Car insurance: What price loyalty?

Major Waffle
A quick, off-the-cuff rant about car insurance, specifically related to the annual renewal notice.

Car insurance is a bit like Christmas. There's a flurry of activity for about a month every year, but for the most part, you're happy to forget about it for the remaining 11 months. Like Christmas, car insurance also comes with a painful demand for payment. But unless you're turned on by the thought of a free cuddly meerkat, you're unlikely to be receiving gifts with your insurance policy.

But there's one thing that grates me every year and that's the insulting renewal offer that comes through from the incumbent insurer. For sure, it's a timely reminded that your policy is about to expire, giving you ample notice to prepare for the expense, but that's just about it. Here are a few examples of how they introduce their renewal notice.

“We've searched our extensive panel of products and have found an alternative to your existing policy.”

“We've hunted high and low and can offer you an unbeatable renewal quote.”

“As a loyal customer, we're delighted to off you an exclusive, not-to-be-repeated deal on your new policy.”

“We're brilliant and have moved heaven and earth to ensure that you, our favourite customer, have the best possible policy at the best possible price. Because we're great and you love us.”

Well I'm sorry, but it's all bunkum.

I'm not a huge fan of price comparison websites as it encourages people to choose a policy purely on the basis of price. More often than not, it's worth digging deeper to ensure that the policy isn't going to leave you high and dry if you're reversed into by a Honda Jazz in Waitrose car park.

But they do provide a quick reference tool to ensure that your insurance provider really is giving you the best/unbeatable/amazing/unrepeatable/exclusive/brilliant <delete as appropriate> deal that they so claim.

So when you're presented with 100 cheaper quotes after a mere five minutes on a popular price comparison site, alarm bells start to ring. When you realise that the majority are more than £200 cheaper, you begin to wonder just how far your existing provider went to get you that amazing deal. I didn't go further than the comfort of my living room and yet I could save myself £200. That doesn't seem right.

I naturally phoned my existing provider to see if they could do better. The phone was answered promptly and after a few security questions, I asked if their renewal quote was the best they could do. I was immediately told that I was being offered a very small increase over last year's premium and that was the best they could offer. When I told them that I was about to move to a reputable provider for a lot less, I was greeted with an almost congratulatory tone and a verbal shrug of the shoulders. If that's possible.

I wasn't even asked what the rival quote was, hinting that there was no desire to keep my custom for another year. Shame.

Is a reward for loyalty too much to ask? What happened to the days when a customer was meant to feel special and valued? I'm not looking for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, just a common sense and waffle-free approach to customer service. Cut out the false ‘we love you’ blanket approach to communication and give me a no nonsense, fit for purpose deal. I'd be happy to pay a little extra to avoid the hassle of switching providers every year.

To compound the issue, earlier today I had to wait on hold for over 23 minutes to chase a copy of my no claims bonus. I never had to wait so long when they were looking to take nearly £400 from me. How strange.

So insurance companies, do me a favour. Show the same levels of tenacity that you use to chase new business to secure your customers' business for another year. When you say you've ‘scoured the market’, I want you to really mean it. I'd be happy to swallow a small increase over the market price of my policy, but not £240 more.

Is that too much to ask?