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How do insurance ratings for new cars work?

Every car, new or old, falls into a particular insurance group, which dictates how much it will be to insure - so how are the groups worked out?

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Every car and light commercial vehicle (LCV – such as a small van), new or old, falls into a particular insurance group, which dictates – to an extent – how much it will be to insure. The higher the group number, the higher the cost contribution, before the driver, address and other factors are taken into account.

Insurers use these groups to help quantify the risk associated with that particular vehicle. Until 2006 there were 20, but now there are 50, to deal with the breadth of models offered by some manufacturers, often dozens in the same range.

How are insurance ratings worked out?

Thatcham Research in Berkshire was set up by the insurance industry and tests vehicles and examines data which it then passes to the Group Rating Panel of the Association of British Insurers (ABI). There are just over 110,000 different derivatives on Thatcham’s vehicle database, comprising vehicles from as far back as the early 1930s to the latest Polestars and Teslas of today.

This is used to establish an advisory insurance group score. Thatcham stresses its ratings are only recommendations only. Individual insurers use the recommendations but factor in their own experience of particular cars, based on how many claims they have had. The data is updated every week, as new cars come onto the market.

Group rating scores currently include, but are subject to constant review, the cost and time it would take to return a vehicle to its original condition after an accident, the new price of the vehicle – reflecting variations in trim levels (back to those big ranges), the cost of settlement in the event of a total loss, the vehicle’s performance – including its 0-60mph acceleration time and top speed, and the sophistication of the vehicle’s standard fit security equipment.

Also taken into consideration is parts pricing – Thatcham uses a standard list of 23 parts which are deemed to be the most commonly damaged panels and components in an accident – and the standard fitment and performance of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems, sometimes called city braking by some car makers.

But what decides a group is more complicated than just high value and performance. Sometimes manufacturers put a high value component – such as an autonomous safety senor – behind a bumper where it can easily get damaged in even a low speed shunt. While these can be expensive to repair, the safety rating is increased, therefore the insurance group is lowered. When a car is facelifted or updated a whole combination of factors, such as acceleration, weight and repair times affect the group.

David Alder, senior product manager at Thatcham Research says: “A car’s grouping is important but it’s only part of the overall makeup of an insurance quote. What the customer pays for insurance is also influenced by the person driving the car, where they live, their occupation, credit score and many other risk factors.”

Some sample cars and their groups

The current Hyundai i10 is a city car with a small 1.0-litre engine and costs from around £13,000 new. Its various versions are covered in groups 1 to 7. The Nissan Juke small SUV goes from Group 11 to 14.

For the Volkswagen Golf range, it’s 14 to 24. As you’d expect, the high performance versions of family hatchbacks, will be more to ensure because they are the most expensive in the range to buy, and faster. 

The Land Rover Discovery range comes in groups 33 to 45. The Audi Q5 SUV is 23 to 42 and – no surprises here – any Bentley will be rated in the highest level of Group 50.

In addition, Thatcham assigns a letter to each grouping which tells the owner/buyer how it rates the car’s security. An A means it meets security requirement for this group. D means it does not and raises the group by one or two. and E is given where it exceeds the security requirement for a car of this type and the group rating is reduced.

For example, a 2021 Dacia Duster Prestige TCe rates at 22D and has a list price of just over £20,000. Of similar size and power, the comparable E example is the 2021 DS 4 Bastille +PureTech, which has a list price of just over £25, 000 but rates at 19E.

Electric cars introduce different factors into the group rating calculation. They are often heavier, typically accelerate faster and the replacement cost of batteries can be as much as 50% of the car. They are also generally more expensive than their internal combustion engine counterparts, all elements that influence calculation. A 1.2-litre petrol Vauxhall Corsa automatic Ultimate Nav is currently £26,075 and group 17E. An electric Corsa-e Ultimate Nav is £29,660 and group 25E.

How do I check a car’s insurance group?

Many new car buying websites, magazines and the specifications part of new car brochures will show the insurance group, although it is always best to check the official source as the ratings can change. Thatcham has its own group rating search facility which will provide the group number and, where available, Euro NCAP safety ratings for both new and older cars.

For further information on motor insurance, visit the Association of British Insurers (ABI) website.


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Russell Hayes
Russell Hayeshttps://amzn.to/3dga7y8
Russell Hayes’ early career was 14 years of motoring journalism in print, television and online. He worked for What Car? and Complete Car magazines, the BBC's original Top Gear programme and Channel 4's Driven. Since 2007 he has written motoring history books on subjects including Lotus, TVR, the Earls Court Motor Show, the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle and Bus and the original Aston Martin V8. Now a full-time author, two more books are in the pipeline for 2023 and 2024.