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Buying your car insurance policy online or buying from an internet-only company

Buying car insurance policy online

It's a sad fact of life but machines work for less than human beings. In the good old days, every machine needed a human to watch over it and make sure it did not mess up. Now all you do is plug in these new generations of clever computerised things and they can work for days and weeks without ever having to step outside to enjoy a cigarette. It's enough to make Karl Marx turn over in his grave as the workers of the world have slowly been losing the power to sell their labour. But inside every silver lining is a pig's ear, or something. If a business can operate with fewer human beings, it's making big savings that can be passed on to us, the customers. If you're still able to find work and can afford to insure your car, this is a good thing. If you're one of the replaced humans and now find yourself on the scrap heap of life, this is bitter medicine.

Automation brings reduced premium rates at two different levels depending on where the savings in labour are made. If the insurer has to employ a call centre full of people (hopefully not offshore to maintain what employment opportunities remain for local people), this is a moderately expensive operation. But if all the selling of policies is effectively automated, all the savings in labour costs can be passed on to you as discounts. For example, the Co-operative offers an 11% discount for buying online. When you add this to other features like a no-claims bonus rising to 70%, it makes them one of the cheapest companies in the insurance business.

But, the most interesting company is Swiftcover. Although set up as an independent, this is now a subsidiary of the Axa Group, selling out in 2007. It's advertised as the first company relying 100% on the internet to sell its policies and deal with claims. To a greater or lesser extent, all the other major companies have a mixed strategy depending on face-to-face sales through High Street offices, the telephone, the internet and indirect sales through agents and brokers. Through Swiftcover's website, you can buy a policy online and print out your cover note. If there are any changes to be made to the policy, this is done online. In the unhappy event of having to make a claim, you have a choice of an online process or a telephone call. This is a prize-winning company for its innovation and the cost-savings it offers. Although it now employs some 250 people in England for dealing with more than half-a-million policyholders, this is a fraction of the workforce in other major insurers.

So, when you look at the UK car insurance market, Swiftcover is leading the way in offering real competition to the established brands. Although some report its performance has dropped since it sold out to the Axa Group, this is the spur keeping the majority of companies offering cheap car insurance cover. When you're coming up for renewal, check out all the car insurance quotes coming through the search engines. If Swiftcover is not among them, get a quote direct and compare. Similarly, look for the promotional offers being made for buying direct through the internet. There are some real bargains to be made.