Motorhome insurance companies will no longer be required to give quotes on brand new Volkswagen Kombi vehicles shortly after the New Year as the classic campervan finally goes out of production.
It is 63 years since the first Volkswagen Kombi rolled off the production line and over the years the simple prototype for the millions of sophisticated luxury models that came after it has retained affection with campervan fans that almost resembles a reverence. It is the vehicle that transformed a generation of new wealthy Americans and created a folk culture around sea and surf that still remains today. It is because of the popularity of the Kombi that European, North American and Antipodean holiday makers saw the value of having a vehicle that was virtually a mobile home and today tourism in these countries is massively dependant on people who hold campervan insurance cover. It has taken a little longer for the motorhome to become a major feature on the roads of the UK, maybe because of the weather, but interest in mobile homes is now at its highest in this country and campervan hire in particular is enjoying a boom period.
The German manufacturers still say that 250 new Kombis are built everyday although now they are constructed in South America. In fact the Kombi would no longer meet Government vehicle construction requirements in many European countries as they don’t have anti-lock brakes and dual air bags as standard, but Volkswagen have confirmed they will still produce their California campervan for some time yet. So there is still the chance to capture the flavour of owning a classic design and manage to get a foothold in the camaraderie to be found in classic campervan clubs throughout Britain.
The announcement that Government officials are considering introducing a two tier Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) charge will give food for thought to motorhome insurance providers across the UK.
Ministers are currently looking at VED revenue knowing that Government incentives to encourage the “Green” revolution in motor technology is going to adversely affect the money coming in over the next decade. Currently VED brings in £6 billion a year but the system which penalises high emission motor vehicles and rewards low emission vehicles is bound to see its revenue drop as zero emission vehicles become more commonplace. In fact the Office of Budget Responsibility believes VED will bring in £100 million less in 2014/2015 and plummet year on year after that.
It is this fall in revenue that the Government are trying to address and the committee concerned now believes a system whereby drivers who keep to local roads are charged less than those who use the main road arteries in the UK could work. It is not the only plan under investigation but certainly the one that has drawn most press attention. It will certainly affect motorhome owners in a big way and begs the question would motorhome insurance companies assess insurance premiums in a similar way.
The Government has confirmed that any decision will only be made after closer consultation with all sectors of the motor industry, and if that is the case then it will find most motoring organisations that represent drivers steadfastly opposed to the introduction of what they see as a two tier system that will benefit no-one. Many observers believe the cost of implementing such a system would negate much of the increased revenue while others see a nightmare scenario of local roads around major cities being clogged up with motorists keen to avoid charges for using main roads.
Whatever decision is taken it is for sure motor insurance companies will find themselves having to adapt once more to Government policy.
According to Government statistics vehicle thieves are changing tactics to counter improvements made by manufacturers in vehicle security.
Reports from police forces and Government agencies say that more and more vehicles are stolen by thieves who use a key to start the engine. It will come as no surprise to motorhome insurers that thieves are finding a new way to steal, but the alarming rate by which these sort of crimes have increased in a short period of time is certainly worrying UK crime fighters. Government figures for 2010/11 show that 25 percent of stolen vehicles are taken using a key, an increase of 40 percent compared to 2005/6. 34 percent of thefts involved forcing the lock, 18 percent breaking the window and 14 percent helping themselves via an open door.
Of course it pays testimony to the hard work motor manufacturers have put in to try and improve vehicle security, electronic immobilisers and key recognition systems certainly did the trick for a while. Unfortunately thieves now realise that getting into a vehicle is no guarantee that they can drive it away and so have turned to housebreaking and key cloning to facilitate their crime. While key cloning is still the preserve of the more sophisticated thief who is on the lookout for top of the range cars, any motor thief near you is quite prepared to try your car door just in case your keys are still in the ignition; and move on to your front door just in case that is open too.
It is absolutely imperative that motorists make it tough for thieves, not least because your motorhome insurance may depend on it. Many insurance companies might be less inclined to pay out if the vehicle owner has made it easy for the thief. So, introducing extra security measures such as a wheel clamp or mechanical immobiliser will certainly deter the opportunist thief, and keeping to a ritual of locking your vehicle door and placing the keys in a secure place will put off the more determined criminal.
With the call for motorhome insurance providers along with all other types of motoring insurers to make a concerted effort to cut the cost of premiums, the industry may well wonder how it can reconcile the demand with events taking place in the motor industry at the moment.
For long enough motor insurers, motor producers, Government ministers and motoring organisations have debated the cost to the country of drivers with no insurance and how lower insurance premiums may help reduce the number of motorists willing to risk driving with no cover. Certainly more insurance providers are utilising telematic technology and basing insurance premiums on the evidence provided by a black box which reports on the driving capabilities behind the wheel. It has already helped to cut the cost of young driver insurance massively and when the average price of insurance for a young camper van driver can be up to £4,000 then any help is welcome.
However, the EU regulations that deny insurance companies the right to base premiums on gender is bound to result in many female drivers finding their motor home insurance quotes going up, and who will they blame? The news that many safety partnerships in the UK plan to launch a new breed of digital speed cameras in towns and cities that will catch more motorists than ever before, has also hit the headlines in the past week.
These cameras will be more cost efficient as they will not need personnel to collect and replace film at the roadside and will be left on 24 hours a day. There is no doubt that the public support most actions that catch out law breaking drivers but once again this will result in more motorists getting fines for motoring offences and points on their licence; which as we all know, tells an insurance provider they are a bigger risk and warrants that insurance provider charging more cash to provide cover.
It is a difficult time for motorists who seem to be incurring higher costs year on year but it isn’t easy for an insurance industry that has to provide its shareholders with profits and provide a system that gives the motorists of the UK confidence in their insurance cover.
Motorists who complain about the Government unfairly targeting drivers as a means of raising revenue are misguided and wrong, according to a report from the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR).
It may come as a surprise to those who own motorhome insurance policies but the IPPR insist that motorists should in fact be paying more taxes for the pleasure of driving around in their own vehicle, as those who have to use public transport have seen price rises far in excess of those encountered by the average motorhome enthusiast. The report says statistics show that under the last Labour Government, which was accused of waging war on the motorist, motoring costs rose by about 32%, bad enough you may think, but in fact this was dwarfed by increases in both rail fares at 66% and bus fares at 76%. The Institute point out that since the Coalition Government came to power the Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone out of his way to give concessions to motorists including the postponement of the 3p per litre increase on fuel tax that should have been implemented this summer.
The recent increases for rail users of an average 6%, illustrate the IPPR’s viewpoint and they are adamant that the Government should not only increase fuel taxes but also implement congestion charges and pay as you go road schemes. They say motorists are much better placed to make savings on their transport costs compared to public transport users as they can choose to use more fuel efficient machines. This, the Institute say, is one more reason why they should shoulder more of the tax burden. And what would the IPPR do with extra revenue raised from motorists? They would improve the public transport system!
Unsurprisingly motoring organisations are not too impressed with the findings of the IPPR who are decidedly on the left of the political system. Paul Watters from the AA took an altogether different view saying: “Far from raising fuel duty the Chancellor should continue to freeze it to help stimulate the economy and lift some of the fuel burden from families and business. This in itself would actually support Treasury receipts, arguably stopping more cash for transport being lost.”
It would be naïve to think buying more fuel efficient vehicles and looking for cheaper motor insurance will keep motoring costs down in the long run, as the Government will raise the amount of money they need by imposing taxes, but the average motorist will not take kindly to an organisation who try and tell them they’ve never had it so good.