A policy for every paranoia

Your Money Worried about being kidnapped by Martians or having octuplets? Relax: you too can be covered, says Jean Eaglesham

Should aliens kidnap an earthling, seasoned moviegoers will know they are bound to pick on an American. Indeed, more than 100,000 US citizens have taken out insurance against just this possibility.

The British, however, seem reconciled to being ignored by other life forms - just six people have so far shelled out the pounds 100 premium required for a similar policy offered by London insurance broker Grip, which has the added twist of paying out double if the policyholder is also impregnated by the aliens.

Barmy insurance policies like this are easy to dismiss. As Simon Burgess, managing director of Grip, admits: "The policy's just a publicity stunt. If people are stupid enough to buy it, we'll charge them over the odds."

Many unusual insurance offers seem little more than opportunistic. Witness, for example, Eagle Star's decision a fortnight ago to promote its multiple- birth insurance policy on the back of the Mandy Allwood octuplet story. For a typical premium of pounds 41, a mother stands to get a payout of pounds l,000 if she has an unexpected multiple birth (you must take out the policy pre-scan). Given that only 13 in 1,000 births in the UK are of more than one baby, this means the insurer stands to receive premium income of more than pounds 300 for every pounds 100 it pays out. That is a nice earner for the insurer but looks expensive for the expectant mother.

Elsewhere, the mad cow panic earlier this year prompted a number of insurers to publicise the fact that their serious illness policies covered (or would now cover) Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). A stand-alone CJD policy costing pounds 10 a year was also launched by the broker Grip.

In fact, even on the most pessimistic forecasts, incidences of CJD will be far less than those of known killers such as cancer.

Moreover, the quality and cover of serious illness insurances also vary hugely. So clearly people buying such policies should beware buying simply on the basis of CJD being covered - better instead to concentrate on getting a policy that covers the big risks properly and at a reasonable price.

Nevertheless some of these unusual insurances are big business. Pet insurance, for example, grabbed the headlines in May when Patsy Bloom sold the company she founded 20 years ago- Petplan - for pounds 16m to Cornhill.

Elsewhere, big name insurers have put their weight behind, for example, insurance for gnomes and gardens (Norwich Union, for one) or even cancellation of your wedding (although not if it is due to either participant getting cold feet).

But despite the reassurance of such household names, a common problem with unusual insurances is that competition on premiums is much less fierce.

There is generally only a handful of companies offering any one type of policy, compared with the hundreds who compete to sell car and house insurance.

That does not preclude good value in some areas. Classic car insurance, for example, offers motorists good discounts, based on many classic cars being kept off the road all winter. Importantly, it also allows owners to insure their car for an agreed value rather than the standard market value of a car of that age and make.

Whatever the offbeat policy being promoted, there are a number of questions to ask.

o Is the risk already covered by your existing policies? This may sound blindingly obvious, but it is easy inadvertently to cover the same risk twice. This does not give you twice as much cover - you can only claim once for any given loss; it simply means you pay unnecessary premiums.

House contents policies often include an element of insurance for theft of garden furniture, tools and so on. So the question is whether you really need a specialist garden policy as well. Norwich Union, among others, promotes a policy designed as an add-on. But, as a spokeswoman concedes, this will appeal only to people "who are a bit more precious about their gardens". In other words, if you can live with molehills or the dog next door putting a hole in your hedge, do not buy the policy.

Can you extend an existing policy to cover the risk rather than buy a specialised one? This can often prove to be a cheaper option. For example, insuring a pounds 400 flashy new mountain bike in London via a specialist policy can cost pounds 100 a year. Insuring the same bike by paying for an extension to a standard house contents policy could cost pounds 35 or less.

o Is the cover worth the premium? This comes down to the fundamental insurance question: is it financially worth your while to have the cover just in case, or can you afford to take your chances?

Many people will find that the latter is the case. Take, for example, pet insurance. This is not cheap. Premiums for Petplan range from pounds 96 to pounds 197 a year for a dog, depending on where you live and the level of cover. Even cheaper policies such as the horribly named Waggy Tails Policy from Yorkshire-based Aims, underwritten by General Accident, costs pounds 65 a year.

If you could not afford to meet a vet's bill of around, say, pounds 500 if your pet had a serious accident, the cover may be worth having - especially as vet fees are said to be increasing. But if you could cover such a bill in an emergency, then the premiums probably are not worth it.

Jean Eaglesham works for 'Investors Chronicle'.

Are you prepared?

Bobbitting: a Penis Protection Plan sold in the US insures men, by the inch (no joke, apparently), against the kind of attack that befell John Wayne Bobbitt.

Kidnap by aliens: 100,000 Americans can't be wrong, surely; the UK version offers a double pay out if you're impregnated as well.

Disgrace: celebrities can, and do, insure for loss of earnings if they "offend public decency".

Drugs: for pounds 15 a year ("the price of a pill"), London insurance broker Grip offers cover of up to pounds 100,000 for anyone who suffers "permanent total disability" as a result of taking non-injected drugs.

Terrorist injury: for pounds 25 a year, Grip offers you pounds 100,000 of cover against the remote possibility of being a victim of a terrorist attack.

Rock stars and singers: Bruce Springsteen, for example, insured his voice for pounds 3.5m at Lloyd's of London. Wine tasters can also insure their palates, and models and actors can insure various anatomical parts.

Sexually-transmitted diseases and other illnesses for prostitutes: another Grip policy launched recently.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker