Many women are still unaware that their car insurance premiums are about to soar in the wake of new European legislation.
Over three quarters of female drivers say they either haven't heard of or don't understand EU legislation which could result in their premiums doubling from December. Almost half believe that the European Court of Justice (ECJ)'s gender ruling will either result in lower car insurance premiums or have no impact on them.
A survey by price comparison site Gocompare.com reveals a staggering lack of consumer awareness. As a result the anticipated premium hikes of up to £2,000 a year could catch cash-strapped consumers unawares.
Men currently pay 41% more for cover
As of 21 December, insurers will no longer be able to take a person's gender into consideration when calculating their car insurance premiums.
Traditionally, men – particularly young men – have paid more for cover than women because industry statistics show that their claims are more frequent and more expensive to settle. According to Gocompare, men currently pay 41% more for their cover on average. The difference for 17 and 18-year-olds is even greater, with young men paying an average premium of almost twice as much (94%) as women of the same age.
The research also investigated consumer attitudes to the ruling. Surprisingly, three in every five (58%) women are, in theory, supportive of the ruling and think that men and women should be given equal consideration by insurers when it comes to determining their car insurance premiums. In contrast, and somewhat lacking in male solidarity, a similar number of men (62%) thought it fair that young men be viewed as riskier drivers than women.
Overall, just 17% of those surveyed thought that the ruling would be a good thing, but one in five women said that a European court has no right to dictate laws which affect how much they pay for their car insurance.
What can you do to reduce premiums?
When asked how they'd go about bringing down their car insurance premiums, women displayed varying degrees of resolve. Choosing a higher excess came out on top at 29%; other policy changes included adding an experienced driver to their policy (20%), and lowering their level of cover from comprehensive to third party fire and theft (12%).
Bolder moves to cut costs include taking out a telematics policy (28%) – this would mean having a black box fitted to your vehicle which would measure speed, breaking and cornering and base a policyholder's premium on this data. One in five (20%) said they'd even go as far as to downgrade their current vehicle to a cheaper and less powerful model in the hope of slashing their insurance premiums.
Keeping your car in a locked garage overnight will also reduce your premium, by around 5%, as will fitting an insurer-approved alarm or immobiliser.
If faced with the prospect of no longer being able to afford their car insurance, one in ten said they would swap four wheels for two and begin cycling to work; while a quarter (27%) said they would switch to public transport.
Gender less important after 35
Gocompare.com's head of motor, Scott Kelly, says: "It's quite alarming to see how many female drivers are unaware about the gender ruling. But it doesn't have to be bad news for everyone. After the age of 35, the difference between men and women's insurance premiums isn't influenced as heavily by gender – other things like driving experience, claims and where they live become more important.
"But no matter what age you are, the simplest and most effective way to make sure you don't pay over the odds on your car insurance is to shop around. People who shop around and switch their car insurer can save up to £399.50 on average."
If your policy is due for renewal before 21 December this year, it's important that you shop around using a site such as MoneySupermarket, Confused.com or Gocompare and find the cover you need at the best possible price while you can.
Telematics insurance, which involves having a GPS-enabled box fitted to your car, is like having an insurance broker sat in the car with you, checking how you drive, giving you tips on how to drive better, he said. The information is used to accurately adjust your premium at renewal, or in the case of some products such as insurethebox, give you free bonus miles as reward. This may not appeal to everyone, but for young or inexperienced drivers, who often pay the most for their car insurance and are likely to see the biggest premium increases after 21 December, it can be a good way of lowering their premiums.