Friday, June 1, 2012

Cheap car insurance and the insurance groups

The theory of buying a new car is always straightforward. You watch Top Gear, see something spectacular, toddle off to the nearest dealer's showroom, plonk down cash and drive away contented. Well, if that's your approach, you're either a company director who gets one of these eye-watering bonuses, or you've never tried to buy and insure a car before. Let's go back to Jeremy Clarkson and his happy band of cartoon-like presenters who often sacrifice intelligent comment for humour. Many of the cars shown are expensive to own and repair. Before you even begin dreaming of buying one of these often sleek speedsters, check which insurance group it belongs to. Remember, you're looking for cheap car insurance.

Until 2010, there were only 20 groups. This reflected a general feeling that insurers could predict the costs of repair with enough accuracy to set premiums. However, following work done by Thatcham, the motor insurance repair research centre, the groupings were expanded to 50. This is now adopted as standard by the Association of British Insurers and Lloyds Market Association. For each group, there's now an estimate of the cost of parts and labour following a crash test at 15 mph. The other factor influenced by Thatcham is vehicle security. This takes account of the locks and any other security features fitted as standard. So the car you would like to buy may be allocated to Group 18 and have an A for an adequate level of security (E shows the security provided exceeds the group expectation, i.e. the car would be shown as a 17E). For obvious reasons, it's unwise to buy a vehicle which has a D or U security classification.

The rule is that you get cheap car insurance when the car is in a low group. The majority of newly manufactured cars intended for the mass market are within the range 1-20. But do not assume that small underpowered cars will belong to a low group. Some of the Fiat Bravo range are in Group 17, the HGT is in Group 29.