David Williams, national motor journalist and road safety award-winner
Remember when it seemed easy to pass your driving test and become a new driver – in a rush, as soon as you became 17 – before getting yourself added to your parents’ insurance on the cheap and buying an old banger for peanuts?
How things have changed. ‘Fronting’ – placing novice drivers on a more experienced driver’s insurance – is in fact illegal, and could lead to huge problems if you’re found out. And as for that ‘banger’, our obsession with safety now means few parents would be happy seeing their offspring roar off in anything without airbags, ABS, traction control, and possibly ‘black box’ insurance. And all that costs. No wonder a new survey finds that young drivers today face a ‘significant financial hurdle’ before getting behind the wheel.
According to research by comparethemarket.com, the combined costs of purchasing a car and associated expenses, including insurance, maintenance, breakdown cover and petrol, mean that new drivers between 17-24 year old drivers spend over £4,750 in the first year of owning a car. And then £2,200 every year after that.
The first Young Drivers Index, a biannual report from comparethemarket.com, finds that insurance makes up over half of a young driver’s vehicle costs at £1,246.54 a year, as insurers categorise under-25 year olds as a particularly high risk category due to their lack of experience on the road.
Seventeen to 24 year olds spend on average £2,564 on their first car, meaning insurance now costs young people almost half of the vehicle value in the first year. Inevitably, the choice of vehicle can make a big difference to the cost of motor insurance for new drivers. The Vauxhall Corsa is the most popular car amongst young drivers, accounting for 15% of car enquiries and costing an average of £1,979.
However, its average premium is £1,162.23, around £320 more than the average premium across the top ten cheapest cars for young drivers to insure which stands at £842.08. The Volkswagen Up! is the cheapest car for 17-24 year olds to insure at £804.79 per year.
For drivers with a bigger budget, choosing a car with a slightly higher price tag may mean you save significant amounts on your premiums. The Vauxhall Adam and Fiat 500, for example, both cost under £4,000 to purchase and can be insured for under £850 a year.
However, as comparehemarket.com points out, young drivers should also consider the amount by which their car will depreciate, as new cars tend to lose a significant percentage of their value within their first three years.
Telematics insurance policies are another way to reduce insurance premiums and are increasingly popular amongst young drivers, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total number of car insurance sales to 17-24 year olds in 2015. Telematics can save almost half of young drivers an average of £608.03 on their annual motor premiums.
As discussed here before, fitting a dash cam can also help lower your premium. “Our research shows that, before even putting a foot on the pedal, young drivers have probably already paid thousands of pounds to simply own a car,” says Simon McCulloch, Director of Insurance at comparethemarket.com. “Newer models can come with hefty price tags but older cars tend to have higher premiums and maintenance costs as there is a greater chance of them breaking down and causing an incident. “When picking your car, it is important to choose a model which won’t carry hefty insurance premiums. People may be tempted to opt for third party fire and theft insurance in order to cut costs, however it is important to bear in mind that choosing this option may leave you with significant debts if you have a crash as you will need to pay for repairs to your own car out of your own pocket.”