Posts Tagged ‘car insurance’

mazda at glasson

The mass-produced motor-car ushered in a revolution from the late fifties to the present day, essentially and literally mobilising the working class. It got people out of their towns at the weekend and it got them to work. As the bus and rail services were wound back in response, it seemed the future of transport was private rather than collective. But then we did it to death and made so many of the damned things they’re now killing us. But things are changing, motor-cars on the brink of becoming elitist again.

I’ve noticed in the last decade a decline in youngsters learning to drive, mainly due to the cost of insurance for first timers. You can still easily pick up a sturdy used vehicle for less than a grand, but it will cost a kid twice that to insure it, and there aren’t the jobs around for your average youngster paying that kind of money. When my own kids were learning I subbed them their first premiums but not all parents are in a position to do that.

So, it may be in the future we’re looking at collective solutions again, more busses, more trains. As for the pollution problem we’re hoping to address that with the increasing use of electrical vehicles (EVs) – at least for those who can afford them – though the futurologist in me says EVs will stall in the UK because we’ve barely the generating capacity to keep the lights on without everyone rolling home at tea time and plugging their cars in as well.

Cars have always meant a lot to me. They’ve got me to college, to work, taken me all over the UK for pleasure. The car I’m driving at the moment has given me the most pleasure of all, rather an old Mazda MX5, but still quite lovely to look at, and even with ninety five thousand on the clock still drives like new. For a one point six litre engine the road tax is pretty steep, and long ago outpaced my old-timer insurance premium, but then I’ve only to think of cruising the Dales with the top town in summer, and I pay up happily. Yes, she’s a bit of a polluter, but at the moment I have no other choice. It’s not her age, indeed newer petrol cars are worse, generating more CO2 than cars did a decade ago, mainly because demand for smaller cars is being overtaken by demand for gas-guzzling monsters.

I’ve always driven older cars. It’s the cheapest way to get around, and if you look after them they’ll go for ever. Yes, things go wrong with them more often than with new cars, but if you can’t fix them yourself, you take them to your local independent mechanic and he sorts them out for you. But newer vehicles are no guarantee of reliability. I’ve had a newer car but it came with a design fault in the transmission that was essentially unfixable. In my experience, new cars and dealerships are to be avoided if you’re of a frugal mindset, and finance for a car, indeed for anything, is enslavement.

I paid £2500 cash for the Mazda, six years ago and I’ve spent another thousand on her since in bits and bobs of repair. Like most cars she’ll do a round trip of a few hundred miles on half a tank of petrol and there are three filling stations within a couple of miles of home all competing for pennies on the price. However, I understand the push to rid the roads of the internal combustion engine, and furthermore I understand that push will come primarily from year on year hikes in vehicle excise duty, that eventually my beauty will have to be scrapped or sold to some rich petrol-head with more money than sense, and a penchant for the endearing qualities of older MX5’s.

So then I look at what’s coming and find electric vehicles still just don’t have the range. They’ll get you to the shops and back, but that’s about it. And the prices, of course, are eye-watering – twenty or even thirty thousand being considered pedestrian in the EV stakes. Nor does the second hand market offer much scope as yet, with the costs of replacing dud batteries easily outstripping the value of the vehicle. With some vehicles you can lease batteries, but that’s a form of finance that’s never ending. Things may change in time of course but we’ve still a long way to go.

Of course sworn urbanites don’t see the need for private transportation at all, and fair enough, because the cities are generally well served by bus and rail. But in the rest of the country there’s no alternative. My nearest town for food and other essentials is a twenty minute drive, or an hour by bus that runs once every ninety minutes. I could go to another town by train that runs once every hour and a quarter, but those services are more often cancelled, requiring rescue by taxi. I could forgo the trip (indeed I often do these days) and order everything online, but that’s only passing the pollution miles on to the van man who delivers your stuff.

There are interesting times ahead, but thus far horses and carts still seem to me a more viable alternative to internal combustion than anything else I’ve seen, so I’m hoping there’s enough petrol left to see me and my old Mazda comfortably out. There are a couple of nags that graze the field at the back of my house, and I recall I did once learn to ride. The only downside I recall is they’ve no brakes and, at times, a weird sense of humour.

Still, I wonder.

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For years now I’ve delegated the shopping around for the cheapest car insurance to a well known (UK) breakdown and recovery organisation. I’ve had no problem with this until now: they send you a renewal notice a few weeks before your car insurance expires, along with a note to say that “so and so” is the cheapest deal they could find, and you believe them, because they wouldn’t lie to you would they,  so you pay it.

Last year the insurance premium on “Old Grumpy”, a 1.8 litre Vauxhall Astra, cost me just over £400, which I thought was a bit pricey, since I’m nearer to 50 years old than 19, and haven’t had a claim in nearly 20 years (touch wood) but hey: the world’s economy has just collapsed and everything seems to be falling down or getting blown up or flooded,  and things in the world of insurance are consequently  a bit dodgy at the moment, so I paid up. Today, however, I received notice of my renewal and this year the absolute cheapest quote  was £650.00.

When I read this I had a Broadgate Meadow moment, swore in disbelief and did something I’ve never done before: I got on the phone to the well known (UK) recovery organisation and asked if they’d perhaps made a mistake?

No, there was no mistake. Things were topsy turvey in the world of insurance sir, but we can reduce it by £100.


Have I got this right?

There’s no mistake; after all your hard work on my behalf, £650 is the cheapest quote you can find me, but because I ring to query it you can knock £100 off it straight away without so much as a sharp intake of breath?

Me-thinks there’s something funny going on here – a dimension to the universe of insurance providers that lies hidden to the rest of us, is mysterious, intangible, mercurial.

So, my insurance was now down to £550,  but this still seemed rather high to me, so I said I’d think about it. Meanwhile, the call centre bod passed my details on to a mysterious  “special office” to see if they could reduce it still further.

Perplexed, head in hands, and wondering if I should finally trade Old Grumpy in for a 50 cc moped, I checked online with an independent insurance provider who quoted me £360 – and that was the gold plated version: legal fees, protected no claims, enhanced courtesy car, blah-di-blah-di-blah.

I was about to sign up to this when  the “special office” of the well known (UK) breakdown and recovery organisation came back with a further reduction of £150.

So,.. wait a minute: you were going to charge me £650 , but because I queried it, you were suddenly able to reduce it to £400?

I’ve allowed the well known (UK) breakdown and recovery organisation to manage my car insurance for more years than I can remember, but I was forced to take my leave of them because, although I recognise  my trust was naive, I lost that trust today, took charge of  my own shopping-around and saved myself nearly £300 in the process.

My advice? Obviously, whoever your car insurance is with don’t just pay it when you get your renewal. Your apathy is an essential part of the financial services business model, and these are tough times, so be vigilant, or you’ll be the one getting shafted.

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