When I first passed my driving test at the tender age of 17, I can remember almost falling off my chair at the insurance quotes I received.
We’re talking four figures for paltry old third party, fire and theft’only. Ludicrous. Especially as I was driving a battered old Volvo 343 – a less desirable motor it would be hard to find.
Granted, for all they knew, I drove like a young lunatic. The good news was that my Volvo struggled up a hill. Speeding was, to be frank, not something it was capable of. I was a horribly boring/sensible young driver (delete as applicable).
But, I comforted myself, when I got older, that the cost would come tumbling down as long as I didn’t regularly take out fellow motorists with some misjudged manoeuvres. And, for all but a clumsy slow-motion bit of reversing into someone in a supermarket car park many years ago, I achieved that.
That initial pain was brought back to me by reading an article a (young) colleague wrote this week highlighting the financial costs involved to actually learn, pass, buy and insure a car in this day and age. I have complete sympathy.
But, young folk, rest assured, us oldies are still getting clobbered too.
Now in my fifties, I was somewhat taken aback when my insurance provider sent me my latest quote. In the space of a year, it had shot up from £265 to £578.
That is, wait for it, a 118% increase in the space of 12 months. Ouch.
I knew quotes were sky-rocketing but that was, I felt, a trifle ridiculous.
So off I trotted to a friendly online price comparison site and the best I could still get was £420. Still a nigh-on 60% price hike. Still ruddy painful to my can-only-afford-to-pay-monthly-thus-paying-even-more-than-that-through-interest bank balance.
But here’s the interesting part.
In March of this year, as I was driving into the Dartford Tunnel, the traffic suddenly slowed and so did I. However, as I Iooked in my rear-view mirror it was quite clear the car behind me wasn’t going to make it in time.
For what seemed like an eternity but was actually only seconds, I braced and sure enough it kindly slammed into the back of me. My car had its exhaust knocked off and a bit of a dent in the back. But, sounding like someone who’s just been in a fight, you should have seen the other guy.
They had a jumbo dent in their bonnet. Fortunately, pride was the only personal injury on the day.
We exchanged details – much to the chagrin of the motorists stuck behind us - and as the damage to my car didn’t look too horrific, I asked if they wanted me to get a quote in case it would be better to avoid having to go through our insurance companies. From past experience I knew that even being in a crash in which I was completely the innocent party, my bill would still go up as a result (“because,” I was once told on the phone, “you’re now the sort of person who is involved in crashes”. True, but a little unjust I thought. I’m also the sort of person who just happened to be in a queue of traffic when someone behind me wasn’t paying attention).
So, when I eventually got home, I popped down to my local independent garage and got a quote on the repair. About £370 they said. However, presumably, as their car had come off worse, the driver that hit me wanted to go the insurance route.
To cut a very long, very boring story short, I was quickly informed I was not at fault and the entire bill would be picked up by their insurance company. My precious no-claims bonus unaffected. Despite not really needing one, I was told to take the offer of a hire car as mine was shipped off to Dover (I live in Thanet) and the (minor) repairs conducted.
The hire car was, I must admit, rather swanky (comfortably nicer, newer and bigger than mine – not particularly difficult to achieve) and I spent the week petrified of damaging it.
The final bill their insurance company coughed up? £975. That’s £600 more than it could have cost. Now, granted, that could include the repair to the other car too, but given my hire car alone must have cost a minimum of £200 for the week I had it and assuming the repair they did was similar in cost to the quote I received, that leaves a mere £175 for the other car… and I’m not including the costs involved in shipping my (perfectly drivable) car half-way across the county for the repair to be carried out. All of which seems a bit of a stretch of the imagination.
The extra, hidden, cost of that crash I was an innocent driver in? An extra £40 on my premium. The sort of ‘penalty’ I bristle at.
All of which makes me less surprised when I see the frankly exorbitant insurance quote I’ve just received.
Yes, the claim was handled swiftly and effectively, but I did become acutely aware of the ‘industry’ behind each claim.
Cut that back, I’d argue, and we could get those prices back down to what, in this cost-of-living crisis era, we could all stomach.