'I was quoted €4,000 on my return to Ireland' - Expats face losing no claims bonus and unable to afford car insurance
Expats returning home to Ireland after living abroad for a few years face paying extortionate premiums on their car insurance.
The majority of insurance firms here will not recognise a driver's record of no claims bonus if they have not been insured on a car in the country within the last two years.
Tara Kelly (28) moved to Canada in November 2014 where she drove a rental car for her work commute.
Having returned home shortly before Christmas, December 2016, she soon discovered that her six years no claims bonus would not be considered when obtaining insurance quotes for her new car.
"When I moved to Canada, I was insured with 'ItsForWomen' and I was paying around €300 on my 1.1L Peugeot," she told Independent.ie
"So I bought a little Mini Cooper with a 1.6L and input my details online, which gave me a quote of €550 which I thought was pretty good.
"But when I rang up to provide more details, they told me that my no claims bonus had expired and quoted me thousands."
Unfortunately, if a driver has had no insurance in their own name for two or more years, many insurers will not give them their no claims discount when insurance cover is reapplied for.
Ms Kelly spent the next eight weeks calling up to 30 brokers and insurance companies.
"I had started my new job and I was calling one company a day. Some firms wouldn't even consider insuring me - and the handful that were quoted around €3,000 to €4,000."
It was through a Facebook group for returning expats that Tara found some people in similar situations - and some advice on where to turn to next.
Through a recommended broker, who deal with around 15 insurance companies, Ms Kelly found that Allianz Insurance were willing to accept her no claims bonus - even though it was four months after the usual two year expiry date.
If you have been driving abroad with a full licence, the companies that will be willing to insure you will assess each case individually - with much depending on where exactly you have been living and driving.
For returning immigrants from Canada or Australia, for instance, insurance with its4women.ie is accessible - once a person has lived in Ireland for three years at any point in their lives.
The firm also accepts a European no claims bonus as long as it is translated into English and shows all the consecutive years insured in the policyholders name.
Gary McClarty, MD of MCL Insurance Services, operator of its4women.ie told Independent.ie that the company accepts no claims bonuses for up and not beyond two years.
"As long as the vehicle in question is based within Europe and the driver can provide us with a UK or Irish specification, there will be no impact on their premium quote," he said.
The firm's policy regarding no claims bonuses and their viability is very similar to other insurers including AXA and "is consistent for all of our drivers".
FDB, too, recognise validated driving experienced in the UK, while experience gained in other countries will be assessed on a case by case basis.
However, this insurer is willing to consider insuring a driver where the no claims bonus has expired within the two years "subject to us receiving satisfactory explanation for the gap in cover and/or details of other driving experience during that time".
And, "if the expiry is over two years we will assess these on a case by case basis taking into account all the circumstances and in particular if the customer had other driving experience during the period".
Another insurer willing to be slightly flexible with recognising driving experience abroad is Aviva who will look at the no claims bonus history overall and "this may impact favourably on their premium quote".
What is being done
Insurance Ireland are currently examining similar issues with a view to putting an information protocol in place to assist returning emigrants.
CEO Kevin Thompson said that the group recently welcomed the publication of the Government’s Cost of Insurance Working Group Report as a framework to address the rising cost of claims and its impact on the motor insurance market.
Insurance Ireland had been lobbying for policy change after publishing 'Driving Change' in 2015, a report which highlighted how personal injury awards, such as the average whiplash award, were up to three times that of the UK (€15,000 vs €5,000).
"The Government’s Cost of Insurance Working Group Report details, among other issues, specific actions required for areas such as returning emigrants where it is putting in place a standard protocol for insurance companies in order to ensure a greater consistency of treatment," he told independent.ie.