When is the best time to renew car insurance?

Most car insurance policies run for 12 months, with a new price calculated for the following year around a month before it ends. Yet you should never just auto-renew as it's likely you'll pay more than you need to. You should always compare prices, and we've found that the best time to buy car insurance is 20 to 26 days ahead, as this is usually the cheapest. For why, read this short guide...

How does car insurance renewal work?

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A traditional car insurance policy runs for a period of 12 months, with the price you pay staying the same for the duration (unless any of your details change, such as changing your car, moving home or having an accident).

Around a month before the end date, your current insurer will send you a renewal notice which will have the price you paid for this year, and the price you'd need to pay for another year's cover with that insurer. 

You can then choose whether to stick with it (do nothing and it will auto-renew and cover you for another year), switch to a different insurer or try to haggle the price down.

'My renewal quote doubled, but nothing's changed with me - why?!'

We've heard this cry a lot over the last 12 months as insurers have been steadily putting prices up. The rise you've seen could be down to rising costs that insurers have to pay to get vehicles repaired or replaced (such as rising staff costs, more expensive parts). Or it may be that your insurer has changed its strategy and no longer wants to offer the cheapest prices, or no longer wants customers with your risk and driving profile.

Of course, the above assumes that nothing's changed with your circumstances. If it has, then where you live, the car you drive, any driving convictions or accidents can all change the price you're quoted – see what affects my car insurance quote.

Yet, rather than comparing your new price to the one you paid last year, use our Car Insurance Compare+ tool to see quotes from multiple insurers at once, so you can work out where your renewal price sits. If all insurers are quoting a similar price, then it's likely that's just the new level you'll need to pay. But never assume this without checking, you could miss out on saving £100s.

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When's the best time to buy car insurance?

The cheapest time to get quotes is 20 to 26 days ahead of your renewal date – cover becomes more expensive the closer you get. It's the same if you are buying car insurance for the first time. 

Strangely, the timing of your quote can impact the overall price you pay, with car insurance costs increasing the closer you get to your renewal date.  

We analysed over 70 million quotes from the four biggest comparison sites – Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket – and found the average quote made on the day of renewal was £1,198, or £694 23 days earlier. That's a huge difference of £504. You might not see savings as large as those, but the principle still stands. 

Why is it cheaper to renew my car insurance earlier?

When we concluded that 20-26 days before renewal was the cheapest time to buy car insurance, we asked insurance providers Compare The Market, Confused.com, MoneySupermarket, Admiral, Aviva, Direct Line, LV and More Than why the price differed depending on how far in advance you got the policy. All told us generally the same thing.

It's based around risk – buying it a few weeks before you need it suggests you're more careful and organised, while leaving it to the last minute means you're seen as higher risk, with some insurers telling us they've seen a direct link between drivers who leave sorting their insurance to the last moment and a higher number of claims.

As for why the super-prepared are being penalised with higher prices for getting a quote 30 days in advance, it's basically because there are fewer insurers returning quotes at that stage.

Keep on top of your car insurance

Mobile phone showing the MSE App.

Wanna know when YOUR cheapest time to get car insurance is? The MSE App has a new tool called Bill Buster – give us a few details about your car insurance policy and we'll track it, then alert you when it's ending so you know when to start getting quotes to save.

Try it in the MSE App – available in Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store

How do I find the cheapest car insurance?

Using a comparison site is the easiest way for motorists to compare hundreds of quotes, taking just a few minutes to fill in your details. However, there are several to choose from and different insurers appear on different comparison sites – plus the same insurer might be cheaper or have special deals with one and not the others.

The ideal scenario when searching for the best price is therefore to combine at least two comparison sites, or as many as you have time for. To help, our Car Insurance Compare+ tool checks one site off the list (we've borrowed MoneySupermarket's question set), and shows whether it's likely you'll get a cheaper quote by going to Direct Line and the order of the other comparison sites to try next (Compare The Market or Confused.com).

It also gives you cost cutting tips as you complete the questionnaire, including the info above on the best time to buy car insurance.

I've found a better policy – how do I cancel my old insurance?

If you've found a cheaper or better policy elsewhere and want to leave your current insurer, you just need to let it know before the renewal date, usually via phone or online chat.

The old insurer may ask you about the new policy and price you've found, and will usually see if it can match it (or come close) to try and lure you to stay. If its counter-offer is decent, and you choose to accept it, then your insurance will automatically renew at that new price (if you've already signed up to a new insurer, just remember to cancel that – which you can usually do with no penalty within the first 14 days).

If you still want to cancel, your insurer will process your request and you should receive confirmation that your cover will stop at midnight the day before your renewal date. See cancelling car insurance for more help.

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