Northern Ireland used to be an expensive place to insure a car compared to the rest of the UK – and though that differential has reduced, younger drivers in particular will still find getting a cheap quote a challenge.
Are you fed up with having less choice and dearer prices for your NI car insurance?
Shopping around can save you money and get you a better policy. Let’s check out the NI car insurance scene – we’ll tell you who are the best insurers and how to get a better quote.
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How does car insurance work in NI?
Car insurance works in very much the same way as in other areas of the UK. However, some of the big insurance companies based on the UK mainland have chosen not to offer Northern Ireland car insurance. NI is a relatively small market with just over 55,000 cars registered – out of 32 million in the UK as a whole – and that makes it less attractive to insurers. Some of the big names, like Admiral and Churchill, don’t offer car insurances in NI, so the landscape looks a little different.
However the insurance market still looks very similar to what you’d see in England, with the same three levels of cover:
- third party – the legal basic minimum,
- third party fire & theft, and
- fully comprehensive car insurance.
And by and large, the levels of cover are similar to what you’d get on the mainland.
Third party only covers damage that you do to other people and their cars and property. Crash into someone in the supermarket car park and your insurer will pay for their car to be repaired – but you’ll end up paying for any repairs that need to be done to your own car. Third party insurance is required so that the public are protected in the case of accidents.
Third party fire and theft adds two kinds of cover:
- Fire – you’re covered if your car is damaged by fire (except for fires caused by a fault in your car),
- Theft – you’re covered if your car is stolen, or damaged in the course of a theft.
Fully comprehensive insurance is chosen by most drivers, and in many cases won’t cost much more than third party or TPFT insurance. This covers repairs to your car if you have an accident, and often provides a courtesy car while your car is off the road, as well as benefits such as legal cover and cover for your possessions in the car.
How much is car insurance in Northern Ireland?
According to the Consumer Council, the average NI customer buying a fully comprehensive car insurance policy pays £931 – way above the £774 average in the UK. Customers for car insurance in Northern Ireland are getting a raw deal.
There are a number of reasons for this.
- There’s less competition. If you’re looking for car insurance quotes in Northern Ireland you won’t have as many insurers fighting for your business.
- Younger drivers make up a higher proportion of the population in Northern Ireland, and insurers always charge them higher premiums.
- Rural roads and lanes are higher risk than A roads and motorways, and NI drivers use them more.
- Partly because of differences in the legal system, insurance payouts in NI are higher – so insurers have to budget for that when they’re pricing up your quote.
The average price of car insurance also varied by region. County Down is the cheapest, and County Tyrone the most expensive.
|County||Insurance price compared to NI average|
Does UK car insurance cover Northern Ireland?
Yes, if you have mainland UK car insurance it will cover you for driving in NI. You don’t need any extra insurance to drive here. (If you’re moving to NI, by the way, you can continue to drive on your UK licence until it expires, when you’ll need to swap it for an NI licence.)
And looking at things the other way round, if you have NI car insurance, you’re covered to drive in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Can I drive in the Republic of Ireland on my car insurance?
Yes, but you might not have the same level of cover as in NI.
Currently, most insurers provide European cover which means you can drive in ROI. However, fully comp cover might be limited to 90 days – and that won’t be enough if you’re a cross-border worker or live close to the border and are ‘always going back and forth between NI and the Republic.
You’re still legal, though, as EU insurance has to include third party cover for driving in other EU states.
What will be the consequences of Brexit on my motor insurance?
We’re not sure. It’s possible you may need a green card from your insurer, as well as an International Driving Permit to go with your NI licence. But till the end of 2020, the ‘transitional period’ applies, so you can carry on driving in the Republic without any extra paperwork to do.
Do I need a GB sticker in Ireland?
No, you don’t. If your car is registered in GB or NI, the government of the Republic has confirmed you won’t need a sticker.
Who are the best insurance companies for NI?
The table below shows some of the insurers who are providing the best car insurance in NI. Some are big insurers who also operate in mainland UK and the rest of the EU, while some are local businesses aiming to deliver the best and cheapest car insurance for NI customers.
How can I make a claim in Northern Ireland?
To make a claim if your car is damaged, stolen or written off, you’ll need to contact your insurer – usually by phone. Some insurers also have online portals that you can use for documentation.
How can I cut the cost of my insurance in Northern Ireland?
If you want to cut the cost of your car insurance, you’ll need to get online and compare car insurance. NI insurers get their own comparisons on Safe so you won’t see any insurers who don’t offer car insurance in Northern Ireland. Shopping around for car insurance quotes, NI drivers can get better rates and save £100 or more on the average policy.
45% of NI drivers (but only 30% of English ones) renew with their existing insurer instead of looking for the cheapest car insurance. NI drivers pay more for their policies than mainland UK drivers, and perhaps that’s one reason why!
Tips to reduce your insurance cost in Northern Ireland
- build up a No Claims Bonus over years of safe and accident-free driving. That will allow you to claim a discount on your car insurance;
- drive a cheaper and less powerful car which will come in a lower insurance group, for which premiums will be lower;
- do less mileage and look for a low mileage policy;
- consider using a multi-car policy to get a discount if your household owns more than one car;
- consider a black box or telematic policy, which is particularly helpful for younger drivers;
- keep your car secure – keeping it off-road, particularly in a lockable garage, can reduce your premiums.
Young drivers whose insurance is very high can sometimes benefit from adding a more experienced driver as a named driver for their car. That reduces the overall level of risk, so the insurer may offer a cheaper quote. However, ensure that you’re telling the truth about who drives the car most of the time – putting an older driver’s name down as the main driver when someone else is driving most of the time is called ‘fronting’, and it’s a kind of insurance fraud. Your insurance could be invalidated, and worse still, you might face a criminal charge.
Insurers often push up the premiums when it’s renewal time. If you’re looking for the cheapest car insurance in Northern Ireland, you’ll want to look around a month or so before your insurance is due for renewal. You’ll probably get a better rate.
How much can I drink and drive in Northern Ireland?
The drink driving limit is the same as in England and Wales – 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. (It’s less in Scotland.) This could be as little as a couple of pints of beer – depending on your age, gender, how fast your metabolism works, and even whether you smoke.
The penalties for drink driving include disqualification from driving as well as a fine and even time in prison. You’ll also find that your insurance premiums will shoot up when you get back on the road, and you may even find it difficult to get a quote.
Use our alcohol calculator to check whether you’re legal to drive, or whether you’ll be legal in the morning.