Three main factors determine the price of your car insurance. The first is the type of vehicle you drive and how well you maintain it. The second is how you drive and park it. The third is how an insurance company perceives you as a customer. The second and third points generally overlap to some extent.
This means that the key to getting the best deals on car insurance is to do as much as you can to score highly on all three points. Both individuals and fleets can use much the same strategy here. There may, however, be a few differences in how they go about implementing it.
The three main risks to vehicles themselves are accidents, thefts, and damage. In most cases, they are likely to be in that order. In theory, the type of car you drive should not influence your chances of being involved in an accident. In practice, the type of car you choose can influence how an insurer perceives your approach to driving.
To be fair, these are largely understandable and probably fair overall. People choose their cars for a reason. This means that somebody who buys a powerful sports car is probably going to have very different priorities from somebody who buys a family run-around.
Obviously, in the case of fleets, there’s a bit of nuance. For example, a chauffeur service may have high-powered vehicles that are driven very safely. Insurers will apply common sense here. Just keep in mind, however, that even with fleet vehicles, your choice of vehicle is likely to influence how you are perceived as a driver and customer.
Insurers typically prefer unassuming, workhorse vehicles with relatively low power and few to no modifications. They also tend to prefer more modern vehicles. These benefit from the most modern safety features.
Maintaining your vehicle
Insurers can’t directly judge how well you maintain your vehicle. They only know whether or not it needs to be MOT’d. If so, they know whether or not it passes. They can, however, indirectly judge how well you take care of your vehicle through your claim’s history.
As insurers well know, the better maintained a vehicle is, the less likely it is to cause an accident through mechanical malfunction. Similarly, it is also less likely to experience out-of-warranty damage. Keeping your vehicle well-maintained can, therefore, reduce the cost of your car insurance, albeit over time.
Driving and parking your vehicle
When you are driving, the main risk to insurers is you getting in an accident. When you are parked, the main risks are accidents and theft. The main factors that influence these are your mileage, your driving skills and history and your parking location(s).
Both your driving risks and your parking risks increase with your mileage. This means that reducing your mileage can significantly reduce your car insurance. Obviously, the usefulness of this knowledge will depend greatly on your situation. For example, some fleet managers will already have pared their fleet’s mileage down to the absolute minimum.
Other people, however, may have scope to reduce their mileage if they take a close look at their driving habits. This may even include some fleets. It’s certainly worth assessing, particularly since it can save you a lot of money in other areas too (e.g., fuel/electricity).
Your driving skills and history
As a rule of thumb, the less experience you have, the more weight qualifications have. This means it can be well worth taking the Pass Plus course as soon as you can after you pass your main driving test.
More experienced drivers may find it helpful to take periodic refresher courses or at least lessons. This can help to ensure that you’re still driving the way you should. Quite bluntly, you don’t want to find out you’ve developed bad habits by getting into an accident.
In fleets, some drivers will require periodic retraining (e.g., HGV drivers). It is, however, still advisable to monitor their performance between retraining sessions. For other drivers, it’s advisable to assess their driving skills regularly and organise retraining as/when/if necessary.
If some drivers are more at risk than others, then it could be advisable to ring-fence them on a separate policy. That way, their specific issues will only affect the premiums you pay for those specific drivers.
The importance of defensive driving
On a public road, you can only control your own vehicle. It would be nice to think that other people would all behave responsibly. In reality, however, you cannot guarantee that. This means that you have to practice defensive driving. This is how you build up your no-claims bonus. It’s also how you save on both fuel and wear-and-tear.
In short, you always need to be focused on the road. You need to predict and prepare for both transitions (e.g., stop lights and turns) and hazards. You also need to be alert enough to respond quickly to hazards that come out of nowhere (e.g., drivers pulling out suddenly).
To do this, you’ll need to ensure that your car is set up correctly for you e.g., the seat is at the correct angle. It also helps to think about comfort. Avoiding discomfort can make it easier for you to focus on the road. Try adding a cover to your steering wheel and putting a custom car mat down to cushion your feet.
Insurers don’t like modifications, but they love any technology that makes driving and parking safer. This includes driver aids, car-trackers, alarms and immobilisers and monitoring equipment. Full-scale on-board CCTV may be for fleets only but regular dashcams can be very helpful to private drivers.
Your parking locations
Learn the basics of safe parking and follow them at all times. Select your location with care, keep valuables out of sight and use security aids as much as possible. Even a basic steering-wheel lock can help to deter criminals.
Making yourself an attractive customer
Resist any temptation to embellish your insurance application form, e.g., by getting creative with your job title. Resist naming someone as an additional driver if they are a regular driver. It can, however, be helpful to list an experienced driver as an additional driver on a policy, especially if the main driver is a young adult.
By contrast, make a point of informing your insurer promptly about any changes in circumstances that may influence your premiums (either way). Likewise, make sure you always fully comply with both your policy requirements and the law. Report all accidents no matter how minor they seem.
Be prepared to shop around thoroughly for the best deal. To do this, you’ll need to think carefully about your requirements. For example, do you really only need third-party insurance or would fully comprehensive give you a better deal? Would you be happy with a “black-box” policy where your insurer tracks your driving habits?
Could you accept a higher excess and/or pay your premiums annually? Either of these options could significantly lower the cost of your car insurance.
Tracy Hill is the Marketing Manager for Car Mats UK, a leading car accessories manufacturer based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. All of their products are made in Britain by their amazing team of skilled workers.