Originally posted by Hugh Salmon, Aug 04 2010, 10:21 PM
I dislike having a car, which may seem ironic as I am occasionally accused of looking like Jeremy Clarkson.
I have been deliberate in saying ‘I dislike having a car’, not ‘I dislike cars’.
In fact, I quite like driving cars. In my youth I attended a single-seater motor racing course, which led to my being cast as ‘driver’ in the launch ad for a new Ford model, which was more fun than a day in the agency. Nowadays, I like the car I drive – as I should because I chose it.
No, it is the management – the fuss – of having the car that I dislike.
From an engineering point of view, if nothing goes wrong, then the car is doing what I paid for it to do. Fine. I don’t think about it. I just like it. Then, if something goes wrong, it is always boring and usually expensive.
I don’t like it at all. I’m sure we all feel the same way.
But what I really dislike about having a car is the bureaucracy required.
I have been deliberate about the word ‘required’ because there are three facets of car ownership with which I am required to comply by law.
These are Tax, Insurance and yes, I am afraid it is true (Jeremy Clarkson will know the seriousness of this admission), MOT.
Recently, very efficiently, I was sent a ‘renewal reminder for a tax disc’. This requires me, by law, to provide an valid insurance certificate – otherwise they won’t let me pay the tax.
So, because I am interested in recent market developments in this sector, and what is going on in the big wide world, I have just road tested the gocomparethebeatthatquoteuswitchmoneymarketsupermarketconfused car insurance journey. And it’s not as swifty or simples as they claim.
In fact, to be honest, so boring and time-consuming was the experience, I could only endure it twice including, as you would expect, the site whose advertising campaign I most admire. Of many frustrations, I will share just five insights before I get to a possible ‘upstream’ solution:
1. With all the boxes you need to fill in why, as on other sites, can’t they ‘leap’ from one box to the next when you have inserted the information?
2. From the same input data, one of the two comparison sites gave a price which was £150 cheaper than the other. This means that if you really do want to compare the market, you need to undertake a price comparison of the price comparison sites. Or get a life.
3. They ask for an interminable, and unpredictable, level of information. Because you don’t know the information you will need, it may not be to hand. For example. I remembered my wife had picked up penalty points for a minor offence, for each of which there is a long list of code numbers.
How would I know the code number for being stuck in a yellow box? As a teacher, was I going to interrupt her lesson to ask her for the details? No.
4. So then you have to leave the comparison zone and start again later (when, beware, there may be another random, unforeseen requirement). There is a feature called ‘save quote’ but, as a price comparison dinosaur, I took this to mean ‘save’ to my computer which, as I had not finished the process and so had not been given a quote to save, I did not want to do. In fact, ‘save quote’ meant the site would ‘save’ the information I had provided so far to avoid my having to start again which, as I didn’t, I did.
5. This misunderstood benefit, however, led to the scariest element of the journey which has led me to regret setting off at all.
The next day, one of the insurance companies I had not selected telephoned me – at home! So it seems all that data – my car details, my home and email addresses and all my telephone numbers – now lie in the hands of an untold number of unknown (to me) insurance companies who I am sure will pester me again at car insurance renewal time next year, quite apart from whatever else they will do with this information.
And what about my bank details?
Because I had not been told otherwise, I honestly thought the information I had provided was done so confidentially to the price comparison site only – and not broadcast out to a long list of random insurance companies.
Why would my home phone number affect the cost of insuring my car?
All in all, I may have saved £100 but I do feel I have made a big mistake – and I feel this even more so because I think I’ve got a much better idea.
Why can’t all the boring fuss of owning a car be saved on my own online ‘Auto Manager’ micro-site, hosted by an organisation I trust but which is personal to me and accessible by me only via my own password?
This would enable me not only to ever have to input my car details once, including the DVLC code number of my wife’s minor offence, but also:
1. Pro-actively, in advance, warn me by email that my insurance is due for renewal and include price comparison options – not wait for the incumbent insurer and, for all I know, now, the rest of the insurance world to tell me.
2. Pro-actively remind me by email that my MOT, compulsory by law before I pay my tax, is due for renewal – and perhaps even suggest local garages that could supply me with this service?
3. Pro-actively, having arranged my insurance and MOT, tell me my tax is due and help me through the process online on, ideally, a one-click basis.
4. Pro-actively warn me when my car is due for a service and recommend more local garages, perhaps even with price comparisons or offers.
5. Link me to the Congestion Charge people, and warn me I have entered their zone so I can pay Boris at the click of a mouse or touch of a screen.
6. Let me know the prices, opening times and other services at my local petrol stations (especially if they have a 24-hour shop and sell Calpol).
7. Help me, if I want to sell my car, link to auto trade sites that do this. I know some of these sites offer some of these services but I don’t want to sell my car – I just want to minimise the fuss of owning the thing.
8. Help me find my new car – and finance it if I need to.
9. Retain my personal details, including private financial information, but only release them to outside organisations of which I know and approve.
10. Advise me on various miscellaneous issues such as parking availability and regulations, other regulation updates, car hire, local taxi services, driving lessons and even forthcoming local road repairs, closures etc.
I am sure all this information is available online already but, if so, it is all in separate places which I have to go out and find when I need them.
This is confusing, as the names and advertising of the comparison sites admit.
Why, if I provide all my personal details to one ‘My Auto Manager’ I can trust, can’t these people be automatically and digitally connected to me?
I would happily pay, say, a tenner a year to opt-in to such a car service.
And I would happily help anyone who thinks this might be a good idea.
After all, I would only be helping myself.
And, after the journey I’ve just endured, I need all the help I can get.