Direct Line Motor Insurance – Computer Says No

June 27, 2012 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business, finance, random.

Mercedes bonnet badgeWhen I clocked off working from home this evening, I decided to call Direct Line and renew the motor insurance on my Mercedes C230 estate.

I double-checked to see if they’d spelled my wife’s name correctly on the policy (a common mistake) and they hadn’t spelled it right so that was sorted out. I also informed them that she now had a full UK driving licence. Problem! Computer says no.

When I got my wife insured on my car back in April, they added her to my policy, charged me a few quid and had her listed under “international driving licence” because she’s had a US driving licence for over 20 years. Everything was simple and cheap. I was informed that my wife could stay on my policy as a named driver for 12 months.

But now that she has a full UK driving licence “the system” now has her driving record set back to “zero” and she’s not allowed to drive anything as big, powerful or expensive as a Merc C230. Sure, as a 5-seater station wagon with a lot of load space it’s a “big” car, it’s a 2.3 with 148hp but it’s hardly a “boy racer” mobile.

OK, well that’s a bit of a problem, so let’s make sure everything’s OK on her car, the Merc C180 – A saloon car with a mere 120hp.

Computer says no. Again!

So, despite having a US driving licence for more over 20 years and making the effort to be a responsible, safe and compliant driver on the British roads, my wife is unable to drive my car or even her own car on a technicality. The Direct Line Motor Insurance operator spoke to the underwriters but to no avail.

She can drive a C180 and a C230 as a visiting US citizen but not as a “new” Brit driver. Ridiculous.

I said to the guy at Direct Line that my pregnant wife would be on her way home about now and would either be driving an uninsured vehicle or would have to leave her uninsured car in Reading whilst I went to retrieve her. Our daughter was supposed to be somewhere at 6:45pm but I was so busy suddenly sorting out TWO new insurance p0licies that my daughter’s appointment got “cancelled” too. Direct Line Motor Insurance had left us in a very difficult situation.

The only thing to their credit is that they eventually said that they’d insure my wife until 9pm – Just so that she could get home, and be safe, legal and covered.

I called a friend, an insurer, to see what he could do; he doesn’t do motor insurance but endeavoured to help out and gave me some great tips and advice, despite the time “getting on”.

Then I called an old insurer that used to cover my V8 Opel Manta and modified Subaru Legacy when nobody else would. The news wasn’t great – They could insure my wife on the C180 but it was expensive. To reduce the cost they’d have to use my no claims discount, of which I think I have the full amount, against the C180, her car, with me as the main driver and her as the named driver.

The C230 I’d then have to start from scratch with, starting with no NCD and my wife is not allowed to drive it.

I was desperate – I needed to insure both cars ASAP so that we could carry on as we had for the last few months – sort of.

So, in the end, I took out my car insurance with Adrian Flux who were totally cool about my wife and her two driving licences and 20+ years of accident-free motoring driving the C180. I’d also like to give a hat-tip to Bespoke Insurance and to Entrust Insurance  for their assistance too.

I’m desperately disappointed in Direct Line Motor Insurance – All that TV advertising, bluster and promises and they’ve failed to insure us, cost us money, wasted our time, stressed us out and left us high & dry.

Thanks, Direct Line, but no thanks. And you wonder why I’m such a big fan of small businesses!

Update, 8th May 2013: A friend, who has been using Direct Line for many years, always paid aprroximately £480 per annum for his car insurance with 9 years protected NCD but was quoted £600 by them for his latest policy. When he asked why, it was that old chestnut that all policies everywhere have gone up this year, so that’s tough. My friend decided to look around and called Hastings Direct who happily quoted him £460 so he ditched Direct Line too.

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