Every year, I receive a renewal quote from my current car insurer around the 1st October and, inevitably, the premium has increased. This launches me into a time-consuming online investigation into the alternatives to find the best value for money, but not necessarily the cheapest.
Finding the best deal isn't straightforward because, after entering all the necessary details, the comparison site produces a list of insurers in ascending order of premium rates. This, however, is just the start as I then had to ensure that the cover offered was correct for my needs. All insurers offer various add-on services that cost more and so this cost needs to be added to the basic premium to be able to draw a fair comparison. Add-ons include the Excess, Legal Expenses, Personal Accident Insurance, Breakdown Cover, Windscreen Cover, Courtesy Car, Premium Protection, and No Claims Discount. All either cost more or are already built in to the basic cost. It's important, therefore, to include the cost of the various add-ons that are required before deciding on the best value premium.
The insurers at the top of the comparison list included Hastings, Privilege, Churchill, eSure and Sheila's Wheels. Now, my car is just a smallish modern Ford (a Fiesta) so the insurers are usually competing strongly against each other to capture my business. If, however, I'd owned an older or much rarer car then there would be fewer companies interested and, therefore, the competition would likely be at a lower level.
There's an additional step I needed to take in that there's two insurers, normally very competitive, that never appear in the comparison websites - Aviva and Direct Line. So, I had to key in all the personal and relevant detail again, first for Aviva and then for Direct Line, to find out how much they would charge for the cover I wanted. Nope, they were not competitive on this occasion! With all the leading insurers and their prices now in my possession, I had enough information to be able to make an accurate comparison.
One aspect I haven't mentioned so far is the deposit that insurers require in order to be able to have the policy on a monthly premium basis. Some want a deposit of three months' premiums whereas others are happy to make it just a normal monthly payment. This is something that I needed to factor in.
What I quickly realised was that Hastings, for me, came out on top. I'd never had a policy of any kind with them before so I checked everything again and confirmed that, yes, this time I would opt for my first choice. Their monthly premium was the best, so I didn't need to pay monthly, and they came out ahead of the rest even with the cost of the add-ons.
It was a very satisfactory result, an experience that wasn't too painful at all and one that I'll happily embark on next year. That's unless LV give me a very good quote next year of course.