You may feel you’re a safe driver, regardless of your job, but as insurers don’t know you, all they have to go on is cold hard facts that show people in certain occupations are more likely to make a claim or make more expensive claims. That’s fine if you’re in a ‘safe’ job, less so if you’re not.
But what can you do?
Your job title, trade, profession or occupation could be crucial when you get a motor insurance quote. It doesn’t matter whether you use your car for work. What you do for a living gives the insurer a lot of information about you and how you might drive.
Your job's not the only factor. Other factors that influence your car insurance premium include:
The type and make of car/cars you insure
Your driving record and that of others on the policy
Whether the vehicles are garaged at night or left on the street
There are many other ranking factors used by different insurers, but don’t underestimate the importance they attach to your occupation.
There isn’t a UK car insurance occupations rating list. Each insurer makes its own decision based on its past claims experience and its appetite for certain risks. But what you do for a living tells the insurer a lot about you.
Insurers keep all the details of past claims in huge databases, which are used to define various risk elements, such as which jobs, driving and automotive choices lead to more insurance payouts. Certain jobs, especially if combined with certain types or models of car, are shown to lead to higher claims.
Delivery drivers and construction workers often pay more for their car insurance because they tend to drive a lot and are often in a hurry. A personal assistant or secretary, on the other hand, is generally viewed as lower risk and their premiums are cheaper.
Knowing someone’s work and occupation allows insurers to deduce other things about that person. We all do this in our everyday lives. As long as we base assumptions on evidence rather than prejudice, we can often be right. Insurers are no different.
There’s no longer an official car insurance job title list. Anyone who started paying for insurance more than two decades ago may remember insurance rates were calculated by reference to a printed card.
That way, you could see which jobs insurers loved and loathed.
The jobs insurers liked would be at standard rates and anything else would attract a premium loading. A senior civil servant, for example, was at standard rates. A circus acrobat attracted extra, perhaps because they drove at night, after performances and when they were tired.
These days, calculating risks for each job, trade and profession is more complex. In some cases, insurers so dislike some occupations that they will either refuse to quote or come up with a premium price that discourages applications.
There can be all sorts of reasons for this. Insurers like to spread their risks. They might have hit their target for that job, postcode or type of car so alter their pricing to avoid having a concentration of customers with similar risk profiles.
Insurers don’t want to insure all the cars in a street. If a lorry scrapes the cars, or a water main bursts and damages cars on both sides of the street or a vandal scratches their keys down a line of cars, an insurer that covered all the cars would pay out a fortune all at once.
Insurers make the same decisions about certain kinds of work and workers. They may not want to insure anyone with a particular job, or they might feel they already insure enough of one kind of occupation so discourage any more through higher pricing.
Insurers have car insurance job title lists they like and those they would rather do without, and these occupation categories vary from company to company so it's hard to say for certain which jobs are best, or worst. But there are some guiding principles.
Secretaries, medical secretaries, legal secretaries, personal assistants, and clerical assistants are favoured by most insurers. People in these categories tend not to be fast or unsafe drivers, resulting in lower numbers of claims that are relatively cheap to settle.
They may be lower earners driving lower-value cars more carefully. They are more often than not female. Insurers are not allowed to charge women less than men for motor insurance, as they once did, but proving that largely female jobs have lower claims costs – a combination of fewer and cheaper claims – is permitted.
Local government officers also tend to be lower paid. Rightly or wrongly, it is seen as a staid job without undue pressure, making them attractive to insurers. They work regular office hours, and if they have to use a vehicle at work, it may be covered by the employer’s policy.
Police officers who drive at work will normally be covered by their force’s policy. For personal use, they have to buy their own car insurance. Insurers like police officers as they are likely to be better-trained drivers.
Police officers should be more aware of the rules of driving, speed limits, and much more conscious of what accidents entail. That means police car insurance is usually cheaper.
Many occupations do not raise alarm or attract higher premiums from car insurers. These can include insurance workers, librarians, teachers, management professionals, and judges.
Because insurers vary so much both in their assessment of trades and professions and in the weighting they give to jobs, it is not possible to be accurate.
However, for the majority of insurers, the majority of jobs carried out by the majority of people do not give cause for worry.
Insurers do not like some jobs. They either price high to discourage potential policyholders or decline to take on this business. They don’t like Premier League footballers. They don’t like fairground or circus workers.
Sometimes, the reasons are clear, even if possibly inaccurate or out of date. Sometimes, it can be down to prejudice, or the kind of thinking that made sense once but no longer does. It can also be plain inexplicable.
Many jobs on the dislike list are mainly male occupations. As with women and office work, this is a way around sex discrimination rules.
Almost anyone connected with hotels and restaurants and with gaming may pay more. The feeling is they work long, often irregular, hours and may drive when tired.
But they may also go too fast when there is little traffic in the middle of the night or early morning. Insurers believe they have easy access to alcohol.
Casino croupiers and other similar employees run into this as well. Additionally, their work involves risk so some insurers think they will take risks while driving.
Fairground workers may drive long distances, drink alcohol, and are seem to be viewed as untrustworthy. The last two of those appear unfair.
The most expensive jobs also tend to be ones done by younger workers – and age is a negative factor in insurance quotes, at least while you’re in your twenties.
It’s not just that younger drivers have more accidents. Those accidents tend to be at a higher speed, causing more damage. But, crucially, younger drivers often have more passengers in the car. In a fault accident, these passengers, if injured, are third parties who claim against the driver’s policy.
This is horribly blunt but if you severely disable a young person who has their whole life ahead of them, the insurer will have to pay out a lot more money than if you inflicted the same disabilities on an elderly person.
A young person would be compensated for the income they’d have earned over a lifetime.
Farm owners and managers are not usually asked to pay extra. But casual workers such as fruit and vegetable pickers are a different matter. Insurers feel they are more likely to drive low-value cars that they may not look after or care about if they dent.
Policy issuers also consider the seasonal nature and often the need to drive long distances for work makes them more vulnerable to crashes. Insurers may have evidence that seasonal workers have been involved with more accidents in the past.
Insurers and underwriters perceive building workers as careless, working irregular hours and driving low-value cars they are prepared to write off. Crashes often involve others. They are also thought to drink more alcohol.
People working as night watchmen or security guards may often find insurance is pricier than expected. They tend to lose out because insurers dislike irregular hours and particularly night driving.
This leads to the likelihood of tiredness and boredom, especially after long shifts. This increases the chance of accidents.
Security guards’ work patterns tend to make them less likely to take public transport.
It’s generally fine if you drive someone else’s vehicle for this work, as you’ll be covered by the employer’s insurance. If you use your own car or van, it’s different.
Delivery couriers are often self-employed, earning by each delivery. The perceived insurer risk is that they race from address to address, park badly (increasing the chances of damage) and are under pressure to work long, irregular hours, including when tired.
They may also transport valuable parcels, increasing the risk of windows being smashed to steal goods.
Insurers tend to prefer jobs they consider “staid”. Anyone in the public eye such as sports players or entertainers is viewed as a potential higher risk.
Professional footballers pay more for car insurance. Lots more. Partly, they tend to drive high-value cars. Some are paid so much they could afford to buy a new top of the range car at least once a month, so they may not value them as much as others would.
They might also give lifts to fellow players who could sue after an accident for extortionate sums even if, by normal standards, they are only slightly injured.
Much the same applies to many other sporting professionals – it’s that mix of expensive cars, live for the moment ethos, and the worry about injury to anyone in the car other than the driver that insurers dislike.
Musicians, actors, other entertainers and roadies are often classified as higher risk. Negatives include unusual hours, access to alcohol, driving long distances to engagements, and injury risk when someone else, possibly famous and higher earning, is in the vehicle.
They also often carry expensive instruments or equipment with them, which could be damaged in an accident.
Although roadies may be driving a standard-price car, big-name entertainers are very likely to be behind the wheel of a top-price car. Additionally, insurers believe actors and many other entertainers are “moral hazard” risks. Moral hazard is insurance jargon for telling lies about incidents, including exaggerating or falsifying claims.
Many reporters - especially on local papers or TV and radio stations - are required to travel to the scene of a story, often on unfamiliar roads, and also frequently at short notice while on a deadline.
Add in that many stories happen in places that are, by definition, more ‘interesting’ and therefore potentially riskier and you can see why claims might well be more common among them.
They also often tend to work odd hours - covering early or late shifts - seeing even a normal commute potentially introduce an extra element of risk.
Many, especially desk-bound journalists, argue that if this image is unfair - and often you’ll see ‘editors’ charged less than ‘reporters’ to reflect that.
There are some dos and don’ts to cut your insurance if your occupation is viewed as higher risk:
Do see if you can move your job into a better category to reduce your premium. There will usually be more than one accurate description of your role - for example, journalists who never leave their desks can describe themselves as sub-editors or writers rather than journalists.
Don’t lie about your job as this can invalidate your insurance. While you can alter your job title, it’s crucial that it is still accurate - so if you are a circus clown, don’t say you are a top civil servant.
Do tell insurers if you don’t use your car for work purposes or for commuting to and from work (perhaps you take the train or the bus). Remember though, if you lie and get caught out, you’ll be deemed in breach of your insurance and see your claim rejected, as well as risking a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence.
Do consider voluntarily restricting your annual mileage to get lower premiums. But make sure you don’t go over this. Don’t automatically repeat the mileage you have put down for years, especially if you drive less now, perhaps as a result of life under coronavirus.
Do talk to the professional association or trade union that covers your job. They may have negotiated advantageous terms with certain insurers to overcome some or all negative perceptions.
Don’t simply plump for the first quote you find. Always compare quotes for car insurance. Remember all the other factors that make up a premium quote, not just your job.
Doing something about one or more of these, such as buying a lower value car, or having a long record without a claim can help mitigate any effects of your job title.
You need to let your insurer know if your occupation changes but not if you change employers and continue in the same line of work.
Failing to tell your insurer that you have changed your job could invalidate your cover. If you move from a negatively to a positively perceived line of work, you might find that future cover is cheaper.
You’re covered without needing business-use insurance if you’re a student using your car for unpaid work experience. But if you start work, or are being paid, then that is business use and you aren’t a student but carrying out your trade or profession.
If in doubt, report the change to your insurer.
You must tell the insurer about each job you do. They will concentrate on your main job or if you do two or more equally, look at each.
They may ignore work performed at home, so university lecturers who earn money writing for learned journals in their spare time would probably be assessed on the university role alone.
If you volunteer, perhaps for a charity, and use your own vehicle for the charity’s work – and not just to get to the organisation’s workplace, you must tell the insurer.
Typically, this would include people who drive those with disabilities to hospitals, meetings, and religious services.
You should also contact the organisation as it may have arranged cover for you. There are many different insurances for volunteers so check that it’s specifically for your driving of cars or vans on the charity or other organisation’s behalf.
Volunteer drivers may have a vehicle provided. In this case, the organisation or charity will arrange cover.
The Association of British Insurers has a list of cover providers who do not charge extra for volunteer driving.
If you’re unemployed you could fork out more for car insurance. The Association of British Insurers says unemployment is a recognised risk factor, supported by actuarial evidence. Some theories to explain the perception of higher risk are:
Unemployed drivers will use their car more frequently to travel to more locations as they seek work
The unemployed are less likely to maintain their vehicles, potentially leading to more claims
The unemployed may be more anxious – a factor in some accidents
Retired people generally come top of the loved list by insurers and so get cheaper car insurance. Older drivers have fewer accidents but, crucially, they cause less damage when they do crash. Repairs are cheaper and injuries rarer and less severe. Claims cost less.
Retired drivers also tend to travel fewer miles, which makes them a better risk. Older people tend to be more careful. They drive more slowly – they have more time available. And they are generally more experienced.