Today you can buy all manner of weird and wonderful gizmos for your car – from gleaming alloy wheels and giant exhausts to ‘car bras’ which protect the bonnet and badge from the elements.
But insurers tend to take a dim view of such additions. According to price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, a new aftermarket exhaust pipe could add an extra £100 on to a typical £500-a-year premium – a 20 per cent increase.
A substantial boost to the power of your engine, either through mechanical changes or remapping its computer controls, could more than double the cost of your policy.
Bumping up the price: Insurers are concerned about any changes that will make your car quicker, increasing the likelihood of a crash
Insurers are concerned some changes will make your car quicker, increasing the likelihood of a crash, but they also fall back on data that they say shows that those who mod their car are more likely to make a claim.
What they are on the look out for is anything that adapts your car from factory standards, so replacing a like-for-like if components break is not an issue, but swap that old exhaust for one with a tweaked design and they must be told.
Even motorists who make modest changes, such as adding an expensive sat nav could see their premiums rise by as much as 10 per cent. This is because your car may become more of a target for thieves.
Some insurers even insist on being told about minor additions such as stickers.
In the most extreme cases, failing to tell your insurer about modifications could invalidate your policy.
In 2015, Age UK Insurance threatened to invalidate the policy of a 75-year-old vicar after she put stickers stating ‘Christ Must Be Saviour’ and ‘Christ For Me’ on her car.
An AA spokesman says: ‘Insurers are not bothered about you having a National Trust sticker in your back window – they are concerned about you making your car an advertising billboard or drawing attention to the vehicle, which could make it a target for people who disagree with those views.’
Some additions can slash the cost of your premiums. For instance, automatic braking systems, typically specified as an option whne a new car is bought, stop the vehicle when you are about to collide with a hazard and can reduce costs by as much as a fifth.
Some insurers offer discounts for dash cams. This is because the devices can cut the cost of a claim and the time taken to process it by showing clearly who is at fault.
And tow bars, which indicate slower driving, will cut your insurance by a fifth.
Your credit score is another an increasingly crucial tool for insurers
FIRMS SNOOP ON CREDIT CARD FILES
Your credit score is an increasingly crucial tool for insurers.
Traditionally, your history of repaying credit cards and other debts was only scrutinised if you were opting to pay for cover though monthly instalments.
If the computer revealed that you had a poor rating, you were likely to be turned away by the insurer or forced to put down a hefty deposit. But today, insurers exploit the wealth of information about your spending contained in your record – even if you are paying for your cover in one go and not in instalments.
Each company has its own tactics for analysing your details. But as a rule of thumb, if you appear to be struggling for money you are normally viewed as a higher risk.
The theory is that drivers with low credit scores may struggle to cover the cost of repairs or are more likely to make fraudulent claims.
Insurance giant Aviva is one of the firms which has admitted using customer information like this – although most insurers are understood to do the same.
These attempts to glean information from your file are classed as ‘soft searches’. They leave no record and should not affect your future attempts to get loans or mortgages.
Insurers use job titles as a crucial clue in determining whether you are a major risk. Typically, those with a reputation for living hard get stung. DJs are among those at the top of the list
TWEAK YOUR JOB TITLE FOR TOP DEAL
Insurers use job titles as a crucial clue in determining whether you are a major risk. Typically, professions with a reputation for living hard and fast or dangerously get stung.
Top of the list are funfair employees, exotic dancers and DJs — who pay nearly three times the typical premium of £476.
Night shift workers may end up with a raw deal because insurers fear their vehicles are more likely to be left in deserted car parks and targeted by criminals.
By contrast, those with steady jobs, such as public sector roles, generally get a better deal. Nurses and headteachers tend to benefit from the cheapest cover, typically paying around half of the average premium, says MoneySuperMarket. Slightly altering your job title within your profession – as long as it still accurately describes your role – can pay dividends.
According to price comparison website GoCompare, a construction worker would pay £682 a year, but a bricklayer £607. A teacher would pay £509, but a college lecturer almost £100 a year more at £606.
For those without jobs it’s a tale of two extremes. The retired usually receive cut-price premiums. This is because they have years of experience, drive relatively few miles and have built up a generous no claims bonus. On average, they would pay half the typical premium.
By contrast, the unemployed pay two-thirds more than average because they are viewed as more likely to make a claim after a minor prang, and may be more likely to be driving than sitting inside at a desk during the day.
ALWAYS BUY COVER AFTER CHRISTMAS
When you buy your cover also has an impact on price. Prices peak on the day your existing policy is due to expire, according to comparison site Compare The Market. This is because firms know they can cash in on panic buys.
You can get the same policy up to a third cheaper three weeks before your premium becomes due. This is the prime time to buy, Compare The Market says.
The time of year also has an impact. It can cost you £100 more to insure your vehicle in December than in February.
This is thought to be because insurers know people are busy in the run-up to Christmas and more likely to accept an expensive quote.
By contrast, in the new year we may have more time to reflect on the offer. MoneySuperMarket reviewed more than seven million car insurance quotes run over the past two years to find the best and worst time to buy.
An investigation by Money Mail in 2016 found that prices tended to be higher on Saturdays as insurers believe that people have more time to shop around at the weekend. Never accept your insurer’s first quote at renewal; the more years you’ve been loyal, the harder you’ll be squeezed.
An audit of 9,000 motorists by data firm Consumer Intelligence found that customers who switched after nine years with the same firm saw their premiums drop instantly, typically by £117.
Buy a Honda Civic Type R and it will arrive looking like this as standard with supercar-matching performance. Modify your ordinary Civic to look like this though and your insurance costs will rocket even if its power remains the same
GET YOUR MILEAGE SPOT-ON IF IT IS LOWER THAN AVERAGE
Adding secondary drivers to your policy – especially experienced ones with clean driving licences and decent no claims histories – can cut your premiums.
CHEAPER RATES FOR GMAIL USERS
Insurers insist there are dozens of factors they take into consideration to assess a driver’s risk. These now extend to email addresses. Admiral has admitted charging more depending on the address you put on its forms.
If you applied for a quote using a Hotmail account it could cost you £31 more than if you used a Gmail account. Other insurers in the Admiral brand, including Elephant, Diamond, and Bell, charge Hotmail users up to £6.72 more on their annual premiums.
Admiral says its data shows that drivers using certain email addresses are more likely to cancel a policy, have an accident or make fraudulent claims.
It adds: ‘We use a variety of pieces of information to accurately produce a competitive price for our customers.’
Kevin Pratt, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket, says: ‘Clearly the insurer has evidence that customers using one email domain are more likely to claim than others, but it’s one of the stranger factors that lead to people paying more. After all, many people have more than one email address.’
Although insurers don’t monitor who is at the wheel, this tends to imply the main driver’s total mileage will be reduced.
However, the main driver named on the policy must do the bulk of the annual mileage.
It’s not uncommon for parents to take out insurance as the main driver on their child’s car to get a lower premium and then hardly drive it.
But this is illegal and insurers will become suspicious if the child has an accident at university or far from the parent’s address.
Insuring a car you use for a daily commute will always be more expensive because firms assume you’re regularly on busy roads during rush hour when the chances of a crash are greater.
But you should never overstate your estimated mileage.
If you say you drive 10,000 miles a year, but actually travel nearer 8,000, you’ll overpay by £43.
If you overestimate by 1,000 miles, you’ll pay £31 too much, GoCompare research shows.
Your latest MoT certificate for your car contains an accurate annual mileage. Use this as a starting point.
Some insurers take marital status into consideration – the thinking being that married people are likely to drive more responsibly
BEING MARRIED IS SEEN AS A BONUS
It is illegal for insurers to price premiums based on name, race or gender. But some customers claim these factors are still being taken into account.
A Sun investigation last week claimed that drivers pay £1,000 more to insure cars if their name is Mohammed. Using identical details but different names, an Admiral quote via GoCompare showed insurance for ‘John Smith’ was £1,333 but for ‘Mohammed Ali’ it was £2,252.
What about colour?
Insurers do not take into account car colour.
This is an urban myth.
However, if you repaint your car it could count as a modification and impact on the price.
The reporters claimed to have used the same details, except for the names, for 60 quotes on GoCompare, and directly from the insurance companies and other comparison sites. But Admiral denies the claims and says the figures are misleading.
A spokesman says: ‘We do not and never have used a customer’s name or any other piece of information to rate on race. The insurance quotes were not like for like. We take these allegations very seriously and are consulting our lawyers.’
Some insurers increase premiums for parents because they think drivers with children in the back seat are more distracted, according to research by Defaqto.
Others take marital status into consideration – the thinking being that married people are likely to drive more responsibly.
MOVE 8 MILES TO SLASH YOUR BILLS
Even if your credit score, mileage and driving history work in your favour, you could find your postcode overrides every other factor.
Around 90 per cent of accidents that result in claims happen within five miles of the home.
Insurers look at local crime statistics and have their own data to calculate the risk of covering drivers from postcodes across the country. If there are a lot of theft or accident claims in one area, anyone living there – or nearby – could be hit with a higher bill.
Some parts of the country – the North West, North East and Midlands – have high levels of whiplash claims, so drivers from these parts may be profiled as higher risk to an insurer.
Even the number of potholes on the road you live on could make a difference. If it’s known as a particularly uneven stretch, insurers will take this into account when assessing how likely you are to make a claim.
Where a car is parked overnight also has a bearing on the cost of a premium.
Leaving your car parked on the street exposes it to a higher risk of theft or vandalism as opposed to a more secure area.
GoCompare research shows that drivers in cities pay up to £57 more than those in the outskirts or in the countryside.
Drivers in Liverpool can expect to be charged £57 more than someone who lives eight miles away in the village of Thornton Hough. And a Manchester driver pays £47 more than neighbours in Poynton, 11 miles south.
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