Drivers should take a direct route

Nine out of ten car owners are better off with insurance from direct sellers, says James Wootten, director of Insurance Selection.

This company is an independent telephone service that advises customers on cheapest car insurance deals. It holds the premium rates of over 90 per cent of the UK's car insurance policies - including those from direct sellers such as Direct Line and Admiral, as well as brokerssuch as the AA and Swinton.

Mr Wootten currently selects a direct insurer in 90 per cent of cases. This time last year the figure was 52 per cent.The shift reflects the increasingly harsh competition for market share, with direct sellers grabbing an extra 10 per cent of the market last year, and the aggressive challenge of the direct arm of composite insurers such as Guardian, Sun Alliance and Legal & General.

Brokers remain competitive mainly for non-standard risks. Young drivers, certain professions, high-performance cars and those with bad records often get poorer quotes from the directs.The exception to this practice is Privilege, the high-risk branch of Direct Line, which Mr Wootten says offers best prices in 40 per cent of cases.

Getting the best deal from a direct insurer is not always straightforward. Consumers can either call Insurance Selection to find the cheapest policy, or ring round as many of the directs as possible themselves. Insurance Selection charges customers 25 per cent of the savings made on their last year's premium, an average fee of £20.50. The next best method is to go to a broker, but premiums are on average 15-20 per cent higher than those of direct insurers. Mr Wootten says Hill House Hammond and Hexagon give consistently good value.

CAR INSURANCE PREMIUMS

Driver aged 40, max no claims, driving Rover 216 Si, 1600cc

Low risk area (Hampshire) £ Higher risk (Wandsworth) £

Best quote: Sun Alliance Direct 173.54 Best quote: Admiral 256.25

2nd: Preferred Direct 187.53 2nd: Guardian Direct 266.69

3rd: Churchill 193.00 3rd: Preferred Direct 270.34

4th: Guardian Direct 196.77* 4th: Royal Direct 277.87

Best broker's quote 202.95 Best Broker's Quote 297.00

Worst direct quote 245.65 Worst direct quote: 433.62

* protected bonus Source: Insurance Selection, tel 0171 639 9734

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