JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Proof that insurers are ripping off even the smartest drivers

81-year-old Dan Beckley has spent most of his life surrounded by cars and motorcycles. You are still the love of his life and he still enjoys being behind the wheel of his BMW 535.

During his professional life, Dan ran a driving school and a company specializing in professional chauffeur services. He has been a member and occasional examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (now known as IAM RoadSmart) for more than 50 years.

But a lifetime of professional experience as a driver hardly counted towards the cost of his car insurance. Dan, from Hordle in Hampshire, has just been told by his insurer that his renewal premium for next year will be 75 per cent higher – £817, compared to the £466 he previously paid.

Of course Dan is not alone. Like so many drivers, he finds himself caught in an insurance premium storm in which prices are almost out of control. Insurers are in profit recovery mode and policyholders – not shareholders – must do their part. No claims, low mileage and exemplary driving style count for nothing.

What bothers Dan are two things. First, he insures his car through Cornmarket Insurance Services, IAM RoadSmart’s preferred insurer. It sells itself on messages like: “It is important to us that your attitude and approach to road safety does not go unnoticed” and “At Cornmarket we reward IAM RoadSmart members with lower insurance premiums and improved insurance benefits.”

Angry: Dan Beckley, 81, says insurers shouldn't automatically classify older drivers as high-risk

Angry: Dan Beckley, 81, says insurers shouldn’t automatically classify older drivers as high-risk

“I can’t fault them for the quality of service,” says Dan, a widower. “You can talk to them any time if you have a question. “But a premium increase of 75 percent is not a reward, it is excessive.”

Second, like many readers who have contacted me in recent weeks, Dan believes that the main reason for the premium increase is the fact that he is an octogenarian – and most auto insurers consider people like him to be high risk.

“Where I live there are some tricky older drivers,” he admits. “But I’m not one of them.” “We’re not a homogeneous group and insurers should recognize that.”

Dan is staying at Cornmarket for now. But if his coverage goes up by a similar amount again next year, he’ll shop around – the smart thing everyone should do when their coverage (car or home) is up for renewal.

  • I can’t let go of Dan’s story without acknowledging Tom Stockill, the talented photographer who captured the image above. Tom spent an afternoon taking photos of Dan. They talked about everything and nothing. Unfortunately, Tom died suddenly upon returning home. Dan couldn’t believe the news when I called him. “What a professional he was,” he said. ‘He made me feel special. He practiced his profession with passion.’ He actually was. A photographer who was as comfortable photographing celebrities as he was illuminating our Net Worth and Personal Finance pages.

Money counts… even on the famous Way of St. James!

I’ve spent the last ten days walking from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, on the Way of St. James – often known as the Camino de Santiago.

It was a strenuous physical effort – I lost an inch of height due to wear and tear on the soles of my feet – but in many ways it was a wonderful experience. A 173-mile hike that runs partially along or within sight of the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Magnificent sunrises, breathtaking sunsets. Everything is more therapeutic.

What did I learn along the way other than I’m not as fit as I thought I was? From a banking perspective, there appear to be more ATMs and bank branches (in major cities) in both Spain and Portugal than in the UK. I definitely didn’t see any boarded up branches, while the Santander branches seemed to be a glitzier version than their UK compatriots (understandable considering the bank is Spanish owned).

I also learned that readers are never far away. For example, outside Baiona – with a steep climb ahead of me – I met Jane Skilling and Gerald Smith from Holmfirth in West Yorkshire.

For 30 minutes, apart from the wonders of the Camino, we chatted about life as a pensioner (Gerald) and working in the environmental sector against the backdrop of a cost of living crisis (Jane). As soon as I showed my hand, two topics bubbled to the surface like gigantic Atlantic waves: rising car insurance and the question of how to manage a self-invested personal pension while markets are volatile. Gerald has significant cash reserves.

I should have told him what a bargain he was getting with that money, as providers are racking up millions in profits by not paying their customers a fair interest rate. But I didn’t want to spoil his Camino. As we 21st century pilgrims say: Buen Camino!

We drum for banks…

A big thank you to readers who let me know that their towns still benefit from a significant number of banks on their high streets. This is despite widespread branch closures over the past two years, which has left some cities unbanked.

From Elgin on the north coast of Scotland to Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire and the southwest cathedral city of Truro in Cornwall, they have enthusiastically promoted bank-filled shopping streets. Not for nostalgic reasons, but because they play a key role in ensuring that city centers thrive rather than wither.

No reader was more enthusiastic about their impression of drummer Ginger Baker than Truro’s Tony and Cynthia Martin. The Martins, owners of Coinage Hall, one of the city’s most famous buildings, say Truro is home to seven banking brands, a building society and a post office. Together they support more than 150 independent retailers in the city.

Although vacant stores are a problem, as in many other cities, the Martins say Truro can more than rival any out-of-town shopping center.

“Come over,” they said last week. I will. I can still remember my last visit, eating cod and chips there after a tiring day of hiking. My mouth is watering at the memory.

Disappointed fan

I was appalled to be accused of “wokeism” for suggesting last week that some of the investment trust industry’s oldest beasts (such as Monks and Bankers) should change their names to reflect what they do.

Even one of my biggest fans – Eddie Browne, a retired United Biscuits employee and Jaffa Cakes expert – was disappointed.

“What matters,” says Eddie, “is that investors do their homework and understand what they are investing in. Yellow card for you, Jeff.”

Thank God it wasn’t red.

Double talk from Starling

Speaking of cash, Starling Bank’s “great news” a few days ago was a classic case of duplicity. First, the great news: Current account customers were told they would receive 3.25 percent interest starting earlier this month. Now the bad thing: the interest rate only applies to a maximum balance of £5,000. After that the rate drops to zero.

“Insulting” was customer Paul Braithwaite’s response, even though someone holding £85,000 (the maximum amount protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme) in the account will now earn £162.50 in interest per year – compared to £42, £50 previously.

Answer? Try to keep no more than £5,000 in your Starling Bank current account – and put any excess money in a savings account with an interest rate close to the bank’s base rate of 5.25 per cent.

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Drew Weisholtz

Drew Weisholtz is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Drew Weisholtz joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: DrewWeisholtz@worldtimetodays.com.

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