! It should also influence the type of car you are dreaming about owning.
For a first time driver understanding the terms insurance companies use can be confusing. This is a useful glossary of insurance terms that will help you think about the insurance that you will need for your first car.
Insurance groups range from 1 – 50. The lower the group, the lower the insurance. The higher the group, the most your insurance will cost. There is a good online guide at Parkers which will show you what cars are in what group, and where you can check the group of the car that you have set your eye on.
This is the amount you will pay for your insurance. You can normally pay the insurance either as one lump sum per year, or in monthly instalments. Although paying monthly may be more affordable for your budget, it will cost you more over the year.
Although you should read the small writing of the terms of your insurance very thoroughly, in general Comprehensive Insurance covers both the car you are driving and any vehicle, property or person who you damage. Comprehensive insurance is usually more expensive, although some insurance companies only offer this option. If you are hit by an uninsured driver then your insurance will cover the repairs to your vehicle.
Third Party, Fire and Theft
Third Party is the basic insurance – the car you are driving is not covered, but anything you hit is. Fire and theft is often included, which means you are covered if your car catches fire or is stolen. You must have third party insurance as the very minimum.
If you have or cause an accident and your insurance company is involved in paying for the damage to be repaired, or in any legal action, then you will have made a Claim. Sometimes if you have caused only minor damage to your car, or to someone else’s car. If someone, for example, bumps into your car and a light is broken, they will probably offer to pay for the damage to be repaired without going through an insurance company to avoid making a claim which will affect their No Claims Bonus. If the damage is more extensive this cannot be avoided.
No Claims Bonus (NCB)
As a new driver you will not have any no claims bonus. You get this for each year that you drive without having to make a claim on your insurance. You should aim to make no claims at all, and hence build up your bonus to the maximum amount. This can be something like 70% off your premium after 7 years of claim free driving so building up your bonus will be worth a lot of money. If you make a claim you will lose all, or some of your NCB depending on how many years you have built up.
When you have built up a lot of no claims bonus you can pay a little extra each year which will mean you can make one or two claims (depending on the insurance company) without affecting your no claims bonus. Although the NCB won’t be affected, you will find your insurance goes up the following year as a result of you having had an accident. So it’s worth looking into exactly how much this extra protection will cost to decide if it’s worth having. In your early years of driving it’s probably not worth it.
If the insurance is in your name you will be the Named Driver. No one else will be able to drive your car unless you add them as named drivers, and declare their driving history, and their ages and driving experience. Having older people, such as your parents as named drivers on your policy can reduce your insurance premium.
You could be a named driver on your parent’s car if they drive a car that’s in a low insurance group, however you should check very carefully to make sure that their insurance will allow you to build up no claims bonus in your own right.
It is illegal for your parents insure the car that you are the main or only driver of in order to lower the insurance premium. In this case you may find that in the case of you having to make a claim the insurance company will not pay out, and you might be sued for many thousands of pounds, as well as possible facing penalty points for effectively driving without insurance.
Some insurance policies, mainly for older and more experienced drivers, allow them to drive your car under their own insurance without having to be named on your policy. It is your responsibility for making sure anyone who you let drive your car is properly insured to drive it, so make sure that they have checked their insurance documentation, and ask to see a copy if you, or they, are in any doubt as to whether they are insured.
Smartbox, Coverbox etc.
Most accidents happen to new drivers in the age range 17 to 24, hence the high insurance premiums. Some insurance companies have come up with an idea to help new drivers be safe on the road, as well as giving them lower insurance premiums. The insurance company will pay for a box to be installed in your car out of sight. The box usually has various features which may include a GPS and gyroscope, and will measure things such as how well you keep to speed limits, how smoothly you accelerate, brake and take corners, and what time of day you drive (between 11pm and 6am are considered the most dangerous). There usually is an online dashboard to show how well you are driving, and sometimes a reduction in premium if you drive well!
The last thing a teenager wants to do once they’ve passed their test and have shown their instructor the door of the car is to be constantly monitored on how well they are driving. But parents will appreciate that anything that makes a new driver more careful on the road is well worth having. And really, unless you are going mad and behaving dangerously on the roads, the smart box won’t have to affect your driving at all!
Another way of reducing your insurance premium is to take Pass Plus – a lot of companies will not only offer you a reduction now, but in every following year when you renew your insurance.
Do I need to carry my insurance documents with me all the time?
Although it may be convenient to keep your documents in your car, if your car is stolen, so are your insurance details. It is useful to keep a note of your insurance company and policy number in your glove box.
If the police ask you for your insurance and licence and you do not have them with you, you will be asked to produce these at a police station within seven days. Be sure you do – if you don’t produce them on time the police may proceed to prosecute you.
So what do you do if you have accident?
Accidents happen – in bad weather you might hit a patch of ice; a car may come out of a turning without looking. You may swerve to avoid a dog or cat. However good a driver you are it is possible that an accident will happen to you. Never drive without insurance, as you can never know when you’re going to need to claim, or be claimed against!
Your insurance company will give you advice as to what to do if you have an accident – make sure you read and understand this part of your policy, although you will hope this doesn’t happen. Most insurance companies tell you NOT to admit that you were at fault.
If you have an accident which involves another person you will need to exchange insurance details with them. If you don’t (or the other person doesn’t) have these with you you should exchange names, addresses and telephone numbers. Make sure you write down the number plate of any other cars involved – especially if the accident wasn’t your fault – and also get the names, addresses, registration plate details and telephone numbers of any witnesses.