Although it’s never been easier to shop around for cheaper car insurance, that doesn’t mean it’s a straightforward process. When you take your time to enter all the required information, you’ll pull up a list of possible companies and policies – but how do you know which one is the right one for you?
Choosing the wrong option can be an expensive decision. Choose too much cover and you’re paying too much but select too little and you could be exposed in the event of an accident. You need to make sure that your policy covers at least the basics or risk being one of the more than 14,000 people  prosecuted for driving without insurance last year.
The difficulty with quote comparison is that you can’t always tell if you are comparing like for like, or apples and oranges. Comparison sites usually rank on price, but the true picture of a quote can be a lot more complex than that, so what may look like a better deal on the surface may cost you more in the long run.
To help you find the right policy for you, here are ten questions to ask when comparing car insurance quotes.
1. What is the level of cover?
There are three levels of cover that are commonly offered for policies in the UK. They are:
This is the cheapest level of cover that insures you for any damage that occurs to a third party’s vehicle as a result of your actions, if you hit another car, for example. While you may be (but not always) saving on premiums, it doesn’t cover you for your own losses in any accident or incident that is your fault and could leave you without a car or even in debt as a result of any accident.
Third-Party, Fire, and Theft
As the name suggests this is similar to the previous option but also includes additional cover for your losses in the event your vehicle is stolen or is damaged in a fire.
Offering the highest level of cover, ‘fully comp’ protects you from accidents regardless as to who is at fault along with theft and other causes of damage such as fire. Naturally, this also means that this type of insurance may come with a higher premium.
With the average cost of car insurance being £460.00 it definitely pays to make sure you have the cover that you need.
2. Who Else is Covered?
25.7 million people in the UK live in a one-car household, finding a balance between needing a car and having to find the money to insure and fuel one. But even if you have more than one car in your household, you may want to include other people on your insurance to make life easier for car sharing. If you have multiple drivers in your household, then you may want to explore ‘any driver’ car insurance which provides cover for anyone who has your consent to get behind the wheel.
If you are a younger driver, then it might also be worth considering adding an older driver to your insurance policy to help lower the cost. Think of it this way, if you are the sole driver on a policy then you are the only one who will be using it. If you add another driver, then the insurance company will assume they will be using the car at least part of the time and (statistically speaking) that will lower the risk of the car being involved in an accident. If that driver is older than you, then it could lower the cost of your insurance policy.
3. What Vehicles are Covered?
Most policies are set up to cover one driver for one vehicle as you’d expect. Some policies go one step further and insure the driver for any vehicle they are driving – provided that they have the owner’s permission to be behind the wheel. Having ‘any car’ insurance is another option for busy households with multiple vehicles, but there are other advantages. For example, if you wanted to trade down to a smaller car for the day to day but wanted to borrow a friend or family member’s estate car to go on holiday, this type of policy gives you that option without extra admin or fees.
It will also save you money if you hire a car, as you won’t need to rely on buying a policy from the hire company – instead, you will be able to take a copy of your insurance document with you to prove that you are covered.
4. What Payment Options are Available?
The prices quoted on comparison sites can be misleading if you don’t have the cash to pay your car insurance upfront. What looks like a great deal can quickly become more expensive if you pay monthly and interest payments are added. If you are going to pay monthly, make sure that you check the total price over the course of the year.
Another option to consider is that some insurance companies use a finance company to manage their monthly payments which means you are effectively taking out a loan for your insurance. If you have issues with your credit rating, this might be a situation you will prefer to avoid.
5. Are there any restrictions on repairs?
If you are involved in an accident, the usual process is to get three quotes and the insurance company will go with the cheapest option. But the cheapest option isn’t always the best – you may find that it means you are not getting original manufacturers’ parts fitted to your car.
This might have an implication on your warranty, so it’s worth checking if that is the case because losing that protection would be potentially more expensive than any insurance policy. Similarly, if you have a classic or collectable car, you will probably want to ensure that any repairs keep your vehicle as close to the original as possible.
6. What ‘extras’ are included?
What at first glance looks like a higher premium could actually save you money if you factor in any additional benefits the policy gives you. For example, an annual membership with the AA costs from £6 a month  and windscreen cover bought separately is around £30 per year on average. Other extras might include cover for theft of any personal possessions left in the vehicle, for example, your laptop or bag.
If you are comparing two policies, then you do need to look into the detail of what is offered to make sure that you are really comparing like with like. A simple comparison may not give you a full breakdown of these costs, so you will have to grab a pencil and paper (or spreadsheet) and do the breakdown yourself.
7. Is a ‘black box’ required?
Some insurance policies, especially those targeted at young people, require the driver to keep a telemetric device, or black box, in their car that monitors their driving.
Insurance companies use the data collected by the black box to analyse the safety of the driver and adjust the premiums accordingly. Safe drivers may see savings as their premiums reduce but if you have a more aggressive style on the road, then you could see your premiums rise. Black boxes can offer a more affordable way for younger people to get insurance.
The black box monitors aspects of your driving such as speed, acceleration, and rapid braking, bad news for the stereotypical ‘boy racer’ but good news for careful drivers who think ahead.
8. What happens if you need to claim?
While we don’t want to think about it, the main reason we have car insurance is so that we are prepared for incidents or accidents. We hope it never happens, but if it does, what kind of response can you expect? Is there a 24-hour line you can call for assistance if you get back to your car in the early hours of the morning and find it has been damaged or stolen?
Will the insurance company then give you immediate assistance, or will you have to fend for yourself until opening hours? It’s worth checking if they will cover you for taxis or accommodation if you find yourself stranded without your car.
It’s normal for insurance policies to include an excess. This is the portion of any claim that you have to pay yourself, with the remainder being settled by the insurance company. The amount of excess you pay impacts your premium directly; the higher the excess you commit to, the lower your insurance premiums. This can, however, leave you with a significant bill to pay if any repairs are needed to your car.
If it is determined that the accident was someone else’s fault then it is possible to claim the excess back from them – another question worth asking your insurer is whether they will handle that for you, or if you will need to do it yourself.
10. How long is the quote valid for?
Quotes don’t last forever, and once you’ve been given one, you will have a limited time to decide if you want to go ahead with it or not. Given the list of questions above, you’ll understand that taking time to make sure you have understood what is covered in your quote is really important – you don’t want to rush and make the wrong decision.
Performing a comparison using Free Price Compare will show you clearly how long the quote will remain valid, and we can even send you reminder emails to let you know when you are getting near the deadline. While these can make you feel the pressure to make the decision, it’s important to make an informed decision rather than a rushed one.
The Pros and Cons of Comparison Sites
Comparison sites such as Free Price Compare have made it easier than ever to view multiple quotes for car insurance on a single page and select the cheapest offer. It is always worth double checking whether that really is the cheapest premium you can get. If you have an existing policy, there is a chance you may get a better deal by ringing your insurer and using the information you have gathered to negotiate but this can be time-consuming.
And as we’ve mentioned above, you’re not comparing insurance quotes based on premium alone. The way an insurance company pulls together a quote takes into account the vehicle, how it will be stored, the area you live in, your mileage, your age and other factors. The insurer uses this to determine their risk. If there is anything unusual about your risk factors, it may be worth tailoring your search to see if you can personalise your insurance quote with a specialist company that has experience in assessing the types of risk you might present; for example older driver insurance, or firms that target women drivers in particular.
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