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Last updated: 29 September 2020
By age 18 many drivers will have up to a year’s driving experience under their seatbelt, perhaps a little more if they started with motorbikes or scooters. But in the eyes of insurers, they are still high-risk novices. Here we reveal how to cut the still high cost of car insurance.
Unfortunately for the thousands of careful, sensible young drivers on UK roads, the facts paint a bleak picture. Drivers age 16 to 19 are a third more likely to die in a crash than drivers age 40-49, according to the Department for Transport.
For an 18 year old, the fact that one-in-four drivers aged less than 25 will be involved in a crash within two years of passing their test is particularly sobering, considering many will have received their full licence while still 17.
Young drivers tend to have cars full of other young people and these friends get injured too in crashes. Paying out for a lifetime of care to a permanently disabled person costs more the younger they are because the care is expected to have to last for longer.
These statistics are not lost on insurers who base premiums on claims data, which shows young drivers cause a higher than average number of the most expensive claims. It explains why Consumer Intelligence reports that the average premium for a 17- to 24-year-old driver is £1,912.
Young drivers, arguably 18-year-olds in particular, are penalised by two things about which they can do nothing. First, they lack road experience, and this will only come with time.
Second, their brains are still developing, and will not stop developing until they reach their mid-20s. While they move from childhood to full adulthood, they are still liable to react emotionally rather than logically, rashly rather than sensibly, which is not ideal when driving.
The result is a greater desire to take risks, show off and bend to peer pressure. The evolving brain and a lack of road experience can be a fatal combination, but it’s more frequently just very expensive, whether or not the driver avoids a crash.
Younger drivers tend to drive for recreation, typically with a car full of noisy friends as passenger. Driving takes concentration and too much noise can be a distraction, increasing the chance of the driver not spotting a hazard until it is too late.
This isn’t the only problem facing 18-year-old drivers. Having passed their test several months before, perhaps they may feel more confident and pay less attention to the road ahead.
Also, they are more likely to be influenced by passengers egging them on, or by mates in other cars on the same route. This can result in any of the following behaviours:
not wearing a seatbelt
All of which can lead to an accident or points on their licence, which means a hike in subsequent car insurance premiums.
Sensible driving aside, there are plenty of things you can do to keep the cost of car insurance down to the minimum. It will still be expensive, but at least it’ll be a little more affordable.
Having passed the driving test many 18-year-olds immediately get on with buying their first car. You should be able to buy a fairly decent one for a relatively small outlay, but choose wrong and your car could be worth less than your annual insurance premium.
The problem is many of the more popular cars are in higher insurance groups, meaning they are more likely to be involved in accidents, stolen or broken into and cost more to repair. Check to see what insurance group your dream car would be in before handing over any money.
If possible, opt for a smaller car, ideally with a less powerful engine so you can build up experience without taking a massive insurance hit while you still lack experience and a no claims discount (NCD).
After the nail-biting experience of having you drive their beloved car when learning, now might be the right time to repay the favour and add your mum, dad or a sibling to your policy as a named driver.
The big advantage of having a second, experienced and ideally over 25-year-old on your policy is that insurers will conclude that a proportion of the miles driven in the insured car will be done by someone with a good track record. This could mean a lower premium.
If you opt for a cheaper car, don’t fall into the trap of adding modifications, such as body kits, alloy wheels or an aftermarket exhaust. These will increase your insurance, as they either boost the engine’s power output or make the car more appealing to thieves.
Should you buy a car that has been modified, run two car insurance quotes on a comparison site, one with and one without the modifications disclosed. If the difference is significant consider having the upgrade removed.
The average motorist clocks up between 6,000 and 7,000 miles a year. A fairly high proportion of these drivers will use their car to commute to work, or travel to holiday destinations, which an 18-year-old is arguably less likely to do.
Drivers aged under 25 drive half the number of miles a year than older drivers. As an 18-year-old you’re unlikely to know how many miles you’ll cover over a year, but you should be able to make a rough guess having been on the road since passing your test.
If your typical driving pattern is to cruise around your neighbourhood for recreation rather than work, with mates for passengers, try to gauge what you do in a typical week and multiply it for the year.
Black box car insurance, also known as telematics car insurance, is used to track how you drive. Depending on the policy it might just check your mileage, so if you find yourself driving close to your agreed annual limit you can top up.
Alternatively, it could monitor your speed, braking, and when and where you drive. If you drive safely and within the policy limits, which might prevent driving at night or on a motorway, you could get a partial refund, if you transgress, you might have to pay more.
Some young drivers don’t like the sound of black box insurance, but if it means you can get on the road, it must be worth considering. And, it has an additional benefit as if your car is stolen, the GPS-monitored black box will be trackable.
Several organisations, including PassPlus and IAM RoadSmart, offer advanced driving qualifications in the form of day courses. These typically cost between £100 and £200, which may sound steep, but if they save you money on your insurance they could be worthwhile.
When you next apply for car insurance rerun your quote as if you had taken an advanced driving course. If the difference is in the region of what you’d pay it may be a good idea, especially as it’ll stand you in good stead for many years to come.
When you apply for car insurance you are asked what voluntary excess you are willing to take on. This excess is the amount you are willing to stump up in the event of a claim before the insurer steps in.
However, it is only part of the total excess as insurers tend to add a compulsory excess, which can be several hundred pounds.
Raising your voluntary excess too much, or selecting a policy with a hefty compulsory excess can help lower your premium, but they could leave you covering the whole cost of repairs, or empty handed if your car is a write-off.
There are three levels of car insurance for drivers on UK roads:
third party, which covers damage or injury to others caused by you in a road traffic accident
third party, fire and theft, which also pays out in the event your car is damaged or destroyed by fire, or is stolen
comprehensive, which covers all losses incurred by you to a third party
When searching for car insurance, don’t presume third party cover will be the cheapest. Insurers often hike the price of third-party cover as they know it will appeal to drivers looking for cheap cover. In fact, comprehensive cover can be cheaper.
The best, most reliable place to find the cheapest car insurance for 18-year-olds is on a price comparison site as you can see a vast number of potential policies on the results page and tweak your requirements, such as excess levels, to see what works best.
Given you cannot drive on UK roads without valid car insurance the simple answer is no. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a policy in your own name to drive legally.
While you can’t pretend that someone else is the main driver of your car to benefit from cheaper insurance, as that would be fraud, you can be a named driver on another person’s car.
Many 18-year-olds will not have their own car, and may not be insured on a parent or sibling’s car either. Yet, they might need access to a vehicle for a short period of time, such as if they are transporting their belongings to university.
In this case short-term car insurance cover may prove useful, and certainly less expensive than annual cover.
Drivers aged 18 are more likely to be involved in accidents and make insurance claims, so car insurers charge them more.
No, it is a legal requirement to have at least third party car insurance cover to drive in the UK.
Yes, you must be insured if learning in your car or someone else's. Find out how to get learner driver's cover here.
It can cover damage to your and another driver's car after an accident. It can also cover theft, vandalism, fire and more.
It is the amount you have to pay towards any claim you make. Find out how car insurance excess works here.
No, this is known as fronting and is illegal. The main driver must be the person who drives most, but you can add a named driver to your policy.