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Called Mohammed? Hotmail address? Stickers on your car? Weird stuff that drives up the cost of your car insurance

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jan 24, 2018

Car insurers have been caught out charging higher premiums for some weird things lately.

First, in a case of what on the surface appears to be straight discrimination against Muslims, it was revealed that anyone called Mohammed could end up paying as much as £1,000 more for car insurance, than someone with a more 'English' name, like John.

The Financial Conduct Authority is investigating.

Now, it turns out that someone with a Hotmail email address might also find they’ll get clobbered with a higher car insurance premium. 

Admiral whacked on an extra £30 compared to a quote for someone with a gmail address

But these revelations are certainly not the first time weird factors have been shown to affect car insurance premiums.

Ethnic penalty

It was revealed in 2016 that millions of people who live in areas with a high density of ethnic minority households pay what was dubbed ‘an ethnic penalty’ for car insurance.

A report, co-written by the former equality commissioner Trevor Phillips, found there was a strong statistical link between a greater density of ethnic households and premiums of up to £450 a year more.


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The researchers found this was nothing to do with the crime rates in areas and the premiums affected everybody in living there, not just ethnic minorities.

The report concluded that as many as 12 million people were affected and that, “The variations cannot be accounted for by prevalence of crime, fear of crime, available claims data or by relative affluence.”

While James Dalton, the director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers, rejected the findings there has never been a satisfactory explanation for the variance.

It remains a mystery, as do the 'Mohammed' and 'Hotmail' factors.

It’s too easy to just claim racism as premiums are based on algorithms and are worked out by analyzing links between certain factors and lower or higher rates of claims.

Besides, a prejudice against Hotmail email accounts would be beyond bizarre. 

We can’t explain it, and it’s unlikely the insurance industry can either.

But here are eight more key KNOWN weird factors that will definitely affect your premium …

1 Your job – some jobs suggest an obvious higher risk, but insurers’ data turns up some surprises, like surgeons have more accidents in which they are at fault than any other professions.  

Building society workers have the least.

Who knew?

Your job can have a big effect, so if it’s possible to choose different ways to describe it, then get separate quotes and see which comes out best.

But make sure that what you choose does accurately describe your job – don’t bend the truth, or you could invalidate your policy.

And, remember, if you change job during your policy, you need to tell your insurer, or you could invalidate your insurance.

2 Too few miles – You might think that if you do a low mileage, that will keep your premium down.

And you'd be right. Up to a point.

But once you go below a certain mileage, usually around 5,000, you may well find your premium rises.

It might seem odd, because, logically, the more miles you do, the more time you spend on the road and so the more likely you are to be involved in an accident. 

But, once you go below a certain level, you are actually also more likely to be in an accident, presumably because you’re out of practice.

3 Opting for third-party cover –  It can be tempting to think that comprehensive cover means the insurance company will have to pay out in more circumstances than if you only have third-party cover.

So, third party should be cheaper.


The insurance companies calculate that if you’re only opting for third party, you probably don’t care too much about your car, so you’ll take more risks. And the stats bear this out.

Generally, a third-party insurance quote might be slightly cheaper for an experienced driver with a good record, but only slightly.

For a young, inexperienced driver, third party is likely to be much, much more expensive.

The fact is that riskier drivers know they will have to pay more, and so they are more likely to opt for what they think will be the cheapest kind of insurance. Insurers know this, realize they are riskier drivers, and so charge them more!

Seems a bit weird, but it makes sense. Sort of!

4 Your credit score – You might not be asking for credit when taking out car insurance, but even if you opt to pay an annual premium in full, in one go, if you have a lousy credit score, you’ll may well end up being charged more.

If your credit score is low, it probably says something about the kind of person you are in insurers’ eyes, and they may well deem you are higher risk than someone who has a squeaky clean credit profile. Again, if they do this, they will be relying on the stats to support the decision.

One thing is for sure, if you have a blemished credit score, you’re unlikely to be allowed to spread your premium payments over the year.

5 Going on a speed awareness course – These are courses designed for people caught speeding, but only by a fairly small amount.

They were specifically designed to avoid these kind of offences resulting in points on the licence, and so a higher car insurance premium.

But more insurers are now starting to ask if you have been on one of these courses. If they do, you should tell them. But be aware that it will almost certainly put you in a marginally higher risk category and therefore drive your premium up.

6 Modifications – and, yes, this even includes stickers! You’re always asked if your car is modified in any way. Don’t imagine this only refers to pimped-up engines, big wheels and bucket seats.

The fact is it also refers to go-faster stripes, other decorations, non-standard paintwork and even stickers.

Believe it or not a vicar was warned by insurers Age UK that her insurance could be invalidated because she hadn't told them about a sticker saying “Christ must be saviour” on the side of her car.

Age UK told her in a letter: "These modifications do not fit our acceptance criteria for motor insurance and cover would have been declined if we had been made aware of these at the time of purchasing your policy.

7 Being in accident that wasn’t your fault – It might seem unfair, but if you’re involved in an accident and the other party is deemed to be wholly responsible, your premium is still likely to rise.

Statistically, you're more likely to have another prang.

8 Having a prang even though NO claim is made ­– You should be on your guard for this one.

If you do the right thing and inform your insurers that a minor event has taken place, one that is highly unlikely to result in a claim, this could still result in you being charged a higher premium. 

Even if no claim is made up to six months after the event, your premium will rise as a result.

Take a case where the glass in your wing mirror is broken, along with another car’s as you pass by each other. No witnesses, no cameras, no one obviously at fault.

No one is going to claim because the glass for a new mirror costs a few pounds and is far less than either party’s excess.

But, do the right thing and let your insurer know this has happened and it will sit on your file, possibly as long as six months, the time the other party could make a claim.

If that note is on your file at renewal time, you could well find your premium has risen more than if it had not been there. Challenge it!

Better still, look for a quote elsewhere.


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