This lie could cost you thousands

Tell this little white lie and you could potentially lose thousands of pounds.

On the back of Emma Lunn's recent article I want to lie to my insurer, we had a lot of questions from readers regarding car insurance and the issue of fronting.

Fronting, as the name suggests, is when you put a fake 'front' on a car insurance policy you've taken out in order to bring down your premiums.

Let's say you insure a car in your own name and add, say, your teenage son as a 'named driver' to the policy. If, in fact, your son is the main or only driver, rather than an occasional driver, then this is fronting.

And it's illegal. You've just committed insurance fraud!

Not just parents

Of course, it's not just parents who do it. When a young person buys a car and registers it in his/her own name, but lies to the insurer that his/her parent is the main driver, then this is fronting too!

The main reason people do this is to simply keep premiums down - after all, if a more experienced driver with a decent no-claims history is the main driver, the cost of insurance will be far lower than if the younger, more risky, driver was the main policyholder. 

Sounds simple so far... but what if, like reader Tony1968, you're not sure who the main driver is?

The main driver

'We have one car in my name, the other in my wife's, but we both use them," said Tony1968. "My wife does more trips in "my" car but I do more miles so you could argue either way.

'Playing with online sites gives a difference of about £2 depending who's declared as main driver and they're not all the same way round so I hope it's clear I'm not trying to commit fraud to save £2 a year! Even so, how would they check who drove it most?'

The good news for Tony1968 is that because a husband and wife are usually of a similar age and have similar risk profiles, fronting isn't generally an issue. And it's clear that there is little risk difference between Tony1968 and his wife, given the fact there's only a £2 price difference between insurance quotes. As a result, it's unlikely that an insurer would investigate who drives the car the most.

That said, Direct Line advises that the main driver should always be the registered owner and keeper of the vehicle.

Markyboi also asked: 'I have two cars and the driving is shared pretty equally between them. We tend to use the cheaper diesel car if available. This car is in my wife's name but it is likely that I drive it more often than she does. She is named as the main driver and the insurance is in her name but I am named on her policy. Am I likely to fall foul of the insurers wriggle out, if they somehow discovered I drove it more than her?'

Again, many insurers are unlikely to make an issue of fronting here because again, the risk profiles between Markyboi and his wife will be similar. However, Direct Line says the person who drives the car more - ie Markyboi - should be the main driver on the policy and as a result, the ownership issue needs to be addressed. That's because insuring a car as the main driver when you're not the registered owner and keeper could be considered fraudulent.

So to be on the safe side, Markyboi should put the diesel car's ownership and insurance in his name if he is doing most of the driving. His wife would then be named as the additional driver. That said, it could be worth Markyboi giving his own insurer a ring to find out if this is definitely necessary in his case.

Fronting problems

Fronting can be an issue between husband and wife, however, if there is a difference in risk profiles - perhaps because one person has multiple motoring convictions which would make him/her a greater risk. In this case, the higher risk person should be classed as the main driver - if he/she isn't, this would be seen as fronting and if you had to make a claim, it's likely it would be turned down.

Similarly, in the case of parent and child, if you're using the car equally, it's always safest to name the riskiest driver - typically the younger driver - as the main driver.

However, if the car belonged to the parent and the younger driver was only using the car from time to time, it would fine to name the younger driver as an additional driver on a parent's policy. In fact, if you do this with Direct Line, it can work out to be beneficial because the younger driver can earn his own named driver No Claims Discount to apply to his own policy when he has his a car.

On the other hand, another insurer, esure, operates slightly differently as it won't ask who uses the car more frequently, but will simply look at the riskiest driver named on the policy and base the premium on this - whether or not the riskiest driver is the main driver or an additional driver.

Fronting can also be a big issue if you've got a son or daughter taking your car off to university on a regular basis. For example, if you share your car with your son and he leaves it parked on the road outside his university accommodation, but you've stated on your policy that the car is always parked in your garage at home, your policy is likely to be invalidated when you come to make a claim.

They'll never find out

Some readers also wondered how insurers would be able to prove fronting. According to Admiral, if an insurer suspects fronting it will examine the evidence available from the police report and the claim form.

This can involve looking at whether the accident happened on a regular route for the secondary driver (who is in fact the main driver) - such as on the way to work. The ownership and usage of other cars in the household would also be investigated.

For very large claims, the insurer can justify spending more time and money on these investigations and can look into things such as statements from neighbours/friends/colleagues regarding the vehicle usage. CCTV footage might also be examined.

The consequences of fronting

If your insurer does detect fronting, it can refuse to pay out for any claims. And if it's a case of parent and child, the insurer can settle a third-party claim and recover the cost from the parent.

It's also possible that if a claim is rejected, the young driver could be treated as uninsured and could be heavily fined. And the driver could be given penalty points on his/her driving licence - which could lead to an automatic driving ban.

Drivers who have had a policy cancelled will also have to declare this on any future applications and as a result, it's likely to be more difficult and more expensive to buy insurance.  

Moral of the story

I think the moral of the story here is to simply be honest when applying for car insurance. And if you're unsure about anything, always ask the insurer. Of course, your honesty may lead to higher premiums, but paying that bit more will be worth it if and when you come to make a claim.

There are better ways to keep your costs down

If you are looking for ways to keep your insurance premiums down, fronting isn't the solution. Instead, adopt this goal: Slash your insurance costs. Next, watch these videos: Beating the renewal quote is nothing to shout about and Don't make this car insurance mistake. And then, why not have a wander over to Q&A and ask other members for advice?

Finally, always shop around for your policy to make sure you're getting the very best deal - check out the car insurance centre to compare quotes.

More: Five ways to slash the cost of your car insurance | 305 compelling reasons to compare car insurance


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