Victorian and NSW drivers could be paying much less for car insurance

The Age, Weekend Age Money. Derek Lightbody for story on car insurance. Simon Schluter 21 November 2017.
The Age, Weekend Age Money. Derek Lightbody for story on car insurance. Simon Schluter 21 November 2017.

Drivers from Victoria pay the most for comprehensive motor vehicle insurance in Australia, closely followed by drivers from NSW and the Northern Territory.

Victorians pay an average of $1345 a year, according to analysis from comparison site Mozo. NSW and NT drivers pay the second-highest premiums of $1240 a year. Tasmanians pay the least - only $811.

Mozo analysed quotes from 63 car insurance policies for more than 10,000 customer scenarios which, apart from showing a big disparity in premiums depending on location, also found big differences in what insurers are charging.

Where you live makes a huge difference to the cost of your car insurance with drivers in some states and territories paying almost twice that of similar drivers in other locations.

The research standardised the excesses to a reasonable amount, between $750 and $850, depending on the state or territory and excess options offered by the insurer.

The excess is the contribution you are required to pay towards a claim you make on your car insurance policy.

Generally, the higher the excess the lower the premium.

Comprehensive insurance covers your car for damage or loss caused an accident, theft and some natural events as well as covering the bill for damage to another car.

Locations that experience a higher number of accidents and thefts, for example, are likely to have higher premiums as claims are more likely.

"While it may seem unfair that your postcode determines how much you pay, there are ways to make significant savings on your car insurance," says Kirsty Lamont, a director of Mozo.

She says that is why it is important to shop around; though sometimes discounts apply if you bundle different types of insurance with the same insurer.

Huge differences

There are big price variances in what insurers can offer. Mozo found an average price difference of $1087 between the highest and lowest quotes for the same cover.

Bingle is rated by Mozo as having the cheapest car insurance out of the 63 car insurance policies compared.

Budget Direct and Suncorp were also among those found to offer good value car insurance for drivers looking for a minimum level of features.

Insurers use a number of factors to attribute pricing for an individual including age, gender, location, age of car, history of incidents and distance driven per year.

Mozo's research also found large price differences based on age and gender.

For example, a male 20-or-under driver in NT would pay an average of $3813 whereas a 20-or-under female in NT would pay $2722 a difference of more than $1000.

In NSW, a 70-plus female would pay an average of $761 while a 70-plus male would pay $855.

And comparing sexes, for all age groups across the country, males are quoted an average of $1083 while females are quoted $976.

Exclusions

Dr Allan Manning, the managing director LMI Group, a risk management company, says there are some exclusions on policies and new types of exclusions of which drivers should be aware.

He says that it is becoming common for hail damage to be subject to a claims cap or limit.

And more policies are excluding cover if the driver has an accident where the driver is found to be have been texting, Dr Manning says.

He also says more insurers are saying if you drive through a flooded waterway you will not be covered.

Young drivers may be able to keep their premium down by going on their parents' policy, but he warns they will forgo any no claim bonus when they eventually go onto their own policy.

A no claims bonus is a discount on the premium for not making a claim.

The maximum discount varies, but most insurers have a maximum discount of between 60 and 70 per cent.

The maximum discount usually accrues after five years of no claims.

There will also be an age or inexperienced driver excess in addition to the standard access if the young driver (usually those under 25) makes a claim on their own policy or on their parent's policy.

"However, if young drivers have their own policy, they may have a smaller age excess than if they are on their parents' policy," Dr Manning says.

Ride-sharing

Abigail Koch, spokesperson at comparison site Compare The Market, says that ride-sharing is an increasing focus of insurers.

"While Uber ensures its ride-share drivers are covered by comprehensive insurance, drivers working with other providers may not be," she says.

"It's important to inform your insurer as soon as you make changes to the way your vehicle is used, even if you only use your car for ride-sharing part-time," Koch says.

"If you make a claim and your insurer finds out that your car was being used in a way that was not listed on your policy, they may reduce or even refuse to settle your claim due to the policy conditions."

Consumer group Choice questions whether some drivers need comprehensive insurance.

That's especially for younger drivers with older rust buckets.

"You might be paying more than 10 per cent of the car's value every year in premiums; but on the other hand, nobody wants to be caught under-insured," Choice says.

Cheaper alternatives to comprehensive insurance include Third Party Property insurance. It does not does not cover your car, but covers the damage you cause to another car.

Big savings for canny driver who shops around

Victorians may pay the highest premiums for comprehensive motor vehicle insurance in the country, but Derek Lightbody, 51, is not among them.

Derek, who works in administration at a medical imaging business in inner Melbourne and lives in Eltham North, has three cars.

Generally, the higher the excess the lower the premium.

"I keep the excesses to about $700, not too high, as I think you can lose out by having an excess of more than $1000 - particularly if you live in the city - where an accident is more likely," he says.

By shopping around for insurance he reckons he has cut his insurance bill for his three cars to about half of what it would have been if he had gone with the first insurers he contacted.

For example, on his 10-year-old BMW X3, he obtained quotes of $1700, $1100 and about $900 from well-known insurers.

He ended up paying $730 a year through a "challenger" insurer (with an excess of $650), which is less than half his most expensive quote.

"The extent of cover for the policies for which I received quotes was comparable," Derek says.

He has also found his premiums can be cheaper, up to 10 per cent, by applying online rather than over the phone.

Derek says he has done this even with existing policies for which he had applied over the phone.

"When the renewal comes though, you can terminate the policy and take out another policy with the same insurer, but this time online to get the discount," he says.

This story Victorian and NSW drivers could be paying much less for car insurance first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.