Like many women across the country I lead a busy life: working long hours is overshadowed by the mammoth task of organising a household, trying to be a good mother to two busy little ones and a fairly satisfactory wife to my equally busy husband. Understandably then, I was less than jubilant to find my car insurance due for renewal only a couple of months before the most wonderful, I mean expensive, time of the year. I waited until late at night when the hardworking husband and energetic husband were tucked up in bed. Finally, with the house in silence, I armed myself with all my paperwork and opened the laptop to find the best deal out there.
My husband also renewed his insurance recently. He spent an hour or two on his phone while I entertaned the children, calling out to me periodically to ask me to remember how many years of no claims he had. We have both had a prang in the past few years and somehow I lost a full four years from my policy while his only dropped by two. However, his premiums came back a little more expensive than mine. He put it down to news reports that car insurance is increasing for everyone. At the end of it all, though, I managed to find a policy slightly less expensive than the previous year so I'm not entirely convinced.
I Don't Like Shopping For Car Insurance
At first, I feel the thrill of shopping. Admittedly, it's not as exciting as searching online for an all-inclusive family holiday or browsing through fashion deals but there is something alluring about scanning through a long list of companies practically begging for my business. It gives me a surge of something like power, something like Alan Sugar might feel scrolling through a list of apprentice applicants. That feeling soon wears off, though, when the cold reality dawns that these "offers" seem to be working harder to plunder my bank account than give me anything that could be seen as the slightest benefit.
Indeed, the only benefit I can see from any of this is the gift of keeping me legal. I need a car, of course. And, fairly obviously, I need to stay on the right side of the law. We live slightly too far away to allow the kids to walk to school and there aren't enough hours in the day to enable me to walk to and from work, even though it might save me a few trips to the gym every week. So a car is indispensable and therefore insurance is a must. The shopping rush has gone: buying car insurance is about as exciting as buying toilet cleaner. It's a necessary obligation, it could one day save us from potential disaster but no enjoyment can be derived from a boring, long-term financial drain. The whole thing makes me feel quite cross before the real search has even begun.
Part of me is already berating my choice of car. It's a fairly powerful European cabriolet which I have owned for a few years. But it makes the whole process more painful and not only because it costs more cash. Why didn't I choose a practical, cheap little runaround? Or at least a car that is more readily identifiable so it would come up on the pre-filled box on comparison websites without me having to add any extra details and dig out the log book to make sure I have entered the model correctly. Still, it is what it is and I grit my teeth and plough on.
Frustrating Comparison Sites
I use the comparison websites, partly because I trust that they will find me the best deal and partly because they are the only ones available late at night which is the only time I can find the peace to get the job done. I steel myself to overcome the temptation to turn on the TV and put off what I am expecting to be an unrewarding experience. I have been driving for many years now so the process isn't at all new or unfamiliar and my reluctance is not undeserved. As expected, over an hour later I am still inputting more personal details than I have shared with my spouse, GP or best friend. It takes an age. Every time I feel I have completed, I click "Next" and find a further, even longer page that asks for specific dates and references. This is the part my husband referred to me when he searched. One year he entered a cheerful guess then had to pay an increased premium when he didn't have as many years of no claims bonus as he had suggested. Luckily, I am organised enough to keep such paperwork neatly filed but it still feels a chore to have to look up every detail. I wonder why such sites can't keep the information from my last search twelve months ago.
As the night stretches into the small hours, I finally reach the last button and I'm rewarded with a spinning wheel that seems to take forever. Eventually, my spirits are lifted slightly as lists of providers start whizzing down my screen only to plummet once more as I catch a glimpse of the prices: over twice as much as I am paying now. When the monitor finally stops flickering I glance at the top three offers, one of which is my current provider brandishing a price that is at least 10% cheaper than their renewal offer. Frustratingly, my mobile phone suddenly starts to ping and continues for some time as I am deluged with emails and text messages reminding me of the best offer.
I look at the differences between the top three, brush aside the insult I feel at the offer of "handbag cover", and find the combination of the cheapest premium and best legal cover. But the task is not over. Once I click on my selection I am redirected to the company's own website and the whole happy detail inputting starts all over again.
Long, Slow and Expensive
Now the process is over and I await my cuddly toy, I wonder if I should have phoned providers directly like my husband did. Maybe, if I hadn't found a cheap offer online, I would have been forced to take to the telephone like my husband. But I find the telephone method just as long and arduous. Speaking to someone can be helpful but there have been times when I have felt more like a little girl than a powerful woman making an important financial decision.