Equality legislation means some mixed fortunes for drivers,

Women face steep increases in car insurance costs as insurers increase premiums ahead of rules banning them from using gender as a factor in pricing.Motorists are paying some 60 per cent more for car insurance than they were at the end of 2006, but premiums have stabilised in recent months, latest figures show, writes Jeff Salway

The cost of comprehensive car insurance for male drivers has fallen by 1.8 per cent to an average of £869 over the last year, according to the latest Confused.com/Towers Watson index.

Women paid an average of £751 over the same period – but female driver premiums are on the rise.

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After 20 December this year, insurers will no longer be allowed to charge different premiums to men and women because of their gender, under a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in March 2011.

Drivers renewing their policies after that date will have their premiums adjusted to reflect the gender-neutral status, a measure that will make insurance more affordable for young men in particular but send costs soaring for women. Experts believe premiums for female drivers could rise by up to 25 per cent.

New evidence suggests that insurers are already raising premiums for female customers as they prepare for the pricing change, which will also affect the pricing of pension annuities.

Female drivers aged between 17 and 20 paid £1,766 less on average for car insurance than their male counterparts in the first three months of this year, the Confused.com/Towers Watson index shows. The typical fully comprehensive car insurance policy for a 17- to 20-year old female in the first quarter was £1,869, compared with the £3,635 cost for the average male of the same age. But the research also revealed that women in many parts of the UK have seen their premiums soar by almost 10 per cent.

Gareth Kloet, head of car insurance at Confused.com, said: “Overall we’ve seen insurance prices come down marginally but, some women are seeing significant increases in their premium.

“The European Union gender equality law … comes into effect on 21 December, 2012. As a result, we expect women everywhere to see hikes to their car insurance costs.”

The latest premiums index from the AA, to be published next week, is also expected to show that while premiums for men aged 17 to 22 have fallen slightly this year, women in the same age group have seen an increase.

Young male drivers have benefited from the wider use by car insurers of so-called smart box (telematics) technology, which rewards safe driving behaviour.

The ban on gender pricing means that more insurers are looking to adopt telematics systems.

The free technology, used by insurers including the AA, Co-operative and specialist Coverbox and Insurethe box, tracks driving behaviours such as speed, cornering, braking and the time of day or night at which the car is on the road. The Co-operative recently claimed that drivers with telematics installed are 20 per cent less likely to have an accident than those with conventional insurance.

Just one in ten car insurance policies is based on telematics, but Ian Crowder, spokesman for AA Insurance, believes that could rise to at least half after the gender ruling comes into force.

“Because it is gender-neutral, telematics is likely to become increasingly widely accepted by younger drivers post-ECJ,” said Crowder.