UK drivers complain as car insurance renewal costs rise up to 70%

The building of new smart motorways is being cancelled as Rishi Sunak acknowledged concerns about safety and cost.

Car insurance is the latest household bill to go through the roof, with angry motorists complaining that prices are shooting up by as much as 70% when their policy comes up for renewal.

While fuel prices have dropped back from 2022’s record highs the latest inflation bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a new source of financial pain, with the price of car insurance up 43.1% in the last 12 months.

However, some drivers are reporting an even worse situation than the official data suggests, with customers of Direct Line and Saga shocked by the magnitude of price increases in their renewal documents for this year.

Angry Direct Line customers have taken to posting on the Trustpilot website to complain about increases ranging from about 50% to more than 75%. One reviewer said her renewal price was up 75% on 2022 for no apparent reason, adding: “How can any company justify that?”

One driver told the Guardian that when the renewal quote for her Saga over-50s car insurance arrived, the cost of the policy had jumped 77% to £2,044 even though “nothing has changed”. She quit the insurer after finding a cheaper deal elsewhere.

The big increases being reported by customers do not yet tally with the industry’s own figures. The average price paid for motor insurance in the first three months of 2023 was £478, which is 16% higher than in 2022, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) quarterly motor insurance premium tracker.

The next instalment is likely to show a punchier rise, based on the ONS data; however, the figures track different things. The ONS collects quotes while the ABI looks at the prices people actually pay.

An ONS spokesperson said the most notable difference related to the way consumers cut costs by reducing add-ons and how that was treated by the ABI.

“If a customer removes an add on or changes the excess on their policy the ABI treats this as a change in price, whereas the ONS treats this as a change in the quality of the insurance being offered,” they said.

The ABI said it collected data “that looks at the price consumers pay for their cover for both new and renewed policies. We understand that other collections look at prices quoted and are currently working with the ONS to explore this further.”

It said insurers faced extra costs that were becoming “increasingly challenging to absorb”.

Customers can obviously find another insurer if they are unhappy with their renewal offer, with high renewal quotes highlighting the importance of shopping around. Indeed, that is what many Direct Line customers posting on Trustpilot said they were doing.

When asked about price increases, Direct Line blamed “higher costs”. It added: “We always encourage our customers to shop around for a range of quotes before renewing their insurance each year.”

Saga said it was experiencing “high levels of claims inflation”, with spare parts, such as microchips and semiconductors, more expensive than before. “Not only that, but they also take longer to arrive, which extends the time cars are out of action after a claim, and then extends the time claimants need a courtesy car for.”

Insurance brokers have added that the number of claims has increased this year, pushing costs above premium income and forcing firms to increase prices.

A sharp rise in the cost of secondhand cars during the Covid pandemic and vehicle parts and higher wages across the car maintenance sector have wiped out margins, according to a report by EY.