Millions break the law to get cheaper car cover

Published:
11 April 2012
Topic:
News,Insurance,Motoring,Car

Millions of British drivers are breaking the law, or would consider doing so, by 'fronting' a car insurance policy.

And millions more don't even know that fronting - where you identify an older, more experienced person as the main driver even though they're not - is actually illegal.

According to the latest MoneySupermarket research, more than one-in-four drivers (27%) would consider fronting to reduce insurance costs. In most cases this is where a parent presents him or herself as the main driver of their child's car, with the child being reduced to a 'named' driver on the policy.

As well as breaking the law, fronting could invalidate the policy, potentially leaving the family massively out of pocket.
But as we explain here, there are lots of legitimate ways to cut the costs of motor insurance. Drivers should certainly resist the temptation to front.

Why do people 'front'?

Fronting is an illegal way to reduce motor insurance premiums. The statistics used by insurers to set their prices show that younger drivers have more accidents than their more experienced counterparts, which is why young people pay such high premiums - around £3,000 if they don't have a no claims discount.

So if you tell the insurance company that an older person is the main driver of the car, they will charge less. Our research found that 14% of motorists have knowingly 'fronted' a policy for one child or more, while 13% haven't yet but would do so.

But insurance policies are very specific about who the main driver on a policy should be - the person who does the bulk of the driving. If the insurer thinks the person listed as the main driver isn't the main driver in reality, it may well refuse to pay a claim.

A big part of the problem is that a lot of motorists simply don't know the rules. Nearly a quarter (23%) think there's nothing illegal about fronting, while a third (33%) simply don't know whether fronting is legal or otherwise.

How can fronting come back to haunt you?

Fronting usually only comes to light when a claim is made. If the main driver is an older person but the driver involved in the incident is a named driver - their child - then the insurance company might delve a little deeper.

If the accident took place near the child's university, or if the parent is also the main driver of another more expensive car, it might challenge the basis on which the cover was issued.

What happens then?

If your insurer finds that fronting has occurred, it might refuse to carry on insuring the car until the correct premium is paid. If it feels particularly aggrieved, it might simply cancel the policy.

That might not sound too horrendous until you remember that all insurance proposal forms ask if you have ever been refused cover or had a policy cancelled - and if you answer yes, you will face a higher premium because you a deemed a bigger risk. You might it difficult to get cover at any price.

The worst case scenario is that the insurer will refuse to pay the claim. Under law, it would have to settle any successful claim for damages brought by a third party, but it could refuse to pay the comprehensive part of the claim and it might pursue you through the courts to get the third party element back.

And if a claim is denied by the insurer, the driver could be convicted of driving without insurance - which counts as fraud, triggering hefty fines and penalty points on the driver's licence. A new driver would receive an automatic ban. The impact on your insurability would last a lifetime.

Peter Harrison, car insurance expert at MoneySupermarket, said: "Ignorance may be bliss to motorists who think fronting is a legitimate way to reduce the cost of motoring for their family and stay on the right side of the law, but in reality it's quite the opposite. Fronting on a car insurance policy is illegal and it is worrying how many motorists are willing to take this risk."

He says that, despite the obvious attraction of cutting costs on your car insurance, the repercussions of being caught falsely claiming to be the main driver of the vehicle mean it is simply not worthwhile: "Fronting would be classified as fraud by an insurer, and could invalidate the policy.

"It could also result in the younger driver ending up in court being charged with driving without any insurance. Anyone with a case of fraud against them could end up being refused cover by an insurer in the future. There are certainly much better ways to save on the cost of car insurance for younger drivers."

So if fronting is a no-no, what can young drivers do to bring the cost of carninsurance down?

Top tips for younger drivers to cut car insurance costs:

  • Shop around - People who use MoneySupermarket to compare car insurance prices save on average £375 a year.
  • Buy online - Many car insurance providers offer discounts to customers that buy online. Our car insurance service gives you swift access to insurers who sell online.
  • Mileage limit - Consider a mileage limit or only drive at certain hours of the day. The more miles you drive, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident. So the fewer miles you drive, the lower your premium. But make sure you adhere to any limit you choose.
  • Car security - Fit an approved alarm and immobiliser and you'll get a discount. Parking in a garage or off-road overnight will also reduce your premium.
  • Drive a car with a smaller engine - A newer, more reliable car that is less likely to be used by 'boy racers' will have a cheaper premium. Aim to drive a car like this for at least two years after passing your test to put yourself in good standing with insurers - and forget about turbo-charged cars with big spoilers, fat tyres, alloy rims and other extras. You'll pay for them twice: once at the garage, and once when you pay your premium.
  • Parents - If at all possible, avoid being added to a parent's insurance policy. It prevents you from building up your own no-claims bonus. However, adding a more experienced person to your policy as a named driver (not as the main driver - that's fronting) may bring down your premium.
  • Pass Plus - This is a certificate where a young driver who has already passed his or her driving test receives specific lessons in night, motorway and town traffic driving. Achieving Pass Plus can earn significant discounts (as much as 35%) on your car insurance.
  • Payment method - If you can find the money, pay your insurance upfront in one go. You will be charged interest if you spread the cost over 12 monthly payments.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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Kevin Pratt

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