Why Does Car Insurance Cost So Much?

Go on, guess.

My high premiums aren’t because I prang my car a lot, or make other people have accidents. Though there was that crash I caused in 1975 or so, when I collided with a Morris Traveller van and managed to remove some of its wooden trim. The owner glued it back on. Total cost of the repair: £1.50.

I don’t indulge in James Bond-esque 200 mph jaunts the wrong way up dual carriageways, let alone launch my car off the tops of buildings. So it’s a mystery to me why Sheila’s Wheels wants to relieve me of huge wodges of money on an annual basis.

But now I can thank a certain coach driver for leading me to the explanation as to why car insurance costs so much.

On a blisteringly hot August afternoon, said coach opts to use the offside lane of the A41 and hits my car from the side.

The lucky thing is that only my wing mirror is damaged, though the cat, imprisoned in a basket on the passenger seat, seems a bit miffed at the delay as the coach driver and I stop to exchange details.

cat in travel basket

It seems pretty clear-cut. The other guy has wandered far enough into my lane to break something off my car.

Yet this minor damage then takes three months to sort out.

The driver tells me he works for United Busways. That’s the first problem, because he doesn’t. He used to work for them, but, after a couple of phone calls, I learn he’s now with National Express, despite what it said on his bus.

back view of coach

I can only find 0871 phone numbers for National Express, but, after one long expensive call, someone refers me to a depot in Hertfordshire. Two more calls later, nobody seems that interested, though one of the people I speak to lets slip the name of the bus company’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett.

Now I am on to something. I speak to Gallagher Bassett and learn that the driver has logged a report of the accident. There will be CCTV footage too, to be examined in the next few days.

I have spent over an hour on the phone to six different people, but it sounds like a resolution is in sight.

But I was wrong. If you want to cut to the chase, it’s in bold near the bottom of this post.

Someone from a branch of theirs called CAA promises to arrange an inspection at a time convenient to me.  “It’s only a wing mirror,” I say, and offer to email a photo of the damage, but apparently an engineer must inspect it in person.

Nothing happens. Six days later, I chase the insurance company. Apologies for the delay and all that, they say. There’s no sign of the CCTV yet, so they will chase the bus company as well as CAA and get back to me.

That’s another 15 minutes on the phone.

Rebecca from CAA does get in touch, and tells me that someone from Hoopers Engineers in Liverpool will come to inspect my car. “It’s only a wing mirror,” I point out again.

VW Golf wing mirror

Michelle from Hoopers does arrange an inspection, which isn’t ideal as I end up missing a lunch appointment, but I want my new wing mirror sometime soon.

The engineer from Hoopers spends around 20 minutes or more studying my car thoroughly, including its mileage, chassis number, and the height of the mirror above the ground.

The days later still nothing, so I ring the insurer. The next half a dozen phone calls over a period of a few weeks are much the same and by now I know the claims reference number by heart. Yes, the CCTV footage still is awaited. They will chase the bus company again. Yes it can take a while, but no, it doesn’t usually take this long. They’ll contact them today and get back to me.

On September 22, six weeks from the accident, there is a breakthrough. I’m told the CCTV is “being sent out” and would I please give them a couple more days. One detail bothers me. Aren’t all video recordings digitized?  Apparently not.

A week later, still nothing. Four further calls in the next week or so establish that the CCTV recording failed. It was never “being sent out.” However, on the basis that the damage was not substantial, the insurance company offers to settle the claim.

I can confirm that as a result of the failed CCTV we would be happy to settle your claim on a Without Prejudice Basis as per our repair team CAA’s quoted estimate of £360.”  

I still have to go through their approved repairer rather than my local VW garage which happens to be within walking distance, but no matter. No further estimate will be needed, and I will soon be driving around with a mirror that isn’t held on with parcel tape.

wing mirror held on with parcel tape

Unfortunately the approved repairer insists on drawing up their own estimate anyway, despite the previous estimate and my mantra “It’s only a wing mirror.”

It takes two goes to get the estimator here, then he doesn’t turn up when he said he would because he has a hospital appointment that morning.  When he finally arrives in the afternoon, he studies the car and the chassis number again.

The repair is booked for November 5. I consider setting off fireworks to celebrate.

About two hours after the appointed time on the day, Matt from Fix Auto arrives to collect my car. I had imagined two guys in a car, one of whom would drive my car back to the garage.

This is what Matt shows up in, complete with flashing lights.

recovery vehicle

It seems a bit over-the-top. As I point out to Matt, it is only a wing mirror.

My car did not return the same day as promised, but the next day, again with Matt and his recovery vehicle.

To sum up, getting the broken wing mirror replaced took twelve weeks and cost around £250 for the repair, plus 24 phone calls, two estimates, and two trips in a recovery truck. If you assume that each call costs a modest £25 for each of the participants in the call, the estimators’ visits come in at £100 each, and the recovery truck costs £80 per round trip, it comes to a total of over £1,800. That’s a very restrained guesstimate and the true cost could be much higher because there are so many different people who add little value but still cost money.  

It was only a frigging wing mirror!   Just imagine the figures had whiplash or another injury been part of the claim.

But the madness doesn’t stop there. Driver Matt told me that a coach had hit him on the way over to me, damaging the side of his truck…

Wonder why I pursued this claim myself? It’s because when my previous car was broken into, the insurance company insisted on recording it as ‘your accident.’ I tried explaining that I wasn’t even there at the time, that a petty thief who breaks into a locked garage and then smashes a windscreen doesn’t do this accidentally. It is pretty much on purpose, I’d say. But I used the company to make a claim, so they recorded it as my accident. Besides, I thought this claim would be easy to sort out. After all, only a bloody wing mirror.

But a very expensive one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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