Over a hundred companies sell car insurance in the UK, but the market is dominated by a few key players. While the 10 largest auto insurers make up over 80% of the UK car insurance market, they are all a bit different. To help you choose the best car insurance company for your needs, we compiled a list of the top ten largest car insurance companies in the UK and explain what's special about each of them.
List of Top 10 Biggest UK Car Insurance Companies
|Rank||Motor Insurance Company||Gross Premiums Written (£million)||UK Market Share|
|2||Direct Line Group||£1,671||11.9%|
|4||Liverpool Victoria (LV)||£1,204||8.6%|
|Estimate of Top 10||£11.1 billion||81%|
|Total UK Motor Insurance Premiums Written||approx. £14 billion|
Top 10 Biggest Car Insurance Companies UK
Of the top cheap car insurance companies in the UK market, many are household names and have mascots or jingles you'll recognise from their TV ads. However, each company offers customers quite different premiums, features and experiences. Here's what you should know about these companies before you decide which is best for you.
1. Admiral Group
The Admiral Group is the largest auto insurance company in the UK with more than 17% of the car insurance market, underwriting policies through their Admiral, Bell, Diamond, elephant.co.uk and Gladiator brands. Technically speaking, Admiral is the trading name of EUI Limited.
In 2018 they grew the number of vehicles insured by 9% to 4.32 million, earning profits of over £560 million before taxes on £2.42 billion of motor insurance premiums written, making them the most popular car insurance company in the UK. One of Admiral's stated corporate goals is to increase customer retention, which is good to know if your policy is up for renewal. Admiral also writes the car insurance for Ford-branded car insurance.
Quick Takeaway: Admiral can be a great auto insurance company for anyone who wants to arrange a car insurance policy quickly online for a good price. Their brands can be found on most price comparison sites, such as our partner QuoteZone and one of their brands may be amongst the cheapest available offers.
- 3.9 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- Fitch rating: A
- Best Motor Insurance Provider in the Personal Finance Awards 2018/19
2. Direct Line Group
The Direct Line Group sells Direct Line insurance directly to customers but is also strong in the PCW space, selling over 710,000 home and car policies through their Churchill and Privilege brands in 2018. In fact, while 68.2% of their sales were direct to customers via the Direct Line brand, 28.1% of premiums were sold via the PCW channel.
Direct Line is also in partnership with Volkswagen, providing both annual insurance policies and complimentary '5 day driveaway' cover for customers buying new and used cars from Volkswagen, SEAT, Audi and ŠKODA dealers. Direct Line offers a few unique propositions such as protecting your no claim discount on no-fault claims. While Direct Line underwrites home insurance as well, car insurance is their main line of business, accounting for 52% of their sales.
Quick Takeaway: Direct Line has made a name as the insurance company that is not available on comparison sites, but if you're looking to save more money on your premium then their Churchill or Privilege brands might offer even lower rates through price comparison websites.
- Read our full Direct Line review.
- 3.9 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating.
- S&P rating: BBB+.
- Moody's rating: Ba1.
While Aviva's general insurance business lacks scale, they are trying to target multi-cover policies and grow through the price comparison website (PCW) market. Depending on where you live, you may see their Quotemehappy.com brand with some of the cheapest rates on offer on PCWs. They also sell through their One Call and General Accident brands, making Aviva the third largest company in the UK car insurance market.
In the UK, Aviva insures 2.5 million motor customers and in 2017 they paid out 99% of motor insurance claims. Their new AvivaPlus proposition rewards loyalty by ensuring existing home and motor customers get the same or better price than new customers. Aviva has one of the highest Trustpilot customer ratings out of the companies in the top ten.
Quick Takeaway: Depending on where you live, Quotemehappy may be one of the cheapest prices you find for cover. However if you’ve had an accident in the past 5 years, you may receive a less favorable price from Aviva than you'd find elsewhere.
- 4.6 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating.
- S&P rating: A.
- Moody's rating: A2.
Liverpool Victoria is another well-known car insurer, selling as LV=. LV= policies are available directly, through comparison sites or brokers. Recent growth in the LV= brand has been due to high renewal rates by existing customers and new sales following the launch of their multi-car offering, through which 10% of new customers saved 25% (April to June 2019). Customer satisfaction is a corporate priority, which goes to explain their high customer review rating on Trustpilot. LV is behind Volvo, Dacia, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Masda, MG, Mitsubishi, Renault and Suzuki branded car insurance through Clear Car Insurance (LV= Broker), which is underwritten by Highway Insurance Company (part of the Liverpool Victoria group).
Quick Takeaway: LV= is middle of the road when it comes to price, but we consider LV to be one of the best car insurance companies due to great customer reviews and features. If you're after the lowest premium then LV= may not be for you; however for those looking for broader coverage LV= offers some extras with their comprehensive cover such as personal injury, uninsured driver promise (you won't pay an excess or lose your NCD) and misfuelling cover.
- Read our full LV= car insurance review.
- 4.7 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating.
- S&P rating: AA-.
- Moody's rating: n/a.
Hastings is certainly another well-known brand, especially for those who use price comparison websites. In fact, in 2018 73% of Hastings premiums written to new car insurance customers were sold through the PCW market. Brands include Hastings Direct, Hastings Premier, Hastings Essential, Hastings Direct Smart Miles (a black box plan), insurePink and People's Choice.
Quick Takeaway: Hastings is targeted at those buying through a comparison site. Depending on where you live, you're likely to find their "Hastings Essential" plan is the cheapest of their offerings (and it's only available through PCWs) but there may be cheaper options available from other insurers in the top 10—if finding the lowest premium is your priority.
- Read our full Hastings Direct insurance review.
- 4.2 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- S&P rating: n/a
- Moody's rating: n/a
Ageas is another well-known car insurer that you'll also see on comparison sites. They're focused on AI integration into the claims process and report that motor policy approval requests have dropped to 2-3 minutes from 2-3 hours and are available 24/7, resulting in a positive impact on on customer satisfaction levels. Perhaps as a result, Ageas has one of the higher Trustpilot ratings in the group and now insures 3.9 million personal motor customers in the UK.
Like Aviva, Ageas paid out on over 99% of claims last year. Policies can be purchased via brokers, affinity partners and direct distribution including PCWs. Ageas is in partnership with Tesco to underwrite their Motor Legal Protection cover and also administers policies for Age Co (formerly Age UK).
Quick Takeaway: Ageas is one of the top UK auto insurance providers and has relatively happy customers, but it's rates are not as competitive making it less affordable for those looking for a cheap premium.
- 4.5 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- S&P rating: A
- Moody's rating: A3
7. esure Group
The esure Group is a leading personal motor and home insurance company, selling through its brands Sheilas' Wheels and esure. To handle claims, esure employs over 700 specialists at its UK-based claims centres; they also manage a network of motor repairers that handles over 90% of accidental damage claims.
Quick Takeaway: While esure is less competitive on price than some of the budget options in the top 10 list, all of their policies are rated Defaqto 5 stars for including features such as a courtesy car, windscreen cover and personal injury on their comprehensive policies.
- Read our full esure car insurance review.
- 3.9 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- S&P rating: n/a
- Moody's rating: n/a
AXA is the largest company in the top ten—an international company that wrote over 96 billion euros of premiums last year. AXA sells policies under their own brand, and they also underwrite policies for a number of other brands such as mypolicy.co.uk and By Miles (pay-per-mile cover). So if you have bought car insurance from a brand that doesn't underwrite their own policies, you may find that your cover ultimately lies with AXA.
Quick Takeaway: The company offers customers the standard coverage and discounts that you’d expect from a large international insurance company.
- 1.9 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- S&P rating: A
- Moody's rating: A2
- Fitch rating: A
Royal & Sun Alliance sells car insurance through their More Th>n brand. In 2018 they sold over £500 million in car policies, ranking them 9th in the list of largest car insurance companies—although they write even more in terms of home insurance policies. RSA is another company that underwrites policies for a significant number of other brands as well as their own. For example, RSA underwrites policies for Clydesdale Bank, ingenie and others.
Check gross written
Quick Takeaway: As the second largest general insurance company in the UK, RSA should be a decent choice for your insurance needs—however they were recently named as one of the worst for claims handling by Which?
- 4.1 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating
- S&P rating: BBB+
- Moody's rating: Ba2
- Fitch rating: A
10. NFU Mutual
Catering to drivers in rural parts of the country, NFU Mutual is quite a different offering than the other entries in the list of largest UK car insurance companies—they are owned by policyholders not shareholders and they don't offer online quotes but instead have over 300 offices nationwide, a network of over 650 agents and a UK-based call centre to handle quotes, questions and claims.
NFU Mutual is known for great customer service as indicated by the low complaints rates with the Financial Ombudsman Service. We notice that NFU Mutual has a poor rating on Trustpilot, but have doubts about the reliability of this stat due to the relatively low number of reviewers. Returning customers can get a discount that is funded from NFU Mutual's profits; members currently receive a discount of 12.5% to 17.5%, according to how long they've been a member.
Quick Takeaway: If you would rather not buy your policy online but would rather discuss your policy with someone before buying then NFU Mutual can be a great option for car insurance.
- 2.3 out of 5 star Trustpilot customer rating (Note: this is not a reliable stat due to the low number of reviews)
- S&P rating: n/a
- Moody's rating: n/a
- Fitch rating: n/a
Small vs. Big Insurance Companies
There are pros and cons of choosing either a small or large insurance company. For example, a smaller company might offer more personalised customer service (e.g., you might speak with the same agent each time you call). While dealing with a big insurance company like most of those in this top 10 list may feel impersonal, larger auto insurance companies generally have good financial stability.
Not only do the top insurance companies in the UK underwrite and pay claims worth billions of pounds every year, but they're often able to offer lower premiums by leveraging their resources. A small insurance company may be more likely to become insolvent, potentially leaving you without cover when you need it. While we can get an idea of a large insurance company's financial strength from S&P, Moody's and Fitch, these ratings agencies typically don't analyse smaller companies.
As a result it can be harder to understand the financial strength of a small company. That said, those who prioritise having a personal customer experience may still prefer a small company, which may be fine so long as you are comfortable with its financial situation. In the table below, we ranked the ten largest UK car insurance companies according to their financial strength ratings, reflecting available data from Moody's, S&P and Fitch.
|Rank||Car Insurance Company||Moody's Rating||S&P Rating||Fitch Rating|
|8||Direct Line Group||Ba1||BBB+|
When deciding between a small or large car insurance company, keep in mind factors such as opening hours, coverage options and the range of policies on offer. For example, a small insurance company may have a more personal touch but you may have more difficulty reaching an agent, especially out of hours. The top UK insurance companies often have lines open at least some part of the weekend, which can be a big help for those unable to call during regular working hours.
Additionally, small insurance companies may not have as many coverage options or as wide a range of price points. For example they may be less likely to provide cover to an accident damaged car. If weekend availability or having discounts and a wide range of features is a priority for you, consider a large insurance company.
Mutual vs. Stock Insurance Companies
Another factor to consider is whether your insurance company is owned by shareholders or policyholders. Companies owned by stock holders are trying to maximize profits for their owners—a strategy that doesn't always align with what's best for policyholders. Mutual companies, on the other hand, are owned by the policyholders so the interests of the owners and customers is aligned.
NFU Mutual is the only policyholder-owned company in the top 10 largest UK motor insurance companies. A large portion of NFU Mutual's profits go towards reducing premiums for existing members—in fact for 2018/19 they'd receive a discount between 12.5% and 17.5%, depending on how long they've been a member.
While looking at online customer reviews is one way to get a feel for the customer experience, it's also useful to look at official complaints made by customers with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). However you can't just look at the raw number of complaints because, all else being equal, a larger insurance company will naturally have more complaints than a smaller one.
In order to compare companies on an equal footing, we standardised the data by calculating the number of general insurance complaints per £ million of written general insurance premiums. As you can see in the table below, NFU Mutual and esure have the lowest rate of complaints—less than 0.04 and 0.07 complaints per £ million of written premium, respectively.
Please note, however, that we estimated the number of complaints for NFU and esure to be 29 for each half of 2018, and the same for Hastings in the first half of 2018. Why did we do this? The FOS only provides complaints data for business groups if they received and resolved at least 30 new cases in each 6-month period. Since the FOS doesn't provide data for NFU Mutual or esure in 2018, or Hastings in the first half of 2018, it stands to reason that they each received less than 30 complaints during these half-year periods.
Direct Line Group and Ageas had the worst complaints rates, with more than 2 complaints per £ million of gross written UK general insurance premiums.
|Rank||General Insurance Complaints 2018||2018 UK General Insurance including Motor (£million)||Complaints per £Million Premium Written|
|1||NFU Mutual||58||£1,568||less than 0.04|
|2||esure||58||£862||less than 0.07|
|3||Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc||1,753||£7,467||0.47|
|4||Hastings Insurance Services Limited||298||£958||less than 0.62|
|5||Liverpool Victora Insurance Company Limited||623||£1,581||0.79|
|6||AXA Insurance UK plc||1,548||£3,032||1.02|
|7||Aviva Insurance Limited||2,309||£4,355||1.06|
|8||Admiral Insurance Company Limited||1,325||£2,270||1.17|
|9||Ageas Insurance Limited||1,376||£1,320||2.08|
|10||Direct Line Group||3,097||£2,589||2.39|
In order to establish a list of the top ten motor insurance companies in the United Kingdom, we gathered data on gross written premiums by reading through press releases and annual and quarterly reports for each company. In a few cases, the UK motor insurance gross premium was not publicly available so we made our best guess:
- AXA gross premiums written were estimated from combined UK & Ireland data to reflect a report from Statista that AXA falls between esure and RSA in the UK motor insurance market.
- Trustpilot customer reviews for Aviva reflect their budget car insurance brand Quotemehappy; Trustpilot reviews of RSA reflect the More Than brand.
- For simplicity, to convert the Ageas gross written premiums from euros to pounds we used an exchange rate of 0.9GBP/EUR.
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