Couple’s outrage as car insurance hiked 90%: ‘Trying to mug me when I wasn’t looking’

Exclusive: The annual premium on Steve Blears’ Ford Focus estate was set to rise from £550 to £1,046, a blistering 90 per cent increase

Ruth Emery
Friday 11 August 2023 14:02 BST

Martin Lewis issues tips to save ‘hundreds of pounds’ on car insurance

When Steve Blears received his car insurance renewal letter last month and noticed his premium was going to almost double, he felt as though Direct Line was “trying to mug me when I wasn’t looking”.

The annual premium on his Ford Focus estate was set to rise from £550 to £1,046, a blistering 90 per cent increase.

The letter followed another one back in March, for his wife Penny Haslam’s Skoda Superb estate. Direct Line was going to hike that premium by 38 per cent, from £655 to £906.

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The couple from Lymm, Cheshire, have been loyal customers of Direct Line for a decade, with nine years of no-claims bonus. Mr Blears, 53, was so angry he sent the insurer a “sweary tweet, before deleting it!” and left “a stinking review on Trustpilot”.

David Trenner was stunned to be told his insurance quote had risen by 93 per cent

Car insurance is now the third-biggest bill for households, behind council tax and energy, according to the comparison site Exclusive data from the analyst Consumer Intelligence shows that average premiums rocketed by 48 per cent in the 12 months to June 2023.

Mr Blears, who runs a training and coaching business called Bit Famous with Ms Haslam, a former BBC presenter, said he thinks insurers are “using high inflation as an excuse to fleece customers”.

Ms Haslam, 51, added: “We haven’t raised our prices for clients this year; what makes insurance companies think they can hike theirs?”

Leigh Daniels’ Cupra Formentor will cost him 73 per cent more to insure this year

Mr Blears doesn’t normally shop around and compare quotes to get a better deal, as he says it’s too time-consuming and he thought Direct Line would value the couple’s loyalty. However, faced with the high renewal quotes, Mr Blears used MoneySuperMarket to see if he could switch to a cheaper insurer.

He has now moved to RAC for a price of £535, and transferred Ms Haslam’s policy to Aviva, for £536. They have saved £881 by ditching Direct Line and moving elsewhere.

David Trenner, from Liverpool, was also shocked to open a renewal letter from his car insurer and discover a massive increase in the quote. Esure said it was putting up the price for his Renault Clio from £283 a year to £547 – a 93 per cent hike.

Mr Trenner, 67, said: “I was pretty shocked. I expected a small increase because of inflation, but not 93 per cent.

“There doesn’t seem to be any point in a protected no-claims bonus if they do that. I had a claim about 15 years ago but I don’t remember the premium going up much then.”

Leigh Daniels only managed to get £26.09 shaved off his renewal quote

Another customer fuming about the cost of his car insurance is Leigh Daniels, a barrister’s clerk from Moulton in Cheshire.

The renewal for his Cupra Formentor arrived last week from LV, revealing a nasty surprise. The premium is set to soar by 73 per cent later this month, from £302 to £522. “I was so shocked and upset, the first thing I did was call LV and cancel my renewal,” he said.

Mr Daniels, 47, then spent a few hours on comparison sites but was shocked to find that none of the quotes were cheaper – in fact, they were all at least £100 more expensive.

“I then had to go crawling back to LV, but I did manage to get a mighty £26.09 off the renewal quote,” he said.

Mr Daniels still faces paying almost £200 more for his motor insurance compared to last year. He said the huge increase along with “the vast rise in the price of grocery shopping and utility bills is going to put an enormous strain on our family’s finances and we are running out of ways to subsidise these unacceptable increases”.

Some motorists are lucky to see smaller price rises – below the 48 per cent average increase – but these higher insurance costs are still a blow during a time of rising prices, from food shopping and holidays to mortgages and rents.

Katy Walton saw her premium hiked by 23 per cent

The premium on Katy Walton’s Mini Cooper Countryman recently rose by 23 per cent, from £392 to £482. “I was disappointed to see an increase of nearly £100 despite having been a loyal customer with LV for years, and I have accrued eight years’ no claims. I thought year-on-year you got rewarded with a reduction for good driving!” she said.

The 42-year-old from Wiltshire is juggling raising two sets of twins with her work as a freelance PR director and setting up a side hustle offering energy healing. She says she doesn’t have time to look for a cheaper quote.

Billy Simons, 20, from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, was also annoyed by a big jump in the cost of his car insurance. He drives a 2012 Vauxhall Corsa, and as a newly passed driver, his first premium with Hastings Direct was £760 last year. This year’s renewal price is £1,014 – a 33 per cent rise.

LV said it is sorry customers aren’t happy with their renewals. “Prices are going up everywhere at the moment and, unfortunately, insurance is no different. We’re doing everything we can to manage these trends and keep costs as low as we possibly can.”

Direct Line said: “We always encourage our customers to shop around for a range of quotes before renewing their insurance, to ensure they get the right cover to meet their needs if the worst were to happen and they had to claim.”

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