Caroline Muspratt says the way in which a job is described can confuse online insurance users

Hopping around on the internet for insurance recently I was given a choice of several occupations from a drop-down menu that matched the one I had entered. I could be either a journalist, reporter, newspaper reporter or writer.

I was relieved to see that there appeared to be no difference in premium between those various jobs (which after all, amount to essentially the same thing). But this is not always the case when it comes to the seemingly more straightforward area of private motor insurance.

Recent research from found that describing your occupation in a different way could save customers up to a third on their motor insurance. It found that a 32-year-old male Glasgow-based journalist would pay nearly £100 less to insure a Fiat Brava than a 32-year-old male Glasgow based newspaper reporter with the same car. It also pointed out a difference in price in quotes for a barrister and a lawyer and a publican and landlord. explained the variations as being due to the fact that insurers keep a record of claims history against specific job titles. But it seems strange to penalise one person over another purely because they have chosen to describe the same occupation in a different way.

To be fair direct insurers can probably recognise only limited number of occupations, hence having to choose from a drop-down menu. One friend of mine is constantly presented with “occupation not found” when he tries to tell an insurer he is an SNG operator (don’t ask).

“A broker can find the right price and policy without having to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to unusual job titles

He then experiments with different job titles that fit his role until he finds one the computer will recognise – all the time trying to make sure he is being accurate.

This is one reason why brokers are at an advantage, despite the increasing tendency for customers to hunt around for quotes online. They can offer a tailored service and, you would hope, find the right price and policy without having to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to unusual job titles. uses this whole situation as a reason why customers should shop around, and, ideally, use price comparison websites.

However this does not avoid the problem and sometimes means a customer gets a quote from one insurer as a journalist, from another as a reporter and another as a correspondent to find the cheapest price.

This does not instil the greatest sense of confidence in the consumer who thinks perhaps he is cheating the system – even though he is telling the truth about his work. The only obvious benefit is that a computer would hopefully recognise the job title of “war zone correspondent” as being potentially more risky, and tailor a quote to match. IT