Cheap insurance – but for a price

Technology can save you money on your car insurance, says Ruth Jackson, but you must hand over your data first.


Dashcams cut prices

Technology can save you money on your car insurance, but you must hand over your data first.

The average cost of car insurance has fallen by 11% over the past year, according to comparison site, with insurers already pricing in expected changes tolegislation that should cut the cost of personal injury claims.

However, car insurance is still a huge expense, with an average annual premium of £752. Prices are still £37 more expensive than two years ago and £74 pricier than half a decade ago. The cost of insurance will need to drop by £252 before drivers get back to the days of the "rock-bottom" premiums of 2008, when car insurance cost just £499 on average.

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As you might expect, the people hardest hit by insurance premiums are young drivers. Insurers view their lack of experience on the road as a high risk, and their lack of no-claims bonus means they have no access to the main discount option. This means the average annual premium for a 17-year-old is an astonishing £1,889.

Cut costs with a black box

However, it's not all bad news. Premiums for young people have fallen by £403 over the past year, largely due to the popularity of "telematics". Also known as "black-box insurance", this is a great way to cut your car insurance premiums by proving that you are a good driver. If you opt for telematics, your insurer will fit a black box into your car. This allows them to check your speed patterns, braking, the types of roads you drive on, and the time of day you drive.

All this data allows the insurers to personalise your insurance policy. For example, insurers know that most serious road accidents happen late at night or early in the morning, so you could lower your premiums by agreeing not to drive during those times if you are happy to restrict your movements accordingly.

Smile you're on camera

Another way technology helps to cut insurance premiums is via dashcams. At the moment, dashcams are mainly used after an accident has occurred they can provide evidence of what happened in order to assign blame. If a driver can prove that an accident wasn't their fault, they can often avoid losing their no-claims bonus and the resultant increase in their premiums.

Some insurers offer a discount to drivers who have dashcams, with Swiftcover cutting 12.5% off its premiums and MyFirst and SureThing offering up to 30% off. Dashcams cost between £50 and £250, and can either be plugged into the electric cigarette lighter socket in your car, or connected directly to the fuse box. (If car maintenance isn't really your thing, Halfords will install a dashcam into your fuse box for £30.)

You can also turn your smartphone into a dashcam. A new app from insurer Aviva not only allows your smartphone camera to record events on the road, but it can also analyse your driving behaviour. Among other things, it will monitor your speed and how sharply you brake, and rate you out of ten on your motoring skills. Aviva then applies a discount of 14% on renewal for an average score of above five, and 28% for above seven.

But before you gleefully sign up for a discounted policy, it's worth considering just how happy you are handing over all this data on your movements to your insurer. Make sure you read the small print on exactly what data is being collected, how it will be used now and in the future, and how it will be protected. Though it will depend on factors such as whether or not your insurer installs the box for you, your driving data should be protected under EU legislation, which would prevent insurers from sharing your data with third parties or using it for other purposes.

Pocket money pensions dashboard not long for this world

The minister for work and pensions, Esther McVey, wants to "kill off" the government's planned online pension tracker, says Francis Elliott in The Times. The online dashboard, which was supposed to allow people to see all their pension funds in one place, was due to be launched some time next year though it was unclear whether this was a realistic deadline. McVey believes this service should not be provided by the government, and thinks it would be a distraction from efforts to roll out universal credit, according to sources quoted in The Times. It's expected she will wait until MPs' summer holidays before making an announcement.

Dying can have the unfortunate consequence of invalidating your home-insurance policy. However, relatives of the recently deceased are often unaware that their loved one's home insurers may not pay claims, says Sam Barker in The Daily Telegraph. Some insurance policies become invalid as soon as the homeowner dies, while others are invalidated if the home is left empty for a certain period after death.

Surviving family members must take action either immediately or within 30 days to ensure the deceased's property and possessions are still covered, says Barker. If the deceased was the main policyholder, but someone else lives in the property, they will need to apply to have the policy put into their name.Even if the insurer says that cover will continue, it is important to make sure any premiums are still being paid, as the deceased's bank may cancel direct debits after their death.

Mortgage options for young professionals have improved after Clydesdale Bank launched a home loan offering more generous income limits for people who've qualified into particular professions within the past five years, says James Pickford in the Financial Times.

The product allows accountants, architects, barristers, chartered surveyors, dentists, medical doctors, pharmacists, pilots, solicitors and vets with an income of £40,000 or more to apply for a mortgage of up to 5.5 times their salary (the typical limit is 4.5 times your income). Just note that you must have qualified within the past five years.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings accounts and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping, among many other titles both online and offline.