How do you insure a van?
The son has recently become proud possessor of a red ex-post-office van, which is sitting motionless outside our house. Motionless because he hasn't been able to insure the damn thing.
Here's the problem. He is 25 and he is going to Europe with some mates, two aged 24, one aged 23 and one non-driver. They have a van because they play guitars etc in a wee band, and past experience suggests that if you fetch up at hostels and offer to play a bit, you will likely as not get a free bed for the night. The slightly dodgy economic idea is that if you buy the van, you save money in the long run... especially as you sell the van again when you get back home. But the planned sale also means that you either want a short term policy, or one that you can cancel before the end of the year without horrific penalties.
So how do you get it insured? Well there are some really dodgy companies on the web, who'll give you the legal piece of paper for a fee. But you only have to look at the on-line reviews to see that if you had to make a claim you'd be in trouble. You know the sort of thing, loads and loads of one star reviews saying "never ever use this scam firm...", interspersed with the occasional five star review saying "I have used this firm all my life, and had brilliant service" (presumably posted by the firm in question).
But if you go slightly up market, you don't actually meet much more joy. You either spend hours filling in online applications or you ring up and give your details to some person who just puts them in a computer for you . . . and the answer is always the same, "Sorry our underwriters wont cover this." So you say "Could you tell me why". Just occasionally there is some answer like... "no under 25s as extra drivers", "they wont cover that vehicle" ("Why"... "Dont know, they wont cover that vehicle"). Usually it's just, "Dont know mate, they wont cover it." Sometimes it blatantly conflicts with the come-ons on their website. A quite nice firm called Tempcover (with good reviews on the web) said it would do all sorts of van insurance ... transit and larger. But, for some reason not specified ("the underwriters"), they couldnt do this one.
The level of grip at the other end of the phone isnt huge. Conversations run like: "What's your occupation", "Post graduate student", "I'll put unemployed then.", "I'm not un-employed, I'm a student". "We've only got two choices, "employed" or "unemployed" and a student isn't employed."
Thanks to some good Twitter advice, the next step was to go to a broker. This resulted in a better quality of telephone manner (and probably greater intelligence), but no insurance. All was looking good with a nice firm called Adrian Flux, until they said that they only insured under 25s as driver of vans if they were trade vans. What could be the logic of that? (After all the risk of an accident in this particular group is greatly INCREASED if the son has to do all the driving, rather than share it with a 24 year old.)
I don't quite get all this honestly. It had never struck me that you couldnt insure anything you wanted, for whatever period of time. You might not like the premium, but that's another matter.
Besides, the whole thing seems dodgy in the extreme. Everyone seems to subcontract to someone else, and everyone rakes off a bit more... and you dont know who the potential insurance is really controlled by. You can see why kids just end up going round uninsured.
The obvious answer to this cowboy world, if you ask me, is that the minimum level of legal third party insurance should be included in the road tax disc... just evened out, no pseudo-actuarial calculations. You only go to an insurance company if you want more. The basics are just too important to be trusted to private enterprise.
Stop press... yippee and cross fingers.It looks as if one of the lads might have found something that will do from a decent company. Now all we have to do is get the battery going. Because you've guessed it, not having been driven, the damn van now wont start!