Insurance without the headaches

Information sources: where to go to find the best deals on vehicle and home cover

ONE of the most distressing things about buying house or car insurance is the thought that perhaps you are paying too much. But premiums have been falling, and if you give yourself plenty of time to ring round, you can probably make some savings.

You may qualify for a discount because you have put decent locks on your car or your house, or because you belong to a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, or because you are home all day, or because you put your car in a garage or do very few miles in it, or because of your job. Civil servants, teachers, police, firefighters and clergy, for example, can all pay lower premiums, either because they are considered low-risk or because they have banded for a group discount. If you belong to any organisations (a trade union, the National Trust or the Institute of Advanced Motorists, for example), they may have negotiated discounts. Even so, a discount is no guarantee of the best deal. Other insurers may be cheaper for everyone.

q You can approach the insurer direct (Direct Line alone claims 11-12 per cent of the market), use one of the company's own tied agents (say via a bank) or you can use a broker or other intermediary.

q Neither brokers nor other (untied) insurance intermediaries have to consider all policies when making their recommendations. In particular, they will ignore policies sold direct.

Ask brokers how many insurers they can select from (broadly speaking, the more the better, including access to underwriters at Lloyd's). Registered insurance brokers have to be with the Insurance Brokers Registration Council (IBRC) and have to abide by its rules (on solvency and client money accounts, for instance) and to have professional indemnity insurance.

q To get the addresses of three brokers near you, contact the British Insurance & Investment Brokers Association (Biba) at 14 Bevis Marks, London EC3A 7NT (0171-623 9043), or alternatively use Yellow Pages. You can contact the IBRC at 15 St Helen's Place, London EC3A 6DS to check whether a broker is a member or for a copy of its How to Complain leaflet.

q Other insurance intermediaries are covered by a code of practice issued by the Association of British Insurers.

q It is especially sensible to shop around if you are a "difficult-to- place" risk, a young driver, for instance, or if you are disabled or in a high-risk occupation or if you have got a high-performance or old car, or if you live in a house with a high rebuilding cost. Privilege, a Direct Line associate company, specialises in non-standard risks for car insurance. Elsewhere, Norwich Union Direct reckons to be able to give quotes to 98 per cent of callers. Trawl through Yellow Pages to find brokers to help if you are not a standard risk.

q Other insurers specialise too. Saga, for instance, specialises in the over-50s, and Endsleigh in the academic field, that is, teachers and students (students should also look at what their parents' policies might offer). Help the Aged also has policies for the over-50s.

q A Which? report (try your local library) will help you compare the cover that is on offer, but there is no real alternative to reading the policy. Most policies are written in reasonable English now, so while it will never be fun, it is no longer a near-impossibility. Look out for any liabilities and excesses (maximum cover for valuables, costs of staying in alternative accommodation while your house is under repair, subsidence excess and personal liability cover, for example). Look out, too, for whether property is covered outside the home.

q The ABI produces information sheets that tell you what to expect most policies to include and that could be helpful when you are choosing cover. You can obtain copies by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the ABI, 51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ. On claims, the ABI has leaflets on Claiming on your Home Insurance Policy and What to do When Making a Motor Insurance Claim.

q To help prepare your claim, you may want to use a loss assessor. A good loss assessor will help you find specialist builders and surveyors to give quotes for repairing damage, will get quotes for whatever you need to replace, and help you make your claim. You may find a loss assessor on what is left of your doorstep after a fire or other disaster.

q You can take out insurance to pay for a loss assessor through a company called the Loss Recovery Group. Cover begins at pounds 9 a year for losses of up to pounds 25,000. Your broker should be able to find you details. LRG has a national panel of assessors who carry out the claims preparation work, or you can find a loss assessor through your broker or from Yellow Pages. Loss assessors may charge an hourly rate or a percentage of the claim.

q If you reach deadlock with the senior management of your insurer, then provided the company is a member, you may be able to turn to the Insurance Ombudsman. You can accept or reject any decision the Ombudsman comes to, and still go to court if you want to, but the insurer is bound to pay you awards made by the Ombudsman of up to pounds 100,000. The service costs you nothing. Write to the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau, City Gate One, 135 Park Street, London SE1 9EA for a How The Insurance Ombudsman Can Help You leaflet.

q Insurers who are not members of the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau may be members of the Personal Insurance Arbitration Service, operated by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. You state your claim and comment on the insurer's defence but the arbitrator's decision is then final, and you cannot go to court if you do not like it. Application forms are available from your insurer and the service is free to policyholders.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
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

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone