The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority's (Irda) decision to revise third-party insurance premium rates upwards is going to push up your car insurance costs. The new structure for charging third-party insurance premiums will be applicable to all new policies as well as the ones renewed on or after April 25. The move will lead to thirdparty insurance premium rates for private vehicles and twowheelers going up by up to 10%.
What's more, the insurance regulator has also stated that henceforth, the premiums are to be reviewed and adjusted annually based on formula that has been arrived at. This formula takes into account parameters like average claims cost as well as the frequency of claims for each class of vehicle and cost inflation index for the year of review . However, the insurers will have to honour the existing annual contracts in their current form till they expire. That is, if you have bought a new policy or renewed the existing one say in December 2010, you will not have to shell out additional premium as per the new schedule of charges.
Since third-party liability cover is mandatory - even before a vehicle makes its way from the showroom to the road -you need to buy the cover and there's little you can do to reduce the premium, given the regulated charge structure. Then, if you are buying a comprehensive motor insurance policy, there are other customary parameters that come into play. These include age of the vehicle, price, engine capacity and the geographical zone, on which you have limited control. However, there are several other measures you can take to make sure that your total car insurance bill stays within manageable limits.
BUY ONLY THE MANDATORY COVER
"Even within third-party insurance , you can go for the limited liability cover (which is mandated by law) for property damage to lower your premium outgo," says Anurag Rastogi, vice-president and head, actuarial, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. Claims under third-party insurance can take two forms - death or bodily injury caused to someone other than the policyholder and damage to property of such 'third' parties (the insured and the insurance company being the two parties to the insurance contract). In case of cover against damage to property, the cover mandated by law is Rs 6,000. Beyond this limit, too, you can buy insurance to cover damage to third-party property but at an additional cost. You need to make this decision depending on your comfort level and affordability.
MAKE THE MOST OF NCB
No-claim bonus (NCB) refers to the discount policyholders are entitled to on renewal of the policy, if they have not made claims in the previous policy year. It can go up to as high as 50%, and hence, it is advisable to aim for it. For one, disciplined driving and meticulous car maintenance can help you avoid claims and thus, make you eligible for NCB. Even if you have incurred expenses on your car, you need to think before knocking on your insurer's doors to make the claim. "You should evaluate whether it is worth filing small claims. If the claim amount is lower than the NCB that you are likely to get in the subsequent year, it may make sense to forgo such claims," says Karan Chopra, head, retail business group, HDFC Ergo .
Also, remember that the NCB is not tied to the car or the insurance policy, but the policyholder. "New car buyers who are buying their second vehicle can transfer their NCB earned on old vehicle to new vehicle if they have sold the old vehicle . This can significantly reduce their new car policy's premium ," says Rastogi. Similarly, you can avail of the NCB even if you switch to another insurer.
INSURE YOUR CAR ON RESALE VALUE
Many policyholders prefer to opt for a cover equal to their car's cost of purchase rather than its current market price (resale value) even at the time of renewal. "Ideally , the renewal should be done at the resale value. Reduction in the insured declared value (the basic sum assured under a motor insurance policy) will result in a corresponding decrease in premium," says Rastogi of Bajaj Allianz.
PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION
Many companies now offer discounts to policyholders on the basis of several personal attributes. "The idea is to incentivise policyholders to provide more information about themselves. Factors like the insured's age, gender, marital status and profession etc also influence the premiums now. In our case, discounts offered on the basis of these parameters could range from 2-12 %, but this is applicable only for policies bought or renewed online," says Rastogi. Some companies also prescribe lower premiums to female drivers or to policyholders who are married.
Age can be a key factor. Says Chopra , "For instance, if the insured is over 35, we offer him or her a discount of 5% on the premium payable for the 'own damage' component. For policyholders over 45, this can go up to 10%. Likewise, doctors, chartered accountants and teachers stand to earn a discount of 5%." The underlying assumption in such cases is that they tend to drive relatively more responsibly.
MAKE USE OF MEMBERSHIPS
If you happen to be a member of the Automobile Association of India (AAI) or its affiliates, you could reap monetary rewards with the help of this membership. Some insurers charge discounted premiums for members of such associations . For the AAI membership, the discount could be the lower of 5% or . 200 on the own-damage premium for private cars. If you install an anti-theft device approved by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), you could gift yourself a discount of 2.5%, subject to a maximum of Rs 500.
EVALUATE FEATURE ADD-ONS
Thanks to de-tariffication , companies no longer have to sell standardised motor insurance products. "The premiums could vary depending on multiple factors. Therefore, insurance-seekers should visit various companies' websites to compare features and premium rates offered," says HDFC Ergo's Chopra. Many companies also offer add-on covers to their policyholders and it is likely that the agent will push these products . However, you need to be aware that these could inflate your total car insurance premium bill. Therefore, you should ensure that you carefully assess their utility before giving your assent.