Newest Review: ... be taking the new insurance with them as soon as the funds were available. I call Direct Line tonight (06-12-12) to start and pay for the i... more
A Good Deal Better from Direct Line
Member Name: helencb
Date: 26/10/06, updated on 26/10/06 (1242 review reads)
Advantages: East to do business with, good premiums, stable underwriting
I have been insured with Direct Line for something like 14 years now, having defected to them when I worked for a very large well known broker, as even with staff discount, Direct Line’s quote was cheaper! We currently have two cars, home insurance and life insurance with direct line, and I will ensure they quote us for pet insurance very soon. I have also taken out their one trip travel insurance on a couple of occasions. In fact that little red phone finds it way into my home every couple of months or so.
Back in the early 1990s Direct Line certainly revolutionised the way that insurance was bought and sold. Prior to that there were small brokers, and even large brokers, but the concept of doing insurance over the telephone was not great, and even for someone who gained CII qualifications, I remember one text saying something along the lines of “it is yet to be proven that these new companies will take off”. How wrong that author was, with most insurance companies advertising on TV now being unheard of 20 years ago.
I also worked for Direct Line for around 18 months in the early 90s, so I have experience of what happens internally. (I've even got my own little red phone somewhere..) I think one of the main areas in where they have been successful is the technology they had at hand, automating what was a very paper intensive process, together with prudent underwriting, of course.
Purchasing Car Insurance
There are two main ways in which you can take out car insurance with Direct Line and that is over the internet on www.directline.com or via the telephone on 0845 246 3761. You can contact an advisor between 8am and 9pm Mon-Friday, 9am – 5pm on Saturday and even 10am – 5pm on Sunday meaning even if you work shifts you can get hold of someone quickly and easily.
I have done both over the years, and providing you have all the correct and important information to hand, you can get a quotation in a couple of minutes. However information like previous claims, and convictions, will impact on whether the insurance company will quote or not, and so it is important that these are declared at this stage.
It used to be that Direct Line did not offer credit of any kind and premiums must be made in full via one direct debit card at the time of purchase or renewal. This was relaxed for people with Home Insurance to allow them to break into that market, and now it has been several years since credit facilities were offered to all. I pay my premium by monthly direct debit, which does incur an interest charge of 8% (APR 18.6%) now. This is probably a scary APR, but I compare the total cost, and the convenience, although perhaps it would make more sense to pay in full even using a cheaper form of credit if necessary.
Getting a quote on the web still requires as much information as over the telephone, but you can then play around with the level of cover you require to determine what makes more sense for you. The default ‘voluntary’ excess on a quote is £250 in my case, but you can vary this up or down, and see the impact on the premium. The web does take account of any additional discounts, such as if you have other policies with the organisation, and in that sense is very accurate, providing you give the right information. There is a further discount of 10% simply for buying on line, so it is certainly worth doing.
Whatever method you choose to purchase your insurance, you will get your documents within 48-72 hours, and these should only need a check, and a signature or two and returned and you can relax knowing you are covered.
The Insurance Cover
My days of TPF&T cover are well behind me, and I have always been fully comprehensive insured with additional No Claims Bonus protection, from when we first took out cover with the company back in 1992.
Many insurance policies are practically the same, and cover an insured driver for liabilities to others, damage to the car, fire or theft loss, windscreen damage and some personal accident cover, and there are no surprises with direct line. Insurance certificates are of the “specified” variety, which means the Car Registration is printed on the Insurance Certificate itself. It used to be Certificates were open, meaning if you got a new car you were automatically insured, so it is important to contact the insurance company before you drive a new vehicle that you purchase.
Motor Legal Protection has been around for a long time, and will cover you for recovering uninsured losses against a third party. I have used this type of cover only once in my driving history, however I feel the premium of around £20 a year for the £100000 benefit it could potentially have is worth including.
For a relatively small annual cost (on my quote less than £15 a year) you can purchase a guaranteed hire car cover. Not all garages have courtesy cars available to all and they tend to be given out on a first come first served basis so this is certainly worth doing if you could not manage without your car for a week or so while it is being repaired.
Finally you can add roadside assistance on to your policy and you get a generous discount on this. I have retained my breakdown insurance with AA and in fact now get it free with my type of bank account, however if I were to opt with Direct Line’s assistance, it would cost around £65, which is much cheaper than what my AA cover would cost (for a comparable product)
There are also some more gimmicky benefits, such as free window etching, 24hr accident recovery helplines and traffic news lines, which are nice to have but not crucial.
Making a Claim
We have had to make about three or four claims in the last 14 years and these have all been dealt with very efficiently. Typically you can provide details of the claim over the phone to the claims specialists. 95% of claims are approved over the telephone and you will be given garage details and arrangements will be made for the garage to pick the car up. We have had different types of incidents. In one, I was hit from behind while stationary at a traffic light (I could see the driver was not paying attention, he was trying to get into his glove compartment instead of concentrating on the road and I could tell that a collision was inevitable as I was at a red light). The car was fixed speedily, and amazingly, when the driver tried to claim I had reversed into HIM when trying to pull away as I must have selected reverse instead of 1st gear!!! I only had to make a simple statement stating how this could not be the case and the claim was settled in my favour. On another occasion we were hit by a bus who decided he would turn right onto a busy road, when we were travelling at around 30mph, and again this was repaired very quickly and settled in our favour. Our other two incidents were events not involving other vehicles, my only fault claim being when I reversed into a post I didn’t see in a car park, and my husband had a scary situation when the bonnet released when he was driving at 70mph, smashing the glass, denting the roof, and causing him to swerve but no other car was involved. Again both were settled quickly and easily. Obviously these latter two would have gone against us, but as we both have maximum no claims bonus with protection, there was no real impact on our premiums.
Overall our premiums have been very stable during the last fourteen years and we have both held maximum no claims bonus all that time. On a few occasions I have found decided to shop around at renewal time, but direct line’s premium has always been extremely competitive, and if not the best, then so close to the best that it is not worth the effort of switching. Renewals can be done automatically, you will receive notification and if you want cover to carry on, then you need do nothing.
Our premiums are probably at the highest at the moment, as we had the bad luck with the two accidents in very quick succession, and both managed to accumulate 6 points on our licences for speeding offences, so our premiums were loaded accordingly. Nevertheless I shopped around when that happened, and the premium was still fair, and hopefully it will drop again in a year or so. We are currently paying £442 for our insurance on an Alfa 2.0 Lusso and that would drop to around £360 without the no claims bonus protection and legal protection. Our other car is also an Alfa and is slightly older, and we pay just over £300 for that for identical cover.
I think Direct Line have provided excellent protection and peace of mind over the years for our cars and indeed our home. The real test of an insurance company is not that it can provide a cheap quote, but that it is there when it really matters. We are nothing but satisfied with the settling of the claims we have made over the years, and indeed are comfortable that the premiums quoted are honest and fair. I cannot see me changing insurance company very soon if the last 14 years are anything to go by.
(First published for the Review Centre, Oct 06)
Summary: One of my top three organisations when looking for any insurance needs