Bell is a black box car insurance offering from the Admiral Group, the largest auto insurance company in the UK, and is designed for younger drivers—but is it right for you?
A black box policy can help young drivers (who notoriously pay high insurance premiums) secure a lower price for their car insurance, but we found that Bell might not be the most affordable black box plan on the market. And there are other issues to be aware of as well. Read our review to help you decide if it's the best black box car insurance option for you.
In This Review
- Bell Car Insurance: Overall Review
- Bell Car Insurance Customer Reviews and Ratings
- Cost Comparison and Discounts
- Policy and Coverage Options
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Bell Car Insurance Overall Review
There are some distinct advantages to a Bell telematics plan over other brands. Perks of Bell policies include only needing to use the Plug & Drive black box for the first 6 months of your policy (at which point you return the black box to Bell), no curfew and no upper mileage limits (except you need to stay under the mileage you estimated when you took out the policy, as always). Most drivers get a discount when they renew—but of course this will depend on how the black box says you've been driving!
However, customers have a lot of complaints, especially related to cancellation fees and black box errors. One potential issue with Bell is that customers can't easily track how their driving style is being rated by the black box—some customers have reported getting emails every week or so saying their driving has been poor with little explanation. Other companies seem to have better systems in place to communicate the driving style results to customers. For example, ingenie uses a clever app that even tells you how much you're on track to save at your next review date.
Pricing is quite variable for different driver profiles. Based on a few young driver profiles we studied, we wouldn't recommend signing up with Bell unless you've thoroughly compared prices to see if you're getting a good deal or not. While Bell is targeted at younger drivers, we found their prices can be very high for drivers with little experience relative to other black box offerings in the market.
That said, for some profiles (e.g., those in their mid 20s or older) Bell was in line with other offerings; prices can fluctuate from day to day, person to person and even depend on where you live so it's always worth checking. Bell may offer cover at a moderate price for some profiles, such as a driver in their mid-20s with at least 5 years of experience and no claim bonus.
And interestingly, Bell now offers insurance for couriers and delivery drivers! Most big auto insurers don't offer this, but Admiral rolled it out at the end of 2021, wisely we think since there was a big gap in the market for it. (And Bell is an Admiral brand.) To get courier insurance or delivery driver insurance with Bell, you'll need to select the 'carriage of goods hire and reward' class of use.
Note, 'carriage of goods for hire and reward' does NOT work for taxi drivers (for that you'd need 'carriage of passengers for hire and reward' but that is not offered by Bell). Learn more about 'hire and reward' insurance here.
Bottom Line: If the price is right, drivers looking for fewer restrictions on a Telematics plans might prefer Bell as there are no curfews, no mileage limits and the black box is only required to be installed for six months—but be aware that you need to pay a fee if you want to cancel your policy and that communication about your driving style is not very robust. You may find a cheaper policy elsewhere offering comparable coverage, and other black box providers have better communication systems so you can tell how your driving is being graded.
How does Bell work?
Bell is a telematics-based car insurance brand in the UK that is owned and underwritten by the Admiral Group—the largest auto insurance company in the UK. As a result, your cover ultimately lies with the Admiral Insurance Company when you take out a Bell policy.
New customers install the Bell Plug and Drive black box into their car's 12V socket; the black box then tracks your driving style. If you have the habits of a safe driver, such as staying within the speed limit and avoiding harsh turns, accelerations and stops, then you might receive a discount upon renewal. (FYI: you're able to drive before you receive the black box in the post, but you must install it as soon as you receive it.) You need to leave the black box installed for 6 months.
Bell Car Insurance Customer Service Reviews and Ratings
Customer reviews are mixed for Bell car insurance. We scoured through hundreds of customer reviews on Trustpilot and Reviews.io to find out the most common problems and also what people like about Bell—here's what we found.
|Fitch financial strength rating (Admiral)||A|
|TrustPilot (bell)||1.7 stars out of 5|
|reviews.io customer service rating (Bell)||3.3 out of 5|
|FOS Complaint Ratio (Admiral)||1.17|
Bell Car Insurance on Reviews.co.uk
Existing customers have rated Bell with an average of 3.3 out of 5 stars on reviews.co.uk by close to 200 customers. The most common complaint may be a surprise. Many of the negative reviews are related to cancellation charges. Keep in mind, however, that while cancellation charges may seem unfair they are not exclusive to Bell, but are relatively common in the industry and notoriously higher for black box policies. Here's a sample of real customer feedback for Bell from Reviews.co.uk:
"My daughter took out a policy with the black box fitted... this plugs into the 12 volt port that already houses her dash cam. She has to pay £10 for a double socket or to be charged £75 to return it and cancel..."
"Great claim experience... At the time we chose this insurer because of it's low price for the cover, and now we received first class service! No hesitation to recommend Bell."
"...I had to chase for everything, no communication from them which made the situation stressful and disappointing."
Bell Car Insurance Trustpilot
Reviews of Bell at Trustpilot are bleak, with 74% of the 200 or so customers who have left reviews scoring Bell with a "Bad" one-star rating. What is the most common complaint? Customers have a wide range of issues with Bell, from cancellation charges to experienced drivers being issued with a black box to unexpectedly bad driving reports from the black box. This can be an issue as you're meant to get a discount if you demonstrate safe driving—if the box isn't tracking your driving style well then this can have a financial impact on you later. But we want to point out that the customer ratings are based on a really small number of reviewers, and whenever that's the case you tend to get just complaints and a poor score (in contrast to companies who push a ratings request onto customers after purchase or a customer experience, which tends to favor more positive experiences). Here's a sample of real customer reviews on Trustpilot for Bell:
"I recently had a renewal issue with Bell... The person allocated to my case was extremely helpful and attentive and I was given a correct refund without any hassle or complications. Their customer service is outstanding."
"Reasonably priced for my circumstances."
"They offer unbeaten prices for young drivers and thanks to black box you can get even further discount... I can highly recommend them if you've just passed your driving test and looking for cheap insurance."
"Recently put in a claim due to another driver damaging my vehicle. After two months I have been paid out the value of my vehicle. Completely painless process but handled brilliantly by Bell."
"Was issued with a Plug and Drive device (which was only mentioned in small print) and because my cigarette lighter plug was dodgy it didn’t send a consistent signal and I was penalised..."
"They sent me out a plug in and drive unit on the 18th dec and told me I had 2 weeks to fit it. I wasn’t home when it arrived so it was sent to the post office —Royal Mail left no correspondence so on the 2nd on jan I received an email telling me that my policy discount of over £400 has been removed..."
"Just became a new customer to Bell Insurance and get sent this black box which I have never in over 20 years of driving ever been asked to Install in any car I’ve driven."
"My son... gets a poor score every week even though he never speeds, never accelerates or brakes hard, hardly does any miles etc etc... We were told his scores were lowered because of access to risk... the score was low not because of bad driving but because he had driven the car. He had driven about 25 miles in a week and this was the reason he was determined to be a poor driver."
We also looked at formal complaint data with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for Admiral (Bell is an Admiral brand). In 2018 Admiral received 1,325 general insurance complaints, putting its complaint ratio at 1.17, which is worse than average amongst its peers.
Finally, Bell customers shouldn't have to worry about their insurer's ability to pay out in the event of a claim. The Admiral Group has received an A rating from Fitch Ratings, which is the third highest rating available and places Admiral as an "investment grade" credit risk.
Bell Car Insurance Quote Comparison
When compared to competing offers from the five largest auto insurance companies, Bell is generally less affordable for younger driver profiles (e.g., 20 years old), but is very competitive once drivers hit around 25 years of age or more and have some years of no claims behind them. For example, Bell was quite expensive for our 20-year-old sample driver in Dorking, Surrey, quoting over £2k; but for our sample drivers who've held their licence for 7 years or more and have 5 years of no claims, Bell was quite competitive, although not the cheapest.
|Profile||Hastings Smart Miles||Quotemehappy (Aviva)||Admiral Little Box||Bell (Admiral Group)||Churchill (Direct Line Group)||LV=|
|20 year old male, 3 years licence, 3 years no claims||£767||n/a||£933||£2,810||n/a||n/a|
|25 year old male, 7 years licence, 5 years no claims||£587||£754||£810||£709||£549||£969|
|25 year old male, 2 years licence, 2 years no claims||£735||£995||£823||£2,480||£834||£1,510|
|30 year old male, 12 years licence, 5 years NCD||£751||555||£718||£648||£418||£770|
These are just sample prices for a test driver—your quotes will vary.
Bell Car Insurance Discount Codes
The ways you can save on your Bell auto cover are similar to car insurance discounts typically offered by other insurers. These include discounts for driving safely, not claiming and paying in full at the beginning of your policy.
|No Claims Bonus (NCB)||Each year you don't make a claim should increase the discount you receive, up to 37%|
|Bonus Accelerator||If you choose the Bonus Accelerator option your policy will run for 10 months instead of 12. After a claim-free 10 months you can earn a full year's NCB|
|Good Driving Score||Those who demonstrate safe driving through the Plug and Drive black box may be eligible for a discount upon renewal.|
|Pay all at once||Paying your full premium at the start of the policy will save you up to 10%|
|Buy your policy early||If possible, arrange your policy up to 3 weeks ahead of the start date to save up to 50%|
Bell does not offer a multi car discount—if your household has more than one car and you'd like to stay under the Admiral Group umbrella, then Admiral multicar can give you a discount on multiple cars.
Who is eligible for a Bell Plug and Drive black box?
Not everyone can get the Bell Plug and Drive black box, and there are a few rules you need to follow. You should qualify for the black box if you meet the following requirements:
|Plug and Drive black box rules|
|Minimum car value||£750|
|Minimum annual mileage||1,900 miles|
|Curfew||None, but driving at riskier times (e.g., after 10pm) may hurt your driving score|
How to boost your Bell driving score
Rack up a good driving score and you could receive a sizable discount when your policy is up for renewal. Here are some top tips for showing the black box, and Bell, that you're a safe driver even though you're young:
- Limit your late-night driving (e.g., after 10 pm)
- Drive within the speed limit
- Avoid harsh acceleration, braking and swerving
- Make sure that all named drivers on your policy also drive safely, as the black box tracks everyone who drives your car
No Claims Discounts
A priority of new or young drivers is building up a track record of safe driving and no claims, as this is how you'll bring your expensive new-driver premium down to more affordable levels through "no claims discounts" (NCD) or a "no claims bonus" (NCB). The NCD/NCB is a percentage off the full premium. Generally speaking, for every year in which you don't claim, your NCB will go up, giving you a larger discount.
Below you can see the average NCB of drivers insured by Bell car insurance. The Bell NCB ranged from 8% with one claim-free year up to 37% for 9 claim-free years in 2021, but this can vary from year to year.
|Number of years No Claims Bonus Average NCB||Average NCB Discount in 2022|
|One year NCB||12%|
|Two years NCB||14%|
|Three years NCB||14%|
|Four years NCB||18%|
|Five years NCB||18%|
|Six years NCB||18%|
|Seven years NCB||19%|
|Eight years NCB||19%|
|Nine years or more NCB||29%|
Note, while the NCB for one year has improved, the discount has gotten worse for long NCBs. For example, in 2021 the 9+ year NCB was 37%—it dropped to 29% in 2022.
Not all claims will affect your NCB. Here are some situations in which your NCB won't be reduced, even if you make a claim:
- Windscreen damage
- Claims which aren’t your fault where Bell has recovered all of their money
- Emergency treatment fees
- Claims where the incident was caused by an identified uninsured driver
Bell Auto Insurance Policies
Bell offers three types of cover to its customers: Comprehensive, Third Party, Fire and Theft (TPFT) and Third Party Only (TPO). All coverage levels include third party protection that covers damage to other people and/or their property (e.g., other cars). TPO policies don't cover any additional coverage such as damage or loss to you or your own car. TPFT policies will include cover to your car if it's stolen or damaged in a fire or attempted theft. Drivers looking for the widest protection (e.g., cover if their car is damaged in a collision) should consider Bell's Comprehensive offering. In addition to covering damage to your car, Bell's Comprehensive plan includes windscreen cover, personal belongings, personal injury cover and a courtesy car as standard (provided once covered repairs have been authorised; doesn't cover if your car is stolen, written off or repaired by an unapproved repairer).
|What's covered||Comprehensive||Third Party, Fire and Theft (TPFT)|
|Flexible payment options||Included||Included|
|Audio Cover||Manufacturer equipment is covered in full; aftermarket equipment is covered up to £1,250 or the market value of your vehicle, whichever is lower|
|Drive other cars||Third party cover only; restrictions apply|
|European cover||up to 90 days||up to 90 days|
|Courtesy Car||Included (if car under repair at a Bell approved garage)||-|
|Personal belongings cover||up to £200 (£500 for campervans)||-|
|£5,000 Personal Injury cover||Included||-|
|24 hour emergency helpline||Included||Included|
They've increased their personal belongings cover for comprehensive plans from £150 to £200 to be more in line with the competition.
Even if the cost of car insurance is a concern for you, you might very well be better off with a Comprehensive plan. They are typically not as expensive as you'd think, relative to a TPFT or TPO plan. Besides, if your car is damaged in a collision the cost of insurance will have been well worth it.
Breakdown cover can be added for an additional premium.
Bell Insurance Tips
If you go with a Bell policy, keep the following considerations in mind to get the most out of your policy:
- Don't drive under the influence: Obvious reasons aside, did you know that Bell won't cover an accident if you're found to be over the legal limit for or impaired by alcohol or drugs? Or if you refuse a breath, blood or urine test?
- Use the glass repair helpline: If you get a chip or crack in your windscreen, be sure to use Bell's helpline to arrange repair. If you don't they'll only pay £25 for each glass repair or £50 for each glass replacement—after you've paid the excess.
- Report any claims ASAP: Claims must be reported within 48 hours, or they might not be covered.
- Never admit fault: As with all insurance companies, you may not be covered if you admit fault for an accident.
Important Bell Car Insurance Phone Numbers
Availability and online access to your account are key factors for many people these days. While customer service is only open during typical business hours for an auto insurance company (Weekdays 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 9.30am-4pm), the emergency helplines are open 24 hours a day. Also, for ease of viewing your documents there's online access once you register. However, at the time of writing there was no live chat feature available.
|Bell Insurance Contact Numbers|
|Customer Services||0333 220 2008|
|Claims||0333 220 2041|
|Renewals||0333 222 6717|
|Calling from abroad||+44 2920 601 295|
|24 Hour Helplines|
|Roadside emergency (following an Insured Incident)||0800 600 840|
|Glass repair helpline||0333 220 2028|
|Breakdown service (for customers who've bought the optional offering)||0800 458 9282 or 0333 320 2187|
Bell Cancellation Fees
The policy change fees may seem high but this is mostly due to a high £100 fee in the case that you disconnect your black box. The fee for changing your vehicle (if you have a hard installed black box) is also fairly high at £65. Both of these are avoidable.
Other than that everything else remains between £9.50 and £25, most changes will fall on the cheaper side of the scale.
|Bell Cancellation Fees||Within 14 day cooling off period||After 14 day cooling off period|
|Vehicle (Plug & Drive)||£75||£110 (£50 refunded if unit returned within 30 days of cancellation)|
|Admin charges||£7.5 - £35|
Bell Car Insurance Compared to Other Car Insurance Brands
To better understand the value of Bell Car Insurance you need to see it relative to other available options. We’ve compared this option to other car cover so you can decide which will create more value for you given your individual needs.
Bell Plug and Drive vs ingenie
Black box provider ingenie has a clever app to show you how you're driving, and how much you can save at your next review (3 times a year). However, ingenie is missing a few important features such as recovery after an accident if your car is not driveable (unless you've bought the breakdown cover). Also, ingenie doesn't offer a guarantee on insured damage repairs.
Quick Takeaway: If you want a snazzy app that updates you on your driving score and potential savings, ingenie may be what you're looking for. But the set of standard features is relatively poor compared to Bell.
Bell Plug and Drive vs Diamond
Diamond is another black box Admiral brand—this one aimed at women. Cover is robust for a telematics plan and includes most of the basic "must have" requirements, but beware that you don't get accommodation or onward travel in case your car is not roadworthy after an accident. Customer reviews are solid, rating around 3.5 according to Trustpilot and Reviews.co.uk.
Quick Takeaway: Diamond and Bell are similar as they're both Admiral brands. For instance, you call the same phone number for both if you need emergency roadside assistance after a collision. Check prices as one may be a touch lower than the other.
Bell Plug and Drive vs Carrot
Carrot is another black box provider that also suffers from black box errors, with customers reportedly having journeys recorded when they're actually taking the bus or when they and their car are safely parked at home. Prices may be lower, but there's no way to call into customer service—Carrot is an online company and as a result only offers web chat customer service. While the high street rewards for good driving may be enticing, plans are quite basic and you can't buy any no claims bonus protection—of course, if you're a new driver then you won't have a no claims bonus to protect anyway (you usually need around 4 years of accrued NCB in order to buy NCB protection).
Quick Takeaway: If the price is right and you just want basic cover then Carrot may be a good option, but be aware of the high cancellation fees, lack of customer service phone lines and missing features.