Ask Jenny Ross: Can insurers still negotiate better prices after an initial quote?

You shouldn't need to downgrade to a Peel P50 microcar – launched in 1962 – to find a reasonable car insurance dealYou shouldn't need to downgrade to a Peel P50 microcar – launched in 1962 – to find a reasonable car insurance deal
You shouldn't need to downgrade to a Peel P50 microcar – launched in 1962 – to find a reasonable car insurance deal
Question: I received my car insurance renewal notice and worked out my premium had been increased by an eye-watering 29 per cent from last year. I rang my insurer to negotiate a better price, as I do every year. It told me it had stopped doing this as it was now against the law. Is this correct?

Answer: No! The member of staff who told you this seems to be confused to say the least.

It’s true that there’s been a big rule change affecting the way insurers can set their prices: since 1 January insurers have been banned from quoting existing customers a higher premium for renewing their home or motor insurance than they’d pay if they were a new customer.

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But it does not prevent them from giving discounts to customers who negotiate.

Instead, it brings a welcome end to ‘price walking’, which saw insurers ratchet up prices for loyal customers year after year, while setting aside their best deals to entice new customers.

This loyalty penalty was such an ingrained part of the industry that it even featured in insurers’ marketing campaigns.

You might remember a TV ad from Aviva a few years ago, where a customer disguises himself as a new customer in a desperate attempt to get a better deal, wailing "why can’t we all be treated the same?”.

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The Financial Conduct Authority, which is enforcing the ban, estimates that it will save people £4.2 billion over ten years.

The customers who stand to benefit the most are those who have spent long periods with the same insurer and have been less inclined to bargain down their prices.

But if you religiously shopped around and switched each year you’ll no longer be able to enjoy the exclusive discounts that you once received simply for being a new customer.

That’s not to say shopping around isn’t worthwhile any more – far from it.

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As has always been the case, different insurers will take a different view of the level of risk you represent, and will set their prices accordingly, so you may find that you can easily beat your renewal quote elsewhere.

And while insurers can no longer vary their prices based on how long you’ve been a customer, they can adjust their quotes depending on how you choose to buy your policy – whether that’s through a broker or direct, by phone or online.

This is why it’s worth gathering quotes from multiple comparison sites, as well as double checking what an insurer offers if you buy direct.

Bear in mind that some insurers don’t feature on comparison sites, including Direct Line and NFU Mutual.

Once you’ve seen what’s available elsewhere, you can use these prices to push your existing insurer to improve its renewal quote. If it won’t budge, it’s time to switch.

It’s too early to know what impact the FCA’s new rules have had, but looking at premiums in general the good news is that – unlike almost everything else – the cost of car insurance actually seems to be falling (for now, at least).

In fact, figures from the Association of British Insurers show that the average price paid for a comprehensive policy in the first quarter of 2022 fell to £416 – the lowest level in nearly seven years.

Jenny Ross is editor of Which? Money

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