If you're changing your car you'll want to think about the cost of insurance before you commit to buy. The insurance group rating is the key.
Most new cars are assigned to an insurance group – a rating between 1 and 50* that indicates the level of risk as seen by the insurers.
Insurance group ratings are advisory – insurers don't have to follow them.
Insurers take many factors into account when setting premiums but with all else being equal, the lower the group number the lower the insurance premium should be. This means that the insurance group can give you an idea of relative insurance costs when comparing different models.
Specials, such as kit cars, imports and conversions are generally not covered by the insurance group rating scheme.
The Insurance Group Rating system is run by the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (Thatcham). The Group Rating Panel (members of Association of British Insurers' (ABI) and Lloyds Market Association (LMA) allocates groups based on Thatcham's research.
Insurance grouping takes account of:
- price when new
- performance – image, top speed and 0 to 60 time
- repair costs – labour and parts following a standard low-speed crash test
- body shell – availability and price
- parts prices – associated with more severe collisions
To encourage car manufacturers to fit better security systems, the group–rating process also looks at locks and security devices fitted as standard. Insurers' standards are more testing than the basic legal requirements and get tougher as the group rating increases.
Where security has been rated, the insurance group number, from 1 to 50, is followed by a letter, which shows the results of the assessment.
E= Exceeds the security requirement for a car of this type and the group rating has been reduced – so a group 10 car that exceeds the standard is listed as a 9E.
A = Acceptable security requirements for the car's group.
P = Provisional – incomplete data when the model was launched.
D = Doesn't meet the security requirement for a car of this type and the group rating has been increased as a result – so a group 8 car that doesn't meet the standard is listed as a 9D.
U = Unacceptable – the level of security is significantly below requirements. The car won't be uninsurable, but some insurers may insist on a security upgrade before they cover you.
G = Import – Insurance Group Ratings and security ratings are currently only allocated to vehicles built for the UK market.
Whiplash to both the driver and to passengers accounts for around 80% of all personal injury claims following car accidents. Some seat and head restraint designs offer better protection against whiplash than others.
Insurers here and abroad have developed a rating system that predicts the whiplash potential of different designs. This has become part of EuroNCAP's safety ratings but could also become part of the insurance group rating system in the future because whiplash injuries feature so highly in insurance claims.
(22 November 2011)
* This has changed from the old system of groups from 1 to 20 over the past few years. The Insurance Group Rating panel stopped reporting group 1 to 20 ratings for new car models from the beginning of 2010.