Cars suffer 'more than £10m of damage' as Beast from the East bites
More than £10 million of damage has been done to cars in just three days as the Beast from the East pounces on the UK's roads, an insurer has estimated.
Figures from the AA's Cardiff-based car insurance claims team suggest that nationally the Siberian snow has led to more than 8,000 collisions - costing insurers more than £10.7 million.
The estimated bill is based on the average cost of repairing a damaged car being around £1,300.
On Wednesday, the number of insurance claims was more than a third higher than on a normal Wednesday for that time of year, the AA said.
Two-thirds of claims related to mishaps in the snow and ice.
Michael Lloyd, the AA's director of insurance, said: "Claims are going up as you might expect during the extremely icy weather that the country is experiencing.
"Based on the AA's share of the car insurance market, we estimate that the total number of private cars involved in collisions is well over 8,200 and rising.
"That equates to around £10.7 million-worth of dented metal."
He said that, fortunately, many of these crashes have happened at relatively low speed as motorists do their best to drive according to the conditions.
Often, cars have hit objects such as kerbs, bollards or barriers. Walls, lamp posts, road signs, bus shelters and wheelie bins have also come off badly.
Mr Lloyd continued: "Insurers will always meet claims for collisions in snowy and icy weather.
"The one case of where a claim won't be met is if a car is stolen and left unattended, warming up on the drive.
"Known as 'frosting', that's simply asking for trouble - more than a third of stolen cars are never recovered and you will get a frosty reception from your insurer if that happens."
Meanwhile, Kwik Fit has seen a 44% increase in demand for new batteries compared with the same time last year. Cold weather means the charge required to start the engine puts a greater strain on the battery.
People are also being reminded to protect their homes. According to home insurer Policy Expert, one in 10 UK adults has had to make a claim on their insurance policy due to storm damage in the past. The average claim was put at £905.
There are also concerns that many people are missing out on financial help to cope with the winter weather.
Analysis by mutual insurer Royal London suggests more than a million pensioners - or one in three of those entitled - are missing out on access to two schemes designed to help with fuel bills.
Pensioners on low incomes can get help via cold weather payments of £25 per week during cold spells, and can also get a discount on their energy bills via the warm home discount scheme.
Sir Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, said: "Up to 1.4 million pensioners could be missing out because they fail to claim pension credit which triggers entitlement to these other forms of help."
The Government has been urging people to claim winter support.
Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said this week: "We urge pensioners across the UK to check that they and their relatives, friends and neighbours are keeping warm and receiving the support they are entitled to."
Those who have not ditched and switched their energy provider for a while could also be paying more than they need to.
Shona Eyre, an energy expert at uSwitch.com, said people on fixed deals who are then rolled on to their supplier's standard tariff could see their annual bill shoot up by nearly £400.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said damage caused to homes, such as collapsing roofs caused by heavy snow, should be covered, so people should check their policy or speak to their insurer.
Comprehensive motor insurance should also cover damage caused by snow and ice.
Looking at the total insurance bills for previous weather-related damage, the ABI put the cost of the 2009-10 winter freeze at £200 million, while the 2013 St Jude storm came to around £141 million.
However, weather-related costs can vary widely and snow-related bad weather is often more disruptive than destructive - unlike floods or high winds.
ABI spokesman Malcolm Tarling said: "As ever when bad weather strikes, insurers will be ready to deal with any insurance claims."
Here are Policy Expert's tips for preventing big winter bills:
1. Check your boiler and heating system.
2. Look for any cracked, missing or loose roof tiles which could be hazardous.
3. Look for cracks around chimney pots and at the roof join.
4. Lag any pipes and water tanks in exposed areas.
5. Clear guttering and drains of any debris which can block easily and freeze up.
6. Check the pointing in brickwork and look for any areas in need of repair.