Looking forward to teaching his son to drive, wheelworldreviews.co.uk editor DAVID HOOPER needed smelling salts and a cup of sweet tea to get over the shock of the insurance premiums he was quoted.
IT’S the moment the parent of every teenager dreads – the day they turn 17 and take to the roads for the first time, with their provisional driving licences clasped firmly in their sweaty hands.
For my wife and I, that moment has arrived. Our son is about to turn 17, so with the insurance rewewals for both of my own cars now due, I wanted to make sure I would be able to add him to my policy as a named driver at the appropriate time.
I know insurance for young drivers is expensive, and I thought I might have a few problems, but I wasn’t prepared for the figures that were quoted to me. They were so high it left me wondering how any young driver can ever afford to protect themselves and other drivers from any future “mishaps” and although there is still is no excuse, I now understand why there are so many uninsured drivers on our roads.
Our family car is a 13-year-old Audi A4 Avant with a 150bhp 1.8-litre turbo-charged engine. At the moment it’s insured through the Institute of Advanced Motorists scheme, with a renewal fee for my wife and I of around £270. The policy only covers “safe” drivers over the age of 25, so there’s the first problem. My second problem is my other car, a 1969 Morris Minor convertible, which is insured on a limited mileage, agreed valuation policy which will only cover people over the age of 21.
I visited a broker, a few doors away from the office and provided all the relevant information on both vehicles, and left them to find me some prices. When the phone rang the following afternoon, I was advised to sit down, squarely in my seat. They could do nothing with the Minor because they used the same company I was with, and while they could find a policy that would take my son, the premium was . . . wait for it – a staggering £4,000!
Now here are two responsible parents who want to help their son learn to drive, while accompanied, in the family car – an old family car at that. Yes, it’s reasonably powerful, I know, that’s why I chose it a few years ago, but there’s nothing wrong with powerful cars so long as you treat them with the respect they deserve and learn to drive them properly – something I will ensure my son does.
The alternative, I was told, was either change the family car, or buy our son a car of his own – which is something I don’t agree with and will not do. I may help him, but I want him to put his own money into it as well so he has an incentive to look after it and himself.
I then rang More Than, which put me through to their Select branch which will consider young drivers. After a soul-sapping 25 minutes on the phone giving my life history to a call centre in India, I was given a quote of £2,843. It was better than £4,000, but still pie in the sky. I’m a journalist, not a banker who’s given stupidly large bonuses.
So, I decided to play. Ok, I said, let’s put the excess, the amount you pay if make a claim, up to the maximum, in this case £1,100. That brought the premium down to £2,829. Some company’s, I’m told, don’t now make much differentiation between fully comprehensive, or third party, fire and theft insurance, but I thought it was worth a try. For third party only insurance – not fire and theft – I got the figure down to £2,372.11.
This is a crazy situation to be put in by the insurance industry. I want to help my son learn to drive properly and I can’t afford to insure him on the family car. How many people could at prices like those? Why isn’t there an insurance that allows a young driver to drive the family car ONLY when they are accompanied by a parent/qualified driver.
A spokesman for the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, Brian Burns, said: “I think £4,000 seems a hugely disproportionate amount of money for what you are trying to achieve. Insurance companies will say that young drivers are at greater risk of an accident in the first year after having passed their test, and statistics show that, but it seems a huge amount of money.
“Where there is high unemployment, everything is stacked against young people and in a rural county like ours, a driving licence is essential to get young people into employment.
“With insurance costs so high it makes some people go down the route of not having insurance at all, and again, the penalties for not having insurance seem disproportionate, but we wouldn’t ever advocate anyone driving without insurance”.
Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said: “Unfortunately the high premiums reflect the very high risk that young drivers pose. The likelihood of them being involved in an accident is much greater and the cost of repairs is much higher.
“There are incentives out there, like the Pass Plus scheme, which will help bring down the cost of insurance for young drivers.
“We would like to see a longer training period, a minimum period of say a year, before a young person can take their driving test, so they are more experienced before going out on the road on their own.
“A key risk to insurers is not damage to a vehicle, but personal injury claims – costs for insurers can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“If a young person is involved in an accident which results in another young person ending up in a wheelchair for the rest of their life there is no upper limit to a potential claim.”
As for my suggestion of a police which allows a young driver to drive only when accompanied by a parent/qualified driver, Mr Tarling said enforcement would be difficult.
So my quest continues to find an acceptable solution. I suspect it could be a long one!