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Young, first-time drivers face a real challenge trying to find affordable car insurance. Premiums for 17-year-olds can be prohibitively high. But there are ways to reduce the cost of cover if you know where to look and what choices to make.
By law, you must have valid insurance before putting a key in the ignition. There are three levels of cover that ensure you are legal to drive on UK roads:
Third-party is the most basic level, and covers damage and injury to others caused by you when driving your insured car
Third-party, fire and theft insurance also pays for losses you incur if your car is stolen or if it’s damaged or destroyed in a fire
Comprehensive insurance covers all of the above, as well as damage to your car and on-board property along with medical costs if you’re injured in a crash that’s your fault
When you take out car insurance, you’re asked whether you’d like to cover any voluntary excess, which is the amount of any claim you’re willing to pay upfront before the insurer steps in to cover the rest.
In theory, the higher the excess you pay, the lower your premium, but it’s not a clear-cut decision. First cars are often cheap, and there’s no point in opting for a high excess that would leave you liable for the entire value of your car.
Also, remember that insurers usually add a compulsory excess you must pay on top of any voluntary excess you agree. In some cases, this can be higher than the cost of your car, meaning you’d receive no payout if it was written off.
Learner drivers need to be insured to drive on public roads, but that cover doesn’t have to be as a named driver on someone else’s policy or as part of a qualified instructor’s policy – you can insure your own car even before you’ve passed your test with a learner driver policy.
Insuring yourself as a learner means you can get fully comfortable with the vehicle you’ll be driving after you qualify. It’s relatively expensive, but is worth checking out.
Note that to drive your own car as a learner you’ll need a UK Provisional Driving Licence and be accompanied by a qualified driver aged 21 or over with at least three years’ driving experience.
The average annual car insurance premium for those aged between 17 and 24 is £1,912, according to the Consumer Intelligence car insurance price index. The high price reflects the fact that younger drivers are not just more likely to make claims, but that their claims tend to cost insurers more to settle.
Insurers base premiums on several factors. These include:
your road experience
your claims history
the age of your car
the type of car you drive
where you live
While you may be able to change some of these factors, 17-year-olds naturally have next to no road experience because that can only come with time.
And unfortunately for all the careful, sensible young drivers on UK roads, high premiums are still the norm because claims data shows that young people cause more accidents and make more claims than other drivers.
Put simply, they’re having too many accidents. According to road safety charity Brake, drivers aged between 17 and 19 are involved in 9% of road traffic accidents, despite making up just 1.5% of UK licence holders.
Insurers believe there are several reasons that the risk of insuring younger drivers is higher, including the following:
Poor assessment of risks – a lack of driving experience means young drivers don’t necessarily spot risks early enough to react
Speeding – novice drivers lack the experience to know the appropriate speed to drive, despite the speed limit
Not wearing seatbelts – peer pressure can encourage young drivers to forego belting up
Using mobile phones while driving – Brake found that 19% of young drivers admitted texting at least once a week while driving
Carrying passengers – accidents involving young drivers are more likely to happen when they’re distracted by other passengers in the car
Younger passengers – young drivers tend to carry friends of a similar age, who if injured are entitled to claim on the third-party element of the driver’s insurance. Given that younger people have a longer life expectancy, the cost of treatment and rehabilitation can be huge over the term of their life
Driving at night – driving when tired is dangerous, and as more young drivers are likely to drive at night for recreation, they’re involved in a higher proportion of accidents
According to a House of Commons report, the average 16- to 17-year-old in work earns around £200 a week. Affording a premium of almost £2,000 can be daunting – and insurance is expensive for everyone, so relying on parents to cover the cost of your insurance alongside their own may not be feasible.
It makes sense to find ways to pay less for insurance. Here are some options:
It’s your first car. Given the higher risk of it receiving a dent or two, it makes sense to opt for a cheaper model with a smaller engine.
Cheaper cars are less likely to attract thieves and vandals, and they tend to rank lower in policy providers’ list of 50 insurance groups. The higher your car’s group, the more it costs to insure.
A car’s registered owner is free to add named drivers to their car insurance policy. Typically, this would be a parent or sibling aged over 25. Insurers look favourably on named drivers as it means some of your annual mileage will be driven by a more experienced driver.
Note that if it’s your vehicle and you’re going to do the bulk of the driving, you must be the main policyholder. Applying for car insurance using someone else as main driver and you as named driver is known as “fronting” and is illegal.
Telematics or black box insurance policies reward good driving with potentially lower premiums.
A GPS-enabled device installed in the car tracks braking and driving speeds as well as where and at what time you take to the roads. You agree to limit the number of miles you drive, although you can top up with some policies for an extra fee.
Some drivers don’t like the idea of their movements being tracked, but driving safely and sensibly (and abiding by policy restrictions like not driving at night) proves to your insurer that you’re a lower risk, earning you cheaper insurance.
Advanced driving courses typically cost between £100 and £200 but could save you more than this if you find the right policy. It’s worth noting that some councils offer discounts on the PassPlus course.
Adding alloy wheels, boosting the engine or enhancing the body work might make your car stand out from the crowd, but a car that’s more powerful or more attractive to thieves will inevitably cause your insurance premium to rise.
If you buy a car that has already been modified, consider whether it would be possible to reverse or remove the changes, then compare quotes with and without to see what difference it would make to your premium.
Even though you can expect to pay a hefty price for car insurance at age 17, policy premiums vary widely. For this reason, it makes sense to compare as many policies as possible to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
If you’ve compared all the policies out there and still can’t find insurance that’s affordable, you still have options.
You could ask a parent or older sibling if they could add you to their car insurance – or onto the family’s multi-car insurance – as a named driver.
The upside is that this allows you to legally drive on UK roads, but the downside is that you won’t build up any no-claims discounts, at least until you can afford a policy of your own.
Young drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents and make insurance claims, so car insurers charge them more.
No. Insurers cannot factor your gender into the cost of your insurance, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2012.
That depends on the cover you choose. It can cover all losses related to your car, including damage or injury incurred by yourself or others in a road traffic accident. It can also cover theft, vandalism, fire and more.
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By comparing car insurance, UK car owners could save money on their policy. The best value car insurance will offer the cover at an affordable price. Choose a cover plan from the best UK car insurance companies and see the online discounts they offer.
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Last updated: 7 May 2022