Best car insurance companies 2018

Which car insurance company looks after you best when you make a claim? Our Driver Power survey compares the big hitters

Comparison websites have made buying car insurance easy. Simply type in your details and there’s a list of providers that are happy to take on your business in an instant.

Figures from the Association of British Insurers show that premiums reached record highs at the end of 2017, with the average annual policy costing £485. With this in mind, and sites that often rank providers based on the cheapest quote, many buyers often go for that first. But this is only half the story; firms that settle cases quickly will save some headaches.

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One reason policies are going up in price is the increased cost of repairing new cars, so providers that don’t scrimp on the quality of work can make up for their steeper premiums.

Yet finding the right provider isn’t easy, which is why we’ve analysed the top 25 of the 54 insurers rated in our Driver Power survey across seven categories, giving you a closer look at each.

All aspects of insurance were taken into account, from buying a policy to claiming on it. We asked how friendly staff were, and if the terms were clearly explained. When it came to making a claim, we quizzed owners on whether they were kept informed and if their provider was quick to settle.

Finally, we wanted to know whether you thought the policies were good value for money.

How much is your premium?

Data from the ABI shows that premiums have reached record highs, so the cost of a policy is often on people’s minds. Four per cent fewer people said they paid less than £300 for their insurance than in 2017.

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Overall, the proportion of motorists who paid less than £500 for their policy fell, with the number forking out more rising. Last year, one per cent of drivers paid over £1,500 for their policies; that doubled this year. With premiums rising, the next chart will be important to pay attention to.

If you asked for a discount, how much did you negotiate?

While the percentages look impressive, bear in mind that just five per cent of buyers asked their provider for a discount. However, when you see some of the savings these drivers made, it’s clearly a habit all buyers should get into.

Over half of those who requested a discount shaved up to 10 per cent off their policy. Even more impressive is that nearly a third were given 11-20 per cent off. On an average policy that’s a saving of up to £97 for 27 per cent of buyers.

As always, some buyers got even bigger discounts. Insurers are clearly flexible with their prices – you just have to ask.

How long did it take to settle a claim?

Claiming on a policy is never fun, but every driver wants the matter to be resolved quickly and fairly. This is where insurers really separate themselves out.

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Compared with last year, fewer drivers had their claim processed and settled in less than a month, while the time period that saw the biggest jump was between four and six months, up from 12 to 16 per cent. Worryingly, three per cent of drivers had to wait over a year for a settlement, with some waiting more than two years. If you want the best service when you really need it, then pay attention to this speed to settle claim category in our rankings.

The best car insurance companies 20181. NFU Mutual – 96.01%

NFU Mutual is making a habit of acing our insurance satisfaction survey, having now swept the board for three consecutive years. With no shareholders looking to extract a return, it’s able to direct all its efforts and investment into products that work for its members/policy holders – and the results are clear to see. Our winner outperformed rivals in every single category except one – a frankly stellar result that speaks volumes about the high regard customers have for their insurer of choice. It’s no wonder retention rates are stellar, too, and we take our hat off to NFU Mutual for providing such consistently great service.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 93% No 7%

2. Police Mutual – 93.06%

You may not have heard of the Police Mutual society unless you’ve served in the thin blue line, or are related to someone who has. Nonetheless, it’s been providing financial services since 1866, and with fairly relaxed rules on family membership it might be worth checking out whether you have a qualifying relative – especially in the light of the superb feedback it’s earned here. A host of second, third and fourth places across virtually every category tells you all you need to know about its commitment to service. In fact, with such high scores, the 11th place for satisfaction with information supplied during the assessment phase looks slightly churlish.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 93% No 7%

3. Liverpool Victoria – 90.83%

Liverpool Victoria is a friendly society, so has no shareholders and is owned by its members. Although its car insurance policies are issued by a subsidiary company, there’s evidently an ethos at LV to put the customer first. A raft of third places – and, just as impressively, no category scores falling outside the top 10 – have helped the firm reach the third step on our podium. It’s an improvement on LV’s already strong ninth place overall in 2017, and doesn’t leave too many options for further gains. LV’s ‘worst’ category was ease of purchase – but even its 10th place there will be jealously regarded by rivals.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 85% No 15%

4. Privilege – 89.66%

Privilege is a branch of the Direct Line Group and specialises in selling car insurance over the internet – a business it’s obviously got down to a fine art judging by fantastic feedback in the ease of purchase category. Seventh place for value for money is Privilege’s only other stand-out score, but it performs decently across the board with no categories marked below par. The result is a fabulous fourth place overall. That said, customers feel it could do better in communications while claims are being assessed, in the helpfulness of staff, and in payout time. This suggests it wouldn’t take much to raise the bar even further.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 70% No 30%

5. Axa – 89.29%

Although the name was created in the eighties, AXA has 300-year-old roots in the insurance industry. It was the result of mergers of various companies, some of which have been around since the 18th century. In the UK it has 10 million customers, and sells direct as well as via aggregator websites and brokers. AXA earns its laudable fifth place thanks to a bank of strong results around the claim process. Feedback is excellent when claims are being assessed, and speed of settlement is up with the best, too. Value for money is another winning attribute, but customers are only averagely impressed by the process of getting covered. Room for improvement.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 64% No 36%

6. Sainsbury’s Bank – 89.12%

Sainsbury’s Bank is the financial services arm of the supermarket giant, and it administers its own car insurance business rather than buying in a ‘white label’ product. It does things pretty well, too, according to our survey respondents, who voted the brand into a very creditable sixth place overall. Purchasing cover is pretty easy, and one of the brand’s highest ratings is 10th overall for value for money. Claimants are happy shoppers as well, with plaudits offered for speed of settlement and the telephone process. There’s room for improvement when informing customers during the claim-assessment period, yet even this score is decent.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 73% No 27%

7. Quote Me Happy – 88.96%

Quote Me Happy is an online-only insurance brand from UK multinational Aviva, and it seems to be living up to its name with a very solid seventh place under its belt. It’s an online-only service when getting quotes and purchasing cover – a process rated just outside the top 10 – but when claims are made the call centre steps up to the mark and delivers an impressive level of service. The staff attitude is very positive, and the telephone claim experience is good, too. Satisfaction drifts a little when it comes to information provision when claims are assessed, and value for money is rated as good but not exceptional.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 73% No 27%

8. Sheilas’ Wheels – 88.93%

Sheilas’ Wheels is a provider aimed at women drivers, and it’s clearly doing many things right. However, there’s also a huge disparity between some of the categories, with ease of purchase being way adrift. Yet this is about the only blemish on the report card, as the company definitely comes good when things go south. Respondents awarded top five ratings for several categories, meaning exceptional satisfaction with speed of payouts, the telephone experience and helpfulness of staff. Sheila’s parent company Esure could learn a thing or two, though; it ranked 44th overall and staff earned 43rd place for helpfulness.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 67% No 33%

9. Zenith – 88.77%

Gibraltar-based Zenith Insurance’s performance is far from rocky, with terrific scores for how it deals with claims and a very strong top 10 result for value for money. Zenith attracts many customers via aggregator websites such as Compare the Market, Confused and GoCompare, where price is often the prime motivator. But this means customers can be fickle, with nearly half expecting to shop around for their next deal. Still, Zenith seems to be working well for customers, with decent ratings for ease of purchase, informing claimants of progress and speed of settlement. Staff friendliness and helpfulness is in the top half of the table, too.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 56% No 44%

10. Nationwide – 88.26%

A top 10 rating for customer satisfaction suggests Nationwide has got quite a lot right about its insurance product, but if you’re heading over to its website on the strength of that recommendation you’re in for a disappointment. Yes, Nationwide has pulled the plug on its car insurance business to concentrate on other areas where it feels more at home. The move won’t affect existing policies, so if you’ve got one enjoy it while you can. You and the Nationwide’s other customers rate great value for money, speedy payouts and terrific call-centre staff who are great at keeping you up to date on your claim. So where did it all go wrong?

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 73% No 27%

Lowest ranked car insurance companies 201821. RSA – 86.76

RSA is a British multinational with 17 million-plus customers globally, and it does a lot of business in the UK via comparison websites and brokers. It’s easy to join the party, too, with customers awarding RSA the top score for ease of purchase when it comes to car cover. If only the rest of the experience lived up to that early promise, but unfortunately the firm is scored poorly on keeping customers informed during the claims process. Value for money isn’t well rated, either. With the telephone experience, friendliness of staff and speed of settlement struggling to meet average satisfaction levels, there’s lots more that could be done.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 89% No 11%

22. Churchill – 86.66%

The nodding dog made Churchill famous as one of the first direct insurance companies in the UK. But the plastic pooch isn’t the friendliest or most forthcoming with info when claims are processed. Good scores on speed of settlement and the overall phone experience mean customers overlook some of the shortcomings, and overall satisfaction with the claims process is relatively high. Churchill’s poorest showing is for ease of purchase, which ought to be a fairly simple area to improve, as should friendliness and helpfulness during claims. Value for money looks average, and a quarter of Churchill customers plan to find a new insurer.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 76% No 24%

23. Dial Direct – 86.49%

This online broker attracts most of its customers through price comparison websites. Judging by the responses from our survey, customers find it easy to get their cars covered – a top-six rating – but are less impressed by the aftersales service. You might think that’s a consequence of a competitive pricing policy, but Dial Direct’s value for money rating is only average. In fact, it’s the friendliness and helpfulness of staff during claims that lets the side down badly, and the overall telephone experience isn’t great. Speed to settle claims is below average, although Dial Direct is at least a little better at keeping claimants informed of progress.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 59% No 41%

24. General Accident – 86.14%

It’s a name that’s been around for 100 years, but General Accident is now part of the Aviva group – the UK’s largest insurer. GA’s website promises to “give customers support and reassurance when they need it most”, but our respondents suggest it needs to work harder on the telephone process when making a claim, and also with keeping claimants informed. On the plus side, GA is pretty speedy to pay out claims, and overall value for money is on the better side of average. Friendly staff raised the overall scores, but overall satisfaction with the claim process is disappointing. Getting cover in the first place could be easier too.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 75% No 25%

25. Co-op Insurance – 86.14%

Formerly the Co-operative Insurance Society, this company is owned by the same group that sells you groceries. A very high rating for ease of purchase suggests getting cover for your car isn’t much more difficult than picking up a pint of milk, but there’s less praise for the rest of the experience. Customers seem unimpressed with the time Co-op takes to settle claims, while the organisation scored little better on keeping claimants up to date. Surprisingly, even value for money isn’t rated very highly; that’s something we’d expect a brand like the Co-op to get right. Nearly a third of customers who responded don’t plan to renew.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 71% No 29%

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