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7 Feb 2021

Has COVID-19 left you paying for insurance you can't use?

How to get an insurance rebate if you've been affected

While stuck at home during lockdown, millions could have been paying for unnecessary or impaired insurance policies.

Only one in five drivers received any premium refund from their car insurer as a result of coronavirus restrictions, Which? has found - despite half of motorists drastically reducing their mileage.

A Which? survey of 2,386 insurance customers found that motorists, compared to home or private medical insurance customers, were most likely to feel their policy had lost value during the pandemic.

Of the 1,787 car insurance owners quizzed, over three quarters (76%) had seen some reduction in their mileage as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions. 49% reported it had reduced by 'a lot'. Despite this, only 21% saw a cash rebate or discount from their insurer.

Here, we'll break down the numbers, and show you how you can check if you're owed some of your car insurance premium back.

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Could you be eligible for a rebate?

Insurance is priced, in part, on estimates of your future activities - such as the number of miles you anticipate driving in the year ahead.

For many customers - especially those who bought or renewed car insurance before the pandemic began - lockdown made these estimates wildly inaccurate.

As we reported in January, car use fell by more than three quarters during the first lockdown.

Between March and November (when our survey was conducted) 2020, a fifth of motorists received some of their premium back to make up the difference. On average, these customers received £35 each in cash, or premium discounts of around 15%.

Car insurers' rebate reluctance

Only one car insurer - Admiral - proactively rebated its customers - sending each £25.

With other insurers, customers have to contact their insurer to discuss how the pandemic has affected their driving and have their policy adjusted. Some firms have waived their usual adjustment fees to make this more cost effective for customers.

However, only a fraction of drivers in our survey - 9% - told us they'd contacted their insurer to discuss their changed circumstances.

According to the Association of British Insurers, the average cost of comprehensive motor insurance is now at a four year low of £460.

It says that premium adjustments and refunds 'will be a matter for individual insurers' and points out that insurance continues to cover unused vehicles in the event of theft and damage.

What about private health insurance?

Some 1,028 participants in the survey owned private medical insurance, which was also severely disrupted by the pandemic.

43% of policyholders said the impact of the coronavirus led to the postponement, cancellation or disruption to a service they were scheduled to have and that the insurance was supposed to fund.

AXA, Aviva and BUPA - the three largest health insurers - have pledged to rebate any profit made as a result of reduced services. Two others we contacted - the WPA and The Exeter - have made similar commitments.

On average, customers have received £90 back in cash, or discounts of 20%. However, these benefits have only been seen so far by 17% of customers.

How much could you get back?

While insurance is individually priced, the results of our survey can give you an idea of the rebates being paid.

Car insurance - How to get your money back

If you're driving significantly less since taking out your insurance, you should seek to make sure you're paying a fair price.

Don't wait for their call

Some in our survey told us they'd been offered some element of rebate or discount without having to pick up the phone - but the majority had needed to take the initiative themselves.

Assume this is necessary in your case, and give your insurer a call.

How much is fair?

Life has changed, and your insurance should reflect it. On average, drivers in our survey were getting £35 back from insurers - but that's just an average.

Depending on how your driving has changed, you may get less - or be entitled to more. By Miles, which charges customers as they go, told us its customers have made average savings of around £44 after reducing mileage by around a quarter.

Direct Line has told us it's rebating drivers around 2% of their annual premium for every 1,000 miles not driven - up to a maximum of 20%.

So, if your premium is £500, you would get back about £30 if your annual driving reduced from 7,000 to 4,000 miles.

It's not just about numbers

How you drive is also a key part of what you'll pay.

For instance, while you're sitting at home, not commuting, you might be paying for car insurance that's priced with the assumption that you drive at peak time every day. Check that the assumptions in your policy still stand up.

Reducing your cover

If you're using the car far less than you expected, you might consider temporarily reducing the level of cover, or increasing the level of excess, to bring down the premium.

Bear in mind, though, that with car insurance, less cover doesn't always mean a cheaper premium. Counterintuitively, Third Party, Fire and Theft policies can actually be more expensive than comprehensive cover.

Also beware that if you don't have comprehensive cover, your policy won't pay out to repair or replace your car if it's stolen, vandalised or otherwise or involved in an accident.

What if I want to suspend my cover?

Driving without insurance is illegal. However - if your car isn't being used at all, you do have the option to declare it off-road to the DVLA and cancel your insurance.

Some insurers have waived their cancellation fees (often around £50) to allow drivers to do this without being stung.

Shop around

There's nothing new about our advice to 'shop around' - but it still works.

One consequence of the reduced claims car insurers have been paying in the past year is lower premiums for this year's policies. According to the ABI, these are at a record low.

Now is therefore one of the best times to shop around if you're coming up to renewal, and to haggle your insurer's renewal offer if it's not an improvement on last year's. And use our reviews to get the right policy for you.