We’ve looked at ratings from independent, professional financial services review firms (including Which? and Fairer Finance) to come up with a list of the top insurers on the market for car insurance:
- John Lewis Car Insurance
- LV= / Nationwide
- Age UK Car Insurance
- RIAS (Over 50s only)
- Saga Car Insurance (Over 50s only)
- Direct Line Car Insurance
- More Than Car Insurance
- Churchill Car Insurance
Read on to learn more about:
- How we came up with our Top 10 Car Insurance
- Pros and cons of car insurance comparison sites
- Why "Best Car Insurance" and "Cheap Car Insurance" are not the same thing
- What makes a good car insurance policy?
- Best multi car insurance
- Best over-50s car insurance
- Best car hire excess insurance
- How to find the best temporary or short-term car insurance
- Car Insurance Reviews
How we came up with our Top 10 Car Insurance Companies list
Rather than rate these companies on price (you can use a comparison site like Go Compare to do that), we used expert research into the quality of both the cover and service provided by the different brands.
We’ve excluded one high-scoring company, due to the restrictions placed on the cover they provide - NFU Mutual insurance, which caters almost exclusively to drivers in rural areas.
However, for our latest update (March 2016), we have chosen to include car insurance policies focused on older drivers, meaning that Age UK,Saga, and RIAS - all of whom focus on the Over 50s - have entered the Top 10. As a result, M&S Car Insurance, The AA, and Sheila's Wheels have all dropped out despite continuing to receive high scores from Which? and 5 stars from Defaqto.
If you would like more information on the individual providers, have a look at our detailed reviews at the bottom of the page. Meanwhile, this article will focus on explaining why cheapest isn’t always best when it comes to car insurance, and what you should look out for when choosing an insurer.
Car insurance premiums can vary massively depending on factors such as your age, so we've also written a guide to the best insurance for young drivers and a list of the eight best black box car insurance providers.
We've also written a guide to learner driver insurer.
If you're interested in breakdown cover, check out our list of the 13 best breakdown companies.
Pros and cons of car insurance comparison sites
With the rise in popularity of comparison sites, many people look for the cheapest price when choosing an insurance provider, believing it to be the best deal. However, that is often not the case.
We are not denying that comparison websites such as Go Compare, Confused and Moneysupermarket have brought positive changes for consumers. They’ve created competition between car insurance providers, resulting in prices coming down, and made customer reviews of the different brands more readily available.
However, the flip side of this competitive element is that it drove many companies to create cheap car insurance policies with very basic levels of cover. Keeping prices low means they end up at the top of comparison websites' lists, but at the expense of the customer, who may be left out of pocket by the policy’s shortcomings.
It is also worth noting that policies from some car insurance companies are not on comparison sites. Here is a list of them:
“Cheap car insurance” and “best car insurance” are not the same thing!
Some providers, such as Onecall Car Insurance, offer cheap policies and discounts, but many customers have claimed they’ve been hit with extra admin charges and "surprise" extra fees they were not expecting when they tried to make a claim or just changed their car mid-contract.
It may be a cliché, but in this case, it is true – you get what you pay for. Comprehensive policies from big name companies like John Lewis and Churchill may have higher premiums, but could end up much cheaper in the long run by offering a more inclusive cover. For example, LV= comprehensive car insurance cover offers unlimited cover on windscreens, windows, sunroofs and lost keys, plus a no claims discount protection that will allow any number of claims. Additionally, don’t underestimate the importance of a good claims process, which could save you from the stress and anxiety of bad customer service.
Find out how much the average car insurance policy costs here.
What makes a good car insurance policy?
The first thing to keep in mind is the level of excess. Some cheaper policies come with a very high level of excess which, in the long run, can be costlier than paying a higher premium. That said, we’ve come up with a way for you to save money by insuring your excess.
Other things to look out for include:
- Windscreen cover, which is offered as standard by many of the providers in our top 10, including John Lewis Car Insurance and Aviva Car Insurance, as part of their comprehensive car insurance cover.
- Courtesy car – you want to make sure that, if anything goes wrong with your vehicle, you get a complimentary replacement car until yours is fixed. This is part of the comprehensive policies for many of our top 10 providers as well, including AA car insurance.
- Many people assume that, if they have comprehensive insurance they are automatically covered to drive other people’s cars, but that is not necessarily the case. Read the terms of your policy carefully to make sure you are insured for driving cars other than your own, to avoid making a costly, and potentially illegal, mistake.
- Some companies offer what they term Accelerated No Claims. This means you can claim a 12-months no claims discount after only 10 months on the road. However, the catch here is that often this only applies if you stick with the company for another year. For some, this will work out well, but it’s worth doing your research. In most cases, loyalty is not rewarded when it comes to insurance, so, even with the no claims discount, you may be better off elsewhere.
To conclude, don’t just look for the best price when you shop around for car insurance. We compiled our top 10 by averaging the scores from Which?, Fairer Finance and other financial services review companies to find the highest ranking brands, which reflects the providers who will most likely prove themselves to be the best value in the long run, as well as provide the best customer experience.
We've also created a guide to getting a quote for a Tesla electric car.
Best multi car insurance
The concept of multi car insurance is pretty simple; insure more than one car with the same insurer to receive a discount.
However, there are a few things to consider when selecting a multi car policy. In fact, the first thing you should do is make sure it will actually save you money because in some cases it can be cheaper to buy individual policies for each car.
The level of savings will depend on your personal circumstances but mainly relate to the age and model of the cars being insured and your driving experience.
For example, adding an 18-year-old who has just passed his test onto the same policy as a 50-year-old with a nine-year no claims bonus may not result in a saving.
Multi car insurance comparison can be difficult because you may not be able to see rates for multi policies on price comparison sites. However, we recommend shopping around – first for individual policies for each car and then comparing a range of multi-car quotes.
To get you started, we have ranked the multi car policies offered by our top 10 car insurers.
To do this, we’ve looked at three key points:
- Discount - the money off offered for insuring more than one car with an insurer. Sometimes this is a fixed saving or it can be linked to the number of cars you add to the policy.
- Matched no claims bonus - this part of a multi-car policy allows you to apply the longest no claims bonus of a vehicle being insurers to both cars. Not all companies offer it. It can add extra savings, but check whether the no claims bonus of both cars will be affected if either car is involved in an accident.
- Separate claims records - a multi-car policy with a separate claims record ensures that if a car is involved in an accident it will only be logged on that vehicle’s record. That means it won’t impact the no claims bonus of the other car on the policy.
There are a couple of other important factors that may influence your decision. First, whether you can set different cover or excess levels for each car on the policy. If all the drivers are a similar age and drive comparable models it may not be much of an issue for you, but flexibility may be desirable for some households.
You will also want to look and how insurers approach different policy start dates. It may be the case that one person already has a policy with a company and wants to add another car to receive the multi-car discount. But what happens if there is a four-month gap in when the policies renew? Some firms insist that all cars have the same policy start date, while others allow separate start dates.
If you need to have the same start date, check if your provider (especially if it’s the same company you’re starting a multi-car policy with) will provide a refund for any of the current policy you are not going to use. And make sure you never have any gaps in cover.
Here are the best multi car providers from our top 10 car insurers:
- Aviva - Up to 33% multi-car discount, separate claims records, allows each car to have different levels of cover and excess
- More Than - 15% multi-car discount, matched no claims bonus, separate claims records
- Direct Line/Churchill - Up to 15% multi-car discount, separate claims records, up to 10 cars covered
- LV= - 5% multi-car discount, matched no claims bonus (up to nine years), separate claims records
- Saga – 5% multi-car discount
There are a number of other providers not in our top 10 that offer discounts, for example, Admiral’s multi car insurance discount is linked to the amount of cars you add and it says 10% of multi car customers saved £318 between October 2015 and March 2016.
Best over-50s car insurance
It’s difficult to say one insurer is the best for over-50s because your quote will depend on factors such as the model of car you drive, where you live and your claims history.
However, the good news is that drivers who are over 50 should get some of the best car insurance quotes wherever they get cover.
Insurers base their premiums on driving experience, which over 50s are likely to have a lot of. If you have built up a long no claims bonus you’re in a good position to get one the best car insurance rates.
The average car insurance quote for a 51-year-old is £628, according to Confused.com. For over 60s it’s even better, the average quote for a 61-year-old is £418.
If you drive a more expensive car it may be higher than that, but don’t forget that 21-year-olds pay £1,430 on average, so you’re in a preferable position.
For those aged 70 and above prices may start to creep back up and you’ll also need to renew your licence every three years. Don’t forgot to update it with any medical conditions that have occurred since the last time you renewed it.
Out of the providers in our top 10 car insurers, three are either exclusively for or designed for over 50s:
All three are rated 5 Star by independent financial review service Defaqto.
A Star rating indicates where a product or proposition sits in the market based on the quality and comprehensiveness of the features it offers.
A 5 Star rated policy is "an excellent product with a comprehensive range of features and benefits".
Try these providers for specialist cover, but you should be able to get quotes from all the providers in our top 10.
There are a number of other companies not in our top 10 that offer UK car insurance for over 50s. Both 50Plus Insurance (owned by Bluefin insurance, which is backed by Axa) and the Post Office have over 50s policies.
LV seems to offer competitive prices for drivers over 80.
When you get a quote make sure you have details relating to your driving history (including your no claims discount), the make and model of your car and any additional drivers or cars you’d like to add to a policy.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate a cheaper price and make sure you shop around.
Best car hire excess insurance
Excess insurance for hire cars is one way to keep costs down when renting a vehicle in the UK or abroad.
Along with the insurance that car hire firms offer, they’ll also try to sell excess cover. The excess on hire cars can range from about £500 to £1,000 and the hire companies may try to charge you hundreds for pounds of that excess for as little as a scratch.
If you cover the excess it means an insurance company will pay the excess bill if you have an accident. Car rental companies often charge over the odds for excess cover but there are third-party inurers that provide much better value.
The difference can be more than £100, even for short trips.
You can buy these policies in the UK for car hire here, in Europe or the USA. If you buy from one of these companies, you pay the car hire firm's excess if you crash and then claim the money back from your insurer.
When you get to the car hire desk to pick up your car you’ll often have to put a ‘pre-authorised’ amount on a credit card, which will cover the excess in the event of a crash. If you don’t have any accidents your card won’t be charged or it will be refunded. Although this can be a pain it's still cheaper than paying for the hire companies excess policy, which is often called "super CDW (collision damage waiver ) insurance".
Like travel insurance, excess cover can be bought for a single trip or as an annual policy. Annual European excess cover can start at under £50, so if you’re hiring a car a few times in a year it may be the best value. Single trip excess cover can start from under £20.
Unlike the businesses in our car insurance top 10, there are no excess insurance ratings from review services such as Defaqto or Fairer Finance.
To find some of the best car hire, excess providers we looked at customer reviews of companies listed by car hire excess comparison site Moneymaxim.
All of these companies scored at least 8/10 on Trustpilot or 4/5 on Reviewcentre from at least 100 reviews:
- 2Gether Insurance
- Questor Insurance
Other companies that scored well or didn’t have many reviews include Insurefor.com and Insurance4carhire.
As with any insurance policy you should shop around to get the best deal. And if you do buy excess cover from a third party, don’t let the car hire firm sell you a policy you don’t need when you get to their desk.
How to find the best temporary or short-term car insurance
How does temporary car insurance work?
Temporary car insurance offers cover for between 1 and 28 days. Some companies even offer insurance for a set number of hours if you only need cover for a very short period.
It can be used for you to drive someone else’s car or for another person to use your vehicle.
There are many reasons people use temporary insurance but popular uses include for moving house, sharing a road trip or long drive, borrowing a friend’s car, adding a son or daughter to a policy while they’re back from university or driving a new car off a forecourt.
In some cases it makes more sense to buy temporary insurance than to add a named driver to an existing 12-month policy.
However, a short-term policy cannot be used replace to a full car insurance policy, even if you only use your vehicle a couple of times a year. It is illegal to keep a car that is not insured or registered with the DVLA as off the road.
You shouldn’t need it for hire or rental cars because they usually come with insurance. Read more about how you can save money with excess cover for hire cars here.
What does temporary car insurance cover?
Most short-term car insurance policies offer similar cover to longer term insurance. Temporary policies are usually comprehensive but companies do offer third party, fire and theft.
The cover is often immediate so you can buy it on the same day you need it and any claims should not affect the no claims bonus of the vehicle being driven.
Because the cover is immediate it means it can be used for test driving a car or driving a vehicle home if you decide to buy it at a dealership.
Many temporary policies allow business use and cover vans up to a certain size.
Some policies include European cover or give you the option to pay more for it. So it’s possible to have short-term cover if you’re borrowing a car to drive to France, for example.
There are a few exclusions.
Many temporary car insurance policies have an upper age limit of 75 and the lower age limit can vary. For some companies it starts at 21, which makes it difficult for young drivers to get short-term cover. However, the AA’s lower age limit starts at 18 and InsureDaily covers drivers from 19 to 75 years old.
If you have points on your licence or motoring convictions it can make it difficult to get temporary cover. Also, some providers will not cover non-UK licences so you should shop around and compare cover levels if you’re planning on letting a visitor to the UK or an expat with a foreign licence use your car.
Which companies offer temporary car insurance?
A range of mainstream insurers and specialist companies offer temporary car cover:
Be aware that some well-known providers may only offer temporary cover to existing members.
A few big companies such as AXA and Tesco do not appear to offer temporary insurance.
Specialist temporary insurers include:
Cuvva is a new app that allows you to get immediate cover from 1 hour to a whole day. The app is available on Android and iOS and it has good reviews online. You have to be over 21 to use it and it’s designed for borrowing a car from a friend or family member.
How much is temporary car insurance?
As with most car insurance, the cost of temporary car cover will depend on a number of factors, such as how old you are, the car being driven and where you live.
Because the cover is only for short periods it shouldn’t cost too much. Cuvva’s prices for certain cars start under £10 for a few hours of cover.
Quotes for longer periods with other providers can be well under £100. It’s always worth shopping around to compare prices and cover limits to see if you can find cheap temporary insurance.
If you think the short-term quotes you receive cost too much you could look at other options, such as adding a named driver to an existing policy. It will mean another driver can use the car anytime they want, so it may save you money over a year if you’re considering using temporary insurance more than once.
Car Insurance Reviews
Read our expert, independent reviews to learn more about the car insurance companies featured in the Top 10 - and the ones who missed out:
- John Lewis Car Insurance Review
- Privilege Car Insurance Review
- Endsleigh Car Insurance Review
- Go Skippy Car Insurance Review
- eCar Car Insurance Review
- Aviva Car Insurance Review
- Admiral Car Insurance Review
- Marmalade Car Insurance Review
- More Than Car Insurance Review
- RAC Car Insurance Review
- Churchill Car Insurance Review
- Ingenie Insurance Review
- The AA Car Insurance Review
- Saga Car Insurance Review
- Hastings Car Insurance Review
- Octagon Insurance Review
- Age UK Car Insurance Review
- M&S Car Insurance Review
- Debenhams Car Insurance Review
- Bell Car Insurance Review
- AXA Car Insurance Review
- Allianz Car Insurance Review
- Direct Line Car Insurance Review
- Elephant Insurance Review
- 1st Central Car Insurance Review
- Carrot Insurance Review
- Ingenie Insurance Review
- One Call Insurance Review
- Quote Me Happy Car Insurance Review
- Diamond Car Insurance Review
- Sure Thing Car Insurance Review
- Go Girl Car Insurance Review
- Drive Smart Car Insurance Review
- Wise Driving Car Insurance Review
- Covea Insurance Review