Why are Northern Ireland car insurance policies different?

Car insurance works just the same in Northern Ireland as it does in England, Scotland and Wales, but can cost significantly more - which means it's vital to shop around for the best possible price on cover.

In August 2011, the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland called for an investigation into motor insurance prices after they rose 73% over two years. Previously, the Office for Fair Trading found the average Northern Ireland car insurance quotes tend to be 11% higher than in the rest of the UK.

But living in Northern Ireland doesn't necessarily mean paying over the odds for cover because there are plenty of things you can do to make motor insurance more affordable.

Read on as we explain why car insurance in Northern Ireland can be more expensive and just what you can do to keep costs down.

Uninsured drivers and personal injury claims

It's thought that rising Northern Ireland car insurance quotes are having the same side-effects as in the rest of the UK, such as an increase in the number of uninsured drivers on the roads and an increase in personal injury claims.

It seems unaffordable car insurance isn't keeping some motorists from getting behind the wheel. When one of these drivers is involved in an accident, claims pay-outs have to come out of a central pot paid into by all insurers.

The problem is, as the number of law-abiding drivers goes down, so too does the amount that can be paid into that central pot, even though the number of drivers and accidents remains pretty much the same.

The only way for car insurance providers to tackle this is by hiking the premiums of those who do buy motor insurance to cover the gap, thus creating a vicious cycle as more people are priced out of the market.

Also, as we've seen in England, Scotland and Wales, there's been an increase in the number of personal injury claims in Northern Ireland, which has forced the insurers to up their prices to cover against expensive pay-outs.

These dual pressures are thought to have made a significant impact on car insurance in the Six Counties, as they do elsewhere, but there are other things going on which means prices aren't as competitive as in the rest of the UK.

Lack of choice

Traditionally, the Northern Ireland car insurance market has been smaller and far less competitive than in the rest of the UK. With fewer insurance companies to choose from, there's been less pressure on the insurers to lower their prices in order to compete.

However, the MoneySupermarket car insurance comparison channel shows that a 50-year-old Volkswagen Golf (1.6) driver from Londonderry/Derry would have their pick of quotes from 64 insurers - including big names such as the AA, RAC, Post Office and M&S Bank.

Car Insurance Northern Ireland Differences

In February 2011 a Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Library Service Briefing Paper examined some of the possible reasons for the increased cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland.

It suggested a number of factors which make Northern Ireland uniquely different from England, Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland has a relatively young population, said the paper, which means it has a greater number of higher risk drivers because young and inexperienced drivers are statistically most likely to be involved in accidents and make car insurance claims.

The Six Counties also has a high proportion of single carriageway roads, more traffic on rural roads and greater distances travelled per driver - all increasing the risk of accidents and car insurance claims.

It also suggested that because of differences in the legal systems in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and that compensation pay-outs tend to be much higher. As a result, insurers have to weight their prices to cover the potential cost of compensation pay-outs.

Ways to get cheap car insurance in Northern Ireland

Just because you live in Northern Ireland it doesn't mean you can't get a fair price for cover. As in the rest of the UK, there are things you can do to help bring the cost of cover down.

Adding an older, more experience driver to your policy as a named driver can help to bring your premiums down because, theoretically, it reduces the amount of time you'll spend behind the wheel.

You must never pretend that an older family member is the main driver of a vehicle if you're actually the main driver to get a cheaper quote. It's called fronting and is illegal. If you're caught fronting you risk fines, court appearances and you could struggle to get car insurance ever again.

As young drivers are hit particularly hard by car insurance, they might consider telematics insurance - where a GPS-enabled tracking device measures how you drive and charges you for insurance accordingly.

If you're a careful driver covering fewer miles, you could save a lot of money with telematics insurance.

You'll earn a No Claims Discount just by driving carefully and sensibly, bringing your premiums down over time.

Also, keeping your vehicle parked in a secure location and making it harder to steal should bring your premiums down. Installing insurer-approved alarms and immobilisers will also help.

And finally, you should always be sure to compare Northern Ireland car insurance quotes and switch insurers each year come renewal time. The best deals are reserved for new customers, and you won't be rewarded for your loyalty by sticking with the same insurer - so shop around using our Car insurance Northern Ireland comparison service. 

†82% of shoppers obtained a quote in 5 minutes or less. Source eDigitalResearch December 2012.