If you’ve been using your own vehicle to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to check your insurance rules. On the 30th of April, the automatic COVID support scheme ended in England, and it could mean insurance headaches for drivers who’ve been using their vehicles at busier times.

Are you on the right type of policy?

Depending on your circumstances, your car insurance might only cover you for non-work travel like domestic errands and social trips. However, during the pandemic, some of the rules about where and when you can use your vehicle have been loosened up as people started needing to drive for work, or to make sure others were provided for. However, if you keep driving for journeys your insurance doesn’t technically cover now, you’ll need to upgrade your policy.

Basically, insurers consider work travel to be “riskier” since it usually happens at busier times. Now the COVID support scheme has ended, you’ll need to make sure your coverage still supports the kind of use you’re getting out of your car.

Once you’ve checked you’ve got the right type of policy, the next step is to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. The ways you do this vary from the blindingly obvious to the flat-out weird, so keep these pointers in mind before laying your cash down.

Loyalty is not rewarded

First major hint: you get punished for loyalty in the insurance game. A lot of people - far too many, in fact, simply let their insurance policies auto-renew. It makes sense on the surface. It’s less hassle and you’re obviously happy enough with what you’re getting for your money.

The problem is, that money’s not staying the same year on year. The longer you stay with an insurer, the more they test the limits of what you’re prepared to pay them. Each year, you’ll probably find they’ve whacked a little extra on. It might not seem like a big deal at the time, but loyalty to a firm can cost you in the long run, for no additional benefit. Do yourself a favour and look around before letting your policy auto-renew.

How price comparison sites work

So, you’ve decided to check out what other deals might be on offer. Looking through a price comparison website is a smart first move – but it really is only the first move in a much larger game.

Strangely enough, a single comparison site probably won’t give you the whole picture. For one thing, not every insurer will show up on any one site – and some won’t show up on any at all. Stranger still, you might find the same company showing up on multiple sites – but with different prices.

As money saving expert Martin Lewis explains, these sites are really more like marketplaces than apples-to-apples comparisons. Insurers don’t have to display the same deals on all sites, as long as none of the offers work out more expensive than dealing directly with them.

Timing is everything

There’s also a weird little timing issue to consider. Once you know the kinds of calculations and judgements insurers are making about you (how they “read” your behaviour), you quickly learn how to play their game.

When you’re comparing quotes, for instance, you’re often going to get a much better result by looking around 3 weeks before your actual renewal date. Insurers are experts at judging risk. Leaving things to the last minute before your renewal date makes you look like a much dodgier bet than if you’ve still got 3 weeks to go.

Other cost cutting insurance hacks

Understanding insurers is a great way to unlock loads of extra cost-cutting “hacks”.

If you’re a younger driver, for example, you’re going to look like a bit of a risk. However, if you add an older, more experienced driver to your policy (assuming they really are likely to be driving your car sometimes), the calculation changes. Now, the amount you’re charged is going to be based on having the vehicle in more experienced hands some of the time, meaning you’ll probably get a better overall deal.

You might think that getting the least possible insurance you can get away with is automatically your cheapest option. Not necessarily so. Opting for third-party-only cover runs the risk of looking like you’re not taking your vehicle seriously. Again, getting the best price is about making sure the company understands that you’re a safe bet.

Once of the oddest insurance hacks simply involves explaining what you do for a living correctly. Obviously, someone whose job puts them on the road a lot is going to look like a riskier insurance prospect than someone who works from home. Simply using the right words to explain your job can make a surprising amount to difference to your deal. One classic example is clarifying that you’re an editor, rather than a journalist. To an insurer, an editor might seem a lot more likely to be the one sitting in an office while the journalists are out and about taking risks. The offers they make will tend to reflect that expectation.

We’re only really scratching the surface of a huge issue here. Anything from making sure you’re on the electoral roll to avoiding monthly payment plans can save you serious money when shopping around for insurance. The main point is never blindly accept the first offer you get, always time your quote applications carefully and don’t get stuck on the auto-renewal treadmill. Keep at least those points in mind and you shouldn’t steer yourself too far wrong.

It can be an expensive business to run a car, especially when your job puts thousands of miles under your tyres each year. Talk to RIFT Tax Refunds about claiming the tax refunds you’re owed, and check our free mileage calculator for a quick estimate of how much you should be claiming.