NEWS: Did you know that Churchill is a Direct Line brand offering cheaper car insurance, and is available on some comparison sites?
You're probably familiar with Direct Line from their radio and TV ads—but how do their features, prices and customer service really compare to other big companies? Read our review to find out what sets Direct Line apart.
In This Review
- Direct Line Car Insurance: Overall Review
- Direct Line Car Insurance Customer Reviews and Ratings
- Policy and Coverage Options
- Cost Comparison and Discounts
Direct Line Car Insurance Overall Review
If you want insurance from a top car insurer, Direct Line can be a solid option—it's the third largest auto insurance company in the UK behind Admiral. Is it just their catchy ads that helped Direct Line become a top insurer, or do their customer service and policy features compare favourably to the competition?
There are many good features on a Direct Line comprehensive car insurance policy, such as windscreen cover, a courtesy car after an insured event that you claim for (e.g, damage, theft, write off), recovery of your car and hotel & transportation after an accident if your car is not roadworthy, a long 5-year guarantee on approved repairs, etc. Overall, Direct Line offers good coverage, which you can read more about what important features are covered—or not—in our section on policy features.
Note: Direct Line now offers three tiers of comprehensive car insurance: their cheaper "Essentials" tier, their standard "Comprehensive" cover and "Comprehensive Plus". The latter has a few added benefits like motor legal as standard, higher limits for personal belongings and hotel in case of an accident, and better courtesy car cover (that is, "Guaranteed Hire Car Plus", which includes a courtesy car that better matches yours, is included as standard with the Plus option; it's available as an add on with the standard cover).
Customers rate Direct Line with a high customer service score on average, but take a look at common customer complaints and the FOS complaint data for Direct Line before you sign up to understand how customers are sometimes underserved.
Direct Line Car Insurance Customer Service Reviews and Ratings
|Trustpilot||3.7 out of 5|
|reviews.co.uk customer service rating||1.7 out of 5|
|FOS Complaint Ratio||2.5|
Direct Line TrustPilot
Direct Line is rated pretty well by customers overall, achieving 3.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, but 1 in 5 customers have awarded Direct Line with just 1 star indicating a "Bad" experience. Here is a selection of customer complaints to give you an idea of common issues, as well as an idea of what people like about Direct Line car insurance:
"My partner damaged his car, he called Direct Line to set up the claim, the person checked with underwriters whether it was covered. It was confirmed there was cover. The vehicle was collected and towed to their repairer and a courtesy vehicle was provided. They have now declined the claim and have told us we must collect the car which cannot be used. They cannot provide me with any policy wording which excludes the circumstances."
"My car was broken into by someone braking (sic) the passenger door window. I made a claim and Direct Line took my car in for repairs. It took 6 months for us to get it back."
"I simply cannot cancel an automatic renewal policy as it will not cancel it online in my account and i cannot get through on the phones due to the usual coronavirus cop out."
"After being hit by a driver jumping a red light you found the claim against myself due to an unreal expectation of me supplying cctv from the traffic lights which was clear that I would be unable to. Thats your field of expertise. NOT MINE."
"DO NOT purchase your car insurance with Direct Line online if you have FACTORY-FITTED OPTIONS. They do not count factory fitted options as standard specification... No explanation given of what they count as standard specification, but FACTORY FITTED options covered as a MODIFICATION when you look at policy document. If you have a factory-fitted option on your car you cannot complete your purchase online..."
Overall the negative reviews covered a wide range of complaints, but we did notice a number that related to difficulty handling claims where the customer thought the other driver was at fault and slow repairs, difficulties with cancelling auto renewals and a few problems with policies being canceled for various reasons like NCD proof not being received and processed in time.
All that said, 63% of customers have an "Excellent" experience. For example:
"Outstanding service. What a brilliant company. Highly recommended.
Had accident 3 weeks ago. Lorry hit side of car. Drivable but damage to driver side.
Within 30 mins of accident, I had filed a claim on line and within 24 hours it was agreed that my car would be collected for repair and hire car delivered to me.
This happened exactly on the date/time promised and hire car was excellent.
The repair was to take 7 days but took 11 days as bank holiday and parts. Direct Line paid ME £40 as not done in 7 days! Astounding.
Car delivered back to me at agreed date and time and hire car collected same day.
I cannot praise and thank the company enough.
Well done Direct Line. Will be renewing."
"Cost of insurance still very high, probably due to my age. Not the cheapest quote I received, but after reading all "small print" in quotes I had requested decided that Direct Line was best value for me so went ahead. Had already been told that my insurance would be automatically be renewed unless I cancelled I did not have to do anything, just sit and wait for renewal docs. to arrive, which they did on time."
"My previous car was written off outside my house and my claim was dealt with very swiftly."
"What an amazing company Direct Line are! And I do not say this lightly....I had a complicated and difficult personal situation which led to my partner incorrectly answering the questions when applying for car insurance on my behalf. Only when we had to make a claim did were we made aware of this....Yet,right from the beginning Direct Line were certainly empathetic and inspire of the mistakes...Which were innocent they speedily got their underwriters to make a decision which was in our favour and they paid out when most companies I expect would not have."
"Easy on line application, not too many questions. Quote was cheaper than last year's premium from RAC & cheaper than any Go Compare quote."
Direct Line Reviews.co.uk
Existing Direct Line customers have rated the company with an average of just 1.7 out of 5 stars on reviews.co.uk—but the small sample size of around 150 customers may be misleading. What is the most common complaint? We noticed many issues related to premiums going up at renewal and also with work carried out by their approved repairers, such as lower-quality tyres being fitted or mis-matched bumpers being fitted.
Direct Line Complaints
Despite an overall strong customer service score at Trustpilot, Direct Line has one of the worst complaints rate with the Financial Ombudsman Service out of the top ten biggest car insurance companies in the UK. We also looked at formal 2021 complaint data with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for Direct Line and found they received 2,277 general insurance complaints, putting its complaints to underwritten premium ratio at 2.5, which is mid-range amongst the largest ten car insurance companies. Their complaints ratio has improved in recent years, which is a positive sign.
Direct Line Car Insurance Policies and Features
We've read a lot of Policy Wordings and Direct Line policies stand out for offering a number of extras that give a distinct advantage to the customer. As you can see below, Direct Line offers a solid set of features to car owners, and the cover varies a bit between their "Essentials", standard and "Plus" tier. In particular, note the differences regarding courtesy car, onward travel, personal belongings and motor legal.
|How Good is Direct Line Car Insurance?||A Good Policy Includes||Does Direct Line Essentials Deliver?||Direct Line Essentials Coverage||Does Direct Line Comprehensive Deliver?||Direct Line Comprehensive Coverage||Does Direct Line Comprehensive PLUS Deliver?||Direct Line Comprehensive PLUS Coverage|
|"Must Have" Features|
|Belongings||n/a||Up to £250||Up to £500|
|Keys||n/a||Up to £1,000 for theft or loss||Up to £1,000 for theft or loss|
|Protected NCD||If you buy the add on and have at least 4 years NCD||If you buy the add on and have at least 4 years NCD||If you buy the add on and have at least 4 years NCD|
|Car recovery after accident||Included||Included||Included|
|Courtesy car (repaired by approved repairer)||Included (for duration of repairs)||Included (for duration of repairs)||Included (for duration of repairs)|
|Repairs guaranteed (if use approved repairer)||5 years, unless you sell your car or end your lease.||5 years, unless you sell your car or end your lease.||5 years, unless you sell your car or end your lease.|
|"Should Have" Features|
|New car replacement||n/a||If damage repair will cost more than 60% of the value of the car at the time||If damage repair will cost more than 60% of the value of the car at the time|
|Stereo and satellite nav||Unlimited cover for equipment part of original car spec, no cover otherwise||Unlimited cover for equipment part of original car spec, up to £1,000 otherwise||Unlimited cover for equipment part of original car spec, up to £2,000 otherwise|
|Alternative transport & Hotel after accident||No cost cover, but help making arrangements getting home, to your original destination or a safe place||Taxi to take you and your passengers to one destination; one night in a hotel if necessary up to £250||Taxi to take you and your passengers to one destination; one night in a hotel if necessary up to £300|
|24-hour emergency helpline||Included||Included||Included|
|Courtesy car (total loss or theft)||If you buy the "Guaranteed Hire Car Plus" add on (up to 21 days)||Included (up to 21 days)||Included (up to 21 days)|
|Motor legal expenses||If you buy the add on||If you buy the add on||Included up to £100,000|
|Breakdown cover||If you buy the add on||If you buy the add on||If you buy the add on|
|"Could Have" Features|
|Same cover in EU||Up to 90 days, if you pay an extra premium for "Foreign Use Extension"||Up to 90 days, if you pay an extra premium for "Foreign Use Extension"||Included (up to 90 days)|
|Child car seat replacement after accident, theft, fire||Unlimited cover||Unlimited cover||Unlimited cover|
|Larger/premium courtesy car||If you buy the "Guaranteed Hire Car Plus" add on (unlimited for repairs with approved repairer; else up to 21 days)||If you buy the "Guaranteed Hire Car Plus" add on (unlimited for repairs with approved repairer; else up to 21 days)||Included (unlimited for repairs with approved repairer; else up to 21 days)|
|No fault NCD protection||n/a||Not available||Not available|
|Uninsured driver NCD protection||Included||Included||Included|
|Cancellation fee||£48.16 after cooling off period; no extra fee during 14-day cooling off period and no fee for mid-term admin changes||£48.16 after cooling off period; no extra fee during 14-day cooling off period and no fee for mid-term admin changes||£48.16 after cooling off period; no extra fee during 14-day cooling off period and no fee for mid-term admin changes|
Regardless of the tier you choose, repairs are guaranteed for 5 years, provided you use one of their approved repairers. And what about replacement parts? They may repair your car with parts that haven’t been made by your car’s manufacturer (OEM parts), but that are of a similar standard—that is, they may use aftermarket parts. This can include recycled parts. You can read more about this in our article Which car insurance companies use OEM parts for repairs?
Fair Claim Commitment
With Direct Line "Comprehensive" and "Comprehensive Plus" policies, you won’t lose your No Claim Discount if you have a claim that wasn't your fault—but you still may need to pay an excess. If you make a claim for your car under section 2 (Fire & Theft) or 4 (Accidental Damage), your NCD won't be affected so long as your car was:
- Damaged by fire, flood, a storm, potholes or poor road maintenance
- Stolen (or something was stolen from it)
- Hit while parked
- Hit by an animal (or hit an animal)
- Hit by an object or debris
Also, a claim for stolen car keys won't affect your NCD.
(Note: You don't get the Fair Claim Commitment with their "Essentials" policy or their Churchill brand, which is cheaper.)
What is DrivePlus?
DrivePlus is Direct Line's telematics car insurance offering. It works by fitting the DrivePlus plug-in to the on-board diagnostics socket (OBD) in your car. Drivers can then download their app to keep track of all journeys and driving scores. Safe driving may translate into a discount at renewal. And you can get discount on your first year provided you’ve passed your driving test.
DrivePlus seems less strict than some other telematics policies. For example, we don't see any hard and fast rules that would lead to a policy being cancelled. Many other black box policies call for the cancellation of the policy if you have a certain number of low driving scores or if you break the speed limit in certain scenarios. We don't see any language like that on the Direct Line website or the DrivePlus Telematics Terms & Conditions.
Direct Line Car Insurance Quote Comparison
Prices for car insurance can vary significantly depending on factors like your age, the car you drive, where you live and your driving record. Besides getting a quote directly from Direct Line, it's also useful to check prices elsewhere such as a comparison site to get a broad picture of prices for your profile.
Cheap Car Insurance in Your Area
Quickly compare up to 100 UK insurance providers.
To learn more about typical prices you can read our article about the average cost of car insurance in the UK. For example, the chart below shows average car insurance costs for a sample driver of a Ford Fiesta from dozens of cheap car insurance brands in the UK.
Those looking to save money on a Direct Line policy may be able to take advantage of some of the following discounts:
|Discount Code||Discount Amount|
|Responsible Driver (9+ years NCB)||up to 37%|
|Black Box||up to 20%|
|Online Quotes||Save on calls that cost 5 pence per minute, plus your phone company's access charge|
|Payment in Full||up to 20%|
|Multi-Car Discount||10% of customers saved £248 (note: this is old data and they are not currently publishing recent stats)|
Direct Line Cancellation Fees
Direct Line administration fees are lower than average. Customers who cancel their policy after the 14-day cooling off period will pay a £48.16 cancellation fee—but there's no cancellation fee during the cooling off period (you just pay for days you had cover). Direct Line also doesn't charge for mid-term changes like updating your address although you may owe an added premium if your risk profile changes as a result, which is common in the industry. Most UK car insurance brands charge for mid-term changes and many even charge for cancelling during the cooling off period, so Direct Line fees are quite attractive.
|Direct Line Cancellation Charges|
|Cancellation (during 14-day cooling off period)||£0|
|Cancellation (after 14-day cooling off period)||£48.16|
|Mid-term admin changes||£0|
Important Direct Line Insurance Phone Numbers
Online access to your account and 24-hour availability are key factors for many people these days. While customer service is only open during typical business hours (Weekdays 8am-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 10am-5pm), the emergency helpline is open 24 hours a day if you have an accident and need assistance. There's also an online webchat feature which is open extended hours, on Mon - Fri 8am - 11pm, Saturday 9am - 9pm and Sunday 10am - 9pm. Finally, customers can access their account and make changes through the customer portal.
|Direct Line Insurance Contact Numbers|
|New quotes or general enquiries||0345 246 3761|
|Claims||0345 303 1714|
|Help completing online quotes||0345 835 3500|
|24 Hour Helplines|
|Accident recovery||0800 269 015|
To contact Direct Line car insurance call 0345 246 3761. (For Direct Line pet insurance call 0345 246 8705, for home insurance call 0345 246 3564 or for travel insurance call 0345 246 8704).
No, Direct Line's DriveSure black box does not have a curfew. You can read the DriveSure terms and conditions here.
Privilege Insurance is part of the Direct Line Group, owned by UK Insurance—which makes Privilege and the Direct Line brand essentially sister companies. Both are underwritten by UK Insurance.
By not being on comparison sites, Direct Line doesn't have to pay commissions to the comparison sites when you buy a policy—this helps keep Direct Line keep their prices lower. That said, sister brands Privilege and Churchill are available on comparison sites. Buying these brands you might get a slightly lower price for a policy with less features, but they're all underwritten by UK Insurance.
Direct Line does not cover delivery driving, but Direct Line policyholders can engage in paid delivery work if they buy a suitable top-up hire & reward policy and get pre-approval from Direct Line to do do. Read more about that in our article Does Direct Line do delivery insurance?
Direct Line 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.
Direct Line vs Churchill
Lower-cost Churchill is actually a Direct Line brand, so customers benefit from the same customer service and underwriter behind the brand. Churchill not only stands out for competitive prices, but for providing a good set of comprehensive features such as a courtesy car for approved-repairer repairs, windscreen cover and car recovery after an accident. Customer service is open 7 days a week and there's a live chat feature, if you have questions about your policy or a claim. Relatively good customer ratings are reported, although you may want to see our review to see a summary of some common complaints.
Quick Takeaway: If you want Direct Line to underwrite your policy you may get a lower price from their Churchill brand, which is available from some price comparison websites. The features are less robust on a Churchill policy however—for instance you get less coverage for hotel & transport after an accident that leaves you stranded. And Direct Line has a "Fair Claim Commitment" meaning certain claims that don't involve another vehicle and weren't your fault won't affect your NCD, like theft, hit while parked, hit by an object, etc. But to be honest most coverage is quite similar for Churchill and Direct Line.
Direct Line vs LV=
LV= is a top insurance company that offers a few interesting features on their car insurance. For example, customers are covered for misfuelling their car (putting diesel in a petrol or vice versa), which includes the costs to drain and flush your fuel tank, as well as damage to the car's engine. Customer reviews are quite impressive, with LV= achieving a remarkable 4.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot.
Quick Takeaway: LV= and Direct Line are both popular brands, and now both cover certain nice-to-have perks like misfuelling. LV= customer ratings are better, and they have higher key cover limits. But Direct Line has the Fair Claim Commitment. Which do you care more about?