Car insurance shock

Careful drivers may lose NCB
8 Aug, 2012 9:00am Julie Sinclair

Insurers aren't recognising drivers with no claims, prompting calls for industry database to verify discounts

Millions of motorists could be overcharged for their car insurance, because cover providers are ignoring up to 16 years’ worth of claim-free driving. Auto Express made this shock discovery after an investigation which revealed motorists changing insurer couldn’t guarantee the full number of years they’d driven without a claim would be transferred with them.

In a ring-round of insurers, we asked what the maximum no claims bonus (NCB) a customer could accrue was. And as our table opposite shows, this can vary dramatically – from 20 years with AXA to only four with SAGA.

This will be reflected in the price of the policy, so shopping around should overcome that. However, when Auto Express asked how many claim-free years would be cited if a motorist was to switch insurer, the limits were the same. This has a serious impact on a motorist’s ability to access discounts offered by providers who take more years of claim-free driving into account.

This problem was brought to Auto Express’ attention when reader Sean Lowe of Ely, Cambs, was set to miss out for exactly that reason. Sean told us he had switched from Aviva to Direct Line in 2009, and when he renewed a year later, he queried a hiked premium. “Direct Line said it was based on six years’ NCB – five with Aviva and one with them – but I hadn’t had a claim since 1998!”

Direct Line would have discounted up to eight years’ NCB, but as Aviva’s limit is five, that’s how many were transferred when he left. After Sean complained, Direct Line agreed to increase his discount to its maximum.

Auto Express complained to the Association of British Insurers, arguing that the total number of claim-free years should appear on every policy document, irrespective of individual discount limits.

Its spokeswoman said the industry was “working to improve the portability of no claims discounts”, adding it was “considering establishing a no claims discount database” which would “allow insurers to validate discounts at the point of quote”.

In the meantime, SAGA said it would reveal a driver’s number of claim-free years to a new insurer if pressed. Aviva argued: “Our statistics show there’s little change in risk for drivers once they have five years’ no claims discount.”

Discount heroes and zeroes

We ran 10 of the UK's leading insurers to find out how many years of no claims bonus (NCB) a policyholder can accrue, and how many years NCB can be transferred by a customer switching to a rival company. Here are the results:

Insurer NCB limit (years) NCB transfer limit (years)
AXA 20 20
Admiral 15 99
Esure 10 Unlimited
RSA (incl MoreThan) 9 9
Churchill 9 9
Privilege 9 9
Direct Line 8 9
Aviva 5 5+*
Liverpool Victoria 5 5
SAGA 4 4+*

*Insurer indicates extra years were accrued, but doesn't specify how many