Best car insurance companies 2015

14 Aug, 2015 12:08pm Joe Finnerty

Which car insurance company is best if you need to make a claim? Our Driver Power results have the answer

Even if you can afford a brand new, top-spec car, there’s still the small matter of getting insurance. And your age, where you live and previous driving history all have a big bearing on your premiums.

It’s not all about price, though, as you need to know your insurer will take care of you if you have to make a claim. Cheap deals are all very well, but if it’s a hassle to get a payout, you’ll wish you’d paid more up front.

This year, our Driver Power insurance chart counts down the top 25 providers – and we’ve changed the criteria to make the results more representative of what’s key to policyholders. Our rankings now consider how long it takes to complete an order, whether online or over the phone, plus the friendliness of staff and how well claimants are kept informed.

For the first time, we’ve also rated how well insurers explain information like terms and conditions, plus their knowledge of the different products available – whether it’s fully comprehensive, third party or specialist cover with extra add-ons or requirements.

So read on to see which insurer is doing it right and which you should switch to if you’re not happy with your current provider.

How much is your premium?

Price is still decisive for motorists buying car insurance. More than a third of Driver Power respondents looked for a top deal on comparison sites, and 76 per cent said they chose their insurer on price. But nearly half base their decision on past experience.

Prices fluctuate each year, with 10 per cent the most common rise, but only a third of readers said they’d experienced a hike. Most pay less than £300 a year.

How much of a discount did you negotiate?

If you’re not happy with your premium, then the trick seems to be to phone up and haggle. By negotiating, more often than not you can get a discount, with two-thirds of readers saying they made a saving of up to 10 per cent. One in five told us they’d got nearly 20 per cent off.
However, most people aren’t taking the opportunity to haggle: only 33 per cent said they’d phoned up to negotiate.

How long did it take to settle a claim?

Having insurance is a legal requirement, and most of you don’t use it – only seven per cent of respondents made claims in the past 12 months. But when you need your insurer, it pays to be with one that settles claims in a quick and efficient way.

Most insurers are doing well, with 71 per cent of cases wrapped up inside two months. Yet the odd claim drags on, with five per cent taking over a year or longer.

Best car insurance companies 2015

1. IAM Surety (cornmarket) - 93.46%

WHAT a return to form for IAM Surety, a Cornmarket Insurance Services brand which covers members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). The provider racked up three podium finishes before falling to eighth in 2014’s poll, but it dominated this year’s field and is the only insurer to score over 90 per cent.

It’s only outside the top two for product knowledge, although 10th is still good. One reader said: “It has helpful staff that will match quotes, plus great policies.” Another added: “I’m pleased as I have five vehicles with IAM – three classic and two modern.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 96% No 4%

2. Co-operative - 89.93%

It's another great year for the Co-operative, which climbs four places up to second. It majors on helpful staff who keep drivers informed about their claims, as well as offering clear and concise information on its policies’ terms and conditions. Its insurance is considered good value for money, too – one reader summed it up, saying: “They saved me over £250 on my premium.”

To make the leap up to first, the Co-op needs to work on product knowledge and ordering speed. Still, it performed well. One reader concluded: “Excellent company, excellent policy.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 82% No 18%

3. NFU Mutual - 88.84%

NFU Mutual has returned to the Driver Power top three in 2015, having narrowly failed to make it nine podiums in a row last year. The serial winner has turned in an impressive score, with 92 per cent of policyholders telling us they’d renew.

Particularly impressive were value for money, communication and the staff’s friendly attitude. “It’s absolutely worth it if the worst happens,” said one reader. One blemish on the scorecard is the clarity of the finer policy details – NFU finishes 25th and last here. Get this sorted, and it could find itself back at the top.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 92% No 8%

4. Royal & Sun Alliance - 87.53%

A slight fall for Royal & Sun Alliance, but still an impressive performance overall. Its cover was ranked the quickest to take out, plus staff had the best knowledge of the products on offer.

One RSA customer told us: “No hassle and always helpful – when I need to take the car overseas, for example.” Another added: “Honest, straightforward cover and there was no quibble following a claim.” If it wants to return to the podium, however, RSA will need to make its terms and conditions more clear and concise, as it finished down in 23rd in this category.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 94% No 6%

5. SAGA - 86.40%

Our Driver Power winner in 2014 couldn’t make it two years in a row at the top. Saga dominated all the categories last year, and the reason for its decline is a slight drop off across the board. Still, the insurer – which specialises in cover for drivers aged over 50 – remains in the top 10 for all categories bar one.

Policyholders were happy, too, with one saying: “Excellent product knowledge, excellent product.” However, another admitted: “You have to check around on renewal, as past experience shows it increases the second-year premium.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 88% No 12%

6. Churchill - 85.43%

Churchill is one of the most improved insurers in Driver Power, having climbed seven places and into the top 10. Improvements across the board have helped the nodding dog this year.

Value for money and keeping customers informed were particularly strong, with one happy respondent saying: “It provides me with all I need at a competitive price.” The staff are open to negotiations, too, with readers reporting that Churchill matched a better quote elsewhere. One added: “It increased my premium, but matched a comparison site price on request.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 77% No 23%

7. Tesco - 85.27%

Tesco has leapfrogged Marks and Spencer – which doesn’t feature this year – to be the highest-ranked supermarket insurer. The 2015 results for Tesco tell a story, though: its policies aren’t necessarily the easiest to take out and its staff aren’t the most knowledgable – perhaps no great surprise for a supermarket dipping its toe into insurance.

However, once you’ve got past those stumbling blocks, the policy and cover is good, plus you’re kept informed during a claim. One reader summed it up, saying: “Good-value cover.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 76% No 24%

8. LV - 85.05%

LV performed brilliantly last year, but it’s slipped down to eighth in Driver Power 2015, not helped by a value for money score outside the top 10. However, the company should still be happy, as 90 per cent of its customers say they’d renew their policy.

One reader explained: “I’ve used the same company for many years, so renewal is automatic. However, I do compare prices and have renegotiated with LV when necessary.” If LV wants to improve and get back towards the top of our chart, it needs to improve how it keeps customers up to date.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 90% No 10%

9. Elephant - 84.55%

It's a great return for Elephant, hitting the top 10 after not being ranked at all last year. It’s a decent scorecard, with policyholders particularly impressed by its product knowledge, the speed it took to get a policy and the clear terms and conditions on offer.

Value for money was also praised, so it’s surprising just two-thirds would renew. “Elephant is a good budget insurance company,” said one reader, while another told us it was “always among the cheapest when you’re looking to renew”. To improve, it needs to do better keeping drivers informed during a claim.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 65% No 35%

10. AXA - 84.02%

Our biggest mover and most improved insurer this year is AXA. If it had stayed where it was in 2014’s poll, it wouldn’t have even made the cut in 2015, but it now finds itself in the top 10.

That’s aided by a great overall experience and knowledge of the various policies on offer. One customer said: “AXA offered no claims at three years, not five like others, and allows some modification free of charge. Great online interface to amend details, too.” Still, there’s room for improvement, and AXA can finish higher next year if it can offer cheaper renewals.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 78% No 22%

Lowest-ranked car insurance companies 2015

21. Admiral - 78.59%

Finishing sixth in friendliness and helpfulness was a particular highlight for Admiral in last year’s Driver Power, but in 2015, the company was unable to maintain such momentum and dropped down two places in our overall rankings.

While the scores may look low, Admiral is still liked by many customers for its multicar policies and general efficiency. The fact that over 80 per cent of owners would renew their policy next year is a positive sign, too. One reader said: “Admiral’s multicar policy was easy to set up and offers a competitive price.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 82% No 18%

22. Lloyds - 76.06%

Lloyds is on a ranking rollercoaster; it finished last in 2012, in the midfield in 2013 and 2014, and is down 10 places in 2015.

Low scores in friendliness and helpfulness, as well as in keeping customers informed, overshadow a podium finish in product knowledge. Poor customer relations may explain why only 75 per cent of respondents would consider renewing.

A much-needed improvement was made in telephone and online orders, with many customers very impressed. One reader said: “They knew exactly what they were talking about.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 75% No 25%

23. John Lewis - 74.64%

John Lewis has fallen nine places since last year’s Driver Power, and is no longer a midfield contender. This is a worrying dropfor a company that debuted in seventh position two years ago.

There are still signs of the glory days, though, with a podium finish in clarity of terms and conditions, plus a top 10 placing in its speed and product knowledge. Where John Lewis really fails is with its value for money and its friendliness over the telephone – something one reader pointed out, saying: “They weren’t very helpful when it was time to renew my policy.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 91% No 9%

24. RAC - 72.42%

A six-place improvement from last year’s Driver Power is steady progress, but it’s still not great for a big name like the RAC. Low scores for clarity of information, value for money and product knowledge continue to hamper the provider’s overall ranking.

It scored especially poorly on its speed to settle, with one reader saying: “It took three weeks to confirm whether or not my car was insured.” There’s plenty of room for improvement for the RAC, but with 84 per cent of respondents eager to renew their policy, the company might just be turning things around.

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 84% No 16%

25. More than - 70.64%

A nine-place tumble down our Driver Power chart will surprise More Than, after its steady progress in recent years. You tell us its terms and conditions are clear, but low scores for value and friendliness and helpfulness let it down. One driver explained: “More Than wasn’t helpful with my claim; I expected more.”

In response, the company said: “We seek to provide excellent service to all customers, and are naturally concerned that the drivers surveyed have not been happy. We will consider the survey findings and look to where improvements can be made.”

Would you renew your current policy? Yes 81% No 19%

Now see the best cars to own in 2015, compiled from Driver Power data.