Car insurance: could driving less make your quote more expensive?

An insurer has claimed that occasional drivers are being overcharged, but it’s not quite so simple.

We’re not driving as much as we used to.

Our average mileage has fallen from 8,400 in 2002 to 7,500 in 2017, according to the most recent Government figures. One in seven car owners uses their car once a month or less.

For many of us, the car is there for moving furniture, weekends away and very little else. Unfortunately for these drivers, they are overpaying for car insurance, says one insurer.

By Miles analysed 2.5 million car insurance quotes on comparison site MoneySuperMarket and warned that the average low mileage driver is being charged £233 more than a higher mileage motorist.

That’s not the cost of insurance per mile – that’s the entire quote.

“Those who don’t drive as much are being treated unfairly,” said James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles.

“They’re being charged more to subsidise the insurance of higher mileage drivers.”

“The current state of play presents motorists with a catch 22 situation – either tell the truth about how much you’re driving and pay over the odds, or lie to get the cost down but risk having your insurance invalidated when you need to make a claim.”

Not all car insurance experts agree with By Miles, however. Here we look at how your mileage affects the cost of your insurance and what you can do about it.

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What is the perfect mileage?

A quick look at By Miles' findings suggests that higher mileage drivers - specifically those clocking up 11,0000 - 12,000 a year - get a better deal.

However, when you actually break down the mileage categories by percentage of quotes, some have very limited data to back them up.

For example, the cheap average quote for 11,000-12,000 miles drivers came from 1% of the quotes By Miles looked at.

When you look at more popular mileage categories, the difference in price isn’t so stark.

Those driving 5,000 to 6,000 miles a year (19% of the survey) had an average cheapest quote of £809, compared to £754 for those driving 10,000 – 11,000 miles a year (15% of the survey).

That’s just a £55 difference; not the hundreds of pounds By Miles claims.

According to Amanda Stretton, motoring editor of price comparison site, the 'sweet spot' is between 5,000 and 10,000 miles a year.

"Drivers could see up to 65% cheaper prices than if they drive fewer than 5,000 miles a year.

"Meanwhile, prices generally bump up once drivers pass the 10,000-mile threshold.

"In fact, the cost of insurance for motorists who travel as many as 50,000 miles per year could be 108% more expensive than if they drove at the 10,000 miles threshold."

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What insurers are looking for

Insurers don’t just look at mileage: age, experience and claims history are also hugely important.

As's Stretton explains, those who drive less than 5,000 miles a year may be less experienced, increasing the cost of insurance.

She also says there's no direct link between covering longer distances and more insurance claims.

Younger drivers are seen as riskier (image: Shutterstock)

By Miles broke down their data by age and found that even older drivers, and those with no claims, got cheaper quotes for higher mileage.

However, there are other factors that By Miles' research didn’t account for, such as the type of vehicle, location, use of the vehicle and the history of the driver, such as convictions for dangerous driving.

All could affect the price of your car insurance quote, regardless of your mileage.

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Don’t get your mileage wrong

You could conduct your own little mileage experiment: next time you’re searching for car insurance, try getting several quotes with the same insurer, but with different mileages.

Just don’t be tempted to misstate your mileage just to get a cheaper quote, warns's Stretton.

“Drivers should always ensure they accurately state the number of miles they drive per year when they are completing a car insurance quote, or they could be breaking the law.

"Every driver’s premium is personal to them and is calculated on a range of risk factors – not just mileage."

Being deemed to have lied about your mileage could make it more difficult and more expensive to get car insurance in the future.

Whilst you can’t predict the future – a new job could require you to drive more, for instance – to protect yourself it’s worth basing your mileage estimate on last year’s actual mileage.

There are four ways to do this:

  1. Check your MOT certificate. This will have up to four years of mileage history recorded.

Mileage is recorded on your MOT certificate (image Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency)

  1. Check the logbook after a service.
  2. Check the dashboard when you first take out insurance and again a year later.
  3. Work out how many miles you drive per day and add up (less accurate, as doesn’t take holidays into account).

Car insurance fees rise as insurers rake in profits away from the quoted price

How to get a cheaper quote

If you drive fewer than 7,000 miles per year, it’s worth considering a specialist insurance policy.

Telematics and 'pay as you drive' insurers, which include the likes of By Miles, send you a black box to record how many miles you drive and charge accordingly.

Some policies for younger drivers even track at what times of the day you drive.

You could also look at restricted mileage insurance policies, but be aware that going over the limit could lead to costly penalties, so you’ll need to be confident your circumstances won’t change.

Finally, if you’re not driving often because you own a classic car than there are specialist policies for these cars, even if they’ve been modified.

In all cases, you should compare your quote from a specialist with a quote from a comparison site: it’s possible that a general insurer could give you a better price.

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.


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