JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Look around to fight back against greedy insurers

Inflation may now be below four percent but has yet to be curbed in the insurance sector, where premium increases continue to anger homeowners and motorists – and fatten providers' profits.

According to experts, average car insurance premiums are rising by 29 percent – ​​a result, insurers say, of rising repair costs.

The cost of home cover, meanwhile, is rising by an average of around 25 percent, with changing weather patterns (flooding and crumbling coastlines) among the reasons given for the hikes.

Yet these average figures hide a host of insurance sins, as readers have been keen to point out this holiday season.

Some unhappy motorists have received reports of renewal premiums well in excess of 100 percent – ​​with no explanation as to why the cover costs so much more.

Staying safe: Inflation may now be below four percent, but it has yet to be curbed in the insurance sector

Staying safe: Inflation may now be below four percent, but it has yet to be curbed in the insurance sector

The increases have been demanded despite exemplary no-claims records and despite the fact that many motorists have taken steps to ensure their cars are very difficult to steal.

Stephen Taylor, a 68-year-old retired consultant from Brentwood in Essex, was shocked when he received the renewal bonus for his Range Rover from Sterling Insurance late last year. It wanted just under £1,513, a payment increase of 161 per cent.

Understandably, Stephen was annoyed. Even more so because he takes every conceivable precaution to make it difficult for thieves to steal his car.

That's why he parks his Range Rover in his driveway behind a locked security post and it has two trackers, an immobilizer and a steering lock. Stephen also has a no-claims record going back five years.

By shopping around, which he does every year, Stephen found similar cover at a lower price – from Hastings Direct for £1,196 (still double last year's premium). But he believes that insurers are not playing fair.

“It seems like many want it all their way,” he says. 'They want to minimize claim costs, for example by increasing the deductible someone has to pay when they make a claim. They would also like to exclude certain categories of motorists, such as the elderly (see right) and motorists who drive electric cars, due to the high damage costs.

“For everyone they insure, they want to charge an extraordinary amount for the privilege.”

This view is shared by Walter Howells, the 76-year-old founder of family business Howells Patent Glazing, based in Cradley Heath, near Birmingham.

At the end of last year, Walter received an extension bonus for his Audi A5 from over-50s specialist Saga. He was told his cover would cost £1,085 from the middle of this month, up from £379 a year ago.

Walter was shocked. He has a 16-year no-claims record, no points on his driving license and drives 6,000 kilometers a year. He asked the insurer for an explanation, but was told that the premium had not been set by himself, but by his insurers. He has now found alternative cover with Aviva for £590.

Walter, whose company specializes in major roof glazing projects for train stations and museums, says insurers are not playing fair. “In my line of work, I wouldn't get away with raising prices at a time when inflation is falling,” he says. “Certainly, somewhere in the regulatory world, someone can hold these insurers accountable.”

Unfortunately, Walter, it appears this is not the case. The city's regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, tried two years ago to bring more fairness to the home and car insurance markets. Yet its commitment to ensuring that a loyal customer pays the same price as a new policyholder for equivalent coverage is being overshadowed by rampant price inflation across the board. Loyalty still doesn't pay. As Stephen and Walter have discovered, shopping around is the ONLY way to fight back against out-of-control insurance inflation.

Hazel discovers that not all drivers are equal

I am finding it increasingly difficult to come to terms with the fact that insurers are allowed to circumvent the Equality Act 2010 – and discriminate against drivers based on age. They can do this by arguing that older drivers pose a greater insurance risk and therefore should pay more for their coverage.

The overall statistics may support their argument, but one limit does not fit all. A few days ago I was contacted by reader Hazel (I won't reveal her last name) whose car insurance is due to renew in 13 days. She has been driving for over 50 years and has never had an accident.

Care: Morgan Freeman in the Hollywood hit Driving Miss Daisy

Care: Morgan Freeman in the Hollywood hit Driving Miss Daisy

Care: Morgan Freeman in the Hollywood hit Driving Miss Daisy

Her insurer wanted to increase her premium from £393 to £1,300 for no reason other than the fact that she has now reached the age of 80. Although statistics indicate that the average claim of someone in their 80s is higher than that of all other age groups except teenagers and in the 1990s, Hazel did not become a bad driver overnight. She is still as careful as Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy.

When she started looking for an alternative insurer, both NFU Mutual and Liverpool Victoria said they would not provide cover due to her age. Admiral, Churchill and Direct Line were happy to offer insurance, but it was unaffordable. Ultimately, she opted for telematics-based coverage with Privilege Insurance, which will reward her for safe driving with discounted premiums.

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Value for money at Spoons…that's basic!

On New Year's Eve an old friend from Birmingham (Tim Sherwood) told me about a JD Wetherspoon pub he had visited, trading under the same name as the school we both attended in the 1970s: Bishop Vesey.

Tim was surprised – in a good way – by the prices charged for his beer by the Bishop Vesey pub in Sutton Coldfield, less than a two-mile walk from the school. Three pints in the Bishop Vesey, he said, cost him no more than what he would sometimes pay for just one pint in London.

Elementary: Peter Cushing would probably have mixed feelings if he found the JD Wetherspoon pub in the old Oxford Cinema

Elementary: Peter Cushing would probably have mixed feelings if he found the JD Wetherspoon pub in the old Oxford Cinema

Elementary: Peter Cushing would probably have mixed feelings if he found the JD Wetherspoon pub in the old Oxford Cinema

Although I am not a frequent visitor to JD Wetherspoon establishments, I once had a dirt-cheap breakfast at The Peter Cushing pub in Whitstable, Kent, after completing the local parkrun. Cushing was known for his performances as Baron Frankenstein and Doctor Van Helsing in a series of scary Hammer Horror films. He was also a brilliant Sherlock Holmes, before spending the last years of his life in Whitstable.

Cushing would probably have had mixed feelings about the JD Wetherspoon pub in the city's old Oxford Cinema. But I'm sure if he were still around today he'd doff his deerstalker hat in the direction of the pub group's chairman and founder, Tim Martin – now a knight of the realm.

Whatever you think of Martin, he has built a brilliant business based on offering customers excellent value for money – a godsend during the ongoing cost of living crisis. The company's shares have also performed well over the past year.

If I had to choose between a cooked JD Wetherspoon breakfast and a small investment in the stock, I'd choose the latter.

As Sherlock would say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

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