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What are car insurance groups?

May 14, 2021

If you’ve just passed your driving test, you’re no doubt excited about buying your very first motor. But the insurance costs of getting behind the wheel can seem prohibitive for new drivers – especially if you’re young.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can drive down the cost of your premiums. One key factor is to choose a vehicle that’s in a lower car insurance group, making it cheaper to cover.

Read on to find out more about the 50 car insurance groups, plus how choosing telematics insurance can knock the pounds off the cost of your premium.

The 50 car insurance groups

Every make and model of car is categorised into an insurance group, ranging from Group 1 (the cheapest to insure) to Group 50 (the most expensive).

This group rating system is run for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) by a research centre, and most insurance providers adhere to it.

There are several factors which decide the group for each car, all based on the likelihood of a car being subject to an insurance claim, and the average cost to providers if it is. They include the following:

The value of the car when new, as this guides the replacement cost.

The cost of parts and repair are also important: around 23 common parts are used as a guide.

The average repair times are also taken into account.

Acceleration and top speed are further factors, as high-performance cars are more likely to be involved in an accident. However, safety features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) will help to place the car in a lower insurance group.

Bumper alignment and structure, which can help protect the car in a collision, are also key.

Finally, cars with good security features, such as high-end door locks and alarms, are likely to be placed in a lower category.

Don’t forget: while these factors determine your vehicle’s insurance group, you may also be able to  bring the cost of your cover down by choosing insurance with telematics.

Every make and model of car is categorised into an insurance group, ranging from Group 1 (the cheapest to insure) to Group 50 (the most expensive).

A row of parked cars on a residential road
What are write-off categories?

In addition to the above groups, there are four write-off categories.

A car is declared a write-off when an insurance company decides it would not be cost-effective to repair it. However, if the damage is not too significant, you might be able to get it repaired privately by a professional and then keep driving it.

The four categories are as follows.

Category A is the most serious, and by law these vehicles must be crushed. You’re not even allowed to remove and reuse parts, even if these seem undamaged.

Category B is for cars which have suffered serious damage. While the car’s body shell must be crushed, parts can be salvaged for reuse on other vehicles.

Category S (formerly C) means the car has been damaged structurally, and is not cost-effective to repair. However, you can choose to get it repaired by a professional and return it to the road.

Category N (formerly D) means that the damage is non-structural, though it could affect essential safety elements such as brakes or suspension. Again, if you get your vehicle repaired professionally, you can legally continue to drive it on the roads.

For Category S and N cars, the cost of repairs is weighed up against the value of the car.  Therefore, insurance providers may write off low-value cars which have suffered relatively little damage. However, if a higher value car suffers the same level of damage, it is likely to be repaired rather than written off.

If your car is written off, you’ll need to inform the DVLA. Your insurance company will pay you a settlement figure equivalent to the car’s value.

However, for a Category S or N write-off, you might disagree that the car cannot be repaired in a cost-effective manner, or you might simply have sentimental reasons for wanting to keep your vehicle out of the scrapyard. In these cases, you can choose to get the car repaired privately.

Bear in mind, however, that write-off status is permanent. You are legally obliged to tell the DVLA, your insurance provider and future buyers that your vehicle has been declared a write-off, even if the original damage was minor and it’s been professionally repaired to a high standard. This will significantly reduce its price.

If you’re looking for a cheap car, you may be tempted to choose a write-off. However, unless it’s been repaired by a reputable mechanic, there could well be unseen damage.

You’ll also have to let your insurance provider know, which is likely to make your premium costs rise. Some providers won’t cover these vehicles at all.

For a safer or more reliable way to reduce the costs of motoring, look into installing a black box or Smartplug from Smartdriverclub Insurance in your vehicle to benefit from black box insurance.

Why are insurance categories important for new or young drivers?

When calculating your insurance premiums, providers take many factors into account, not just the type of car.  Factors including your age, driving experience, and no-claims history are also key.

As a young driver, you’re statistically more likely to have accidents. According to the Department for Transport, in 2019, drivers aged 17-24 made up seven per cent of all licence holders, but were involved in 16 per cent of fatal or serious crashes. Some 80% of young driver fatalities were male.

As a new driver of any age, you won’t be able to point to a clean driving record to prove that you’re safe behind the wheel. Nor will you have a lengthy no-claims history to bring your insurance costs down.

So for drivers under the age of 25, or those who’ve passed their test later in life, insurance costs can be sky-high. Choosing a vehicle from a lower insurance group is one of the best ways of reducing the costs of getting behind the wheel.

A lower performance model will also be safer while you’re still a driving novice, allowing you to gain road experience before you graduate to a more powerful engine, if you choose.

Another way of reducing costs is to take out insurance using telematics and get a black box or Smartplug installed in your vehicle.

This device measures how your car is driven, enabling you to prove that you’re safer on the roads than the average driver of your age and driving experience.

This data is then used to tailor the cost of your cover to you as an individual.

A new driver sitting in their first car being handed the keys by their dad

Best car categories for young or inexperienced drivers

Fortunately, if you’re raring to get behind the wheel after passing your test, there are plenty of cars that are relatively cheap to insure.

And while you’ll have to compromise somewhat on speed and acceleration, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose a vehicle you’ll enjoy driving. 

Look for models that are in the 10 lowest insurance groups. In Group 1, you’ll find certain Fiat Pandas, Citroën C1s, Skoda Fabia Classics and Vauxhall Corsas.

They all have 1-litre or 1.1-litre engines so aren’t going to win you any prizes on the race tracks, but they’re great, reliable vehicles that will get you happily from A to B.

In Group 5, you’ll find some Volkswagen Golfs and Ford Kas with somewhat more powerful engines. These are much-loved models with a bit of extra oomph – you might be glad of that when driving up hills!

In Group 10, you’ll find some Volkswagen Golfs with 1.6-litre engines and Mercedes Benz A 160s with 2-litre engines: vehicles in which you can travel in style.

So you don’t need to pick a car from a high category in order to drive comfortably and swiftly around the UK and beyond.

However, if your dream is to own a Bentley Flying Spur with a six-litre engine, it’s best to wait until you’re over 25 and have several years’ driving experience under your belt, as they’re in Group 50.

That said, if you’re in the market for a luxury limo with a six-figure price tag, you might not be too concerned by insurance costs!

There are several online checkers for you to input the number plate of a car you’re considering buying to find its insurance group. Whichever you choose, we hope it’s the start of a long and safe driving career.

Our top tips for safe driving

As your time on the road progresses, you can expect your premium costs to become lower – assuming you keep your record clean of claims or convictions.

So we’ve put together our top 10 tips to help you stay safe behind the wheel for years to come.

  1. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This should go without saying, yet the latest Department for Transport figures show that in 2018, around 240 people died in accidents where at least one driver or rider was over the alcohol limit.
  2. Make sure you’re rested. While most of us do recognise the risks of driving while drunk, many drivers take to the roads while tired, or drive for lengthy periods without taking a break.
  3. Don’t use your mobile phone – it distracts you from the road. Official figures show that younger drivers are more likely to use handheld phones behind the wheel.
  4. If you do have an accident, you’re safer if you’re wearing a seat belt. Fortunately, around 98% of car drivers do so, including younger drivers.
  5. Try to drive smoothly at all times, as this helps you stay in control of your vehicle. Don’t accelerate sharply, and pay attention to the road to reduce the likelihood of having to brake hard. Take special care on windy roads. If your car is fitted with a Smartplug or black box for telematics insurance, it will monitor your driving habits.
  6. Avoid driving at night, especially when you’re a new driver. The reduced visibility makes it more dangerous, and you’re likely to be more tired. If you have to drive at night, make sure you plan in rest stops and check all your lights are in good order.
  7. Maintain your car well. Check tyres, oil and water, windscreen wipers, and screen wash on a regular basis, and especially before a long journey. Get your vehicle professionally serviced too – and don’t forget your MOT.
  8. Take motorway driving lessons. Although they’re not essential for getting your driving licence, they are a great way to introduce you to the skills you’ll need for staying safe.
  9. Drive carefully in bad weather. Remember that your stopping distance is far longer when roads are wet, and your visibility is reduced in rain or fog.
  10. Stick to speed limits, and go slower if there are other factors such as pedestrians or bad weather. Road safety charity Brake says that there are an average of 11 deaths or serious injuries every day on UK roads where speed is a factor.

By abiding by the above points, you should see your insurance premiums drop. If you’re with Smartdriverclub Insurance, you could get a substantial discount when you come to renew after just one year of sensible driving!

As your time on the road progresses, you can expect your premium costs to become lower – assuming you keep your record clean of claims or convictions.

A young man driving a car

Get a quote from Smartdriverclub Insurance

At Smartdriverclub Insurance, we know how tricky it can be for young or inexperienced drivers to get onto the roads. That’s why we’ve devised a system that recognises and encourages safe driving habits to keep your premiums as low as possible.

Simply install a Smartplug into your vehicle – it’s easy to do. This measures factors including your acceleration, braking, speed and night driving, and awards you a driving score.

You can keep an eye on how you’re doing in our special app, and learn where you’ve got room for improvement.

Unlike some telematics insurance schemes, you can drive at night with a Smartplug, though it will affect your driving score.

Plus, we can tell if you’ve had an accident and send assistance straight away. We can also track your car if it’s stolen.

Other benefits include cover for windscreens, 30-day European travel, personal belongings, child car seat and in-car equipment such as CD players.

You can also choose optional extras such as breakdown cover, legal expenses cover, and personal injury protection.

Get a quote from Smartdriverclub today.