MSE News

Revealed: Over 55% of car insurance quotes are obtained in the week before renewal, wasting £100s

car with piles of money

Over 55% of car insurance quotes are obtained in the last week before cover needs to start – with the highest number of enquiries made within 48 hours of the policy start date, MSE research can reveal. Drivers doing this could be wasting £100s as insurance costs climb the closer it gets to policy start date. 

In 2018, MSE revealed that the cheapest time to buy car insurance was roughly three weeks before renewal (our updated analysis last December found it was 20-26 days before). After that, prices rise steadily as you get closer to renewal.

Buying from a comparison site is one of the best ways to bag cheap insurance. See our Cheap Car Insurance guide for more tips to cut the cost.

What does the data tell us?

Our latest analysis of over 30 million quotes from comparison sites has found 55% of car insurance quotes are asked for within a week of the cover needing to start, with 17% of enquiries made on the same day cover is needed.

People who arrange cover on the day it's needed are paying as much as £550 a year more on average than those buying at the cheapest time. 

How much does the premium vary on different days?

If you buy a policy 24 days before the start date, the average premium is £672/year. And getting cover a few days either side of this optimum time can still bag huge savings, with 20 to 26 days before showing a difference of less than £15 in the average price of quotes.

If you choose to get quotes on the day you need cover to start, it's an eye-watering £1,218/yr – a MASSIVE £546 A YEAR more expensive on average than buying at the optimum time.

The research also shows a steady increase in prices from 20 days before until five days before, at which point it's £275/yr more expensive on average than getting quotes on the cheapest day. After this, the average quote shoots up day-by-day, with people getting quotes the day before cover is needed paying an average of £390/yr more than the cheapest.

Even those being overly organised and getting their insurance too early overpay. Buying 30 days in advance (the earliest you can usually get a quote on comparison sites) is £388/yr more expensive on average than buying on the cheapest day.

Why is there a big price variation between buying on different days?

Quotations are based on a number of factors, such as car type, driving history, where you live and much more –some will even quote differently depending on what time of day you buy.

It's all 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 for getting a quote 30 days in advance, it's basically because there are fewer insurers returning quotes at that stage.

Will buying insurance three to four weeks in advance guarantee the best price?

Not necessarily on its own. We've a set of tricks and tips to try below to help you bag the cheapest premium:

  • Try counter-logical tricks. It's all about risk averages and 'actuarial' tables, which can lead to bizarre ways to save. Use trial and error to see if comprehensive's cheaper than third party or if you can save by tweaking your job description. Adding extra drivers can cut costs too if they're a lower risk than you. This is especially strong if you're a young driver adding a responsible older driver, but it's worth a try for others too.

  • Check your renewal price. It's usually sent 28 days before it's due – call your provider if you don't get it.

  • Three to four weeks before you need cover to start, use comparison sites. If you get a better quote than you've had so far, it's likely to be the cheapest you'll get. See our Car Insurance guide.

    If you're not ready to buy the policy, many insurers will let you 'lock in' a quote once you have it, so you can buy later (assuming nothing changes in your circumstances, eg, you don't get a speeding ticket or have an accident).

Here are more tips on getting the right price:

  • If you're at renewal, it's easy. NEVER automatically accept your renewal quote – use our car insurance tips to bag the cheapest deal.

  • If you're midway through your policy, check if you can save. For a £50ish admin fee (factor that into your costs), you can usually cancel your existing policy and get the rest of the year refunded, provided you've not claimed.

  • Combine comparison sites to find your cheapest deal quickly. There's no single cheapest insurer, as prices are different for everyone, so check them all between three and four weeks before you want your insurance to start. See our Car Insurance guide for more.

  • Then check the big firms that comparisons miss. Aviva* and Direct Line* won't appear on comparison sites and can be competitive.

  • Also check the hot deals comparison sites miss. See our full list of current hot deals.