Being a younger driver: the key findings 5. Why premiums vary 8. Recommendations 11. Ways to cut your costs The case studies 16

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3 The Cost of Car Insurance for Young Drivers in Northern Ireland Introduction 4 What we did 4 Being a younger driver: the key findings 5 Why premiums vary 8 Recommendations 11 References 12 Ways to cut your costs 13 1 The case studies Quotations summary Traffic accident statistics The Pass Plus scheme 21 3

4 The aim of the General Consumer Council is to ensure that Northern Ireland consumers get a fair deal. Over the years an issue which the Council has consistently campaigned on is the cost of car insurance. In this latest report we focus on the particular problems faced by younger drivers. Many experience difficulties obtaining quotes and some insurance companies will not provide cover at all. Where cover is obtained younger drivers are forced to pay large premiums. Our findings are set out on the following pages together with some of the reasons why premiums vary. Also included is some general practical advice for consumers on buying car insurance. Twelve insurance companies selling car insurance to Northern Ireland drivers were asked to provide quotes for eight fictional case studies. Eight companies agreed to participate in our survey. A leading local insurance broker also provided quotes allowing a comparison to be made with the premiums offered directly by the insurance companies. The case studies [Appendix 1] consisted of males and females aged 17, 21, 24 and 45. Each driver was given the same make and model of car and the same occupation and postcode. This was to ensure that the age and sex of the driver were the main factors influencing the cost of the premium. Details of the quotations obtained are contained in Appendix 2. To help explain how premiums are calculated and to highlight those factors which influence premiums the insurance companies were also asked a series of basic questions relating to company policy. The responses are summarised in the section Why premiums vary (page 8). Comparing premiums Policy on car insurance for younger drivers varies from company to company. Some companies don t insure at all or only offer a basic level of cover. Different conditions and exclusions can also apply which affect premiums and make exact like-for-like comparisons difficult. 4

5 Premiums: the range of quotes offered by insurance companies Table 1. Cost of premiums: range 1 Difference between highest and lowest quote For younger drivers the cost of car insurance varies considerably. The difference in cost can range from as much as 1500 to 2000 for the same level of cover. For older drivers the range narrows with a variation of around 300 from highest to lowest. As a percentage of the total premium, however, this still represents a significant variation and potential saving. 5

6 Broker versus Company Fig 1. Comparison of broker and company quotes. While some people purchase insurance direct from an insurance company others prefer to deal through an insurance broker. Fig 1 compares the quotes obtained from a broker with those quoted directly by the companies. For the purposes of comparison the lowest quotes have been chosen in each case. As only one broker was asked to provide quotes the figures are indicative only. Subject to the above, dealing through a broker may offer younger drivers, both male and female, a greater range of options and possible savings. For older drivers this advantage is less marked to the extent that dealing direct with the insurance companies may be the cheaper option. Age and driving experience Young inexperienced drivers have to pay much more for their cover. Typically this applies to someone under 25 or someone with a provisional licence. Many insurance companies will only offer third party cover while others will not quote at all. The younger you are the more you are likely to pay for car insurance [Fig 2]. A 17 year-old male can expect to pay up to 10 times more than a 45-year-old. The same applies to young female drivers. Premiums for a 17 year-old female driver can be up to 9 times more expensive. 6

7 Fig 2. Average quotes* (from insurance companies) * Brokers quotes not included Male versus female On average male drivers pay more for their car insurance than female drivers [Fig 2]. A young male driver aged 21 is likely to have to pay up to 23% more on average than a young girl of the same age. However, this differential decreases with age. At age 45 the difference drops to around 5%. Car ownership and other trends In Northern Ireland the number of households owning a car has remained fairly static in the last five years [69% of total households in and 70% in ]. However the percentage of households owning two or more cars has increased from 21% to 25% 1. In many cases this means that more young people now have access to the second family car. It also means that the number of cars has increased from 431[1995] to 475 [1999] per 1000 of the population over 16 years of age 2. As competition in the car trade intensifies, manufacturers and dealers continually strive to work out new and novel ways of selling cars. In recent years some have offered free or reduced insurance for specified periods on particular models. Such offers are naturally attractive and make it easier for young people to become car owners and drivers. Many advertisements target young people specifically. The car insurance market itself is constantly evolving. In the last survey carried out by the Council in 1996 there were roughly insurance companies providing car insurance in Northern Ireland. Since then many of the larger companies have merged, reducing the choice available to consumers. 7

8 Accidents Because they tend to cause fewer accidents than the younger age groups people are generally perceived to be safer drivers as they reach middle age. Premiums therefore reflect the fact that relative to the total number of drivers on the road young male drivers are responsible for more road traffic accidents than any other age group. Fig 3. Northern Ireland drivers by age and sex Current statistics 3 show that young male drivers in the age group make up approximately 7% of all drivers in Northern Ireland [Fig 3]. However in 1999 this age group were responsible for 20% of all road traffic accidents. They were also responsible for 42% of fatal accidents and, overall, were involved in more accidents, both serious and slight, than any other age group. [See Appendix 3: Traffic accidents]. Relative to their male counterparts young women drivers are involved in fewer road traffic accidents. Females age make up 6% of all drivers in Northern Ireland and were responsible for around 7% of all accidents. Insurance companies therefore provide lower premiums for women drivers as they are perceived to be less of a risk. 8

9 Location Many insurance companies use a rating scale which means that people living in certain postal areas are likely to have to pay higher premiums. To illustrate this point additional quotes [Fig 4] were obtained from the same insurance broker for Philip (17) and Caroline (17) using a BT17 postcode. BT17 is an area of Belfast considered to be high risk by insurance companies. Fig 4. Location and premiums* * Quotes provided by the insurance broker (refer to Fig 1) While the results are indicative only they reveal a substantial difference in premiums between postcode areas. The lowest quote offered to Philip (17) with a BT17 postcode was double what he would have paid had he been living in BT20. Part of the reason for this is related to higher crime rates in high risk areas. As a general rule people in such areas will usually pay more for their car insurance than those living in the suburbs or rural areas. Certain age groups The majority of companies follow a policy which, in terms of premiums, rewards older drivers and penalises younger drivers. For insurance purposes younger drivers are generally identified by most companies as aged Some will quote for younger drivers only if they are the son or daughter of an existing policyholder. Others will not provide cover at all. Certain occupations Most companies either totally exclude a variety of occupations or charge higher premiums if the job is considered to be high risk. Examples of excluded occupations include entertainers, professional sports people, bookmakers and taxi drivers. Car types For insurance purposes companies group cars 1-20 depending on the original cost, top speed and price of spare parts and repairs. Generally, the higher the car group the higher the premium. Certain insurance companies will not insure a young driver to drive a high group vehicle while others may offer a discount on an older car. 9

10 Examples of low group vehicles [as at February 2001] are: Group 1: Fiat Panda Group 2: Ford Ka, Rover Mini Mayfair Group 3: Nissan Micra 1.0, Vauxhall Corsa 1.0i/1.2i Group 4: Citroen Saxo 1.1i, Renault Clio 1.2 Group 5: Fiat Uno 1.4, Ford Fiesta 1.1 Popular Plus/L/LX Car use There are different classes of insurance depending on what you use the car for and your premium will vary accordingly. Social, domestic and pleasure and also use by you in connection with your business and profession [but excluding commercial travelling] is the basic class Class 1. Class 2, which covers use of the car by others in connection with your business, may cost an additional 30%. Class 3 covers commercial travelling and motor trade use and may cost an additional 60%. Convictions For most insurance companies a minor speeding offence is generally not a problem. However drivers with more serious convictions can expect to pay higher premiums. Many companies will refuse to take on a new customer with a previous conviction for drink driving. Other conditions and discounts Some companies will offer special discounts to women drivers. The range of discounts offered will vary depending on the company. A number of companies offer discount for cars fitted with security devices. Again this varies depending on the individual company. While some companies do not require the vehicle to be garaged at night, others do. This can vary depending on the area. Most insurance companies have a compulsory excess of 100. By agreeing to take on a higher voluntary excess drivers can lower the cost of their premium. The amount of discount offered varies from company to company. 10

11 Less choice, easier access to car ownership and the number of accidents attributable to younger drivers all have an impact on the car insurance market for younger drivers. In Northern Ireland drivers under the age of 24 represent approximately 13% of the total driver population. It is therefore important that the market both recognises and caters for their needs. Some companies already offer special deals and schemes. However, as car insurance is a legal requirement and not an option more can and should be done to alleviate the particular problems faced by younger drivers. All insurance companies offering car insurance should provide a basic starter insurance package for fully qualified first time drivers. More and better incentives should be provided for younger drivers to encourage and reward safer driving. These could take the form of additional or greater premium reductions for no claims, no traffic violations or for possession of advanced driving qualifications or competencies. A further incentive might be an accelerated cash bonus or money-back scheme for young drivers after a period of no claims to offset the initial high premiums. To encourage young drivers who have passed their test to improve their driving skills and awareness the Pass Plus Scheme should be extended to Northern Ireland [see Appendix 4 for details]. Insurance companies should provide details of their young driver schemes and incentives in a consistent and standard format to allow easy comparisons between companies including the cost and the level of cover on offer. This information should be made more readily accessible to young people. Current advertising guidelines and standards, which cover the promotion and marketing of cars to young people should be reviewed. As most young people will be drivers one day safe driving should be part of formal education. More resources and support should be provided for the development of new and existing school and collegebased initiatives to raise awareness of safe driving theory and the teaching of practical skills using demonstration vehicles and instructors. 11

12 1 Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, Transport Statistics , Table Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, Transport Statistics , Table Taken from Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland Figures 2001 supplied by ICL Ltd. 12

13 Note: The following is intended as a general guide only. Conditions and level of cover vary from policy to policy and between insurance companies. It is essential that you check carefully the actual policy details. If you are in any doubt ask your broker or insurer. 1. What the law says To drive a car on public roads you must have a minimum level of car insurance as required by law. 2. The types of cover [a] the legal minimum This cover is required by law and will pay out for injuries to other people and their property when the car is on a public road. There is no cover for your own car. This type of cover is generally regarded as inadequate but may be the only option if you are a high risk driver. [b] third party This covers liability for; - injuries to other people, including passengers, - damage to other people s property, - liability of passengers for accidents caused by them, - liability arising from use of a caravan or trailer, while attached to the car. [c] third party fire and theft As for third party. Plus cover for; - fire or theft. However, if your car is not normally kept in a garage at night, theft cover may be excluded or subject to special conditions. There may be an excess a part of the cost of the claim for which you are responsible following an incident or theft. Your insurance policy may not cover your loss if your car is taken from you by deception. [d] comprehensive As for third party fire and theft. Plus cover for: - accidental damage to your own car. There may be an excess part of the claim for which you are responsible. - personal accident benefit. Certain amounts may be paid in the event of the death or specific permanent disablement of the policy holder and sometimes his or her spouse or a family member. - medical expenses necessarily incurred, up to a stated limit. - loss or damage to personal effects in the car up to a stated limit. 13

14 3. Shop around Seek as many quotes as possible - the range can be enormous. Drivers should also compare prices offered direct by a company with those available through a broker. Those who have internet access can now get quotes from on-line insurers some of whom offer a discount for online applications. 4. Secure your car Fitting your car with security devices may be costly but this expense can be recouped through lower insurance premiums. 5. Increase your excess Most policies have a compulsory excess of around 100. Excesses vary between companies both in terms of cost and coverage, but taking out higher voluntary excess reduces the premium you pay. For example increasing the excess to 250 could reduce premiums by 10%. 6. Change your car Some makes of car are cheaper to repair and therefore insurance premiums may be lower. Smaller cars generally cost less to insure than racier and executive models. 7. Restrict your claims Before you make a claim, work out whether it is worth losing your no-claims bonus. Insurers reward drivers who do not make claims with up to 65% off the premium. However any accident involving injury must be referred to insurers and reported to the police. Under no circumstances should anyone consider dealing with this type of accident or claim without notifying their broker and insurer. 8. Check your policy Make sure you are not paying for features that you will never use. For example, many companies automatically add on and charge extra for overseas cover. If you drive abroad you should look for a policy that offers free European cover. 9. Protect your no claims discount Most insurance companies offer to protect your no claims discount on payment of an additional premium. This usually means that you can have two claims in a set period (typically 3 or 5 years) without affecting your no claims discount. Qualification details for this depends on the policy of the individual company. 14

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16 PHILIP Driver s age 17 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence Just passed test No claims discount None Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self CAROLINE Driver s age 17 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence Just passed test No claims discount None Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self BEN Driver s age 21 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 3 years No claims discount 2 years Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self ANDREA Driver s age 21 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 3 years No claims discount 2 years Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self 16

17 CHRIS Driver s age 24 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 6 years No claims discount Full Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self LEANNE Driver s age 24 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 6 years No claims discount Full Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self IAN Driver s age 45 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 25 years No claims discount Full Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self SIOBHAN Driver s age 45 Postcode BT20 Occupation Civil Servant Car: Model Vauxhall Corsa Merit 3dr Engine size 1.0i Registration year 1998 Current Value 3720 Use of car Class 1 Full licence 25 years No claims discount Full Claims/Convictions None Garage at night Yes Cover sought for Self 17

18 As the table shows no one company provided the cheapest quotes across each of the 8 case studies. Although Company A offered the cheapest quotes for the 17 year olds it should be noted that this was only for third party insurance while the other companies quoted for fully comprehensive. Third party insurance does not cover the driver for personal injury, damage to the car, fire or theft. Company E provided the lowest fully comprehensive quote for this age group. Company B quoted the most expensive prices for Philip (17), Ian (45) and Siobhan (45). This company however provided the cheapest quotes for both males and females aged 21 and 24. Company D would not quote for any of the first 6 case studies but provided the cheapest quotes for Ian and Siobhan (45). Similarly, Company G would not provide quotes for the under 25 s but offered the second cheapest quotes for Ian and Siobhan (45). Company F provided the most expensive quotes for females in the 17, 21 and 24 age groups. The quotes offered by Company F were the same for the male and female of each age group. 18

19 Philip - aged 17 Three companies out of the eight who responded to the survey would not provide a quote for Philip. The companies who did not quote cited Philip s age as being the barrier. The cheapest fully comprehensive insurance available for Philip was 3467 provided by Company E. Company A offered Philip a quote of 2642 but this was only for third party cover as the company was unable to offer fully comprehensive insurance to a 17-year-old. The highest quote for Philip was 5001, over 22 times more than a quote offered by Company D to the 45- year-old male. Caroline aged 17 The same three companies would not provide a quote for Caroline because of her age. The cheapest insurance available for Caroline was 3173 provided by Company E. Once again Company A offered a lower quote but this was for third party cover and not fully comprehensive as requested. The highest quote was 4880 provided by Company F, over 21 times more than a quote offered to Siobhan(45). The company did however offer 10% off this figure if Caroline completed a Pass Plus Certificate [see appendix 4]. Ben aged 21 Two companies would not provide a quote for Ben because of his age. The cheapest car insurance for Ben was 1078 provided by Company B. The highest quote was 2933 from Company C, almost 3 times the cost of the cheapest. Andrea aged 21 Two companies would not provide a quote for Andrea because of her age. The cheapest insurance available for Andrea was 965 provided by Company B. The most expensive quote was 1924 from Company F, more than double the cost of the cheapest. Chris aged 24 Two companies would not provide a quote for Chris because of his age. The cheapest insurance available for Chris was 559 provided by Company B. The most expensive quote was 1267 from Company C, more than double the price of the cheapest. Leanne aged 24 Two companies would not provide a quote for Leanne because of her age. The cheapest insurance available for Leanne was 537 provided by Company B. The most expensive quote was 834 from Company F. Ian aged 45 All of the companies who responded to the survey provided a quote for Ian. The cheapest quote was 224 provided by Company D. The highest quote was 577 from Company B, more than double the cost of the cheapest quote. Siobhan aged 45 All of the companies who responded to the survey provided a quote for Siobhan. The cheapest quote was 229 provided by Company D. The highest quote was 519 from Company B, more than double the cost of the cheapest quote. 19

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21 What is Pass Plus? Pass Plus is a scheme backed by the Government s Driving Standards Agency and Motor Insurers to encourage newly qualified drivers to become better drivers. It consists of an additional course of six specially designed training sessions to follow on from a successful practical driving test. They cover driving; In town Out of town In all weather At night On dual carriageways On motorways There is no further driving test. Once your Pass Plus instructor is satisfied with your performance you receive a certificate from the Driving Standards Agency. You can take Pass Plus within your first year of passing the practical driving test. What are the advantages? Many insurers give a discount to young drivers awarded the Pass Plus certificate. This can be the equivalent of a one-year no claims bonus or discount. In Northern Ireland The Pass Plus scheme is not currently available in the province but the Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy commits to assess the effectiveness of the Pass Plus Scheme and consider its introduction. 21

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24 Elizabeth House 116 Holywood Road Belfast BT4 1NY Telephone/Textphone Fax E mail Web site An online Consumer Advice Resource for Northern Ireland ISBN

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