Car insurance when you’re 17

Mark Hooson
·4-min read
<p>Bruce Mars</p> (Unsplash)

Bruce Mars

(Unsplash)

A 17-year-old driver will be among the least experienced on the road, so statistically, they are more likely to be involved in an accident. It should come as little surprise then that car insurance for 17-year-olds can be very expensive.

Car insurance providers set your premiums according to the risk they consider you to pose. They assess your risk by looking at a range of factors such as your address, occupation and age.

The theory is that, at 17-years-old, drivers haven’t yet gained much experience and are therefore more likely to have to make a claim for an accident.

Data from the Association of British Insurers proves this theory, too. It finds that, despite only accounting for 7% of UK licence holders, drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 are involved in 24% of road traffic collisions which result in a fatality.

Insurers offset the higher risk of a pay-out with higher premiums, but there are things young drivers can do to bring costs down.

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Level of cover

There are three tiers of car insurance you can buy. But while one of them, ‘third party’ has long been a favourite for 17-year-olds keen to keep costs down, this tactic no longer works.

Third-party only insurance pays out for damage to other people, their vehicles and property. It’s the minimum level of cover you’re allowed to drive with by law.

Third party was once the cheapest option, but when young, higher-risk drivers cottoned on and started signing up for this kind of cover in droves, insurers began increasing premiums.

Note that ‘third-party, fire and theft’ offers the same level of protection as third-party-only cover but also pays out if your vehicle is damaged by fire or stolen.

Fully comprehensive cover protects you against everything mentioned above as well as damage to you, your vehicle and property.

Choosing a vehicle

If you’re 17 and driving, you may be about to buy your first car. But the make and model you choose will heavily influence the price you pay for your car insurance.

Cars are each assigned to one of 50 car insurance groups based on their power, security, safety and value.

The higher you go up through the groups, numerically, the more expensive the vehicle will be to insure. If you want to keep costs down, group-one cars like the Volkswagen Up and Vauxhall Corsa are a good option.

Pay up-front

If you pay for your car insurance in monthly instalments, you pay interest on what is effectively a loan from the insurer. While it’s an outlay, if you pay for your policy upfront there’s no interest to pay, which makes it cheaper.

Telematics insurance

Telematics insurance, also known as black box insurance, is designed to help drivers with high premiums to bring their costs down by gathering information about how they drive.

It involves fitting a small, GPS, network-enabled device to your vehicle that sends data to your insurer about how you’re driving. Or with some insurers, you use an app on your phone.

The GPS logs your location, mileage covered and the times you drive. An accelerometer records speed, acceleration and deceleration and can tell your insurer how safely or aggressively you’re driving.

The insurer can then use this information to price your premiums in a more tailored way than a standard policy that just uses demographic data and penalises you simply for being 17.

There are some drawbacks to be aware of, however. Some telematics policies impose curfews on policy holders, with penalties for driving outside of sanctioned hours. For example, if you have a job with unsociable working hours you could be penalised for commuting.

And it might not always be cheaper.

It’s important to look at the terms of a telematics policy carefully to understand what is and isn’t allowed before signing up, and how much you’ll be rewarded or penalised for following or breaking the rules.

Additional drivers

It’s possible to bring down the cost of cover by adding an older, more experienced driver to your policy and letting them use your vehicle. That said, you need to be careful about how you go about it.

The reason this lowers your premiums is because, in theory, sharing your vehicle with another driver reduces the time it’s available for you to drive, which means your risk of being involved in a claim is reduced.

However, if you will be the vehicle’s main driver then you must be the main driver on the policy, adding the more experienced driver as a named driver.

It may be tempting to add them as the main driver and declare yourself a named driver to take advantage of lower premiums. But this is not only misleading, it is illegal.

You can be convicted for fraud for ‘fronting’ your policy and you may struggle to find an insurer willing to provide you with cover in the future – affordable or otherwise.

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