Car owners cancel insurance policies as cost of living bites

By Susan Edmunds of RNZ

Whangārei woman Courtney Kitto is feeling the pain of rising costs.

As well as having to spend an extra $100 a week on groceries, increases in the cost of things like insurance are hitting hard.

"I've had to cancel my car insurance. Fuel is a huge impact, being rural, too."

She said being left without insurance was a concern.

"It will definitely be something I'll reinstate when we can afford to but unfortunately something has to give with the winter months here and the power bill increasing."

Another woman, Sammy, said she had let some of her insurance cover lapse, too.

"Our caravan went up $45 a fortnight… insurance is getting stupid. But the only alternative is no insurance. They don't make it cheaper if you do ask."

Justin Lim, chief executive of comparison site Quashed, said the rate of increase in insurance premiums was accelerating.

Premiums for insurance policies quoted on the site were up 40 percent for both comprehensive and third-party car insurance and up 25 percent for house and contents, year-on-year, he said.

The average annual cost of a comprehensive policy for a $20,000 vehicle was $1309 this year. For third-party fire and theft cover, it was $500.

Consumer data found an increase of 38 percent in car insurance premiums between 2021 and October 2023.

Insurance Council data shows there was $3.1 billion paid in premiums for motor insurance in 2023, up from $2.7b the year before and $2.25b in 2019.

Lim said insurers' costs were probably going up, driving premiums. But shopping around could save money, he said.

"Between $300 and $600 [a year] is the average price difference we're finding between insurers for the same car."

A spokesperson for the Insurance Council said there were a number of factors having an impact.

"These include later model cars that have more technology in them which make them more costly to fix, higher claims due to vehicles damaged or lost to last year's flooding and cyclone events, the cost of inflation on repairs and the state of New Zealand's roads and its impact on cars. These are all flowing through into premiums.

"People should take the opportunity to contact their insurer to see what options are available such as looking at their excess or other policy settings, while also shopping around."

Spokespeople for both Suncorp, which operates Vero and Asteron Life and has a partnership to provide AA Insurance, and IAG, which operates NZI, State and AMI, referred inquiries to the Insurance Council.