car insurance questions

As the Co-founder of Hastings Direct and the CEO of PocketRate, I've been in the car insurance industry for over 30 years, so I know what increases and decreases your quote.

Top price changing factors

There are around 40+ rating factors that affect the price of your car insurance but of these only around a half dozen or so can change the price significantly, these are:

  1. No Claims Bonus
  2. Driver Age
  3. Car Insurance Group Rating (often combined with driver age)
  4. Previous Claims (depends on how many and fault/non-fault)
  5. Driving Convictions (depends on severity)
  6. Postcode
  7. Occupation

Each insurance company will have their own rates and rules but generally speaking these are the top factors that they will all focus on the most.

No Claims Bonus

This is effectively an indicator of your insurance history. The more bonus years you earn, the better you are perceived in terms of risk. That's why some insurers can give up to 75% discounts for having full bonus.

Having a lot of No Claims Bonus years helps enormously in offsetting the cost of driving a high group rated car. Having zero bonus automatically puts the insurance company on standby that you are potentially a high-risk driver and instead of a No Claims Bonus discount, you might get a zero-bonus increase.

Driver age and insurance group rating

Young drivers automatically get hit hard with a price increase simply due to the fact they are an unknown quantity for insurers. Young drivers, by their very nature, are inexperienced and statistically are at much higher risk for having an accident. There is nothing you can do about the base increase you get for being a young or new driver.

However, all insurers combine driver age and insurance group for pricing purposes. A young person driving a high group car is a very high-risk combination for an insurer. Many companies may not even quote. So, in addition to the price increase you get for being young, you will get a double hit for being young and driving a high group rated car.

I would advise young or new drivers to opt for a group 1 rated car to start with so that you can attract the lowest rates from insurers. Not until you’ve built up some No Claims Bonus years and driving experience should you look to buy a higher group car.

Always get an insurance quote before you commit to buying a car. I've seen countless young people buy a car and then struggle to find insurance.

You should also remember that unless you complete a SORN for the DVLA, your car must be insured at ALL times, even if it's parked on the drive or in the garage. The law called Continuous Insurance Enforcement means you must have an active insurance policy from the moment you own that vehicle, even if you're not driving it.

Car insurance group rating

Even if you're not a young driver, the insurance group rating of your vehicle plays a significant part in your price calculation. There are 50 insurance groups. The lower the group rating, the lower your price and vice versa.

Switching from a lower to higher group car can sometimes cause a substantial increase in your price. That's why it's always helpful to have a number of No Claims Bonus years to counter any increase a higher group car can bring.

Previous insurance claims

Having a single previous non-fault claim is unlikely to affect your price much, if at all. However, multiple claims, whether fault or non-fault will inevitably trigger an underwriting rule and higher rate. A history of making claims, even if they were not your fault, is a red flag to an insurer.

For example, you’re on your way home from work and someone hits you from the side at a roundabout or junction. It’s not your fault, but from an underwriting perspective you have just become a much higher risk. The reason is that you will likely still be travelling the same route again in the future and the chances of this happening again are increased.

Having previous fault claims is of course worse still. It not only demonstrates that you have a history of making claims but that they were caused by you. The nightmare scenario for an insurer is the risk of being on the hook and liable for a personal injury claim. Such claims can run into millions of pounds compensation and insurers try to avoid having customers who have a poor claims track record.

Driving convictions

A single SP30 speeding conviction will usually not affect your price dramatically but this can also depend on your age. A young or new driver with a speeding conviction will likely face a more substantial increase than an older, more experienced driver with a good history.

Multiple speeding convictions are a big issue for insurers. If your price goes up 5% for a single speeding conviction that does not automatically mean your price goes up 10% for two speeding convictions, it may go up much more than that. Multiple convictions often attract significantly higher rates due to an emerging pattern of poor driving. Statistically, higher speeds cause more and worse accidents, something insurers do not like.

The bigger issue is for drivers with more severe convictions such as drink or drug driving ‘DR’ type convictions, an IN10 conviction for driving without insurance and a TT99 conviction, commonly known as a totting up conviction where you have 12 or more penalty points on your licence. These type of driving convictions can have a bigger impact on your price than other factors in this list. Having such convictions also means that few insurers will be willing to quote and you will often need a specialist insurer.

Postcode

Insurers tend to rate down to the district level of a postcode (e.g., RH10) rather than the full postcode. There are over 30 million individual postcodes so rating each one separately is cumbersome and impractical.

Underwriters, especially in large insurance companies, will look at previous claims history for postcode districts to decide their rating criteria. They may also combine this with the latest crime data, particularly vehicle crime statistics, to increase rates for a set of postcodes.

Occupation

For the majority of jobs, the occupation rating doesn’t really affect your price as much as you might think. However, there are certain occupations that underwriters see as high risk such as those working unsociable hours, stressful jobs such as in the NHS, high profile occupations such as footballers and any job where you could be having passengers who are high earners.

The reason for increasing prices for certain jobs is the higher risk of either having an accident e.g., working long hours, or the associated risk that comes with a personal injury claim e.g., being liable for lost future earnings.

Bottom line

The factors above are the most significant but there are also around 30+ more smaller factors that can be taken into account such as car modification, security features, whether you’re married, have kids, additional driver details, type of cover and commuting.

You must answer every question honestly or risk having your insurance invalidated or even being prosecuted.

There are a number of ways you can mitigate higher prices such as adding a more experienced named driver, parking your car in the garage, increasing voluntary excess, opting for a telematics policy and passing an advanced driving test.

Above all, shop around. Although all insurers rate on the same factors, not all underwriters take the same view on what level of rate they apply.

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