Using its Aequos database, Defaqto analyses the spread of direct writers for private car insurance and how Barclays buildings and content insurance compares in the high street market

The rise of the direct writers has been well documented and visible, but industry statistics have pointed in recent years to a levelling-off of the amount of insurance sold over the phone and internet. In search of further growth, more ambitious direct players have recently been spreading their wings in other traditional areas of business. The biggest proponents of this have been Churchill and the Royal Bank of Scotland/Direct Line group. In recent years Churchill has become the underwriter of two of the largest home service brand names - Prudential and Pearl, and also now underwrites both Alliance & Leicester and Nationwide Building Society's motor insurance.

Direct Line and its sister company UK Insurance also underwrite motor insurance for a range of brand names including Tesco and Prudential-owned Egg.

Private motor
In terms of comprehensive motor there is a surprising range of cover on offer from the direct writers, with AMP Pearl's policy leading the pack. Eleven of the products in this chart are underwritten by Churchill or the Direct Line group of companies.

Key features of the AMP Pearl product include:

  • New car replacement up to 12 months, including foreign cars if a replacement is available in the UK
  • Unlimited cover for manufacturer-fitted audio equipment, and £500 for non-manufacturer fitted equipment
  • £200 of cover for personal belongings, and £200 for medical expenses
  • £5,000 personal accident benefit
  • £200 of cover for loss or damage to attached trailers
  • Unlimited foreign use provided the customer resides in the UK and any trip is temporary.

    Drawbacks include:

  • Relatively high cost of paying monthly (23.7% APR)
  • No total-loss courtesy car.

    Buildings cover
    At the start of the year Barclays Bank launched Home Protection Plan - a new buildings and contents policy available to both the bank's customers and the general public. It is underwritten by Gresham Insurance Company and is not available online - quotes are provided over the telephone.

    We have compared the new policy against those on offer from a range of high street banks.

    The buildings cover has an automatic £300,000 sum insured which should be adequate for most customers. Because the sum insured is fixed, there is no index-linking, which would only be an issue for customers with estimated rebuild costs very close to this amount.

    Key features of the Barclays buildings policy include:

  • Alternative accommodation cover up to £15,000, including up to two years ground rent
  • Replacement of plumbed-in water or heating installation after damage by freezing
  • Cover for making good damage to landscaped gardens caused by Fire Brigade equipment and personnel in the course of combating fire
  • 40-day unoccupancy period.

    Drawbacks include:

  • Standard excess of £75, which is higher than most of the market
  • £1m of public liability cover
  • No legal expenses cover available
  • No NCD available.

    Contents cover
    Compared to the buildings policy, the contents policy offers significantly lower levels of cover than the policies on offer from other major banks. Although the Barclays policy has an automatic sum insured of £50,000, which is adequate for most customers, the low levels of many of the inner limits mean it lags significantly behind the rest of the market.

    Key features of the Barclays contents policy include:

  • Valuables limit of £7,500, which does not include entertainment equipment in the definition (unlike many providers)
  • No single article limit other than for valuables.

    Drawbacks of the policy include:

  • Valuables definition includes business equipment, which is unusual
  • £250 of cover for money in the home
  • £300 for lock replacement
  • £500 of cover for contents in the open, and pedal cycles excluded altogether from this cover
  • Alternative accommodation cover limited to £3,000
  • £500 of cover for loss of metered water, and no cover at all for loss of heating oil
  • No cover for replacement of title deeds
  • No cover for student belongings
  • £5m employers' liability cover compared to £10m from most providers
  • No legal expenses cover available
  • No NCD available
  • Standard excess of £75 which is higher than most of the market.

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