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I've typed this review as an overview of the Direct Line website, plus as a 'what to do if involved in an accident' and a 'what happened to us' - I hope it helps!
I don't seem to have much luck with cars. My first was repeatedly vandalised until the fateful day someone pulled its poor little door off and tried to hotwire it. My second car was going fine until the day someone decided to drive into the back of it at a road junction - they said they were "looking behind me" which I would strongly advise you not to do when approaching a busy junction as you might hurt yourself.
They say that you never know just how good an insurance company is until you have to make a claim and I was hoping that I never would have to find that part out, but, these things happen so cue a flurry of phone calls between Direct Line, the car hire company and the person who shall now be known as Thumper …..
~ Who are Direct Line then? ~
Incase you have been living in a cave for the past 20 years - they started in April 1985 selling just car insurance - you should know that Direct Line are an insurance company who offer many things: cover for your house - building and contents, Life insurance, car insurance, holiday insurance, home emergency, pet insurance, European breakdown, life insurance, loans, mortgages, savings and critical illness cover. As I only have my car insurance with them I shall briefly go into detail of how to arrange or even get a quote from Direct Line.
For speed you can go to the Direct Line website at www.directline.com
To get your quote you fill out a standard form which most on-line insurance agents use these days. You enter your : Name, address, date of birth, profession. Is the car for business, pleasure or both. Where will the car be kept - Garage. Driveway. Street. Car details - All you need to fill in here is the registration, much better than some sites which want to know the make, model, trim, etc of your car. Offences - Another drop down sheet when you fill in any speeding offences or any other naughties you may have done. Add extra driver:- Same as above but for your other half. Estimated annual mileage.
You then have your quote appear on screen before your very eyes. You have the option to fiddle about with the quote - you can change between Fully Comp, 3rd party, 3rd Party Fire & Theft and have the option of choosing your level of Excess. The Excess is the amount you have to pay in the event of you having an accident that was your fault - e.g. You reverse into a bollard, the repair will cost £250, your Excess is £150 so you pay £150 and the insurance company pays the remainder.
I have a Rover 214Si (don't know what the Si stands for - I like to think it means Stunner inside but I somehow doubt that), 1.4litre engine, T reg. It has a built in immobiliser and alarm but frustratingly you could go out an have a top of the range alarm fitted to your car and Direct Line won't give you a discount for this - pah. When I started driving the insurance was in the Boyfs name with me as an additional driver, this meant I accrued 2 years no claims bonus in his name and this bears minimal reflection on me although you can send Direct Line a copy of your No Claims Bonus and a signed letter from your partner saying that they are happy for you to port their no claims into your name. It's all very faffy and would only have saved about £35 so I didn't bother. Direct Line took my two years accident free driving into consideration and gave me a £30 discount and I also got a 10% discount for doing everything on-line - my total payment for Fully Comprehensive was £543.90 which I thought a little excessive compared to the Micras 3rd Party, Fire & Theft £249 (!). This was made up of £17 guaranteed car hire and legal cover (DL are one of the few who will still loan you are car if you car is stolen or written off).
I changed my excess to £100 which means I will pay £15 more over the 12 months than the standard £150 excess which appears on screen. At the time I arranged my insurance DL were offering monthly payments without interest which meant my payments were exactly the same as on the screen.
Direct Line assure me that when it is time for my renewal quote to be sent out they will take my previous two years un-sullied driving record into account aswell as my (touch wood, cross-fingers, toes and eyes) one year with Direct Line un-blemished driving record and give me a bigger discount.
As I was purchasing my car through a dealer I had to ask Direct Line to send all the paperwork to them, not me, for the dealer to be able to purchase a tax disc and then realise the car to me. I needed the paperwork to be there guaranteed next day, DL were unable to send the post Special Delivery (which I offered to pay for) but said it would be placed at the top of the pile and marked priority. 10am next day the dealer rang to say all the paperwork had arrived.
~ What are the different policies about? ~
There are three kinds of insurance you can opt for, and in the early days I really couldn't understand what I could and couldn't claim for if the need arose, so here they are:-
* 3rd party* This is the most basic and therefore cheapest insurance there is. If you cause an accident then your insurance will pay for the repair of the other car and any other associated costs (i.e. the other person may have sustained injuries such as whiplash which requires medical treatment) but not the repair of your car. If you are hit by another car, you can claim through the other drivers insurance for the repair of your car.
* 3rd party, fire and theft* Again, same as above but also covers the possibility of your car being stolen, whisked off on an 100mph joy ride, (wrecking a few other cars in the process) and / or then dumped and torched.
*Fully Comprehensive* This covers all the above and also if you're a bit dippy and reverse or drive into bollards and gateposts it covers the cost of those repairs too although this is where the excess comes in - if the accident is your fault you need to pay the first portion of the repair bill :- The Excess. You can change your Excess amount in order to reduce your insurance premium, however, bear in mind if you DO need to make an Own Fault claim you could end up paying out a lot of money. You only get hire cars when you are fully comprehensive. F.C. includes windscreen and window damage and breakage, aswell as stereo cover and sunroof repair.
Something else that Direct Line offers to Comprehensive policy holders is that is someone hits your car and they are a non-insured driver, you will NOT lose your no-claims bonus. You might have to pay the excess for the repair but once D.L. has confirmed the accident was the fault of the non-insured party, you will get your money back.
~ Ok, I've got my insurance and dratts, I've had an accident!! ~
In the words of Rainman, I'm a very good driver and despite one minor hiccup in my very early days of driving when I was in a car park and was so ecstatic at finally being able to tune my 14yr old Micra's car radio into a UK station opposed to the German Arrow Classic Rock (675MW and it's darn good 60's, 70's and 80's stuff incase you were wondering!) that I thought my car was in reverse and only found it wasn't after shooting forwards at warp speed into a hedge. Oh how I laughed - really I did, but I think it was tinged slightly with hysteria. Because of my inherent carefulness I have never so much as clipped a wing mirror so after being whumped up the bumper it was time for me to Do The Necessary.
At the time the Boyf was driving but after the incident both he and Thumper drove a short distance up the road to where it wasn't quite so busy. After inspecting the damage and telling Thumper that there really was no need for her to cry; insurance details, names, addresses and phone numbers were exchanged as well as jotting down the make, model and registration plate of the cars. The Boyf says that there were witnesses but as the bump happened at 08:40, people were wanting to get to work and immediately after the impact when both cars were still in the middle of the road rather than stop and ask if they wanted a witness, people just swerved round onto the other side of the road which could have caused more accidents.
If at all possible, take photographs as sometimes the person who hit you can dispute the accident being their fault - they always say the golden rule of accidents is "Never admit liability" and some people will swear black is white that it wasn't their fault when it blatantly is. With many mobile phones having cameras built in, this shouldn't be too much of a problem and you can also pick up cheap and cheerful disposable cameras from many shops these days to keep in your glovebox.
~ Right, I've got their information, what now ? ~
Get out an A-Z of the street where the accident happened and then phone your insurance company. Have your policy documents to hand aswell as a (working) pen and a large notepad. The Boyf did all this (isn't he good) and when I spoke to him all he could say was how incredibly helpful and knowledgeable the people at Direct Line were. They took all the information down, asking relevant questions where necessary and didn't waste time asking un-necessary stuff - it seems some companies have "A Script" that they follow in such cases and even if you tell them certain facts, if the question is on their sheet they'll still ask it - happily this wasn't the case with Direct Line. The Boyf told them from the start that Thumper had admitted liability which must have made their day! He was then told that we would hear from one of their garages either later that day or the next day to arrange for collection and repair of our car, we'd also hear from the car hire company as with Direct Line you get a hire car for 14 days too so that you aren't stuck in limbo. The whole call to Direct Line took around 3 minutes, everything was handled over the telephone and no paperwork had to be filled in by us detailing when and where the incident took place, where on the car the damage was, etc, etc. Our accident was quite minor, if you were unlucky enough to be involved in a serious accident I think you would require paperwork and diagrams to be submitted for the claim to progress.
We had much faffing with regards to our repair and this was not the fault of Direct Line. Much of the day was wasted as initially Thumper wanted to pay out of her own pocket for the repair. When she got to work she changed her mind and opted for insurance. Two hours later she'd changed her mind again….
It was now around 4pm. I rang Direct Line to tell them we had decided to repair direct with Thumper and was told that they were more than happy with this BUT if the bumper fell off or anything else was found to be damaged on the car that we hadn't noticed, they would be unable to 'fight our corner' so to speak as we'd agreed everything privately without them. I then got to thinking that Thumper's garage might only carry out the bare minimum of work - they might see, say, chassis damage but decide to ignore it whereas a Direct Line garage would actively look for repair work. Needless to say after discussing it with the Boyf we decided on Direct Line which all parties were fine with, but of course this delay meant a delay in the garage collecting the car and the car hire being arranged.
~ Direct Line in action ~
Wednesday morning and the mobile goes. It's the Direct Line Garage - if okay with me they would be collecting my car on Thursday between 08:15 and 11am. The bumper would be removed, car checked over, bumper replaced, car valeted and delivered back to our door once done. The lady on the phone was SO polite, happy and helpful I was tempted to ask her what she was on.
Shortly afterwards the mobile rings again, this time it's the car hire company. Direct Line use Enterprise Rent-a-Car and you can visit their website at www.enterprise.com as not only do Enterprise work alongside Direct Line, they also hire cars and vans to the general public. After a quick chat with yet another happy, helpful type, it was agreed that as our car would have been taken away by then, they would send someone out to our home address to collect the Boyf and drive him to the hire company - this is actually part of their policy and on their website. He would need to take both our driving licenses (the paper part AND the photocard) and the certificate of insurance from Direct Line - I found this quite odd considering they deal with Direct Line surely this part in un-necessary or Direct Line wouldn't have contacted them??
~ Goodbye my car, hello hire car ~
Thursday, 09:50 and there's a ring at the bell. A man wearing a sweatshirt with the name of the garage on the front is standing there with a form for us to sign authorising them to collect the car and one detailing who they are and what they'll be doing to my baby, sorry, car. Once these are signed the car keys are handed over and my car was driven up onto the back of the truck-thingie (sorry, I haven't a clue what these things are called), strapped in place and off they pootled all the way to West Thurrock.
After my car was driven off the Boyf rang Enterprise and spoke to his allocated person (none of that getting passed around the office each time, you get the same person whenever you call). They said they'd send out a driver to collect him and drive him to the hire company, shortly afterwards a young man in a suit (who turned out to be the person he'd been speaking to) pulled up in a clean and tidy car - I did ask the Boyf to be more specific but that's the best I got! and drove him to the hire place. When you collect your hire car you are subject to a £250 excess if you scratch or completely write-off the car. You can waive this if you pay £5 per day but we decided to be brave. You also pay a £50 deposit which will be credited to your account when you return the car. Initially we were going to be given the most basic car they had - a 1ltr Vauxhall Corsa - however, the Boyf said that as he does photography and has a lot of expensive equipment there is a clause in his insurance what states that the equipment must be fully hidden in the car boot when being transported. The hire company and Direct Line had a chat with Thumper's insurance company, who, obviously fearing the possibility of another claim - this time for £3k of camera gear - upgraded our car to a huge 55 reg brand spanking new Ford Focus C-Max that had electric everything and made you tea and toast and told you how wonderful you looked whilst giving you shoulder massages.
All hire cars come with a 3/4tank of petrol and when you return the car you need to make sure you have refilled the tank back to how it was before. If you don't you get charged a ridiculous amount for petrol for them to fill the tank - something like £1.14 a litre. You also have a limit on mileage - no more than 2,500 a week.
I'm used to small cars and at the insistence of the Boyf I drove the car (once) and really did not like it - I felt like I was rattling around inside like a pea in a bucket, there was so much space around me I really was not keen and to say the brakes were responsive were an understatement! The first time I stopped at the end of the road we both nearly got garrotted by the seatbelts. The Boyf absolutely loved the car and was hoping the repair took the maximum 14 days but as you will find out; this was not the case (much to his disappointment!).
~ The Repair ~
The paperwork we were given listed 'most asked questions' and stated our car would be checked within 4 hours of arriving at the garage. We would then be called within 48 hours to be told how long the repair would take. The garage rang on Tuesday morning saying that my whole car had been checked over - the chassis and the underneath and the car had sustained no damage other than the cracked bumper which had been replaced. My car would be arriving back at my house on Wednesday around 10am (they are normally unable to specify exact delivery times but as my car would be the first one out of their garage they were able to give me anapproximation).
~ Hello my car, goodbye hire car ~
Wednesday morning, 10am and there's a ring at the bell and it's a nice driver with my car. The Boyf is offered to inspect the car and is told the bumper was replaced and not just repaired as some crafty garages might do to cut corners. My car is then reversed of the truck and reversed into our driveway. Also - the car has been washed and buffed to a gleaming shine (I can hear the sparrows now arguing over who's going to poop on it first) and every nook and cranny inside has been hovered and everything wiped down. It smells all nice and fresh and new.
The Boyf then calls Enterprise to let them know he'll be dropping the hire car off soon. After spending a good 10 minutes looking fondly at the car he has come to love he has to go and put some petrol in it to get it back up to ¾ of a tank full. Once at Enterprise the keys are handed back and the car is inspected for any damage, luckily the car is fine, no scratches, stone chips or alloy scuffs so we don't get charged the £250 excess. The Boyfs credit card is re-credited with the £50 deposit he handed them last Thursday and then he is driven home by the same smartly suited young chap as before.
~ Good Things about Direct Line ~
1) Wow, are they polite and efficient! Although we had to call back several times and spoke to a different person each time, they knew what we were talking about as notes were on our file so we didn't have to keep going over old ground. 2) They do everything for you. All you have to do is make sure that you are around when your car is collected and dropped off. 3) They use garages that meet with their standard of repair so you won't have Slippery Sam the Spanner Man working on your car. 4) It's very quick and very painless. 5) We didn't have to fill in reams of paperwork detailing the accident or draw maps showing who-was-where-and-how when the impact occurred. 6) Call Centre based in the UK and very prompt at answering your calls, even in 'busy times'. 7) Paperwork was sent to me saying that as the other person had admitted liability this claim would no affect my No Claims (not that I had any but you can go into minus figures if you have zero no claims and the accident is your fault) and would not affect my premium which I found very reassuring.
~ The Bad Thing about Direct Line ~
1) The hire car. Whether your car cost you £2,000 or £40,000 you will get the most basic car there is. We were originally offered the standard 1 litre, 3 door, Vauxhall Corsa (which is a Class B Compact if you visit their website) but as you will have read earlier, we were lucky enough to get a free upgrade. Woo hoo.
~ Would I use or recommend Direct Line? ~
Yes, most definitely. They made the whole icky experience flow really smoothly, my car was repaired quickly and brought back promptly and because the accident wasn't our fault it didn't affect our insurance policy at all (some insurance companies sneakily increase your policy fee even if the accident isn't your fault which is quite cheeky).
Direct Line may be a bit more expensive than the multitude of other companies out there that offer car insurance but you really do get what you pay for. Couldn't recommend enough.
~ Scary Insurance Info ~
Although sometimes quite expensive insurance is a legal requirement. I found out the following rather worrying facts and figures from Tiscali.
Uninsured drivers are 10 times more likely to have a drink-driving conviction. Uninsured drivers are six times more likely to have been convicted for driving a non-roadworthy vehicle. Uninsured drivers are three times more likely to have been convicted of driving without due care and attention. According to research carried out by Direct Line, 73% of the 1million un-insured drivers on our roads believe they drive 'carefully and within the law'. Uninsured drivers cost each motorist who DOES insure their car anything up to an extra £30 per year. 89% of uninsured drivers think they stand a better chance of being caught speeding. 62% of uninsured drivers do not bother to inform their passengers. If someone hasn't insured their car, would they have bothered making sure it's taxed and MOT'd? If you drive without insurance and get caught you could get:- a maximum fine of £5,000 (the previous fine was just £200). 5-6 penalty points. Car destroyed. Possible disqualification.
Thank you for bearing with me and getting this far! x