Vroom for improvement
Motor insurance premiums are starting to fall after years of steep hikes, but to get the best reductions, you need to shop around, writes John Cradden
Motor insurance premiums began to fall during the latter half of 2017 after some three years of relentless rises - but many motorists are yet to see the benefit, and switching insurers is still essential if you want to cut the costs of your cover.
This time last year the cost of motor insurance premiums had reached something of a peak, having risen sharply by some 70pc over the previous three years.
Inflation figures from the Central Statistics Office issued throughout last year showed that premiums stopped rising in April and, by August, had fallen by 14pc compared with the same month the previous year. Premiums continued to fall sharply in September and November.
It is a year since the publication of a major report by a Government working group into the cost of motor insurance recommended the setting up of a national claims database - something that is to be established this year.
Motor insurance also hit the headlines last year thanks to the news that officials from the EU Competition Directorate were investigating the possibility that a cartel is operating in the industry here.
It's also apparent that Irish judges are responding more vociferously to anger at the number of significant awards in personal injury cases arising from motor accidents.
Motor insurers have been feeling the pressure over premium rises, but it seems that the resulting reductions are not happening across the board, according to Jonathan Hehir of brokers Coverinaclick.ie.
"The reduced premiums tend to be on policies insurers have 'cherry-picked', for example, where the would-be policy holder has a full no claims bonus, a full licence, no previous claims, no penalty points and a new car," he said.
"The reality is somewhat different. The car insurance market is very fragmented in terms of who pays what, and these reductions are not being and will not be felt across the board."
So you may see a reduction this year if you are what Hehir describes as a 'squeaky clean' middle-aged driver, but for other categories of driver, shopping around and switching is the only way to keep your premium down.
"What it means is that now, more than ever, motorists must scour the market, accessing quotes from at least 10 different insurers before they can make a fully informed decision on whether or not they are getting the best rate," adds Mr Hehir.
If the idea of ringing anything close to 10 insurers doesn't appeal, brokers can help do that work for you.
The three factors that have the biggest influence on the quotes you get are: (a) the number of years you have been claim-free and the type of licence you have, (b) your age and (c) the type and age of the vehicle.
- Read more: 'I spent a week doing research'
So if you have recently passed your test, or have accumulated five years NCB (no claims bonus), or want to add or remove a named driver, or plan to change your car, these are all good reasons to seek out a better deal.
If you and your spouse have your own cars, adding each other as named drivers on your policies will discount premiums on both cars.
Other tips include keeping your car safely parked on a driveway or in a garage if you have one, and fitting an alarm. Using the same provider for your house insurance should also result in a discount.
And don't insure your car for more than it's worth.
It also pays to haggle with your current insurer, so get a cheaper quote and ask them to match it. And if they don't, then switch.
For younger drivers or those who have only recently passed their driving test, technology offers another possible road to lower-cost insurance.
Aviva will offer discounted insurance if you undergo and pass an hour-long assessment.
If AIG's driver monitoring app rates your driving as safe, it should enable you to unlock up to 20pc discount on your insurance, while AXA's Drivesafe app offers a 5pc cashback discount during the course of a policy if you qualify.
However, these apps don't appear to have made much difference yet, according to Hehir.
"We have not seen a big impact in insurance premiums due to a lack of availability of this new technology," he says. "However, further down the road I believe these apps will have a real impact on the insurance market and they will hopefully will help to reduce costs for younger drivers."
One issue that will continue to annoy owners of older cars is that cost of insuring them is disproportionately more than for newer cars.
This follows a move a few years back by Allianz and Aviva to stop offering new quotes for drivers of cars over 15 years old.
Although other insurers will still quote for cars of this vintage, they may hike premiums to uncompetitive levels, ostensibly on the grounds that they have dealt with higher numbers of claims involving older cars.
However, if you have a car that is more than 15 years old but which you have owned for some time, anecdotal evidence suggests that if an insurer asks how long you have owned the car, this could result in a reasonably competitive quote.
There are also some lesser-known brokers and firms who claim to specialise in insuring older cars, so they may be worth checking out.
How to switch car insurance
Get a quote online from a broker like chill.ie, quoteme.ie or coverinaclick.ie, which compares a range of companies. Alternatively, use a broker you know. You could also obtain quotes directly from insurers but this could take some time.
Also, given that the amount of detail you are asked to input for a quote can vary a lot and thereby affect the final price, you may save yourself a bit of time by picking up the phone to insurers instead of obtaining online quotes.
Call your own company and see can it better the best quote you get. If not, then it’s time to switch.
You can arrange insurance online or over the phone. To switch, you’ll need to complete an application, send on a copy of your driving licence and existing No Claims Bonus letter (which must be given to you by your existing insurer) and payment details.
Potential savings: €1,300 (based on a 30-year-old female in Dublin with one year’s NCB and no claims)
Total time: 30 minutes