A 3 minute phone call, a €300 saving!

Money, money, moneyA brief departure from the usual tech-orientated posts around here… Recently my car insurance came up for renewal. As my insurance last year was with Quinn Direct, I received a renewal quote from them automatically in the post.

In 2010 I paid a little over €600 for a year’s cover. The renewal quote came through – the same policy for 2011 would cost me €950. Bit of a difference! The jump in the price was enough for me to look a little bit closer at what other quotes were available – in the end a 3 minute phone call ended up saving me over €300!

Money, money, money

A common practice with insurance companies in Ireland is to issue a renewal quote, and state that unless the quote is explicitly refused it’s assumed that you will accept it by the date of renewal. There’s generally a 2/3 period between receiving the quote in the post and this date.

Consumer affairs watchdogs are forever telling us to “shop around” – for insurance quotes, energy providers, groceries – anything and everything that will cost us a few euro. For some reason, Irish people have historically been quite reluctant to do this, with a recent survey showing that as many as 1 in 3 admitting to “rarely or never” shopping around for a better price.
This laissez-faire attitude combined with the auto-renewal of insurance quotes mentioned above means that a significant number of Irish consumers don’t even seek a new quote once the renewal notice has arrived, instead waiting for the notice period to elapse and automatically agreeing to pay the new rate. A rise in the quote of nearly 50% was enough to shake me out of my inertia and start checking prices.

Comparing the meerk.. er. market

Going through various price comparison websites, I found that there were several companies which would quote me around €650 for the same policy as the one which I had with Quinn. Before picking the cheapest of these, I devided on a whim to check Quinn’s site and see what my policy would cost were I a new customer, rather than a renewal. Surprisingly, as a new customer on the Quinn website I was quoted €580- the lowest price in the market, and also over one third lower than my renewal quote, with the exact same details! Many companies offer discounts to new customers on initial sign-up, but the scale of the difference really surprised me.

I gave Quinn a quick call to see if they could shed any light on the reasons for the difference. I spoke to a couple of very helpful representatives, all of whom were equally baffled by the scale of the difference. Quinn offer a discount for online signup, as well as a “new customer” bonus, but everyone I spoke to agreed that it should never have caused that level of difference.

As the quote I got was the cheapest, I’d decided to go with it. One of the Quinn representatives suggested that the easiest thing to do would be to have my existing Quinn account “price match” the “new” account I’d set up to get the cheaper quote. Quinn have an internal process for authorising these matches, so I was told I’d be called back once the appropriate people internally had signed off on it. So far, so good.

The Big Match

I got a call back the next day telling me that their “quote match” department couldn’t authorise a price match on such a significant difference, and that the best match they could offer me was €780. This was particularly baffling, as the price they were attempting to match was one issued by their own company! I asked the Quinn rep a bit more about what exactly could have caused such a difference, after we’d eliminated online discount and new customer discount. Apparently insurance companies are continually reviewing their rates and charges, so the same person can get pretty big differences in quotes given even within 1 calendar month.

The recommendation I was given by the Quinn rep was to cancel my existing Quinn account, and to accept the quote as a “new” customer. I was a tad apprehensive about doing this, having previously been through the messy paperwork and admin required when moving insurers (returning discs, certs of insurance, old company sending new company “no claims” cert, etc). With so many bits of paper floating around (from Quinn to Quinn in this case!) I could easily see a snafu which ended up with me insurance-less.

Nevertheless, a saving of nearly €300 was enough to convince me, so I went ahead and signed up as a “new” Quinn customer. Apparently it’s not uncommon for people to do this, so the rep was able to tell me which departments to email to notify them of my cancellation and my move to being a “new” Quinn customer. In the end, it all went very smoothly, and I got my notice of cancellation and new disc in the post within a few days.

Everything went better than expected

Lesson learned

Despite being continually told to “shop around”, I’ve never been particularly good at doing so. It was only the size of the price increase in the quote that shook me in to checking around, and led me to save nearly €300!

What was also refreshing about this experience was how easy the staff in Quinn were to deal with. Everyone I spoke to whilst trying to clear up the price discrpeancy was helpful, friendly and did their best to help me understand how my quote had jumped by so much versus a new signup. In the past I’ve heard some very mixed things about Quinn staff, but I found them great to deal with, so tops mark there.

So, hackeneyed and clichéd as it may sound, it can really pay to shop around!

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