Tom Jones says insurers make it difficult to insure car use that cuts carbon emissions
I haven’t owned a car in a long while. The decision was an effort to be a bit greener in lifestyle, but also because the company car just sat outside my house five days a week, and it was more practical to get around London by public transport and bike.
I holiday with my family in South West France most years. We go by train and hire a car when we get there, though we spend most of our time on bikes. This year however, for a bit of fun and to save the car hire charges, we bought a French classic, a Renault 4 or Quatr’elle as they call them, which we intend to keep at the gîte we have stayed at for the last seven years. It was such a simple plan.
Until I tried to insure it.
Instead of being a responsible citizen, doing my bit to reduce carbon emissions, I am, it seems, a bad risk. I have the car insurance equivalent of a bad credit record for not having loans and credit card debts.
No British insurers would touch me and until the 11th hour it looked as though no insurance company in France would either.
No existing car insurance, despite evidence of 20 years' incident free driving until four years ago when we went car free, means no current no claims bonus, so no proof that I am a safe driver.
My situation was complicated by the French connection, but even if I were trying to insure a newly-bought car in the UK I would have been hit by the highest of premiums.
In many UK cities there is a small but growing trend towards car sharing schemes and self-service pay-as-you go car hire like Whizz Go and Streetcar.co.uk.
“The insurance industry is, it seems, so risk averse that it remains committed to needing evidence of an accident-free driving history if the individual is not to be treated as an 18-year-old driving a sports car
Congestion charging (which as a cyclist and the father of three young girls should, in my view, be £100 for four-wheel drive vehicles – but that is another matter) is incentive enough to give up a private car and try these out. The cost of petrol and the environmental consequences of mass car ownership is too.
Pity anyone though who, for whatever reason, gives up the car-free experience. The insurance industry is, it seems, so risk averse that it remains committed to needing evidence of an accident-free driving history if the individual is not to be treated as an 18-year-old driving a sports car.
The new ABI chairman Archie Kane said recently that he wants to see the industry doing more to educate the public about the impact of fraud and uninsured drivers.
There’s a suggestion that the ABI may get involved in school initiatives on the problem. It’s an important issue of course, and an initiative which we would support.
But there seems to be something of a contradiction between a public education drive to tackle uninsured drivers and unbending rules for those honestly seeking insurance for temporary or part-time car ownership.
I wonder if an insurance industry trying to tune into youth wouldn’t get more respect if it could demonstrate that it’s creative, flexible and willing to look at alternatives to standard motor cover.
A willingness to give alternative transport options a go and contribute to the battle against climate change is one positive move though one that maybe requires a culture change.
Tom Jones is director of policy and public affairs at Thompsons Solicitors