Cheap Car Insurance

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Car insurance costs are on a downward trend, as fewer people have had accidents and made claims during lockdown. So if you're close to renewal, or looking to cut costs, use our system to bag a cheap car insurance deal. Plus, we've other tips to save, including why you should never auto-renew and when the optimum time to bag the cheapest deal is. If under 25, see our Young Drivers' Insurance guide.

Coronavirus and car insurance – can you cut costs?

If you're at renewal and looking for a new quote, we've our usual cost-cutting information below. But if you're driving less during lockdown and looking to see if you can save money over the next few months, read our coronavirus car insurance cost-cutting tips, including how to Sorn your car.

Plus, regulator the Financial Conduct Authority has introduced new guidance to insurers on how to help if you're struggling to pay for your insurance.

In this guide

What is car insurance?

Red car

Car insurance covers you if your car is stolen, broken into, or if you're involved in an accident. It also protects other road users if you damage their vehicle or property.

The cost – your premium – is based on how much of a risk insurers perceive you to be – ie, how likely they think you will be to make a claim. Youngsters who have just passed their test will pay more than those who can prove they have been accident-free for years.

  • Your car must be insured, even if you only drive it every now and then. The Continuous Insurance Enforcement scheme, which came into force in January 2011, means all cars must be covered – unless they're not in use and off the road. It aims to crack down on uninsured drivers by matching up the database of cars on the road with insured drivers.

    The only way out is to apply for a statutory off road notification (Sorn), declaring your car will never be driven. See Gov.uk for more.

10 ways to cut car insurance costs

Did you know the average driver faces an annual insurance premium of almost £500? Here are our top tips, which can save you £100s...

  • Nothing better illustrates car insurers preying on loyal customers than Sarah Cooper's tweet. "My car insurance renewal is £1,200. New policy with same company is £690. How do they justify this?" They don't. They just do it.

    Insurers charge more each year, knowing inertia stops policyholders switching. And even though rules introduced in 2016 mean insurers must now tell you the premium you paid last year in correspondence to you, don't rely on this to take action.

    If your renewal is coming up, jot it in your diary to remember it. Compare comparison sites' quotes and then call your insurer to see if it can match, or even beat, the best one you found. If it can, you're quids in.

    Last year I paid £258 for car insurance. The renewal quote was £608. I paid £199 using your comparison site process. Thanks.

    Sue via email

    My auto-renew price for two vehicles including a 21-year-old named driver son on a smaller vehicle was £1,024. I followed the recommendations in the guide to get a better deal with Direct Line for £590.

    Forumite Rawhide

    Finally convinced the other half to challenge car insurance renewal quote. Reduced from £520 to £219!

    @laedeejaedee

    Quick questions

    • As well as insurers refusing to offer you the special rates available to new customers, there is often an administration fee charged for renewing your policy.

      Here's a list of some of the providers that impose a renewal fee. If you know of any others, tell us so we can add them to this list of shame.

      Insurer Renewal fee
      1st Central

      £50

      One Call £30
      Swinton £25
      Scenic (motorhome provider) £25
      Hastings Direct £20
      People's Choice £20
      Correct at December 2019.
    • For haggling tips read our Haggle on the high street guide together with The top 10 firms to haggle with.

  • You would expect third-party cover to be the cheapest because it is the lesser cover, just covering the person you bump into and their car. Yet don't expect car insurance to be logical.

    With some insurers the mere fact you have selected comprehensive, which includes your car too as well as fire and theft, means you'll be assessed as a lower risk as you're deemed to be more responsible (based on 'actuarial history', which is what an insurer will hold about a particular age group or address, for example, on which it bases its premiums).

    This can outweigh the fact you get more cover, and make your policy cheaper. There are no hard and fast rules here; it's a matter of trial and error, yet if you're just looking for the very cheapest cover, never only check third party. It paid off for this MoneySaver... 

    Got my car insurance renewal quote £863/yr for third party, fire & theft with no courtesy car. Jumped on to the good old trusty MoneySavingExpert website and got it for £530 fully comp with courtesy car.

    MoneySaver Daniel

    My auto-renew quote was £210 for third-party only. I went to a comparison site and got comprehensive insurance, breakdown cover and free car hire with the same company for £40 less.

    Forumite Dobbiesloan

    Quick questions

    • Knowing the difference between the three main types of car insurance is a must:

      1. Third party
      It's the minimum level of cover to drive legally or even keep a vehicle that has not been Sorn-ed (see Gov.uk for more). Yet it covers very little, only protecting others on the road and property and street furniture from your bad driving.

      So if an accident's your fault, third party pays for the damage you cause to another driver's vehicle and their property and protects any passengers. It will not cover you for any damage to your own vehicle so you will be expected to pay this cost yourself.

      2. Third party, fire and theft
      Third party, fire and theft is an extension of third-party only insurance but also protects your vehicle if it is stolen, or if it catches fire.

      3. Comprehensive
      Comprehensive is the widest level of cover available. If you have an accident and it was your fault, you can claim the cost of repairing your car and any other damage you may cause to a third party. The cover also includes accidental damage, vandalism and usually windscreen repair.

      You may be able to drive other people's cars, although this is likely to be only up to the level of third-party coverage. You may also be covered to drive hire cars. These are not standard features so check with your insurer before you buy so you are clear about what is included.

    • Third-party cover is generally most suitable for those:

      • With cars worth less than £1,000
      • Aged under 25 (though also read Young Drivers' Insurance)
      • Without a no-claims bonus
      • Living in a high-risk area

      Comprehensive is a good idea if your car is worth more than £1,500, and is more important the more valuable your car is. Many insurers will only offer comprehensive cover for cars over a certain value anyway.

  • A recent MSE investigation in which more than 50 million quotes were analysed from the three biggest price comparison sites – Compare The Market, Confused.com and MoneySupermarket – has revealed buying your car insurance 24 days ahead of the start day can save you £100s, compared with buying it too early or leaving it until the day before or on the renewal day.

    Based on an average price, the cheapest time to buy your policy is 20-26 days before the start date, with the price differences closely aligned to how much of a risk you're deemed to be, and when the highest number of insurers will provide quotes (see the full price investigation).

    Our analysis showed a policy costs an average of £1,218 a year on renewal day, but 24 days earlier the average is just £672 a year – a MASSIVE £546 difference.

    So, if you are already within the 20-26 day period, act now as the price tends to increase closer to the start date of the policy.

    We've full info on how to bag the cheapest policy in this guide – see our comparison sites order below.

    Here are a few successes from MoneySavers who've got their insurance around the optimum time to buy...

    Just did mine (24 days early) – saved over £690 over my renewal price.

    Cara via Facebook

    Renewed 3wks early after your tip. It's gone from a renewal price of £108/mth to £51/mth [saving £684/yr]. Checked the comparisons later and it went back to £100. Happy.

    Hayley via Twitter

  • If you have more than one car in your immediate family or household, this could be for you, and having different renewal dates needn't be a blocker. For some, discounts for adding multiple cars could save £100s, or even £1,000s in some cases, but for others it could actually be more expensive. 

    What tends to happen is multicar newbies get hot offers to suck 'em in, but that advantage can disappear at renewal.

    Martin's rule of thumb:

    If you've currently got a multicar policy, check separate quotes for each vehicle first – if you've separate policies, check multicar first.

    As comparison sites don't offer multicar discounts, you'll need to check the multicar price directly with the insurers below, and then compare those prices with the individual policy costs you get using comparison sites. Here are three steps to follow... 

    1. Check multicar policies 

    This is where all cars are on one policy. The big one is Admiral MultiCar*, while Aviva* and LV* (see below for how to get a £75 voucher) also provide multicar policies. If your policies start at the same time, it's easy. If not, see below.

    • The three insurers above let you set up a policy at your first car's renewal, while the other car(s) stay with their existing insurer, until their renewal.

      If you need a multicar quote for several vehicles with different start dates, this is how it could work:

      You get cover for your lead car to start in three weeks' time, car two to start in seven months and car three in 10 months. Cars two and three will stay insured with their existing insurer until their current policy ends, at which time they will move across to the multicar policy, for the remainder of the year. 

      When you pay for the additional car(s) and when the discount kicks in differs between providers (see 'How multicar insurers differ' below).

      Once your multicar policy ends, all cars will then be up for renewal at the same time.

    • If you want your multicar cover for all your vehicles to start at the same time, it's simple, you'll just be given one total cost. For different start dates, you'll be given a total price to pay, which'll cover all the cars (you just pay for however long each car is insured for), and you'll also be given an 'annual equivalent price', as if all the vehicles were insured for a full year, to help you compare against other providers. 

    • TABLE_CELL_STYLE When is multicar discount applied? When do I need to pay for additional car? Will you need to pay back any discount if additional car cancelled?
      Admiral At point of quote When you accept quote or when its cover is to start Yes (plus admin fee)
      Aviva When cover starts for extra car When its cover is to start No
      LV At point of quote When you accept quote or when its cover is to start No, but will get less discount at renewal

      Note: While the discount is applied at different times, in practice, you'll just see the overall price of the policy for a year at the quote stage.

    • As a rule of thumb, yes, though it varies by provider. LV* (see below for how to get a £75 voucher) and Aviva* say all vehicles need to be registered at the same address, but Admiral have a different rule.

      Regarding Admiral MultiCar*, immediate family members can insure vehicles on the same multicar policy even if they don't live at the same address, so this could be an option to consider if you have children living away.

    2. Then check existing policies for discounts

    Some other insurers do simply give a reduction for each additional policy added, while keeping the policies separate. This can be an especially easy route if an insurer already covers one of your cars, so check the price when the second car's up for renewal. 

    These are the insurers we have had confirmation offer discounts for a second car: More Than* 15% | Axa* up to 15% | Privilege % varies | Sheilas' Wheels* 10%. Also add Esure* to the list of insurers to check, as they also give a multicar discount.

    If you're not already a customer, you can take out two policies in quick succession to get the discount.

    Plus, Direct Line*  and Churchill offer discounts on your car insurance if you have another policy with them, eg, home insurance. 

    3. Finally, check standalone (ie, separate) policies

    Sometimes it will work out cheaper to get individual policies for each car, rather than linking them. Use our full comparison system for how to find the cheapest price.

    • Over three cars (incl our 18yr old son's), we saved £4,600 as our Admiral MultiCar policy reduced it to a much more manageable £2,600. Thanks MSE.

      Forumite Boredwithbeingignored

    • Husband had three cars on multicar, followed your guide and bought three [separate] policies, saving £1,400.


      MoneySaver Suzanne 

  • It may seem counter-logical, but covering an extra driver can reduce rather than increase your cost – in some cases by £100s or £1,000s. Here are seven quick tips on how to do it most effectively…

    • Car insurance is all about risk. That's why it can work. If you're a high-risk driver and you add someone who is a much lower risk as a second (or third) driver, they can bring down the average risk and you may get a cheaper policy.

    • This isn't just for young drivers. While it works well for young drivers (see our Young Drivers' Insurance guide) as they are automatically seen as a high risk and are likely to have parents who may be lower risk, it can work for anyone. But of course, it's especially powerful for those with costlier insurance.

    • The better the driving history and lower the risk, the more impact it should have. Adding someone with a good driving record is likely to make the most savings, but anyone who's a lower risk can help. By law insurers can't discriminate over gender, but age, driving experience and history can make a difference.

    • This is about trial and error, not logic. Your mum may increase the cost, your brother may cut it, or vice versa. It's just a question of trying different quotes and seeing what happens.

    • Different insurers respond in different ways. One may cut your costs adding your uncle, another may increase them. A quick way to check is by using the top comparison sites, listed below.

    • The second driver should be someone who would reasonably drive your car. So don't add Lewis Hamilton, unless you happen to be related (and even then racing drivers are likely to be a very high risk) – but your mum, son, best mate or gran should be OK – as long as they would drive the car.

    • Never add someone as main driver if they're not. This is known in the industry as 'fronting', and is fraud. If you do it and are caught, you could face a conviction and your insurance will likely be invalid.

    As I'm a young new driver my insurer wanted £5,000 but after adding mum and dad it dropped to £1,900.

    @Faevouritexox

    Followed your guide and added my mum to my car insurance and saved £500 #mumstheword

    @mazzyb5

  • Another quick win is tweaking your job description (legitimately of course). An illustrator is often cheaper than an artist, an editor than a journalist, a PA than a secretary.

    Have a play with our Car Insurance Job Picker tool and see if small changes to your job description could save you cash. Remember, never lie, as this would be considered fraudulent. If it worked for you, share your success story with our forum users.

    Thank you @MartinSLewis, after rewording my occupation on car insurance I have managed to save £400.

    @JenStaCreations

    I did this too thanks to @MartinSLewis, from creative director to marketing manager = saved £300+. Crazy world isn't it?

    @fabsternation

    Quick question

    • If you don't have a job, you face a potential fivefold jump in insurance costs by declaring you're unemployed. The same hikes don't apply to homemakers (housewives/househusbands). If that's you, say so to avoid a hike in costs.

      However, only enter homemaker if you're genuinely not seeking work or receiving benefits that require you to seek work. Otherwise, it's fraud. Read the full MSE News story: Unemployed walloped with high insurance.

  • A monthly payment plan for your insurance is essentially a high-interest loan. For example, if your premium is £1,000 and you want to pay monthly, you could pay £95/month, which is £1,140/year (£140 more) at a huge APR of 25%.

    So pay in full, or if you can't afford it, use a credit card with a lower interest rate (or better still, a 0% credit card for spending, ensuring your repayments are big enough to clear it within a year).

    If paying by credit card, check if the insurer or provider charges a fee for doing so – though the fee is usually less than the interest charged on monthly instalments.

    BIG INSURERS' APRS
    INSURER APR IF YOU PAY MONTHLY INSURER APR IF YOU PAY MONTHLY
    Age Co

    17.7%

    Esure 27.5%
    Admiral 21.1% Hastings Direct 29.9%
    Aviva 19.9% LV 24.9%
    Churchill 29.4% M&S 23.5%
    Co-op 19.5% Privilege 17.5%
    Debenhams 40.35% RAC 30.9%
    Endsleigh

    39%

    Swiftcover 39.58%
    Correct at December 2019.
  • Don't assume switching is only for those at renewal. This is important when prices are rising, as they have done regularly over the years. You may find switching early saves anyway, especially if you didn't follow our full cost-cutting system in the past. There are three points to consider when doing this:

    • You can usually cancel existing policies and get a refund for the rest of the year, providing you haven't claimed.

    • There will normally be a cancellation fee of about £50 so your savings from switching should outweigh this to make it worth it – the longer you've got to go on your policy, the more likely you'll be better off switching. But some insurers have waived this entirely, especially if you're in financial difficulty due to coronavirus. Check your insurer's website to see if you can cancel there, or if not, to get its phone number.

    • You won't earn the current year's no-claims bonus if you switch so you'll need to be making a substantial saving to make this work.

    For many, it will still be a worthwhile move. Here are a couple of case studies to inspire you...

    You gave us the confidence to challenge our car insurance mid-policy as we were paying £40 a month. Now we're paying £16.

    Andy

    In November my insurance was £1,200. Now, with a little help from turning 25, I have done a mid-year price check and it's £230!

    Miriam

    Quick questions

    • Insurers usually send out notifications at least 21 days before renewal. This doesn't leave much time, and you could end up rushing to find a cheaper price.

      To avoid this, put a warning in your diary six weeks before your renewal date.

      Also bear in mind that you can save £100s by getting insurance three weeks before your renewal date – see above for more.

    • The following are just some of the cancellation fees charged by insurers if you cancel cover outside the 14-day 'cooling-off period' and if you've not made any claims during the current year.

      INSURERS' CANCELLATION FEES (OUTSIDE COOLING-OFF PERIOD)
      INSURER CANCELLATION FEE INSURER CANCELLATION FEE
      Admiral

      £49.50

      Hastings Direct

      £45 (1)

      Aviva

      £38 (2)

      LV £40
      Churchill £53.76 More Than £50
      Co-op

      £50

      M&S £50
      Debenhams £75 Post Office £55
      Direct Line £48.16 Privilege £53.76
      Endsleigh

      £75

      Quotemehappy £50 (2)
      Esure

      £60

      RAC £55
      Halifax

      £55

      Swiftcover £52.50
      Correct at December 2019.
      Note: (1) If moving to another non-Hastings policy. (2) Insurance premium tax will be added to the cancellation fee. It increased to 12%, from 10%, on 1 June 2017. 
    • A few insurers let you lock in a quote up to 60 days ahead of the policy's start date, so you can guard against any future premium increases – Aviva* and Quotemehappy do this. Once locked in, the price is fixed as long as your details don't change, but you can always change your mind if you find a cheaper deal (see why buying 20-26 days ahead is cheapest).

  • Being on the electoral roll is not just about being registered to vote – it can also make a difference to your insurance premium.

    Insurers such as Aviva, Direct Line, Churchill, Privilege, Co-op and Endsleigh have confirmed that they use the electoral roll as part of the ID-checking process to combat fraud.

    Not being on the electoral roll, or having incorrect information registered, makes it more difficult for insurers to identify you, so they'll probably give you a higher quote or simply not offer cover.

    If you're not already on the electoral roll, it's straightforward to do. See our Electoral Roll guide for more information, including the all-important how to get on it.

  • You can pay a small fee to protect your no-claims discount, meaning you can retain your discount even if you claim. It is worth considering, especially if you have a history of making claims. However, an accident is still likely to see your premium rise, regardless of the impact of your discount.

    Insurers often try to sell you additional products such as windscreen or breakdown cover. Avoid buying these if you don't need them and, if you do, always check out the cost of the cover individually first.

    Many insurers make a large mark-up by selling add-ons at higher rates than you can get elsewhere. Also, some of these add-ons may already be included in your policy, so read the T&Cs carefully.

How to buy cheap car insurance

So now you know the basics of car insurance, here are the steps you need to follow to ensure you find the cheapest price possible. 

Warning: No matter how tempted you are to say someone else is the main driver, or to pretend you have no points, or to deliberately underestimate your mileage to get a cheaper premium – don't. You must be completely honest or it could invalidate your insurance and even lead to prosecution. 

Step 1: Get quotes from multiple comparison sites

Firstly, visit the comparison sites as these zip your details off to a number of insurers' and brokers' websites to find the cheapest quotes. As no single site captures the entire market and prices vary, combining a number of sites is the best way to make a saving. It's best to use all four, but if you don't have time, we've ranked them in order of the sites that most often return the cheapest quotes so you've the best chance of bagging the top deal.

  • When ranking comparisons, we want to get you to use the best ones as quickly as possible. We focus principally on price, as depending on who you are, you can get cheaper quotes on different comparison sites. However, we also factor in 'softer' features to assess the quality of each.

    Ranking on price

    We analysed the prices of a large range of insurance quotes given by Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket.

    • Step 1. We check how many times each comparison site returned the cheapest or within £5 of the cheapest quote.
    • Step 2. We rank the comparison sites based on their 'score' in the first category.
    • Step 3. We assess how often each comparison gave a unique cheapest quote, ie, not just equal cheapest with a higher-scoring comparison.
    • Step 4. We alter the order to see if it's possible to increase the speed with which you access the cheapest quotes.

    Here are the latest scores

    This month's results show that MoneySupermarket gives the cheapest quote 59% of the time.

    Get a quote from MoneySupermarket and Confused.com and you'll increase your chances of getting a cheaper quote to 85%.

    To improve your chances of getting the cheapest quote 94% of the time, get a quote from MoneySupermarket, Confused.com and Compare The Market.  Don't forget to also get a quote from Gocompare as well, to improve your chances of a cheap quote.

    Follow this order if you're aged 25+ and it's not a company car (if you're under 25, see our Young Drivers' Insurance guide).

  • Yes and no. Comparison sites send your details to a raft of insurers, then use the information on your credit file to judge your quote. This leaves a 'soft search' on your file which you can see as a reference if you get your credit report – but this worries many people.

    Yet crucially lenders CAN'T SEE these soft searches, so they have no impact on your creditworthiness. The only time a hard search – which lenders can see – may go on your file is if you then go on and actually apply for insurance; specifically 'pay monthly' insurance (because in effect they pay upfront for you and you repay the loan over the year).

    More info can be found in our Will buying insurance from a comparison site affect my credit score? guide.

First on our list to try is MoneySupermarket* as our analysis shows it gives the cheapest quote for the majority of people.

If you move on to Confused.com* next it'll boost your chances of getting the cheapest quote as it was the second-best site.

Thirdly, get a quote from Compare The Market* as it's the next best at returning a cheap quote.

Then go and try Gocompare* (next best) as it'll mean you've covered all of the big four sites to increase your chances of a cheap quote.

Boost chances of finding a cheap quote even further

If you still haven't found a deal you're happy with, or want to push the envelope, there are more options. Try Quotezone* if you have time – it usually takes five to 10 minutes.

Struggling to get cover?

If you have points on your licence or have had one accident or claim too many, you may find it hard to get cover.

If you've been caught once for an offence such as speeding, it's likely you'll have three penalty points, but one strike shouldn't significantly change your risk profile. It's when you reach four points or more that you should change the way you act. 

First compare the comparison sites listed, but if premiums are coming back too high, consider enlisting the help of a broker (search the British Insurance Brokers' Association website to find someone local).

Step 2: Get quotes from insurers that comparisons miss

Comparison sites let you compare 100s of insurers quickly but they don't capture the entire market as some large competitive insurers only offer their products directly. 

So benchmark your cheapest comparison quotes against prices offered by the following insurers that you won't find unless you go direct: 

  • Direct Line*
  • Aviva* (though you may, occasionally, see them on Confused.com while they are carrying out trials).

Step 3: Check hot deals not on comparison sites

If the providers below are amongst your cheapest, use the links to buy instead and take advantage of its special deal.

Buy a new car insurance policy by 11.59pm on Mon 31 Aug, via this LV* link, and you'll get a £60 Amazon voucher (or £75 for a multicar policy via this LV multicar* link). You should receive the voucher within 120 days after the purchase date. To be eligible for a voucher, you must be a new LV car insurance policyholder, and it must be a new quote – not a retrieved or saved one.

We've blagged you a £60 credit to use on this pay-by-miles' policy (which could be a good bet if you drive under 7,000 miles/yr). You must use this By Miles* link to buy a policy by 11.59pm on 30 Nov 2020, and be a new policyholder, aged 25 to 78.

  • By Miles charges you based on the number of miles you drive via a 'telematics' device you fit to the car. It is not a 'pay-how-you-drive' policy – you just get charged for each mile you drive. So if you don't cover many miles (ideally no more than 7,000 miles/yr), it could be for you. 

    How the cost is calculated

    1) You pay a fixed annual cost upfront to cover your car while it's parked. This is paid at the start of the policy.

    2) You will also be given an estimated price, based on mileage data from the DVLA, to help you compare.

    3) You then just pay for the miles you drive each month, which you can monitor via an app. 

  • When you buy the policy, via the exclusive By Miles* link, your account will automatically be credited with £60 – to be used towards the miles you drive.

    You still need to pay for the upfront cost of having the car insured when not in use but when you drive, the charge per mile will come off the credit. Any unused credit gets rolled over to the next month until the £60 is used up.

We've blagged you a £30 Amazon gift card when you go via this Age Co* link and buy a policy by 11.59pm on Mon 31 Aug. It's open to new customers (so you're not eligible if you've had an Age UK/Age Co motor policy within the last six months). The gift card should arrive within 120 days of your policy start date.

Step 4: Once you've found the cheapest quote, try to haggle a bigger discount

Haggling is not a must – especially if you want to try a new provider – but if you're looking to renew with your current insurer it is well worth getting on the phone to negotiate.

Once you've followed the steps above and got the overall cheapest price, pick up the phone and haggle. If your insurer can beat or match your best quote it saves having to switch policy. If that doesn't work and you're still in the mood, enlist the help of a broker.

I just saved around £300 haggling with Admiral (prompted after the news article on MSE). And they were really friendly to boot.

Forumite thrifteemee

For more haggling tips, read the full Car and Home Insurance Haggling guide along with Haggle On The High Street and 2019's Top 10 Firms To Haggle With.

Step 5: See if you can get cashback on top of the cheapest quote

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, you need to check there aren't any hidden cashback deals. If your second or third-cheapest quotes weren't much more expensive, see if cashback's available for them too, and find the overall winner.

However, note there is no guarantee the quote will be the same going through a cashback site as it is going through a comparison site, so make sure you check the cost carefully. And be aware that the cashback comes from the cashback site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on the deal 'tracking' correctly online. 

Things you need to know before getting cashback...

If you're new to cashback sites, make sure you read our Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them.

Step 6: Finally, check the policy carefully before buying

Once you've found the cheapest quotes there are two more important things to do...

Double-check the quotes. Click through to the insurance provider's own website to read the quote thoroughly, as to speed up searches some comparison sites make a few assumptions. 

Examine the policy's coverage. Check whether it's suitable. If you want a free courtesy car if yours is being fixed, is it included? While you're there, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can lower the price further. Look at the excess, and whether adding drivers cuts the cost.

Coronavirus car insurance cost-cutting

Many of us are using our cars much less than normal, whether that's because we're furloughed from work, working at home or just not going out as much due to the lockdown.

Yet it's led to many asking whether they still need car insurance, or if they can just cancel. Others have asked if there are ways to cut costs without going that far. We've help for both scenarios...

Not using your car? You can declare it 'off the road' to save on tax and insurance

Since 2011, you need insurance when you own a car, not just if you're driving it. But there's an exception to needing to pay.

If you can keep your car on private land, for example, your drive or garage, or a friend's property, you can declare it off the road via a Sorn (statutory off-road notification).

This cancels your vehicle tax, which may net you a pro-rata refund for the rest of the year. Once you've declared it off-road, you can then cancel your insurance, though do note your car won't be covered for damage, fire or theft. You also you won't get the year's no-claims bonus and you'll often need to pay an admin fee for cancelling (though some have waived this – see a round-up of 20 top insurers below).

In light of all that, is it worth doing? Here's Martin's view...

The difficulty is we don't know how long lockdown will last. If it's just weeks, this'd be a faff for a small saving. Yet if you don't think you'll drive much anyway even when the rules relax, for example, if you've two cars and are only likely to use one, it could save you cash. Though do remember if you've no car insurance, your car isn't covered for damage or theft.

However, if you think it's for you, here's how to do it, how to reverse it, and the risks involved:

  • You can do it on the DVLA website, and it's effective once you've made the declaration.

    The DVLA will then work out whether you're owed a refund of unused vehicle tax. If you are, you get any full calendar months back – so if you Sorn your car on Saturday 25 April, and it's taxed until 10 July 2020, you'll get May and June's vehicle tax back. 

    The DVLA will automatically issue a cheque for the refund and send it to you, though this can take up to six weeks to come. 

  • Once you've declared your car off-road, you can then cancel your insurance. There's often an admin fee of about £50 to pay, though some insurers have waived this entirely and in almost all cases will do if you're in financial difficulty due to coronavirus.  

    A few insurers let you cancel online; Axa is one. But for most, such as the AA, Aviva and Esure, you will need to call, so currently you could face long queue times. Check your insurer's website to see if you can cancel there, or if not, to get its phone number.

    You should be entitled to a refund if you've paid upfront for an annual policy, provided you haven't claimed since it started. If you pay monthly, your insurer is likely to tell you to cancel your direct debit.

    You also won't earn any no-claims bonus for the year, so you'll need to be making a substantial saving to make this work.

    Don't want to cancel your insurance fully? See if you can get 'laid-up' cover...

    'Laid-up' cover is when the car is insured against fire, theft and damage, but not for any use on the roads. It's often bought by people restoring classic cars, which aren't yet roadworthy. You will need to keep the car – like you would for Sorn – on your drive, in your garage or on other private land.

    However, if you're Sorning your car during coronavirus, it may be worth seeing if your insurer offers it as it gives a level of peace of mind if anything were to happen to the car. As you're not driving and far less likely to have an accident, laid-up cover is usually much cheaper than full insurance cover.

    But many insurers don't offer it: Aviva, Axa, Churchill, Direct Line and More Than all said they don't. But if you're an existing LV policyholder, it told us you can reduce the cover to 'laid-up' insurance, and then reinstate – with the inclusion of road use – when needed.

    Check with your insurer if it can offer this reduced level of cover.

  • The main risk of Sorning the car is that you won't have cover for anything that happens to it. So if the vehicle gets damaged, stolen or goes up in flames, you won't be covered for any claim (unless you've bought 'laid-up' cover). 

    You also will lose your year's no-claims bonus if you cancel your insurance partway through the year. This is less of an issue if you're a couple of months into the policy, but may be a bigger issue if you've only a month or two left. 

  • Once lockdown's over, if you're heading back to work, or back to your normal routine, it's easy to get your car back on the road.

    First buy the insurance (see how to find a cheap policy). Then go to Gov.uk and re-tax the car. This will automatically 'unSorn' the vehicle.

I'm still driving but much less than I used to. Can I save on my existing policy?

Insurance is all about risk, so the more chance they think you have of claiming, the more they charge. So driving more, or having riskier drivers on your policy, will likely mean you pay more. 

The good news is that driving less often reduces that risk, so here are three things to look at that could result in a saving. But insurance pricing is personal to you, and much also depends on how much you'll save from these changes and whether your insurer charges admin fees if you change things around (see a round-up of 20 top insurers below). So try these to see if they work for you:

  • It stands to reason that the more you drive, the more likely you are to get into an accident, whether it's your fault or someone else's (though bizarrely not driving enough miles could class you as 'inexperienced').

    Your mileage will be specific to you and your 'risk profile', but when we looked at insurance data, we found savings could be had. As an example, in our tests of 80+ quotes, the average saving dropping from 15,000 to 3,000 miles a year was £155/yr – though this is just £13 saved if you've a month left on your policy.

    Similarly, dropping from 8,000 miles a year to 6,000 only saved an average £24 over the year, just £2/mth.

    If you're going from a very high mileage to a low mileage, this could work, but if you're already on quite a low mileage, you're unlikely to see big savings.

  • Driving for work is normally pricier than just social, domestic and commuting purposes – so it may be worth having a read of your insurance certificate to see if it includes business use.

  • Younger, or higher risk, drivers pay more as the insurer – in simple terms – classes them as riskier drivers. This also includes those who have a history of claims and/or points etc. But if you remove 'em, they'll be breaking the law if they drive your car.

    Savings can be bigger here. Based on over 500 quotes, removing under-25s from the policy resulted in an average saving of £675/yr (or £56/mth).

So is it worth changing an existing policy for these savings? Our view is that it's a faff, so you'll need to have many months left on your policy to make it worth it, and big savings from the changes, eg, large mileage drops, taking younger drivers off a policy.

For everyone else, use this as a trigger to check if you should look for a new policy, as big changes can mean another insurer is cheaper, and you may have been overpaying anyway.

Payment holidays if you're struggling to pay each month

If you're struggling to pay for your insurance, whatever you do, don't just cancel your direct debit. Always get in touch with the insurer first to let it know you're struggling and you need help. 

If you pay monthly, most insurers will now offer the option to defer payments for up to three months. This allows cover to continue while you take a break from payments. Once the payment holiday is over, most insurers will spread the amount you owe evenly over the remaining payments (though some insurers will ask for the full amount to be repaid in the first month or when the policy ends), so make sure you budget for higher payments later.

Try to do this only if really needed, as extra interest can rack up on top (as paying insurance monthly is actually taking out a loan), so you could pay more in the long-run. If it's right for you, you can apply for help at any time up until 18 August 2020, though the FCA's likely to extend this till 31 October 2020.

  • You'll need to be paying monthly for your insurance and experiencing financial difficulty due to coronavirus. Beyond this, it varies by provider, as each insurer would usually assess each request on a case-by-case basis. 

    Not all allow this (see which of 20 top insurers do below). If your insurer does, here are the criteria that some providers are using, though only use this as guidance – if you're struggling you should still contact your insurer for help.

    • If you (or your spouse/partner) have been furloughed and have not yet received payment from your employer, or are self-employed and haven't yet received payment from the Government.
    • If you have been made unemployed at any point since March.
  • No insurer we asked told us it would ask for any evidence, though don't lie as it can be classed as fraud. 

How do I make a change to my policy, and is there a fee?

This depends on your insurer. Many let you make the changes online (eg, Admiral, Axa and Direct Line), but not all (eg, Age Co, Hastings Direct and LV). If you're in financial hardship, you'll usually need to call your insurer to discuss your options, though it's worth checking as some have online forms to request a call back.

Most insurers will waive admin and cancellation fees if you're struggling to pay monthly, but some have extended this to include any coronavirus-related change, such as reducing your mileage. Sadly not all have done this and while we're unable to list all insurers, we have a round-up of 20 big insurers' policies below. If yours isn't listed, check its website for details as most have info about the help they are offering.

Bear in mind that you may need to reverse the changes once we get back to some semblance of normality, so make sure you've calculated the admin fees against the savings you could make. 

Insurers' fees for coronavirus-related changes – see which have waived them

Insurer If you're in financial hardship For everyone else Notes
Cancellation or change fee (1) Allows payment holiday? Cancellation fee Change fee (1)
AA £0 £0 £0 All fees have been removed until at least the end of May. Normally £58 to cancel, £25 to change.
Admiral £0 £55

£9.50 (online),

£25

(by phone)

You can pause cover providing you Sorn your vehicle and reactivate cover within 90 days (if 33+ days before renewal).
Ageas Will consider waiving fees £50 £0 (online),£25 any other way Assessing on a case-by-case basis. 
Aviva £0 £38 £0 (online) For 'non-financial hardship' changes, you'll be charged an admin fee if you call when you're able to make the change online.
Axa

£0

£52.50 £0 (online),
up to £30 any other way
For 'non-financial hardship' changes, you'll be charged an admin fee for making changes by phone.
Bell £0 £55

£9.50 (online),

£25

(by phone)

You can pause cover providing you Sorn your vehicle and reactivate cover within 90 days (if 33+ days before renewal).
Churchill £0 £53.76

£0 for mileage amendment

or £28.66

 
Dial Direct £0 £60 £20  
Diamond £0 £55

£9.50 (online),

£25

(by phone)

You can pause cover providing you Sorn your vehicle and reactivate cover within 90 days (if 33+ days before renewal).
Direct Line

£0

£48.16 £0  
Elephant £0 £55

£9.50 (online),

£25

(by phone)

You can pause cover providing you Sorn your vehicle and reactivate cover within 90 days (if 33+ days before renewal).
Esure £0 £0 £0 Fees only apply if the change is not as a result of coronavirus – £60 to cancel, £26 to change.
Hastings £0 £45 Up to £30 (see notes) No fee when changing mileage, use, occupation, level of cover or extra drivers.
LV £0 See notes £40 £15 Doesn't offer payment holidays, but you can apply for a £20-£50 grant if in financial difficulty.
More Than £0 £0 £0 Fees only apply if the change is not as a result of coronavirus. 
NFU Mutual £0 £0 £0  
Privilege £0 £53.76

£0 for mileage amendment

or £28.66

For 'non-financial hardship' changes, will only waive fees for short-term mileage amendments during the coronavirus pandemic.
Quotemehappy £0 £50 £0 Changes can only be done online.
Saga Will consider waiving fees
£50 £25 Assessing on a case-by-case basis.
Swiftcover £0 £52.50 £0 (online), up to £30 any other way  

(1) A change fee would cover any amendments to a policy, such as decreasing mileage, adding or removing an additional driver or removing an 'added extra' such as key cover. 
Correct at May 2020.

  • If you were charged a fee – before the Financial Conduct Authority introduced new guidance for insurers on Monday 18 May – to make a change, or to cancel your policy, because of Covid-19, there is a chance you could get the fee back.

    While you have no right to a refund, there is no harm in asking, as David's email shows...

    I cancelled my car insurance on 18 May, to read in the MSE newsletter that More Than may be waiving cancellation fees. On 20 May, I complained and got the £50 fee refunded.

Lost your job? You MUST tell your insurer about this and other major changes

You need to tell your insurer about big changes in your circumstances, such as losing your job, changes to how you use your car, big mileage alterations, plus new convictions or medical issues. You'll also need to tell it if you're moving home as this'll affect where the car's kept.

However, you don't need to tell it if you're furloughed from your current employer.

Major changes can lead to a charge or, better, a saving. Yet even if it'll cost more, you do need to tell your insurer. If you've not been entirely truthful with it, your insurance could be cancelled.

'I paid 96p for a year's fully comp cover'

Following the steps above often produces huge savings. Those who normally just accept their insurer's renewal regularly see £100s shaved off the cost. And significant numbers of MoneySavers report getting deals for under £100.

MoneySavingExpert car insurance champion

In October 2009, civil servant and grandmother Barbara Wakerell smashed the old £14 record for using this car insurance system (see MSE News: 96p car insurance).

Policy price: For Barbara, the cheapest was £120.96 from Swinton Insurance for a fully comprehensive policy, with protected no-claims bonus, and including a courtesy car.
Insurer cashback: The company had its own £70 cashback promo.
Cashback site: She then got a further £50 using a cashback site.

All together that meant the total cost of the insurance was just 96p. Barbara said:

I'm always looking for a bargain so when I found my car insurance for £120.96 I thought I was doing well. But when I also got £120 cashback I realised I had done really, really well. Can anyone beat that?

Since then we've had some for under £50 but nothing that comes close to 96p, so if you've beaten it, let us know.

FAQs

  • If any of your circumstances change it's important to tell your insurer. If you don't and then try to claim, even for an unrelated issue, your whole policy may be invalid.

    You should tell your insurer about any change, even if it's just your address. This is crucial as it reduces potential problems in the event of a claim. Trying to get insurance after you've had a policy cancelled is very difficult and expensive.

    A change in circumstances includes moving jobs, as insurers believe this can affect your risk. You may also save on insurance if you're in a stable relationship – for instance, living with a partner rather than being listed as single.

    And watch out for modifications. For example, putting a tow bar on your car to pull a caravan or trailer counts as a modification, so it's vital to let your insurer know you've got one. Most car insurance policies don't cover attaching a trailer as standard so double-check – some may charge you a slightly higher premium.

  • Obviously car insurance covers you to drive your own vehicle (that you have insured) but some comprehensive policies insure you (not the named drivers) if you're driving the cars of your friends and family – with their permission, of course. Check with your insurer that you definitely have this extension of cover.

    You may also be covered to drive hire cars too. However, if your comprehensive cover allows you to drive other vehicles, this is usually only up to the level of third-party coverage – so no theft or fire damage cover is provided.

    If you're the generous sort, you can add other drivers to your policy – known as named drivers – and they'll be covered to drive your car. Even if you're not generous, adding a second responsible driver can also help lower the cost of your cover.

  • If you drive your car outside the UK but within the EU (eg, a day trip to France) or other European countries such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, an EU directive means you'll automatically get third-party only cover, even if you don't tell your insurer.

    This means you'll be driving legally but under the third-party extension of your policy, so your car won't be covered for damage or theft. This third-party cover applies even if you have comprehensive UK cover. But some policies come with full Europe-wide insurance, covering you across the Continent.

    If yours doesn't, call your insurer and give your dates of travel and the countries you'll visit (or plan to pass through, even if it's only for a few hours) to extend the policy cover, but there may be a charge.

    Our research shows some providers, including Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege, offer this free if you're only going for up to three days, but that's not a universal rule. You can be charged about £20-£30.

    If you extend your trip, you're likely to have to pay extra – possibly around £15-£30 more.

    And don't forget about breakdown cover. See our full Breakdown guide for more.

  • If you have an accident and damage someone else's car but decide to cover the costs yourself, strictly speaking you should still tell your insurer about it.

    If you do have an accident and your insurer subsequently finds out about it, it could result in higher premiums regardless as the insurer will consider you more of a risk.

    In addition, a problem may arise if you have a second accident and it is found to be related to work undertaken for the first. If this does happen it would most likely result in the claim not being paid, rather than cancellation of your insurance or being reported for fraud, but could still end up costing you £1,000s. 

  • Nothing. One is called no-claims discount and the other is no-claims bonus.

    Insurers like less-risky policyholders and will reward you if you're able to go a long time without making a claim. So for every year you're claim-free your insurer usually gives you a discount at renewal.

    The more years you can go without making a claim, the larger the discount will be at renewal. For instance, an insurer may give you a 30-40% discount if you can go without claiming for the first year of your policy and then give you an extra 10% discount if you can repeat the trick in your second year.

  • The more changes you make to your car, barring security ones, the more you're charged. Always tell your insurer about any modifications and whether you made them or not, or it may invalidate your policy (a modification is anything that isn't part of the standard vehicle specification, including factory-fitted optional extras such as alloy wheels).

    The exception to this rule is if you've a classic car needing insurance – in this instance, insurers accept modifications as a natural part of classic car ownership and don't penalise you with higher premiums.

    Even more savings are there for the taking if you can protect your vehicle by securing it. Fitting an alarm or immobiliser (especially one approved by Thatcham) will reduce the bill substantially.

  • Comparison sites always assume you own the car you're trying to insure. However, many people drive a car owned by their employer, but have to insure and tax it themselves.

    This means comparison sites, while useful for benchmarking prices, don't do the trick. First, try a couple of specialists, then see how prices from the comparisons stack up.

    The only insurer we could find that gives quotes online for vehicles owned by companies is LV*.

    Go through the quote process and it'll ask who owns the car. The quote you get will be based on this. This by no means translates to LV being the cheapest choice – but it's useful to get an idea of what you should be paying. Give us your feedback on LV.

     

  • Borrowing a friend's car for the weekend or need to hire a vehicle to move house? It's possible to get temporary insurance for one to 28 days.

    Most insurers will cover drivers between the ages of 18 and 75 but some set the minimum age at 21. You may also find it difficult to find cover if you have many points on your licence or a long history of claims. 

    Insure Daily*Tempcover.com*Confused.com* and the RAC offer policies.

  • Despite some confusion, telematics is not a 1980s game show hosted by Noel Edmonds (that was Telly Addicts!). Telematics prices your premiums depending on how you drive.

    A device inside your car monitors your actions behind the wheel. So the better you drive, the less you pay for cover.

    Telematics policies have more aliases than a rap group. If you're looking at 'black box', 'smart box', 'pay-as-you-drive' or 'usage-based' insurance then you're looking at a telematics policy.

    It works! Forumite vic.star said: "I'm with Insure The Box, a telematics insurer. I paid £980 for my first year (I was 21 when I took out the policy) compared to the cheapest on comparison sites of £1,400!"

    The black box feeds data back to your insurer, which takes this into account to reward you; if you can prove you're more Driving Miss Daisy than Fast & Furious, you can get money back on your premiums, high-street shopping vouchers or better prices at renewal.

    How do insurers rate you on a telematics policy?

    It's not just a case of keeping your hands at 10 and two and shifting smoothly through the gears. Insurers will take the following into account:

    - The time of day or night you drive (11pm to 5am may cost more)
    - Your speed (stick to the limit!)
    - Gentle braking reactions (hard and sharp stopping is NOT good)
    - Gentle acceleration and cornering (don't treat your local roads like Silverstone)

    Telematics providers will charge you more if you speed or start cornering like Sebastian Vettel. In addition, you won't earn rewards if you don't drive responsibly. With insurance so expensive, any money back on your cover should be an incentive in itself.

    While your insurer will be following your driving closely, there are relatively few restrictions on when and where you drive. However, some insurers, such as Co-op*, have curfews in place, meaning driving at certain times (usually between 11pm and 5am) could result in a fine or an increase in premiums.

  • Be careful when deciding your excess. The larger the excess, the cheaper the premium usually is, but a large excess may leave you out of pocket if you need to claim.

    The excess is the amount you pay towards any claims you make. Say your excess is £250 and you have an accident that causes £1,000 worth of damage to your vehicle, you pay £250 and the insurer stumps up the rest. 

    A few insurers will substantially reduce premiums for a £1,000 excess, so try this when getting quotes. The downside is having to shell out this amount in the event of a claim.

  • Some comparison sites give gifts for every policy you take out. At Compare The Market there's a soft toy meerkat (you can choose from eight) for each new policy plus 2for1 cinema tickets and 2for1 at 1,000s of restaurants (see Meerkat Movies & Restaurant trick for full details).

    Though remember, don't end up paying a higher premium than you need to because you're sucked in by the incentives on offer from one particular comparison site.

  • Insurers use this information to help them calculate your premium. The less you drive, the cheaper your insurance so while you always need to give a genuine estimate to avoid committing fraud, it makes it doubly important not to overestimate as you'll also end up overpaying.

    The best method is to look at how much you've driven in the past using accurate data, and if your driving habits haven't changed, put the same figures down. If they have, change the figure accordingly. The easiest ways to find out your history is by looking back at old MOT certificates or service documents where your mileage would have been recorded – just compare one year with the next for how far you've driven.

What to do if something goes wrong

First, you need to complain to your insurance company directly. If it doesn’t respond, or if you don’t like what it says, then you don’t need to just take it.

You can escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman. The ombudsman is an independent adjudicator which will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.

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