YOUR MONEY: Insurers offer personal touch for the Nth time

AS THE the first N-registered cars hit the road on Tuesday, their owners may have given insurance of their new toys less thought than went into buying them.

August is the busiest time of the year for buying car insurance and - as with any kind of cover - it pays to shop around. As companies chase each other's customers for business, many are offering special discounts and improved claims service, and a few pence spent on phone calls might save pounds on your premium.

The last time the N-registration came around in 1975, the only way to buy motor insurance was through a broker. Direct insurers did not hit the UK market until 1982, when Preferred Direct arrived, and there were very few incentives around, let alone discounts.

Nowadays, the least one expects is a no-claims discount, and most insurers offer payment by instalments. Neither was offered in 1975. Preferred Direct, for example, now offers a new car to replace a N-registered one if it is a total write-off within 12 months of first registration, access to Clearway - a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year claims service - and action within two hours of a report being made. A free courtesy car is provided, and the damaged car will be returned, spick and span inside and out.

"The new few years will see a shift towards a more personal service, as direct insurers target retention and cross sales," says Trevor Bloom, assistant general manager of marketing at Preferred Direct. "The emphasis will no longer be on improving call turnaround times but on responding to customers as individuals."

Direct Line, which offers a no-frills service - so no free courtesy car - has its efficient Teleclaim service. You just ring up with your policy number; the person at the other end takes the details and fills in a form on his or her screen. The nearest repairer can be faxed and the car collected within hours. It will be valeted before return.

"We have just commissioned a Mori survey, which shows that an overwhelming number of people - 84 per cent - would switch policies if they receive poor claims service. The garages we use have to sign up to service standards, and if they fall behind we send a team in to find out what is going wrong," says a Direct Line spokesman.

Eagle Star Direct has recently launched low-mileage discounts and varying discounts for payment methods. On claims, it says its basic objective is to deal with simple claims at one touch of the phone.

Guardian Insurance is introducing new discounts on 1 September, which will benefit owners of older cars, policy holders who have younger drivers on their policies, and a 10 per cent loyalty discount after two years.

Churchill Insurance gives discounts for couples, women drivers, low mileage, security devices, and people over 45. Married couples will get a third off their premiums. "However cheap the insurance, the most important thing you should look for is a good claims service," says a spokeswoman.

"People don't want to be off the road while their car is being mended, so they require a courtesy car and quick service. We have just opened the first ever insurance company-owned accident and repair centre in Rother- ham, which should improve our service even more. And we intend to open another 10 to 12 in due course."

A new package of discounts has also been announced by Direct Line. Discounts of up to 10 per cent will be offered to limited-driver policies - restricting cover to up to four named drivers - and increased discounts for insured and spouse policies. Over 150 particular ranges of cars that have shown to have a better than anticipated claims record will also qualify for premium reductions of up to 5 per cent, and 150 postal districts will also receive reduced premiums.

Preferred Direct's most popular discount is the 20 per cent reduction in premium for every accepted referral. "Some people manage to pay nothing on their premium because they introduce so many people," says a company representative.

AA Insurance has just launched a new pay-as-you-go breakdown cover to its policyholders. Special AA cards are being issued to 1.1 million policy holders, and one call to its Claimline should bring an AA patrolman or garage agent to the rescue.

It also pays to use specialist insurance companies if you fall into a specific category, such as being over 55, or own a special car. Age Concern Insurance Services has launched its new motor insurance policy underwritten by Shead Motor Policies, which is available to anyone over 55, with no upper age limit. "One of our oldest clients, I think, is 94 years old," says a Shead spokes- woman. "We find most of them are far more honest, so do not overclaim."

The no-claims bonus goes up to a 65 per cent discount, and loyalty discounts can push this up to 77.5 per cent. It offers additional discounts for immobilisers and low annual mileage, and does not penalise policy holders for health conditions that many older people suffer from.

Independent Insurance specialises in classic cars and other non-standard cover includes high-performance and kit cars, drivers with too many driving convictions, medical conditions or high-risk occupations. It has just revised its booklet, Simple Guide to Classic Car Insurance.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Life and Style
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
REX/Eye Candy
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Asset Manager

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

Investment Analyst

£33000 - £40000 Per Annum Discretionary profit share: The Green Recruitment Co...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350 - £4...

Day In a Page

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
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?