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Northern Ireland car insurance

Compare cheap car insurance quotes for vehicles in Northern Ireland and see if you can save

  • Car insurance in NI can be expensive, so compare multiple companies to see options
  • Get star ratings from independent researcher Defaqto to help you choose
  • Read on for money-saving car insurance tips and more on cover in NI

Car Insurance Price Cuts

Compare car insurance in Northern Ireland

Key points

  • Car insurance has traditionally been more expensive in NI than the rest of the UK, but that's started to change
  • Shopping around and trying our other money-saving tips can help keep the cost down
  • It can also help stimulate competition in the car insurance market

In theory, arranging car insurance in Northern Ireland should be no different to sorting out cover if you live in any other part of the UK.

The reality, though, is that car insurance in NI has traditionally cost more than equivalent insurance in England, Scotland and Wales.

It got to such a stage that the UK government, through the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), got involved in 2011. The OFT said that "in 2010, private motor insurance premiums paid were approximately 11 per cent higher in NI than GB."  

However, the gap between what the average driver in Northern Ireland pays and what drivers in England, Scotland, and Wales pays has since closed. 

We crunched some numbers and found that from January to August 2018 the average car insurance policy bought in NI was cheaper than in the rest of the UK. Northern Irish drivers paid on average £510.79, which was £26.04 less than their English, Scottish and Welsh friends. The savings were even greater when it comes to fully comprehensive car insurance in 2018, where drivers in Northern Ireland pay on average £483.49, a whopping £39.82 less than in mainland Britain.[1]

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But there's always ways to save on car insurance!

Our first tip will come as no surprise: shop around for cover, reviewing multiple quotes in one quick search through a comparison site such as GoCompare!

Automatically renewing with your current provider is one of the most common and costly mistakes made by motorists seeking cover.

By shopping around you can immediately get a much broader picture of the market and an idea of the sort of price you should expect to pay. Beyond that, try our other tips for cutting the cost of car insurance. These apply as much to Northern Ireland as to the rest of the UK, and should help you find cost-effective cover.

Why has car insurance been more expensive in Northern Ireland?

A number of theories have been put forward for the historically high price of premiums in Northern Ireland. In 2011 the Office of Fair Trading put forward three key reasons. 

  1. Consumers in Northern Ireland did less shopping around and were less likely to switch. "Only 54 per cent of consumers in NI shopped around for their private motor insurance at their last renewal, compared to 73 per cent in GB."
  2. Claims cost more in Northern Ireland. "Compensation levels for personal injury claims are higher in NI [and] differences in the legal processes appear to be leading to higher legal costs in NI in comparison with GB."
  3. The roads are less safe. "Statistically NI has more accidents per capita and per vehicle, which impacts upon private motor insurers' costs."

Then there's the fact that there are less insurers in the market for business in Northern Ireland, meaning that there's less competition. According to a report by Consumer Council of Northern Ireland in 2009: "The maximum number of insurers offering quotations here was 15, in contrast to 51 insurers in other parts of the UK."

As Jim Shannon, the MP for Strangford, said in 2012: "The same advertisements are shown on TV [...] but underneath, the wee small print says, ‘Not available in Northern Ireland’. So, although Churchill says, ‘Oh, yes’ to every question he is asked, that does not apply to Northern Ireland."

Need more information?

Northern Ireland also has a relatively young population. This is a factor in cost because statistics show that young drivers are the highest risk motorists when it comes to insurance and – consequently – the group that faces the highest premiums.

Much of the motoring in Northern Ireland is on rural roads and/or single carriageways, and these types of roads can lead to high incidences of accidents and claims.

Beyond those region-specific explanations, Northern Ireland is subject to the same factors that can drive motor insurance prices up elsewhere in the UK, including whiplash and other personal injury claims, plus vehicle crime and fraud such as crash-for-cash scams.

Drivers should always remember to shop around for their cover, keeping competition alive and challenging insurers' ability to make easy profits.

How come car insurance is cheaper in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK?

Since 2017, the average cost of car insurance is lower in Northern Ireland compared to Great Britain.

Prices have tended to go up over the last five years, but they've increased more in Britain. In 2017, GB drivers saw a 13% increase in the average cost of car insurance compared to 2016, while people in NI saw a 6% increase in the same period according to data from GoCompare.

It's difficult to pin down exact reasons, but it seems that it's to do with premiums going up more in Britain than prices dropping in sharply in Northern Ireland. 

One possible reason were the changes to the Ogden Rate in 2017 – which calculates how much insurers pay out for personal injury claims. The changes initially upset the industry and saw big increases, before insurers lobbied the government to partially reverse the decision in late 2017. Consequently we've seen reductions in premiums in 2018 – a 3% decrease for GB drivers, while people in NI saw a 6% decrease.

Crossing from NI to the Republic of Ireland

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic may barely register when you cross it as there's no passport check to go through. Yet it can have a big impact when it comes to your car insurance in NI.

According to Matt Oliver, car insurance expert at GoCompare: "Check with your insurance provider how it views the Republic of Ireland. Some insurers may treat the Republic like any other EU country, which would mean that you'd need to have European car insurance and inform your insurer of your cross-border trip. 

"Yet a lot of insurers offer cover to drive in Europe as part of their standard policies, usually limited to 30 days. It's a good idea to check before you buy."

Insurance on car ferries

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There are numerous vehicle-carrying ferries operating into and out of Northern Ireland and, if you plan to use one, it's again advisable to check your car insurance terms and conditions.

While you should expect some sort of cover, not all insurers will have the same conditions. If, for example, you have a comprehensive policy, your insurance protection on a ferry may not be as extensive as it is on a UK road.

It's also worth checking your breakdown cover in advance. Should your motor conk out on the wrong side of the Irish Sea, not all breakdown providers will cover the cost of the ferry transportation back, even if your policy has nationwide recovery included on it.

Travellers to Europe should note that such exclusions regarding ferries on car and breakdown policies may also apply to the Channel Tunnel.

By Sean Davies