What's multi-car insurance all about?
Multi-car insurance lets you bundle all your car insurance together with a single insurer, either with multiple policies held together or a single policy for all vehicles. You'll usually be rewarded for this with a discount on your premiums.
For multi-vehicle households it's a convenient way to buy and pay for your insurance and for some there can be a healthy saving on the cost of buying stand-alone policies from separate insurers.
But it's important to note that the pros and cons of multi-car insurance are not necessarily as straightforward as they initially appear.
No matter how many cars you have, there's no guarantee it'll be the cleapest option for your circumstances, so it's a good idea to check out the prices of individual vehicle policies as well to see if you could save.
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The benefits of a multi-car policy
Like car insurance, multi-car policies will usually last for one year, and policyholders may be able to spread the cost of the policy across 12 months, although this is likely to incur interest.
As well as the possibility of a discount, the convenience of having a single contact point for all policies in the household could be an attractive benefit of multi-car insurance.
A comprehensive multi-car policy could include any of the following as standard, or as an optional add-on:
- First car discount
- Courtesy car
- European cover
- Windscreen repair
- Stereo cover
- Personal injury cover
- Sat-nav cover
- Emergency helpline
- No claims bonus match
But single car insurance policies joined together to gain discounts may each contain different benefits and add-ons, rather than share them across all policies.
How many vehicles can go on a multi-car policy?
A multi-car policy can cover two or more vehicles, but the number will be capped at a specific limit.
When this article was researched in April 2017, the majority of providers would cover between two and five vehicles.
Other providers can add more vehicles to a multi-car policy; Churchill and Direct Line, for example, could offer a policy for 10 cars in April 2017, however these are independent policies linked together to get a multi-car discount.
Which is the best multi-car insurance policy?
The best policy for you will depend on your own circumstances and renewal dates - not all providers treat these the same way:
Depending on your unique circumstances, a multi-car deal may give you greater flexibility and help you spread the cost of insurance across the year, but it may not be a cheaper way to take out cover than arranging multiple individual policies, and there are a number of other things you should take into account before committing.
The 'best' multi-car insurance policy is entirely relative to your individual situation, but as a starter for 10, review how the insurer deals with no claims discounts:
- Read your terms and conditions carefully to see if your no claims bonus can be transferred to your multi-car policy
- Renewal may need to be at the same time for all policyholders, so be aware that if you switch to a multi-car policy part-way through an existing policy, you'll miss out on your no claims bonus for that year and may not be able to get a refund on unused premiums
- There may be problems transferring a no claims bonus accrued on a multi-car policy if you choose to change provider - or switch to a single-vehicle policy - in the future
Renewal dates can be another sticking point. If your cars aren't all up for renewal at the same time, you may be concerned about the cost of adding cars at a later date.
Some providers will let you get a quote for the second car when you take out cover for the first and guarantee to 'lock-in' this price when the second vehicle's renewal is due.
Can new customers have a multi-car policy?
New customers can't always open a multi-car policy.
Some insurers, such as esure, will only offer multi-car insurance to pre-existing, single policy customers, then combine the policies to give you the discount.
Admiral, on the other hand, does offer multi-car policies to new customers and no claims bonus transfers - simply supply the renewal letter from your previous insurer.
Both Admiral and esure allow drivers listed on the multi-car policy to absorb the no claims bonus of other listed drivers, by 'matching' their bonus.
Both insurers will allow each car listed on the policy to earn its own no claims bonus.
If one car is involved in an accident the rest of the 'family' remain unaffected, and depending on your terms and conditions, the driver of the damaged car may be covered for a courtesy car.
But, be aware that an incident-free driver on a multi-driver policy may lose out because of a claim made by someone else.
Remember too that different companies will treat renewal dates in their own way.
Above all else, it's important to remember that the terms and conditions of every provider's cover can vary significantly.
Will taking out a multi-car insurance policy save me money?
Unfortunately there's no single answer as to whether a multi-car policy will prove cheaper than taking out individual policies for each vehicle.
Research conducted by Admiral between 1 August, 2016 and 31 January, 2017, found that 10% of multi-car customers saved £454.
Whether you save or not depends on the large number of factors used to calculate an insurance quote, each of which is assessed and rated differently by each different insurance provider.
The only real way to tell is to obtain individual quotes - which you can do quickly and easily through a site such as Gocompare.com - then compare the total price to a quote for a multi-car policy.
You may also want to get more than one multi-car quote, given the fact that the deals offered by every individual provider will vary significantly.
If a multi-car policy is the cheapest and best way for you to arrange your cover in one year, remember that this won't necessarily be the case when it comes to renewal.
Providers are likely to be keen to push the benefits of the ease and convenience of renewing all your motor insurance in one go, but auto-renewal without shopping around is one of the most costly mistakes made by consumers when sorting out their cover.
"Loyalty counts for very little when it comes to insurance," said Gocompare.com's Lee Griffin. "Many drivers would be better off switching rather than sticking with the same insurer."
Multi-car insurance on comparison sites
The more complicated nature of multi-car policies - and the fact that the terms of the policies offered by different insurers varies so widely - means that you may struggle to find a genuine comparison service available for them.
This is one reason why insurers like to promote multi-car policies; it's a way of attracting customers directly to a provider rather than through a third-party comparison site.
If you do find a multi-car option on a comparison website, bear in mind that it's probably a policy that's offered by a single provider - you're not comparing it against other multi-car policy options in the market.
As an alternative, remember that you can compare and buy multiple individual car insurance policies through Gocompare.com, which may work out cheaper.
Multi-car policy renewal dates
Remember that different companies will treat renewal dates in their own way.
The policy may be opened with one car, with other vehicles joining on their renewal date.
The cars that join the policy later may be insured up to the original car's auto-renewal date, on a pro-rata basis, but it will vary between insurers.
Some will allow each individual policy within the multi-car deal to run and renew on its own timescale, others will demand that each individual policy renews at the same time.
The latter example could potentially see you losing out on months of cover from an existing policy in order to synchronise all the vehicles into a multi-car deal.
It's worth being aware of the administration charges associated with the policy, especially given the fact that multiple people and vehicles increase the likelihood of changes needing to be made in the course of the deal.
Potential changes to bear in mind could include a change of address or of the vehicle, and if the whole household moves, that could even result in an admin fee for each driver on the policy.
By Sean Davies