Why do insurers want to know my marital status?

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Are you happily married? Or happily single? You might even be happily divorced… Whatever your marital status, motor insurers want to know. The question is: why?

Simply put, it’s because they use the information – along with other details such as your age and your address – to decide how much you are quoted for cover. They are no longer allowed to use claims data showing that female drivers are less likely to be involved in costly accidents than men – gender-based questions were outlawed in 2012.

But they can factor in your marital status when calculating a quote. And as claims data indicates that people in settled, long-term relationships are less likely to be involved in an accident than those who are single, they are often quoted lower premiums for their car cover.

Marital status: the options

When you apply for a car insurance quote online, you will generally be presented with a drop down menu giving you a list of possible responses. Ask for a car insurance quote at MoneySuperMarket, for example, and it offers the following marital status options:

  • Married
  • Single
  • Common law
  • Partner
  • Civil partnership
  • Separated
  • Divorced
  • Widowed

Clearly, you should always declare your true status and not try to find a cheaper option. Doing so could actually invalidate your cover and lead to massive problems if you had to make a claim.

Marital status: the impact on your premiums

The amount you pay for car insurance depends on a number of factors such as your age and employment status. If you are unemployed and under 25, for example, you will more than likely pay a lot more than a 45-year-old in full-time employment. The difference in price is based on claims data collected by insurers showing how likely people in various groups are to have a crash. And while you might not think that whether or not you are married would have an impact on the likelihood of you being involved in a road accident, the statistics tell a different story.

Happily married

For example, a 2004 US government study of 10,525 adults found that drivers who had never been married had twice the risk of driver injury than drivers who were married. Not all insurers will penalise you for being single, though. When consumer group Which? investigated the impact of marital status on car insurance premiums a few years ago, its findings revealed about a third – four out of 12 – of insurers quoted the same rates for married and single drivers.

Of those that did change their quotes based on the marital status entered, the RAC was the one that recorded the biggest difference in price. It quoted a 27-year-old “divorced/dissolved” man living in South London £266.42, a massive 28% more than the same driver when listed as “cohabiting or partnered”. Quotes from More Than and over-50s specialist RIAS also changed by more than 10%, while LV= and Nationwide quoted the same amount regardless of the marital status of the applicant.

Marital status: the advice

When you get married, it might seem sensible to add your new husband or wife to your car insurance policy. However, this will not always lead to savings. If, for example, your husband has been involved in a number of accidents, adding him to your policy could increase rather than decrease your costs. That’s why it’s important to think carefully before taking any such steps. It is, however, important to inform your insurer of a change in your circumstances – such as a divorce – even if it is likely to push your premiums up. If not, you risk invalidating your policy and having any future claims rejected on the basis that you did not fully disclose your circumstances.

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