The System Has Failed…

Today’s Objective: Hypothetically become a 17 year old who passed their driving test two months ago, looking for a small car and some reasonably priced insurance.
(I am a 17 year old, so no issue there. But I can’t drive don’t hold a driving license and I don’t own a car. I was simply rambling around the internet having a look at what’s available in the motoring world.)

Not a particularly difficult endeavour, right? Sure it’s not – it’s just really, really expensive – as you’re about to see.

Step 1: Find a car. This was by far the easiest part of my research. I selected two cars which would be suitable for a new driver (that is; small, economical, cheap) which were found on a particular auction website which has a motoring auction sub-site. The cars were as follows:

The Classic

A very small car, no? It’s a 1984 Austin Mini. As you can see from the image, it’s very cheap. It has a 998cc engine, so not very big. Other than that there’s nothing special about it, it’s a cheap car ideal for someone who wants to get driving cheaply and may or may not be a fan of the original (and best, of course) Italian Job.

The Alternative

Another small car. This is a 1988 Ford Fiesta 1.1L(But you can read that in the picture, right?). It’s also a very cheap, economical car, with a 1,117cc engine. Despite not having quite the style value of the classic mini, it’s still a worthy contender for good first car.

Step 2: Insure the car. This involves trawling price comparison websites where I got quotes for these cars. Most price comparison sites have a function to say that you haven’t bought the car yet, so you can speculatively search for insurance. Nice and simple.

I acquired two quotes for each car: one for how the car would actually be kept (on the street in an East London suburb), and one as an interesting contrast (garaged in a leafy North Somerset town that I know is one of the safest places you’ll ever visit). In all of the cases I was the same person, a 17 year old who has held their standard UK driving license for two months, in full-time education living at home with parents. I was the only driver named on the policy (At a later date I will provide an update with quotes if you employ the popular tactic of fronting, which is putting your parent as the policy holder and you as a named driver. A word of warning though, it is illegal!)

One very interesting thing I noticed is that there are never more than 8 insurance companies willing to insure a 17 year old Londoner, but many more (and well-known) insurers who would insure a 17 year old Somerset resident. The results are below.

For the 1984 mini, in East London, these were my quotes:

Were you startled at these? I was.

Yep, you’re seeing that right. Third Party Only insurance at £8,500 minmum. Very close to 40x the value of the car. If anything I find it depressing.
And here’s the quotes (for the same car and same driver!) if it were kept in a North Somerset garage:


That’s far more reasonable and is the price I would expect to pay given the risk factor of teenagers. Still, it is quite expensive and certainly not a price I’d want to pay, especially since it’s bordering on 10x the value of the car.

Unfortunately the Fiesta has a similar problem.
In East London;

Only one choice? Competition isn't a strongpoint here

Over 1000cc and most insurers are too scared to even go near you. To be fair though, the one quote I was given does include a fair amount of good extras. Not quite worth nearly nine and a half grand though.

For the North Somerset resident, they have another respectable list of choices;

Once again, it’s slightly more than the mini but still quite reasonable and there’s a good choice of respectable insurers on the list. But also, would you really want to pay £2000 for a car worth a quarter of that?

The moral of this post: Unless you’re stupidly rich/don’t live in London, it’s really not worth trying to buy a car at 17 if you’re buying a straight-up single policy. I have yet to explore ways to make it cheaper, so stay tuned.

The Alternative: Buy a bicycle. No, really. For short commutes (<10-15miles) it really does pay off. No Insurance to pay. No Tax to pay. No fuel to pay for (except water and sports drinks). No MOT to worry about. With a decent bike (and a little bit of ever-improving fitness which will naturally come from cycling every day) you can average up to 20mph which is easily faster than the bus and most traffic in London at rush hour anyway. You can filter through all of the traffic so there’s less time waiting in queues. It’s even rather enjoyable.

This is a picture of a bike almost identical to mine which costs the same as the austin mini and is good to go for that price. It’s easily capable of averaging 20-25mph if you’ve got the legs for it. And, because it only weighs 10kg you can easily take it on the train and carry it down stairs. Not something I’d recommend trying in the Mini.

Two wheels are taking over, it’s a wise investment.