How to choose a car insurance company
Choosing a car insurance company can be overwhelming, as you must weigh many factors, such as the premium, customer reviews, features, the excess and more. When choosing the best car insurance company for you, keep in mind the following to help you find the company that will offer you the best combination of price, features and experience.
Customer and Professional Reviews
Check real-life customer reviews at sites like Trustpilot and reviews.co.uk to get a sense of the actual customer experience. Be sure to look for mentions of the claims process (Trustpilot lets you enter a search term—we enter "claim" and see what pops up), as this is most important. And you'll notice that the majority of customer reviews focus on the buying process, which while valuable in its own right, does not give you a feel for what it's like to be a customer making a claim, renewing or making a change to their policy.
What is a company's customer service like—is it online only, or do they have a call centre? Some cheap car insurance companies (e.g., QuoteMeHappy and General Accident) don’t have phone call centres so customers must rely on social media or email to contact the company once they've signed up. Would you find this frustrating, or worth it if you can save money on your car insurance? It's a personal decision.
What features are included as standard, and which are available as extra? Take note of popular car insurance features like breakdown cover, legal expenses, personal accident, key cover and courtesy car. Note, while a policy might include a courtesy car, see if that's only for when your car is in the shop for repairs after an accident or if they also provide one if your car is written off due to severe damage or stolen. Sometimes you'll get basic courtesy car coverage (when your car is in for accident repairs) as standard but you need to buy an 'enhanced courtesy car' add on (if it's available) if you want cover for a write off or theft situation.
And how much does these features cost if they’re add ons? Also check out Defaqto to get a sense of how features compare on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.
How does a quote compare to other offers in the market? Prices can vary significantly from one provider to the next. While the UK car insurance market is highly competitive, each company uses its own pricing model and has it's own views of risk they're willing to take on. For example, a firm might cater towards young drivers, drivers with points, or valuable cars, while other car insurers might shy away from these profiles. The key to finding the best car insurance company for you is finding one that prices your risks favourably.
It helps to use a comparison search engine to find cheap car insurance companies for your profile. After filling in one form you'll know within seconds which car insurance companies are happy to take on your risk, as they'll have the most attractive rates. In addition, you may also want to check with a broker or a direct insurer like Direct Line or NFU Mutual, as these companies are not on comparison sites.
What's the best type of car insurance?
Comprehensive car insurance is the best type of cover. It covers everything that lower levels of car insurance offer, plus it also covers damage to your vehicle due to a road traffic accident.
The lower tiers of cover are Third Party Only (TPO) and Third Party, Fire and Theft (TPFT). TPO is the lowest level of cover and is the minimum cover required by law. It covers damage you cause to other vehicles and property, as well as injury to third parties like the occupants of a vehicle you hit.
TPFT offers the coverage provided for third parties by TPO and it also covers your vehicle for damage or loss due to fire or theft.
Comprehensive is the top tier of cover. If you want financial support to pay for repairs if you cause a crash or even reimbursement for the value of the vehicle in case it’s written off due to severe damage, then you’ll need comprehensive car insurance.
How to choose a car insurance excess
There are two primary factors to keep in mind when choosing the excess for your car insurance. Firstly, can you afford to pay the excess if you make a claim? A car insurance excess is the amount a policyholder pays towards a valid claim. It’s an amount that the insurance company won’t cover. Motorists should only choose an excess that they can comfortably pay should they need to. If you can’t cover the deductible, you could have trouble getting back on the road.
For instance, you might need to pay the excess to the repair shop before they’ll start work on your vehicle. If you don’t have the money, you wouldn't be able to start the repair process to get your car serviceable again.
Secondly, take note of how the excess affects your car insurance premium. Have a play with the figures, trying different excess levels, and you'll see that opting for a higher excess should lower the premium—and vice versa. However, sometimes the premium savings achieved with a higher excess are pretty minuscule. In that case, it may not be worth opting for a higher excess. For example, if the premium only goes down by £20 if you double your excess from £500 to £1,000, going for the higher excess might not be a good deal.
Keep this list handy and make sure that you’re comfortable on all fronts before deciding because ending up with the right company can make a real difference to your experience later on.