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In the past motorists in Northern Ireland often found it much more difficult to find cheap car insurance than their counterparts in other parts of the UK, but fortunately that trend has begun to change in recent years.
While it’s difficult to generalise insurance prices from one region to another (because a location’s crime rates, accident rates and congestion levels are hugely important risk factors), a growing number of motorists should now find that they’ll be offered NI car insurance quotes that are comparable to what they’d pay in other parts of the country.
Of course, just because the situation has improved doesn’t mean you should take the first quote you’re offered. By using an unbiased insurance comparison website like CompareNI.com you can compare car insurance quotes from a wide range of providers in a matter of minutes, making it more likely that you’ll find a suitable policy at an even cheaper price.
Car Insurance in Northern Ireland – a straightforward guide
Ten years ago it was much more difficult to find cheap car insurance in Northern Ireland, in part because many British insurance companies didn’t operate in the province, and a smaller insurance market meant higher prices – much, much higher prices.
In fact, according to research by the Consumer Council the average cost of an NI car insurance policy in 2011 was 84% higher than a comparable policy would have cost elsewhere in the UK on the same day, a finding that prompted the Office of Fair Trading to launch an investigation into the car insurance market in Northern Ireland.
Fortunately things have improved considerably since then, and a growing number of British insurance providers now serve motorists in the province. On the whole car insurance quotes in Northern Ireland are now comparable to the prices a driver would be offered in other parts of the UK.
Why did so many British insurance providers exclude Northern Ireland?
The Office of Fair Trading’s investigation in 2011 revealed that Northern Ireland’s differing legal system represented a significant insurance risk for British insurance providers, because the courts in the province were usually much more generous with compensation pay-outs than their peers in England, Wales and Scotland.
In addition, Northern Ireland had a younger population and a higher number of road traffic accidents per capita and per vehicle than other parts of the UK, which again translated into significantly higher insurance risk for British insurance companies.
Is Northern Ireland car insurance now cheaper than insurance in the rest of the UK?
A smaller insurance market usually translates into higher insurance premiums, and until very recently motorists in Northern Ireland had a much smaller pool of providers to choose from.
Some commentators have suggested the situation has now gone into reverse, though, with Northern Ireland car insurance costing less than equivalent policies in England, Scotland and Wales.
However, while the average cost of insurance may be lower in the province, at least according to some measures, it’s important to bear in mind that there are a wide range of regional factors that could be skewing that data.
For example, the average age of the local population, the types of cars they tend to favour, the occupations they might be more likely to favour, whether or not they are more likely to opt for Third Party, Fully Comprehensive or Third Party, Fire and Theft insurance, or whether they are more open to taking out a telematics insurance policy could all affect the regional picture.
When we compare like-for-like data (rather than overall averages) between the regions Northern Ireland car insurance is often slightly more expensive than you’d pay for a driver with the same personal details and a comparable vehicle in another part of the country – but certainly not 84% percent more expensive, as it was just a few years ago.
Can I drive my car in England if I have Northern Ireland car insurance?
Yes, while Northern Ireland has a devolved government it’s still part of the UK, so if you take your car on the ferry from Northern Ireland to England, Wales or Scotland you will automatically be insured to drive there.
If you’re moving from Northern Ireland to another part of the UK, though, you will need to inform your insurance provider of your new address, and your car insurance premium may have to be revised (either upward or downward) because your new location will have a different risk profile.
Should I use a Northern Ireland car insurance company?
There are a number of local insurance companies and local brokers that only serve drivers in Northern Ireland, such as Hughes Insurance, Abbey Insurance, Apricot Insurance and Allianz NI.
It’s definitely worth getting quotes from each of those local providers when you’re ready to take out a car insurance policy, but it would also be a wise move to compare their quotes with the prices offered by UK-wide insurance providers.
By using CompareNI.com’s unbiased insurance comparison website you’ll only have to complete one short form in order to compare quotes from over 70 different insurance providers, including local insurance companies.
That way you’ll be more likely to find a suitable car insurance policy at the cheapest possible price.
Which car insurance companies serve Northern Ireland?
The list of insurance companies serving Northern Ireland is growing all the time, so it’s difficult to provide an up-to-date list of the providers you should get quotes from when you’re ready to take out car insurance in NI.
However, it would be incredibly time-consuming to get a separate quote from each insurance provider individually anyway. A faster, easier option is to use our online price comparison platform – that way you’ll only have to complete one short form in order to compare Northern Ireland car insurance quotes from over 70 different insurance companies.
What level of cover is available to motorists in Northern Ireland?
Drivers in Northern Ireland have three levels of cover to choose from:
- Third party insurance:
This is the minimum level of car insurance Northern Ireland drivers must have under UK law, and is mostly designed to protect other motorists when you take to the roads. As such this type of insurance will usually cover damage to a third party’s vehicle (hence the name), or personal injuries sustained by the occupants of the other car, but won’t cover the cost of damage to your own car.
- Third party, fire and theft:
As the name suggests, this type of insurance provides the same level of cover as third party car insurance in NI, but should also pay out if your own vehicle is stolen or damaged in a fire.
- Fully comprehensive:
Again, the name says it all – this is the most comprehensive level of car insurance NI drivers can take out, and as such it is sometimes the most expensive too. In addition to the cover provided by third party and third party, fire and theft, fully-comp insurance will usually cover the cost of repairing damage to your own vehicle – or replacing the car with one of an equal value if yours has to be written off.
How can I find cheap NI car insurance if I’m a young driver?
A driver’s age can have a significant effect on how much they pay for car insurance, because road accident data suggests younger drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in an accident than older motorists.
Of course, just because your Northern Ireland insurance quote isn’t likely to be cheap doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce your premium, even if you’re a student driver or a provisional licence holder. For instance, you might be able to find cheaper NI car insurance if you:
- Opt for a car with a smaller engine:
Cars with smaller engines usually fall into a lower insurance group, which means they’re often cheaper to insure.
- Park the car in a garage or on a private driveway:
Cars that are usually parked on the side of the road have a higher risk of being damaged by passing vehicles or targeted by thieves, so if you’re able to park off the road you should benefit from cheaper insurance quotes.
- Opt for telematics insurance:
Telematics car insurance, or black box insurance as it’s also known, is often cheaper than a regular insurance policy because the black box tracks your driving habits and provides your insurer with real-time telemetry data. The company can then use this data to adjust your premium on a daily basis, which offsets some of their risk.
- Compare quotes for third party car insurance:
As with the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland car insurance policies offer three different levels of coverage, with third party insurance providing drivers with the least protection. For that reason it can sometimes prove cheaper than third party, fire and theft or fully-comp insurance, although it is worth comparing quotes for all three levels and going with the policy that offers the best coverage at the cheapest price.
- Insure multiple cars under a single policy:
If your household has a number of vehicles you could take out a multi-car insurance policy, which should be cheaper than insuring each car separately.
Beyond those steps, it’s particularly important to compare car insurance quotes from a wide range of providers when you’re a younger driver, because prices can vary much more dramatically when premiums are higher.
Which town in Northern Ireland has the cheapest car insurance?
Whether you’re based in Belfast or Bangor, Coleraine or Carrickfergus, Londonderry, Lisburn or Larne, your insurance provider will take a range of location-specific data points into consideration when calculating your premiums, including your area’s crime rate, accident rate and congestion levels.
However, providers tend to take a fairly granular approach to this data, so while broader data for the whole town or city does play a role it’s likely to be the crime and accident rates for your specific neighbourhood and street that have the biggest impact.
*51% of consumers could save £504.25 on their Car Insurance. The saving was calculated by comparing the cheapest price found with the average of the next five cheapest prices quoted by insurance providers on Seopa Ltd’s insurance comparison website. This is based on representative cost savings from September 2023 data. The savings you could achieve are dependent on your individual circumstances and how you selected your current insurance supplier.