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Thursday, May 11

Insurance

The word insurance reminds me of the cheesy gangster movies where the heavies would press the owner of the locksmith's shop into paying them "insurance money" to make sure that "nothing bad happened". Actually, I think that was an episode of Police Squad. In fact, I know it was, but they were spoofing that genre of drama, so it still counts. I don't think insurance salesmen in this country would like to think of themselves as akin to the mobsters running protection rackets in cheesy fiction.

The sad fact, however, is that the people selling insurance in this country might as well be running protection rackets. I've recently been looking for car insurance, and I can only conclude that the whole thing is a scam. I've been quoted prices ranging from £300 to £800. In some cases, I've been given a price, said no to it, and then had the person selling me the insurance immediately come up with a significantly lower price. If it costs less, why are you trying to screw me for more?

Insurance is a very negative thing to buy. You're paying money in case the worst happens. Ideally, I want the basic level of cover for the right money. I don't want bells and whistles - they're not worth more unless I use them, and I don't plan to have a car crash or break-in. If I do, then I will be put to great inconvenience and cost, and the insurance is there to stop the cost being in the thousands, rather than to make me feel like I'm getting a treat for having had the misfortune to be involved in a motoring problem. My favourite story from the last few days' insurance prospecting came yesterday with Swinton insurance. They were trying to beat a quote I'd had from the Post Office. They couldn't get the price low enough. So, they told me that they'd be prepared to upgrade my courtesy car. I pointed out that this was not a benefit I'd really expect to use, given that I didn't plan on having an accident. The operator said - "Ah, but you had an accident in February, didn't you...?" as if to say - "Ah go on, you may as well have another now, you're getting good at it!". I said no.

Overall, I think that the hassle of organising car insurance is a real pain. I also think that it's a damned cheek that the government require car insurance in order to issue road tax, and they also require MoT in order to issue the tax, but they don't require tax on all cars and they also tax petrol, and they don't provide a system for making it easy to pay your dues. Worse than that, there are people who don't pay their dues, have accidents, and then expect someone to pay for the damage. The people who suffer are the honest people like me, who have to go through the hoops to organise the required documentation and policies and end up, on top of that, paying for other people's mistakes, either with higher premiums or with personal loss. I believe there may even be a common pot somewhere, into which all insurers pay, to cover the uninsured accidents. This is a bloomin' cheek. I have a solution.

Ashley's solution to tax and insurance for cars
The following should happen and the country would be a better place:
  • Every car should display a certificate of MoT test pass, in place of a tax disc
  • There should be no road tax
  • Every car on the road in the UK should automatically have insurance against 3rd party losses, such insurance to be provided from a central pot, organised and administrated by the government
  • People can buy additional insurance for comprehensive cover, theft, windscreens, courtesy cars etc
  • All of the above would be paid for by tax on fuel
  • MoT tests would also be free (paid from taxes), though the work to make the car road legal would be the responsibility of the car owner
This system would work because nobody would be able to avoid it. You can't tell if a car is insured from the tax disc, as the tax disc is bought when the car is insured and can last beyond the insurance end-date (or can come with the car when you buy it despite the fact that you may not have insured the car). However, the tax disc is a useful way to ensure that the car is road legal. Replacing tax disc with MoT test certificate would solve the roadworthiness thing, and making all cars insured to the minimum standard by default would solve the insurance thing. Petrol prices are high and added more tax to them would seem counterintuitive. However, in so doing, the entire machinery of the road-tax administration system could be ditched which will reduce the amount of tax needed to claim the same amount of actual money from the motorist. If I need to get the equivalent £180 in road tax from fuel, let's say I'm really trying to get £150 out of each motorist, and let's say that each motorist currently spends £20 a week in petrol... well, that will go up to £23, if that. However, let's also recognise that some people are higher users of fuel than others, they will pay a little more, and the £20 a week people will, therefore, pay a little less. So maybe it will be nearer £21 or £22.

The same goes for insurance. There are lots of people out there with different categories of risk, some of whom don't even pay their insurance. Insurers are profiting from all of this. A single pot for every car on the road in the UK would level the playing field. I might be saving £100 from my car insurance as a basic level of cover, someone else might be saving £200 and so on. All of this would probably only add a couple of pounds a week to my fuel bill.

The argument that it will hit heavy road users more than light road users is true, but that's commensurate with the fact that heavy road users have a higher risk of incident, make more wear on the roads and burn more fuel and, therefore, have a higher environmental impact. Tax on fuel is the ONLY way I can see to link the use of a car with paying for the essentials that come with that.

Feel free to comment if you think there are holes in this policy. Sadly, I don't think we'll ever see such an approach ever adopted by government, which makes the last 15 minutes' typing of this seem strangely pointless.

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