It is a legal requirement to have motor insurance if you want to drive your car in a public place and you must produce a current Certificate of Insurance to pay motor tax. Failure to have motor insurance when driving is a very serious offence and drivers will incur fines, penalty points and may be disqualified from driving. (See 'Rules' below).
Motor insurance is about protecting other road users as opposed to the driver of the insured vehicle and it is not an optional extra. Insurance companies provide motor insurance and unlike road tax, there is no such thing as a "standard" rate.
Traditionally, gender has been one of the factors that insurance companies consider when calculating risk. Arising from a ruling on a case brought before the European Court of Justice, since 21 December 2012 insurance companies can no longer quote a different price for motor insurance based on gender. Further information on the introduction of unisex insurance (pdf) is available on the Department of Justice and Equality's website.
Young drivers represent a high risk for insurers and the cost of motor insurance in this age group is considerably higher than for others both in Ireland and throughout the European Union (EU).
There are a number of things young drivers can do to reduce the cost of motor insurance:
Section 5(2) of the Equal Status Act, 2000, as amended, allows differential treatment in relation to the calculation of insurance policies in Ireland. This means, that insurance companies are allowed to charge higher or lower rates for policies on the basis of your potential risk as a driver. Given that younger drivers in Ireland are statistically more likely to have accidents, this explains why there can be sizeable differences in insurance costs between younger and older drivers.
The most basic insurance is "third party" and this is the minimum required by law. However, third party is only one of three main categories.
This is the most expensive type of insurance on the market and covers you for almost every eventuality: any damage done to the vehicle regardless of how it was incurred; life/accident insurance; loss of personal belongings from the car; the cost of a hired car if the insured car is off the road as a result of an accident; windscreen breakage, etc. With more brand new cars on the road than ever before, there has been a notable rise in people taking out comprehensive insurance. A brand new car should be comprehensively insured.
This is the most popular form of motor insurance in Ireland. It covers you for loss of the vehicle through fire or theft and for any loss as a result of attempted fire or theft. Damage to property is also covered. There are also optional extras available such as windscreen breakage.
This is the minimum cover required by law, but it does have restrictions and limits, leaving you open to substantial loss in the event of an accident. If you are at fault, then only your passengers and the driver and passengers of the other vehicle will be compensated. This type of insurance provides no cover for damage sustained in an accident to your car or if your car is stolen or goes on fire.
An insurance company considers many things when calculating an insurance premium. Most premiums are based on basic third party cover with the cost of extras added on. The main thing that will determine the cost of your insurance is what you actually want to be covered for. The following are always taken into account:
Whether you are driving on a full or provisional licence makes a huge difference to the cost of your motor insurance premium. You can expect to pay hundreds of euro extra, if you only have a provisional licence.
The engine capacity and age of the car play a large part in determining the cost of your premium. The older the car, the more difficult it can be to insure. Many insurance companies believe that the older a car is, the more accident-prone it becomes. A new car is more expensive to replace than an old car and will cost more to insure. Likewise, the more powerful the car you drive, the more it will cost to insure.
The young and the old represent high-risk categories and pay more for insurance.
The value of a car is taken into account for third party, fire and theft and for comprehensive insurance. What you have the car insured for, however, is not always what the insurance company will pay out in the event of a claim. In the event of the car being a write-off, the insurance company will only pay out what it feels the car is worth, which, more often than not, is less than the car is actually insured for. There is very little to gain by over-insuring a car and, equally, you should not under-insure it either.
All insurance companies will ask if you have ever had insurance in your own name before. If not, they will ask if you have ever driven under someone else's insurance without incident. This will be taken into account when calculating a premium. Insurance becomes less expensive with experience and a clean driving record.
Some professions are considered to be more at risk than others and will have a loading put onto their premium. What the car will actually be used for is also taken into account. A standard policy covers the vehicle for social, domestic and pleasure purposes, but not for the carriage of goods. If the car is being used for business, then a loading will apply. If the car is being used commercially, then an even higher loading will be imposed.
Those living in a major city, particularly Dublin, will normally have a loading imposed. Some companies will also impose a loading if the car is not kept in a garage at night.
Most insurance policies contain some type of an excess clause. This means that the policyholder is liable for an agreed amount towards the cost (e.g., the first 250 euro). The premium will cost more if this clause is taken out. It pays to shop around, because what might be considered an extra in one company (windscreen breakage, car hire in the event of the car being off the road, loss of personal effects, etc.) could be standard in another.
A no claims discount (also known as no claims bonus) is built up over the years and gives the policyholder a substantial reduction in the cost of his or her premiums. The ceiling for a no claims bonus is usually around 60%, leaving someone who has never had a claim with only 40% to pay. In the event of a minor accident, it is sometimes cheaper to pay for any damage out of your own pocket rather than claiming from your insurance and losing your no claims bonus. If you make a claim and subsequently lose your no claims bonus, you can build it up again in a few years. Some insurance companies will even allow you one claim without it affecting your no claims bonus.
If you have no insurance in your own name for 2 or more years, many insurers will not give you your no claims discount when you reapply for insurance cover.
You must have motor insurance to drive a car in your own name or as a named driver on someone else's policy.
Failure to have motor insurance or driving without insurance in Ireland is generally punishable by:
The court may decide that you be disqualified from driving instead of incurring penalty points. In that case, you will be disqualified for 2 years or more for a first offence and 4 years or more in the case of a second offence committed within 3 years of the first.
You should note that where a member of An Garda Síochána (Irish police force) believes that a vehicle registered in Ireland (or outside Ireland) is being used in a public place without insurance, the vehicle may be impounded.
Individual insurers have the right to refuse you cover, but they must provide you with a reason for the refusal should you ask for one. However, even though you have been refused cover, you are entitled to go to the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland who will obtain an insurance quotation for you. In order for the Committee to consider your case you must first have sought and been refused quotations in writing from at least three insurers.
With more companies than ever before competing for business, it is possible to make considerable savings by ringing around for the best quote. Information on the types of motor insurance there are, and the differences between them, is available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website. It also provides cost comparison information.
You can apply for motor insurance over the phone, in person or through a motor insurance broker. Motor insurance companies and insurance brokers are listed in your public telephone directory. If you want to drive as a named driver on someone else's policy, then that person must contact their insurance company and arrange to have you insured under their policy.
Under Non-Life Insurance (Provision of Information) (Renewal of Policy of Insurance) Regulations 2007 (SI No. 74/2007) your motor insurance company must issue your insurance renewal notice not less than 15 working days before the date of expiry of your insurance policy. It is also required to include with the notice your no claims discount certificate. You will need this certificate if you want to renew your motor insurance with a different insurance company.
You can find more information on motor insurance on consumerhelp.ie.
The Financial Services Ombudsman deals with complaints and disputes between policyholders and their insurance companies when the company's complaints procedure fails to resolve the problem. The Financial Services Ombudsman's decision is binding, if you are unsatisfied with the decision you may take your case to the High Court.
The Insurance Information Service (IIS) is an information and complaints service operated by the Insurance Ireland, which many insurance companies in Ireland belong to. Its purpose is to answer policyholders' questions and help them resolve problems. It has no binding powers and complaints that cannot be resolved are generally referred to the Financial Services Ombudsman.
Insurance Information Service
5 Harbourmaster Place
Tel:(01) 676 1914
Fax:(01) 676 1943
If you have been refused a quotation for motor insurance, you can email the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland who will help you obtain a motor insurance quotation.
5 Harbourmaster Place
Tel:(01) 676 1820
The Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland exists to compensate genuine victims of uninsured and untraced driving in Ireland. It fulfils a further European role to ensure claims arising from foreign motoring in Ireland or Irish motorists abroad are properly handled and settled.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.