The overall picture of the changes in car insurance prices isn't as gloomy as you might expect. After several years of price rises, the averages have finally started falling.
However, before we start dancing in the streets, it's worth understanding that behind these averages are some new trends which should ring alarm bells for some female drivers.
AveragesThe overall picture doesn't look bad at all. The latest Confused.com/Towers Watson Car Insurance Price Index shows that car insurance prices for women have fallen 3% and that those for men have dropped 1.8% in a year. This brings the cost of an average policy for a man to £869 and the average price for a woman to £751 at the end of March 2012.
This constitutes a drop for both sexes - although it's worth putting it in some context, because it is still 61% higher than they were at the end of 2006.
New trendsHowever, the researchers warned of a murky picture, and some trends to watch. The issue at hand is that we now have less than a year to go before insurers are no longer allowed to discriminate between men and women when setting insurance premiums. They are not allowed to bring gender into the equation after 21 December this year, which means they are having to find other ways to distinguish between high and low risk drivers.
It seems they are gradually coming to some conclusions about who these risky people are. Women in key parts of the country are seeing some alarming hikes. These include Leeds and Sheffield, Inner London, Manchester and Merseyside, as well as the West Midlands.
In the Leeds/Sheffield area, the cost of a comprehensive policy for women aged 21-25 increased by 3.4%. This compares with a 2% rise for men of the same age and postcode. Women aged 21-25 living in Inner London also saw premiums rise 3.9% and in the Manchester/ Merseyside region, it was 4.7%. Interestingly, and also in the Manchester/ Merseyside area, those women aged 66-70 were hit with a huge 9.7% rise in their insurance premium, compared with a 5.7% rise for men.
More preciseIn these areas men are still paying more for insurance, because they still have more accidents, but clearly new trends are becoming established.
It shows that insurers are being more exact about the risks in each postcode, and being female is no longer protection from high premiums in high risk areas. Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance at Confused.com says: "Overall we've seen insurance prices come down marginally, but some women are seeing significant increases in their premium. The European Union gender equality law bans the use of gender as a factor in calculating the cost of an insurance policy and comes into effect on 21 December 2012. As a result, we expect women everywhere to see hikes to their car insurance costs."
Some reliefAt the moment, being a women does still help though. Female drivers aged 17-20 are paying £1,766 less than men of the same age. The average cost of a fully comprehensive car insurance policy for a female aged 17-20 is £1,869 compared with males of the same age who pay £3,635.
And the most expensive insurance in the country still belongs to the men: 17-20 year old male drivers living in Manchester/Merseyside are paying an average of £5,530. By comparison the most expensive insurance for women is for 17-20 year old female drivers living in Inner London, who pay an average of £3,18.
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Regions where women have received higher insurance price hikes than men
Postcode Region impacted by insurance price increase
Yearly percentage increase for males
Yearly percentage increase for females