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Quirks in car insurance application questions inflate quotes by hundreds of pounds

Written by: Emma Lunn
Tenants and divorcees typically pay more for cover, according to Which?

Seemingly irrelevant personal details can inflate car insurance premiums by hundreds of pounds, according to research by the consumer champion.

A snapshot investigation by Which? found that differences between questions asked by car insurance comparison sites and individual insurers – and the resulting assumptions about a driver’s circumstances – can increase car insurance costs for many people.

When using a comparison site to purchase car insurance, drivers are asked a single set of questions agreed by the insurers on the panel rather than answering each insurer’s unique set of application questions.

This can lead to insurers gathering slightly different information about drivers to base their prices on than they would using their own questions, with two insurers confirming this can lead to different prices being quoted for the same person.

For example, Which? found that some insurers offer discounts of as much as 15 per cent for dashcam owners, but only one of the four major comparison sites gave drivers the chance to specify whether they owned one or not.

Incorrect assumptions

Which? also found that while it is compulsory to declare all recent driving incidents, not all comparison sites let you specify which incidents led to insurance claims, resulting in some insurers making incorrect assumptions.

Which? checked the questions sets of four major comparison sites. It found that and MoneySuperMarket did not let drivers specify whether they had claimed on a reported incident.

Researchers tested a scenario using both sites, where a south London-based driver had recently damaged his car, but had not claimed for the repairs. When checking the assumptions made by the insurers offering the 10 cheapest quotes using these two comparison websites, two insurers – Hastings Direct and Churchill – wrongly guessed the driver had made a claim, and factored this into the premiums they quoted.

When corrected, but Churchill lowered the premium by £207, and Hastings Direct by £10.

Churchill said anyone purchasing insurance through a price comparison website who is unsure of the details that need to be provided should phone their preferred company to provide any further detail.

Hastings Direct said some price comparison sites don’t give drivers the option to differentiate between an incident without a claim or a claim, so assumptions are made

A statement from the insurer said: “For this reason, when the customer clicks through to the Hastings Direct website, we do give the customer the option to check their data which would enable them to specify further their claims data and disclose more information or to continue with the data they have entered into the price comparison website.”

MoneySuperMarket said it worked with insurers to make sure it was asking customers the right questions so they can provide a quote, but it didn’t control how insurers interpret the data, nor any assumptions they make.

Irrelevant customer information

Which? also found that seemingly irrelevant customer information collected by insurers, such as home-ownership, marriage status, or job title, can have an influence on premiums if insurers find a correlation between these factors and making a claim based on existing customers’ data.

Which? ran a set of quotes for the south London-based driver, and found that quotes were around 4 per cent cheaper if they were a homeowner, and 4 per cent more expensive if they were divorced than if they were married.

The way drivers describe their job title can influence premiums, too. When the driver in Which?’s scenario described himself as a painter (working in art), his cheapest premium was £372, but when he listed himself as an artist, it was reduced to £343.

Jenny Ross, editor of Which? Money, said: “When it comes to buying car insurance, drivers should be more empowered than ever thanks to comparison sites, incentives, and introductory offers. So it’s concerning to find that drivers may be left out of pocket as a result of factors beyond their control.

“To beat these pricing quirks, be sure to compare different routes for buying your insurance, look at various levels of cover from different providers, and shop around every year to make sure you’re getting the best price.”

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