Bride dances on her car

A new car insurance index has revealed a strange new trend: married women are paying far less for car insurance than their single counterparts. The Confused.com/Towers Watson research found that singletons were being charged £435 more.

But why is this? And can it be fair?


Single women pay more

Overall the news is generally good for women - as insurance premiums fell 9.2% in 2012. However, younger single women (aged 17-20) fared far worse than everyone else - seeing larger than average price hikes at the end of the year.

In fact, when they were the only person insured on the car they saw prices shoot up 17.1% in the last three months of the year - paying an average of £2,081 for their car insurance. Married women, meanwhile, only saw prices rise 4.8%.

The same trend applied for slightly older women. Single women aged 21-25 saw prices rise 8.6% in that time, while their married counterparts saw prices fall 1.5%.

Overall women drivers who insure a spouse are likely to pay less than half of what a single woman pays: The average cost for a female driver insured with their spouse is £406 compared with £841.

Why?

This seems like a very strange distinction to be made. It begs the question of how fair it can be. After-all, putting on a white dress and feeding your friends and family for a day isn't suddenly going to transform the way you drive.

However, the insurers have their reasons. Those behind the study highlight that it may be partly as a result of the EU Gender Directive, which came into force on the 21st December last year.

The first impact this had was to make insurance more expensive for all women under the age of 30 at the end of last year - while for men in this category insurance became 5.6% cheaper, and for men aged 17-20 prices fell an incredible 20.6% from a year earlier

The second impact was that insurers were not allowed to distinguish between drivers purely on the grounds of gender, so they had to trawl through their risk analysis to find other ways to distinguish the risk levels.

The Association of British Insurers said at the time: "Although insurers can now no longer take gender into account, they will continue to look at other relevant risk factors to ensure consumers benefit from the most competitively priced insurance.

It seems that marriage was one of the answers they found.

Is this fair?

And while marriage in itself may not make you a better driver, there's a chance it could change the driving dynamics. If you're single and the only driver, then no matter how tired you are or how unhappy you are with the driving conditions, you have to make the journey.

If you are married you have other options: you can send your husband, you can share the driving, and the person who feels most capable at any given moment can sit in the driving seat.

There is also a higher chance that the drivers are parents - which tends to make them buy safer cars and take fewer risks when driving.

So while it's clearly unfair, it's also a logical step for insurers to make.

What can you do?

Gareth Kloet, Head of Car Insurance at Confused.com says: "Our advice to drivers is simple, with gender neutral pricing now having taken full effect, the need to shop around has never been greater, as much has changed in terms of pricing. We encourage everyone to shop around in order to get the best deals and if you are married, consider car sharing with your partner to benefit from cheaper car insurance premiums."

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, adds that it could also be time to assess what sort of risk you pose personally, and to see if there's anything else you can work on. He says factors such as occupation, post-code and the model of car could have more of an impact than before, so could be worth considering if you are planning a move, a career change or a new car in future.

But what do you think? Does marriage make you safer? Let us know in the comments.