Enough to make you want to walk away

You might find the acceleration exciting, but the insurance will turn you off, writes Tim Collison

"Female, early 30s, lives in west London, managing director of an advertising agency, drives a Porsche".If this were an ad in a lonely hearts column, the high-flying executive would be deluged with responses. If it were a proposal form for car insurance, there would be just a handful of suitors.

While just about everybody is trying to sell you car insurance these days, most are scared by off by fast and expensive cars. Car insurance is largely a high-volume, quick-sell business. Fine for a Vauxhall Astra, but anything considered high risk or unusual, like a Porsche or Ferrari, will be rejected by most companies selling cover over the telephone.

Admiral and Privilege Insurance may quote for owners of fast cars living in London, but if you are thinking of splashing out on an expensive motor, you will be able to find better deals through insurance brokers or through manufacturers' schemes and owners' clubs.

Most good brokers should be able to sell you specialist policies, but there is a handful of dedicated brokers in this field, notably High Performance, Performance Direct and Adrian Flux.

These firms know all the ins and outs of insuring high-performance cars and are able to arrange the most suitable cover. They are also often in a position to beat insurers down on the premium.

Don't expect to get a bargain: expensive cars command expensive premiums. For example, a company director, aged 45, living in north London with a 1998 TVR Chimaera, garaged, with a nine-year no-claims discount would pay a premium of pounds 1,027 with an excess of pounds 350 for cover with GAN Insurance. Insure a pounds 370,000 limited edition F50 Ferrari and your premium is likely to be more than pounds 3,000 with an excess of at least pounds 1,000.

If you are uncertain whether your car will require specialist insurance, the general rule of thumb is that anything over 200 brake horse power (bhp) is considered to be high performance by most insurers.

Several insurers at Lloyd's of London, such as Crowe and Ibex, will offer good premiums for cars ranging up to the pounds 50,000 mark. However, once you get into the big league stuff, such as a pounds 100,000 Ferrari 355 Berlinetta, your broker will probably recommend one of two insurers: Norwich Union or Orion.

Most insurers will only offer comprehensive cover. You should also expect an excess of pounds 200-pounds 600 on most fast cars.

While high-performance car insurers take many factors into consideration when calculating a premium, there are a handful of key issues that could shift the price several hundred pounds in either direction.

Firstly, insurers are wary of young drivers with fast cars and some of the specialists will hike prices for owners under the age of 25. Sabre Insurance tends to be competitive for young drivers, but will not insure any of the really high value stuff.

Driving experience is also important. Insurers such NU, Crowe and Orion will often discount the premium if the policyholder has completed an advanced driver training course or can demonstrate he or she is a fast- car enthusiast. Likewise, if the driver is looking to insure a Porsche but has only driven a Ford Fiesta, a higher premium may be quoted.

The risk of theft will play a big part in the underwriting process and so you need to check whether the policy has a warranty requiring you to garage the car at night and also whether any security provisions are required. For the likes of Jaguars and BMWs, most insurers will require an immobiliser. For cars above pounds 50,000 in value, you will need to have an alarm, an immobiliser and a tracking device.

However, most really high-value cars are stolen to order by professional thieves, shipped overseas and never seen again.

You should look for a policy that offers an emergency breakdown service and courtesy car while yours is being repaired. Norwich Union charges pounds 35 for RAC assistance and Highway pounds 40. Also, ask what sort of courtesy car you are likely to get. If you drive an Aston Martin but your replacement car is a Fiat Punto, you may be looking at the wrong policy.

Most owners of high performance cars are also usually into high-performance car stereos, so you need to ensure that the insurer is not being stingy on the music equipment and personal effects section. Porsche Insurance Services offers unlimited cover for car hi-fi equipment that is supplied and fitted by Porsche. GAN offers between pounds 350 and pounds 500 for hi-fi depending on the make of car, Orion has a limit of pounds 500, Norwich Union pounds 200 and Sabre pounds 150. Many of these will be flexible on these limits, so make sure the broker bargains on your behalf.

If you are looking to insure a older high-performance car, your broker will probably suggest either Sabre (part of CGU) or Highway at Lloyd's. Both of these companies are experts in this field.

But don't expect the premium to be cheap. For example, a musician aged 30, living in east London, driving a pounds 15,000, 1990 Mercedes 300CE would pay pounds 1,650 with Sabre. Highway and Sabre are also known to be accommodating with modified high-performance cars, for example where an owner has added skirting, wide arches or tail fins to the body of the car. These will not affect the premium, but enhancing the engine will.

And finally, think carefully before you buy a "grey market" high performance car - vehicles built for local markets and then exported. One of the best- known grey market cars is the Mazda Eunos Roadster, the Japanese version of the Mazda MX-5 cabriolet. Buy the imported version and you could save several hundred pounds, but you may pay a lot of it back on the insurance.

The problem is that getting spares for these cars is difficult and expensive and so most insurers will hike the premium and increase the excess to counterbalance the increased repair costs. Insurers such as GAN and Sabre will not insure a grey import.

n Tim Collison is editor of `Professional Broking' magazine.

n Brokers: High Performance, 0800 849 5000; Performance Direct, 0870 716000; Adrian Flux, 01553 774477.

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