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Should women choose insurers that cater only for them?

Personal Finance

Speak to almost any insurer, and they will tell you that, in general, insurers charge women lower premiums than men for vehicle insurance, because they are less of a risk.

Globally, statistics back this up: the World Health Organisation reported in May that men account for 73 percent of road-traffic deaths. Men under the age of 25 are almost three times as likely to be killed in a car crash as young women.

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But don’t think that if you are a woman you will automatically get a better deal; insurers base their premiums on a host of factors, including your personal credit rating.

John Tyson, the senior manager of underwriting at Alexander Forbes, says women are typically charged lower premiums than men for car insurance, although age is also a deciding factor.

“For clients aged 35 and below, women claim less for both partial damage and total loss. For those over 35, women claim slightly more than men for partial damage. But the severity of the accidents is lower for women across all age groups,” he says.

The result is that women are charged lower premiums than men if other factors, such as the make and value of the vehicle, are the same, he says.

Stuart Collins, of Harnacks Brokers in Cape Town, says gender is only one of many factors that are taken into account. “Insurance companies discriminate all the time. They take into account your age, income and where you live. And they check your credit record before they check your gender.”

However, he agrees that “a woman will probably pay less for vehicle insurance than a man [all else being equal]”.

A 21-year-old woman who has just got her licence, however, will pay more than a man of 31 with no claims and many years of driving experience.

Dawie Buys, the insurance technical adviser at the South African Insurance Association, says age is an important factor. Young drivers pay more because they are regarded as higher risk.

How often the vehicle is used is also a factor. Homemakers or retired people who do not leave their homes often, or use their vehicles to make a few short trips a day, will pay a lower premium.

The first thing an insurer considers is the claims risk of the client and that of the item they want to insure, Donald Kau, the head of corporate affairs at Santam, says. “One factor – gender, or even marital status – cannot be looked at in isolation.”

So what do insurers offer women in the way of packages and benefits?

• 1st For Women. Robyn Farrell, the executive head of 1st For Women Insurance, says: “Our insurance rates are competitive, and when you insure your car with us, you could save around R400 a month on your premium. However, we cannot say for certain that all customers will always get a better rate with us.”

Her figures are based on 2015 independent research using the company’s data.

Men can take out insurance with 1st For Women, and a woman can put a man on her policy as a designated driver.

“Premiums are based, among other things, on the gender of the person who drives the car more often than anyone else, and if this is a woman, they will benefit from this,” Farrell says.

The company also offers a host of “female-focused benefits”. If you take out comprehensive car insurance, you get its Guardian Angel Lifestyle Assistance Programme, which includes roadside assistance; help in domestic emergencies requiring, for example, an electrician or plumber; emergency medical response; and financial and legal assistance.

However, an independent broker, who prefers to remain anonymous, says these features are a clever way of marketing the offering. Most insurance policies have some add-ons of this nature, he says, and the majority offer roadside assistance to both men and women.

• Outsurance’s [email protected] Outsurance offers this policy for a nominal extra premium that offers benefits such as [email protected], which pays the call-out fee and an hour’s labour for a handyman, and handbag cover if your handbag is stolen in a smash and grab. It is not specific to vehicle insurance.

• Alexander Forbes’s Platinum for Women. “Alexander Forbes Insurance has issued a specific stand-alone policy aimed at the professional woman, called Platinum Woman,” Gari Dombo, the managing executive of sales and service distribution at Alexander Forbes, says.

It includes cover for breast cancer, cover of up to R5 000 for a handbag and its contents, hijack-prevention training and a concierge service.

• Momentum. The Momentum Assist programme includes roadside assistance, medical and legal assistance in your cover, at no extra premium.

Tyson says price should not be the only factor that informs your decision, and you should not be blinded by the frills. “It is still very important to compare cover and excesses for everyone who will be protected by the insurance,” he says.

Philippa Wild, the head of technical marketing at Discovery Insure, says you need to weigh both price and benefits. “Each offering is different. For example, you may get a better rate because the insurer requires a higher excess, while a lower excess means a higher premium.”

Farrell encourages you to find an insurer that offers cover that meets your needs at the most competitive price. “Remember to compare all factors, including type of cover, excess payable in the event of a claim, customer service and value-added benefits,” she says.

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