/ Money, Motoring

Is your age driving your car insurance out of reach?

Car insurance premiums

The average UK driver can expect to be quoted around £641 for their car insurance, according to data from the AA’s British Insurance Premium Index. But how many of us are ‘average’?

If you’re between 60 and 69, that figure goes down to £389. At the other end of the spectrum (if you have the misfortune to be under 23), it spirals to a hair-raising £1,477.

Record high premiums

As is well publicised, premiums across the board are at record highs. Across the long term, the industry has blamed much of this on surging numbers of whiplash injury claims – which the government has repeatedly attempted to address, with mixed results. And more recently, a series of tax rises and legislative changes have added to the concoction, ratcheting prices up further.

Indeed, newly released data from the insurance trade body (the Association of British Insurance) suggests that not only are premiums at their highest – but the rate at which they’ve been going up over the past year is also the highest on record.

Premiums for the youngest drivers

In all of this, the biggest long term price rises have been incurred by the youngest drivers – who have seen the cheapest quotes available to them go up by £258 since the end of 2010, undoubtedly making driving an increasingly impractical choice.

Older drivers’ premiums

However, older drivers – while generally paying less – have seen the steepest proportional rises over that period. Premiums for those aged 60-69 have gone up by a third (31%) from £297 to £389. Meanwhile, for those over 70 the rise has been almost half – from £363 to £541 – or 49%. A noticeable squeeze.

Do you feel you are punished by your car insurance for your age?

Yes (85%, 780 Votes)

No (15%, 141 Votes)

Total Voters: 921

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Generally, young and older drivers are charged more than those in the middle as they’re perceived by insurers to be at a statistically greater risk of making costly claims – particularly ones involving personal injury.

What’s more, while younger drivers can at least look forward to their age working in their favour as they get older, industry data tends to suggest that once you’re in your sixties it will increasingly work against you.

Premiums in retirement

In a recent piece of Which? research (you can find more on this the August issue of Which? Magazine), we tested this by obtaining quotes for drivers of various ages (but identical in most other respects) from twelve insurers. With one of our fictitious drivers – living in the North East and driving a Ford Focus – the difference in premium the driver would pay depending on whether they were 65 or 80 was, at lowest, £164 and at highest, £528 depending on insurer.

Of course, this is one scenario – and many of us won’t fit into the ‘average’ bracket, either. What’s your experience been? Has age – young or old – proved a hurdle to you when getting affordable car insurance (and how have you dealt with that, if so), or has it been relatively smooth sailing (driving) over the years?

20 July 2017

I have been driving now for over 60 years and I have had no accidents in this period at all. Every year I have an argument with the insurance companies as to why I should pay what I consider to be an exorbitant price for my good driving and the fact that we are paying for those that flout the law by driving with no insurance at all. Why should this be allowed? Talk about fairness??? It’s a joke.

In November 2016 the government said it was going to crack down on excessive whiplash claims with a view to saving drivers £40 a year on average on their motor polices. There would be a cap of £425 on the amount of any compensation, accredited medical evidence would be required in respect of any claim, and the claims limit for personal injuries through the ‘small claims’ court would be raised from £1,000 to £5,000, There were some additional procedural changes to curb the whiplash racket.

The consultation on this ended in January 2017 and the measure was expected to be introduced in April but it seems to have sunk without trace when Parliament was prorogued for the general election. A possibility is that it will take effect in October 2017. In the meantime predatory and parasitic legal firms and claims handlers continue to advertise their services and people are still extorting money under false [or unverified] pretences. When it does come to fruition this should gradually work its way into the insurance companies’ risk calculations and result in lower premiums [or a least a delay in higher premiums].

Personally, I am prepared to accept the insurance companies’ assessment that drivers in the older and younger age ranges give rise to the highest payouts. Even insurers that deliberately attract older drivers don’t seem to offer lower premiums which suggests to me that the risk balance is about right, but for every company it will depend quite heavily on the make up of their book and the ratio of good to bad risks.

Do you have evidence, or do you believe the insurance companies have evidence that us oldies are more of a risk? I suppose there is a great sadness when driving becomes impossible. Not only the joy of getting out and about, but the hassle of using public transport with its delays and timetabling. This might lead some to postpone the decision to stop driving when they should be off the road. The rest of us, are experienced and usually drive defensively to avoid trouble. I would like to see some statistics to prove that age, in itself is the cause of raised premiums. Mine have been stable up to now, but I’m not holding my breath for too long. The medical certificate (my last cost me £120) should highlight risks that might prove hazardous on the road. They are every three years. An insurance risk is a fair calculation based on statistics and analysis. If this strays into generalisations and attempts to stereotype in order to get more money then this is wrong. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of regulation to stop it happening. When older motorist vote by switching they see their choices narrow and are forced to get insured or stop driving.

No, Vynor, I don’t have any evidence but if insurers who say they specialise in insuring safer older drivers can’t offer significantly lower premiums I feel it is a fair assumption.I think one of the calculations is the amount of medical treatment required after a serious collision and for which compensation is payable. I would expect that to be higher for seniors. I think there is a deterrence effect in pricing premiums [that is, some companies have enough on their books and try to price out new business from older drivers]. Moreover, the older market might be less inclined to chop and change insurers [less so nowadays perhaps] or to haggle, so easier to charge more. But insurance is highly competitive and it’s my instinctive feeling that the insurers have got it more or less right. Like you, I should like to see some statistics to justify the position.

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My motor insurance (including breakdown cover) with NFU Mutual has gone up from £272.55 to £295.33. I was concerned that the renewal documents had not arrived three weeks before renewal was due so I rang the company and they agreed to send renewal information by email. This did not happen, so a couple of days before going on holiday I called in at the local office, which offered a cheaper price than I had been quoted on the phone.

I generally include a friend on the policy so that they can take over driving on holiday. For many years I had cover for any driver over 25 but nowadays this is either not available or prohibitively priced. I regard it as responsible to share driving if you are tired but insurance companies see this as a greater risk.

john rakowski says:
21 July 2017

A majority of road traffic accidents are caused by young drivers. This a proven fact, punish the ones causing the problem, not the safer older drivers who drive defensively

I am not sure there is any evidence to support what you say, John. We would need to see statistics that show the number of collisions attributable to drivers of different ages per thousand kilometres travelled in order to draw such a conclusion. I wish all older drivers drove carefully. The good thing is that few of them are on the roads late at night. I am over seventy and am withdrawing from driving because I don’t think my reactions are quick enough nowadays. I also find it quite tiring and not particularly enjoyable.

Statistics can be made to “prove” any thing in any way Now it is a computer that decides everything everywhere and if the wrong things are put into the thing the wrong decision will appear and no one want to admit that is the facts

Generally, young and older drivers are charged more than those in the middle as they’re perceived by insurers to be at a statistically greater risk of making costly claims – particularly ones involving personal injury.
I’m not sure that perceived was meant. Insurers have huge amounts of data on which to assess risk and decide premiums. So i’d use”assessed” rather “than perceived”.
I have, to date, had no problem with getting sensible quotes. Some companies specialise in different sectors of the market, so shopping around is essential. For one car I use a broker who changes my insurer if they can get a better deal on renewal – saves me work for little extra cost.
Adding any (un-named) drivers presumably increases the risk considerably as far as the insurer is concerned.

I want to insure a car (not currently insured) temporarily for it to be sold for a relative. I can buy insurance for 28 days for £180. Alternatively I can take out a normal 12 month policy with my current insurer for£328, and when the car is sold cancel the insurance (£40) and get a pro-rata refund. So 28 days would cost £67……..

When I bought my first car, I chose comprehensive insurance that also covered any driver over 25. It did not increase the premium much, though the excess was greater for un-named drivers. In my early days of driving I occasionally suffered from severe migraines and wanted someone else to be able to drive if I was ill or simply tired.

Including cover for any driver became much more expensive (or not available on some policies), so I opted for being able to add a named driver for a short period. I cannot remember what NFU quoted me recently, but I decided to stick with one named driver who lives nearby.

I drive a 1996 Lexus and my last quote was £196.00 That’s for third party Fire and theft . Not worthy of fully com:

I visit a block of retirement flats every day and there are many car drivers who live there. Often these cars are badly parked and sometimes not moved for several days/weeks. My main concern is that I know many of these drivers have physical problems that affect their driving – not badly but their reactions will be twice as slow as a fitter driver.
Does anyone else think that drivers should take a compulsory eye test EVERY year? It should be a requirement to renew car insurance, just like an MOT is required. I remember being a passenger with a friend who had just collected new glasses and her surprise when she realised how much she could now see. Frightened me.

How do you know their reactions will be twice as slow? Also. remember that driving ability depends on many factors. Anticipation being one; keeping a safe distance from the car in front, not hurrying but allowing plenty of time for a jouney; experience; not overtaking on bends. All these factors make under-25 drivers more dangerous than 70-year olds.

Perhaps if someone has an accident they should be made to have an eyesight check, just as they are breathalysed.

Fair enough but I would rather not wait until there has been an accident. Many do have regular eyesight checks, so we are part of the way there. Gradual loss of peripheral vision and other problems may not be apparent without a sight check. It alarms me when drivers say they hate driving at night but at least they usually avoid doing so.

Us (hooligan) motorcyclists also know that very many who would doubtless pass the eyesight test nonetheless have extremely poor “situational awareness” when they drive, so they tend not to look out for hard to spot hazards, like approaching motorcycles.

All that having been said, if you are not looking out for traffic and other hazards, you won’t see them, no matter how good you eyesight is, under medical test conditions.

It has often been suggested that drivers should have some experience on a motorcycle before getting behind the wheel of a car. I don’t know how much evidence there is to show that this would make drivers more aware of motorcyclists sharing the roads.

Since eye tests are free of charge for pensioners I can’t see any reason why people should not be required to have one. But, as others have said, good vision is but one of several cognitive faculties that are necessary for safe driving. Some of them can be impaired by even small quantities of alcohol and narcotics, by certain medication, by lack of sleep, by anxiety or tension, and by numerous other factors. The good driver – and those around them – will assess their fitness before starting a journey. We can but hope that they all make that critical appraisal and err on the side of caution. Insurance companies might have evidence that the older generation are more self-confident than is justified, or that their critical faculties themselves are sub-optimal.

On a motorcycle things tend to be more immediate and this requires even more awareness and concentration to stay out of trouble. I don’t know what the difference is but it certainly is different to sitting behind a steering wheel. Not just being on two wheels but also on the way situations develop around you. So experience on a bike is good experience to have.

Could that be because motor cycle riders tend to want to go faster than the surrounding traffic and to overtake in situations where there would not be enough space for a car to do so safely? Just guessing.

Personally, I find that different combinations of vehicle and driver lead to different “happy speeds”.

In a car, it can be very frustrating to be on a reasonably good stretch of road with a 60 mph limit, if you get stuck behind a train of other vehicles led by someone which a much lower “happy speed”.

On a motorcycle, you have more freedom as to whether or not to “grin and bear it” or overtake the slower traffic in front of you.

Good point about regular eye tests to which should be mandatory for the over 65s. But no-one tests for dementia/Alzheimers drivers and how could it be done? You do learn to drive defensively the older you get, but some drive so slowly they’re also a danger by tempting others to overtake and risk a pile-up. But I can see a time when I’ll be forced off the road due to higher insurance premiums. I’m lucky enough at 74, after 57 years at the wheel, to go online and shop around or haggle over the ‘phone. But there’ll come a time when even that ability won’t result in a reasonable premium. Old age never comes on its own…!

Given the risks to other road users, I would prefer that the eyesight and general fitness of elderly people to drive was checked at appropriate intervals. I was concerned about an elderly friend in her late 80s because she was quickly losing her memory and had stopped driving any distance. I spoke to her son who lived in France and he arranged to have the car collected for repairs. To start with she wondered when it would ever come back but then she forgot about it.

Thankfully many cut down their driving later in life, often avoiding driving in towns or motorways.

I gave up driving a few years ago and, as I live alone and also have mobility problems, transport has become the major factor in limiting my social life. It is not surprising that older people delay giving up the freedom of having a car as long as possible

It would be good to think that this was an area of concern to town planners, social workers, local government, medical providers, businesses etc but, actually, nobody cares if you are virtually housebound.

As long as you can do basic shopping on-line and an under-funded care system provides minimal home visits or you go into residential care this society, which is based on the assumption that you have a family and a car, totally ignores the problem.

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So where are these statistics, Duncan? It’s not just a headcount of young versus old that we need because distance driven per incident in each age group has to be taken into account : as I said previously, we need to see statistics that show the number of collisions attributable to drivers of different ages per thousand kilometres travelled in order to draw any conclusions. I don’t think such statistics exist but given the low mileage generally driven by older drives and the number of incidents for which insurance claims are submitted by third parties I feel that the insurance companies are generally right in their assessment of risks.

The actions you highlight in respect of young drivers are sensational rather than commonplace and are not necessarily giving rise to insurance claims from third parties. When it comes to inattention at the wheel I don’t think any age group comes out particularly well from my own observations. I think there is intentional bad driving, such as you have described, and unintentional bad driving that gradually creeps up on people. I am glad your insurance company accepts your fitness to be insured on an unloaded premium and that you believe you still have all your faculties in perfect condition. My concern is that many other elderly drivers think so too but it is obvious from their conduct on the road, and when they get out of the car, that they are suffering under a delusion. I don’t aspire to that condition so have decided not to chance my luck. I am gradually giving up driving; our car will soon be ten years old and it will not be replaced. I realise the presssures on many older motorists to keep on driving because it is more comfortable, quicker and more convenient, and many do indeed retain their full mental acuity.

There is a place we visit from time to time that is like a garden suburb largely populated in the daylight by elderly people who drive to the shops and social facilities in the village centre. The prevailing speed limit is 30 mph and 20 mph in the central area but traffic generally crawls around at less than 10 mph building up frustration and impatience among people who have to get somewhere, commercial drivers, buses and so on. To me, that is not a sign of adequate faculties but of timidity, fear and apprehension possibly giving rise to stress and fatigue. Of course, there are very few incidents within the village that would incur a third party insurance claim.

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Duncan – I think you might have misunderstood what I wrote. I did not cast any aspersions on your driving ability or style or on your car. I am merely contending that mile-for-mile there are more third party claims attributable to the driving ability of elderly people [of which I am now officially one such] than to younger drivers. Poor driving behaviour is prevalent at all ages but most of it does not cause a collision leading to an insurance claim. I believe that after driving under the influence of drink and drugs, using a mobile phone or other device while driving accounts for the most fatal and personal injury cases and that is rarely associated with older people’s driving. I am not trying to argue that older drivers are worse than any others but that the risks they present are more serious and the consequences of their incidents can be more costly to the insurers.

My anecdote at the end of my previous comment was intended to show that defensive driving, which is so highly commended, can – if taken to extremes – give rise to hazardous driving conditions for other drivers if they become frustrated or impatient. Our roads work best if people drive to just below the speed limit [subject to weather, traffic and road conditions]; if people cannot do so or are afraid to then I question whether they should be on the road.

May your wheels keep turning long after I have taken my foot off the pedal.

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Defensive driving is what I was taught at the tender age of 23 by a Traffic police officer who trained Police pursuit drivers. After I’d passed the IAM test then, I found the experience had improved my driving out of all recognition, and had taught me that Defensive driving is a state of mind, not a speed regulator.

The illegally high speeds around Snowdonia are done by two groups in the main: youngsters, out with friends shortly after passing their tests, and which form the bulk of the most serious accidents, and 50+ motorcycle riders, who die at an alarming rate – roughly one per fortnight on the local roads.

Statistically, the majority of deaths are motorcycle riders, followed by the 18 – 22 age group. The majority of non-injury bumps and bashes are middle-aged females in car parks. These were from 2015, but certainly the motorcycle stats haven’t changed much.

As we’re a holiday destination the visitors have now arrived en masse and speeds of 30 mph on straight, clear national-limit roads will be but a dream for the next 10 weeks.

John said “Our roads work best if people drive to just below the speed limit [subject to weather, traffic and road conditions]; if people cannot do so or are afraid to then I question whether they should be on the road.” and I agree wholeheartedly. Try to do too slow or too fast makes everything harder for other road users.

I actually sold my last motorbike about 6 years ago. (It was a pipe-and-slippers BMW tourer and, apart from a couple of Buells, I had only Hardley Ableson or Hardly Dangerous models for the previous 20 yeas or so.) Nonetheless, I still have life subscriptions to a couple of clubs, and read some of their newsletters with interest.

When I was riding, some of us used to say: “There are bold motorcyclists and there are old motorcyclists but there are no old, bold motorcyclists.”

Snowdonia has alway been one of my favourite holiday destinations, no matter what mode of travel I have used to get there. With so many slow moving cars and lorries, it can be great place for responsible motorcycling but, as Ian said, also very dangerous if any ad-hoc group of bikers decides to turn it into a cheap alternative to the Isle of Man TT course. (As I’ve mentioned before Shanks’s pony, local buses and Arriva Trains Wales are now included in my preferred travel modes when I’m there.)

I try to avoid motorways during competition and training times (generally rush hours and bank holidays) but if it starts to get silly I stay in the nearside lane and drive at whatever speed the HGVs etc. are driving at. At least I don’t get people undertaking if I dare to leave a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

I also do exactly what wavechange does.

Years of weekly commutes from Cheshire to Berkshire taught me that “speed kills” really is true.

Also “so-called safety consultant has prang whilst en-route to client’s site” never sounded like a great outcome.

Checking the Which? data for car insurance I was surprised to see that three companies offer cover from age 16. I thought the minimum age for driving a car was 17, but maybe this is for driving on private land or to keep a car ready for the big day when you can start driving.

Some insurers have no restriction on maximum age for driving, but the Post Office specifies 115, meaning that it will then be necessary to switch company.

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According to the Which? data, I’ve got ten years to go before Quote Me Happy would make me unhappy and decline to insure me, but there are plenty of other options. It’s nice to know that someone else will mow the grass.

My insurance differs by sixty pounds, depending on which drive I say the car is parked on. Round here it isn’t road rage, it’s ignorant peasant syndrome and quite often, young ladies examining my exhaust pipes in a thirty limit. I also received an education recently when I encountered a lorry convoy racing each other in slow motion on single carriageway roads. Every traffic report contains details of an accident in the summary. There’s an awful lot of bent metal out there, every day… much more than I remember in the past. Perhaps the insurance companies just share the pain across the board and add a bit at each end of the spectrum, just to make sure. Since car insurance is compulsory, they have the whip hand.

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Vynor – We need you to explain the reasoning why it matters which driveway you park on.

Mm. I’m honest and give the one I use most, but, as you may have guessed, my caring venue is not the same as my home venue. They assess each differently, which is annoying. If both were the same I wouldn’t have a cause to gripe or a temptation to cheat. This would probably lead to a refusal if I made a claim, so I don’t!

It was welcome to see last year’s premium shown on the recent invitation to renew my car insurance. Hopefully this will help to put an end to price hikes for those who have not made any claims during the previous year.

One step forward for consumers.

I agree. The insurance companies did not implement the new procedure a minute before it became legally compulsory though; shame on them.

I expect the recent rise in Insurance Premium Tax will be given as an explanation for rises in premiums. The increase should not make a huge difference to premiums: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40107955 Unfortunately those who have higher premiums will be hardest hit.

I would expect well-run and successful companies to be able to absorb such a small increase in IPT through increased sales and economies of scale. It is a 20% increase in the tax rate from 10% to 12% but is forecast to add only £8 to the average premium. It might make insurers look more closely at the generosity of their payouts for unsubstantiated claims.

Although there is ample competition in motor insurance it remains a bloated industry. I would provocatively suggest that a free market in which no trader goes bust is not operating in the public interest.

I’m not expecting companies to absorb the increase but I would like to demand that the increase in tax should not be used as a justification for increasing premiums more than appropriate.

I have seen a few brokers close but had not given much thought to insurance companies tend to operate viable businesses. At least we have some protection under FSCS, so failure of companies should not add to the number of uninsured drivers on the roads: https://www.fscs.org.uk/what-we-cover/compensation-limits/insurance-limits/

I hope that Which? will keep an eye on which insurance companies use the increase in IPT as a justification of inappropriate price hikes. I’d be more interested to know the names of the good guys.

Well guys, I’ve got the ideal solution. I’m just short of 70 and my physical faculties are pretty fair, I’ve been driving cars since 18 (licenced for motorbikes since 17) and PCVs for 12 years. What am I going to do when they won’t insure me any more? (assuming I still want to drive and consider myself as good as most people)? Just go under the radar. I’ll buy an old-but-good car using a false name and address (derelict properties are everywhere), carry no documents at all and do without tax, insurance and MoT (although the car will be maintained properly for my own safety as now). I’ve been a law-abiding citizen all my life but push me too far and I’ll exit the system! So the greedy insurance companies will pay for my accidents (if any) anyway. If I get too doddery to drive I’m sure I’ll have the sense to know it and stop anyway. If they put me away at 85 it’ll save me on food bills, and I’ll probably be treated better in prison than in some of the care homes!

Typical of the irresponsible youth of today. You’ll change your tune when you’re older. 🙂

I have been satisfied with my insurance premiums for as long as I can remember. I ALWAYS test the market at renewal time and will switch if I need to. I am now 71 years old and I drive 3 vehicles – A 1999 Renault Clio which I use for utility journeys, a 2002 Maserati 4200 coupe which I drive for pleasure and a 2002 Ducati Monster motorcycle which is also used for occasional pleasure. The Clio was at its cheapest ever at the last renewal £117 fully comp, the Maserati was around £350 fully comp and the Ducati was around £70 ditto. So, so far I have not seen any age related increases but maybe I will next time around? Be assured, I shall scan the market thoroughly for the best deal. BTW, I live in a low crime area and have a long no claims with no convictions for several decades.

Regarding older drivers – yes, some should be off the road as they struggle to cope but I see many younger drivers in that category too. I fully suooprt a compulsory re-test of ALL drivers at least every 10 years utill (say) 70 years of age when it should be at 70, 75 and 80 and every 2 or 3 years thereafter. Any driver of any age who fails the re-test would have to drive on a P plate and pass the test within 6 months or go back to having a provisional licence. I see a lot of bad driving on my travels and feel this is one way of improving standards. Also anyone caught using a hand held phone while driving should be banned for 6 months as it is easily as dangerous as drink driving.

Sheila says:
18 October 2017

My son had a no fault accident where the other driver disappeared. This was considered a fault. His insurance went up by about sixty pounds. He is a named driver on my insurance and my insurance went up by £144. The accident was in his car. I am 81 whether this had anything to do with it I don’t know. My insurance would not have gone up if I had removed my son from my policy. It seems a bit unfair. Can you explain?

james feeney says:
22 June 2019

Why do we have a legal system allowing a young adult ,to pass their test and drive a car ,legally at 17 – then wonder why so many drive without insurance as insurance and hire cos, penalise these same people until they are 25!! These same young people cannot get insurance, unless via bank of mum + dad or grandad ? They are being literally priced off same road, they got a licence to drive on !! = with exorbitant prices , and black boxes, and being told by these same ins cos they are not allowed to drive more than x amount of miles per month/ year!! After paying iro of forty / fifty/ sixty or more pounds per week for their little 1 litre ford —yet you can now legally drive a massive forty foot/ ton lorry articulated lorry at 18 – as theres not enough drivers ? Can someone explain this logically

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It is extremely useful for young people to be able to drive a vehicle even if most of them are not sufficiently well-off to own one. There is no requirement to own a vehicle within a short time of passing the driving test. They must, of course, ensure that any vehicle they do drive is insured to enable them to do so.

It is unfortunate that the cost of insurance for a young car owner is so high but, according to the motor insurers, that is the result of risk analysis and claims experience. Restrictions and monitoring devices are a good idea introduced by some insurers and will be helpful for responsible drivers.

Young drivers are not being priced off the road but are being priced out of car ownership. Many believe that is the right approach.

I learned to drive before I could afford a car. It was useful when I drove an ice cream van in the holidays and deliveries for a friend who was a wholesale grocer. I also hired cars on the university vacations and when I first started work. Whether I could do that now I do not know.

My first insurance – on a Mini – cannot have been horrendously expensive otherwise I could not have afforded it. Young (i.e. inexperienced and maybe of indeterminate responsibility) drivers do need to demonstrate their ability to convince insurers of the risk they present. Black boxes to monitor driving seem an excellent way to help if they are interpreted correctly.

I did without a car until I could afford to run one and then could only afford 3rd party, fire and theft not fully comp.

A car was a luxury, not an entitlement.