‘It’s insane’: motorists are driven to extremes by soaring insurance costs

Even though he is a qualified driving instructor, Rob Jaques was not immune to the rising costs of car insurance. The 36-year-old from Derby recently saw a sharp increase in his renewal premium on a 2019 Seat Ateca.

“I was baffled as I have actually just proved, again, the quality of my driving and road knowledge,” says Jaques. Even shopping around was fruitless and his provider, Churchill, was the cheapest option, so he had to lower his cover. Now he is no longer insured for losing his keys, hotel expenses if he breaks down, or misfuelling.

“I’ve got a kid on the way, I couldn’t afford to spend the difference, so I had to take cheaper cover.”

Drivers around the country are finding the cost of insurance has spiralled in the last year. Average comprehensive cover is now £561 – almost a third more than the same time in 2022, according to the latest figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The increases come as insurers pass on the rising costs of parts and materials, while repairs have been getting more expensive as cars become more sophisticated.

Observer readers have spoken of the impact of the huge rises and what they have done in response. Several have lowered their level of cover, like Jacques, while others have increased their excess, reduced mileage, or agreed to install tracking devices. But many rely heavily on their vehicle and are unable to follow suit.

Clare Hodgkin
Clare Hodgkin

When her insurance for a 2012 Honda Civic came up for renewal in October, Clare Hodgkin, 32, was quoted about £600, when it had been just £250 the year before.

“It’s insane – I didn’t expect it to have gone up by that much for people who’ve been driving for a while,” says the social worker, who has had no claims in eight years.

The best quote she could come up with was still double that of the year before for the same comprehensive cover. “It’s all happened at once. With my job it’s mandatory that I have a car, so it’s something I’ve got to pay.”

Mark Weber, 52, from St Albans, saw his Audi A3 car insurance go from £403 last year to more than £1,500 three months ago.

“Everything on offer was £900 or more, with minimum excesses of over £400,” he says.

“The only affordable option was from Hastings Direct, which, for £600 and with an excess of £250, requires me to drive with a widget that monitors my driving and scores me. It feels weird to drive with something like a speed camera permanently monitoring you, but it seems better than paying extortionate rates.

“Where we live now it would be very difficult to get by without a car. It was a bit of a shock, because we lived in London for 20 odd years, where we only used the tube.

“But the petrol price combined with the insurance price makes car ownership questionable. We are yet to be affected by the higher interest rates, and we still don’t know how much our mortgage is going to rise.”

Diana Morrison, 38, a project manager from Bradford, was incredulous when the annual insurance quote for her 2020 Range Rover Evoque rose a year ago from £450 to £1,300.

But then that more than doubled to £2,800, despite a “huge excess” and being the cheapest quote she received on a price comparison website. “I am actively looking to swap my car for a brand and model that won’t cause me to pay such astronomical amounts for my insurance,” she says.

Diana Morrison regrets her choice of car because of crippling insurance premiums, and is looking to swap it for a cheaper model.
Diana Morrison regrets her choice of car because of crippling insurance premiums, and is looking to swap it for a cheaper model.

However, others have decided that they are now priced out of car ownership. When he retired and returned to the UK this summer after two years abroad, Richard Scrase, 66, decided against buying another vehicle.

He was paying £264.49 for comprehensive insurance until November 2021, but found the same level of cover for a similar electric vehicle brought up quotes beginning at £460.

“I use a car club and an e-bike,” he says. “At the drop of a hat you can get a car with a club. If you don’t need to own a vehicle, the costs are so high you think, ‘Why have you got this?’”

Mark Davis*, from Kent, sold his Mazda in October after his insurer raised the cost of his comprehensive cover. “Even with inflation we couldn’t see how they could justify the hike. We complained, but they were entirely unsympathetic,” he says.

He and his partner then worked out how much the car, which they didn’t use much, was costing in insurance, MoT, and petrol – and decided to sell .

They now rely on public transport, cycling and walking, with the option of hiring a car when necessary. It has been liberating. We are better off financially and of course healthier,” he says.

“We live about two miles from Tunbridge Wells, so it’s cyclable and walkable. I understand if you live further out in the sticks it would be an issue.”

*Name has been changed


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