Low deposit car insurance

No one wants to be stumped with high upfront costs on their car insurance, but is it always worth finding a policy with a low deposit?

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Not everyone is flush enough to afford to pay a full year’s worth of car insurance in one go, especially if you’re a higher-risk driver facing premiums of several thousand pounds. If this sounds all too familiar, the good news is that most insurers let you spread the cost in several instalments over the year. But you’ll need to pay a certain amount upfront – often known as the deposit. Here’s what you need to know about low deposit car insurance.

What is low deposit car insurance?

Low deposit car insurance refers to any insurance policy that requires a small initial payment, as opposed to paying the total cost of your annual premium upfront.

When you take out car insurance, you’re generally given the choice of monthly premium payments or a single annual premium payment. If you choose to make monthly payments, you’ll still need to pay your first premium upfront. In some cases, this may be higher than the other monthly payments. For example, you may need to pay 30% of the total annual insurance cost at the outset, with the remaining 70% spread evenly across the other 11 months of the year.

Is there such a thing as “no deposit” car insurance?

No. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But while you may see some providers marketing their products as no deposit car insurance, in reality, you’ll need to pay a certain amount upfront. This will cover at least a month’s worth of insurance, and possibly a bit more.

So, if you need to take out car insurance, you’ll need to be able to afford to pay at least a small deposit before your policy starts.

Does paying monthly for car insurance cost more than paying annually?

Typically, yes. Monthly payments are designed to help you spread the cost of insurance. But, regardless of whether you pay annually or monthly, your car insurance policy will apply for a full year. When you pay annually, the car insurer receives the full premium upfront, as a lump sum. This is obviously better for it financially than receiving your payment gradually over the year, so most charge a form of interest on your policy if you pay monthly. This means that 12 monthly payments will often end up costing more overall than a single, upfront, annual payment.

A handful of insurers offer interest-free monthly payments, meaning you won’t pay any more than you would if you paid the full premium upfront. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be cheaper overall than an insurer that charges interest but has lower underlying premiums.

What is the average deposit for car insurance?

If you opt to pay monthly, expect to pay (typically) between 10–30% of the total annual premium as a deposit. The remaining 70–90% will usually be spread evenly across the remaining 11 months of the year.

Remember to look at the overall cost of a year’s insurance rather than focusing too much on the deposit amount. A lower deposit may seem like a good idea if money’s tight right now. But paying less upfront could mean paying more interest on the remaining 11 months of premiums, so the cost could work out higher in total.

Will I get the deposit back at the end of my car insurance term?

No. It’s not like deposits on, say, a hire car or a rental flat, where you get the deposit back unless anything’s been lost or damaged. With car insurance, the “deposit” is effectively an upfront payment of part of your premiums. So you won’t get anything back when the policy ends.

Can I get cheap car insurance with a low deposit?

Regardless of how you pay for car insurance, securing the cheapest policy always requires shopping around. If you’re a high-risk driver, unfortunately, no policy will be “cheap”, no matter how you pay. But whatever your risk level, some policies will always be cheaper than others. The cheapest insurer for one person may not be the cheapest for another. So the key thing is to compare quotes (a price comparison site is a good place to start). If possible, opt for the policy that offers the cover you need at the lowest overall price.

If paying the lowest possible upfront deposit is a top priority, perhaps because cash flow is an issue right now but you need insurance straight away, there are a few insurers that let you pay for your policy in 12 equal monthly payments, but they’re not that common. And, in any case, there’s no guarantee that 1 month’s worth of premium from a more expensive provider will work out cheaper than, say, a 20% upfront payment from a provider that is cheaper overall for your circumstances.

Why is there demand for low deposit car insurance?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

If you’re a driver in their 30s, 40s or 50s that lives in a rural location and has a clean driving record, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. That’s because you almost certainly fall within the “low risk” driving camp and pay relatively little for your annual car insurance. And, in fact, as of August 2021, the average car insurance premium stood at £430 – a 5-year low according to the Association of British Insurers.

But not everyone is so fortunate with their car insurance premiums. If you’re considered a high-risk driver – perhaps because you have points on your licence or are a young driver that’s only just passed your test – you could face annual premiums of several thousand pounds. And that makes paying the full annual amount upfront, or even a chunky percentage of it, much less palatable (or even possible).

If you want to drive a car in the UK, you legally need at least third-party insurance. The ability to pay a small upfront deposit and spread remaining premiums across the rest of the year makes owning and driving a car viable for drivers that can’t afford to pay in full in one go.

Who can get low deposit car insurance?

The vast majority of people should have the option of paying for their car insurance premiums monthly (AKA low deposit car insurance). However, when you apply to pay for car insurance in monthly instalments, the insurer will run a hard credit check against your name. If you have a poor credit score, you may find fewer insurers are willing to let you pay monthly. Those that do may charge more for cover.

Make sure you compare quotes and narrow down your shortlist before you get to this stage of the process. Every time you apply for credit, it will show up on your credit report. Running lots of credit applications in quick succession can imply you’ve been rejected several times (or are desperate for credit). This may count against you in future credit applications (for car insurance or otherwise).

Who offers low deposit car insurance?

Most insurers will give you the option of monthly or annual premiums, which means you can avoid paying the full amount upfront. You can compare a range of car insurance quotes from leading insurers now by clicking the green button below.

How much does low deposit car insurance cost?

However you pay for your car insurance, the cost will be largely dictated by your personal circumstances. This includes things like your age, driving history and where you live.

But how you choose to pay can also play a part. All else being equal, paying the full annual amount upfront is likely to be the cheapest option. Insurers often charge interest on monthly premiums. This means you’ll end up paying more over the course of a year. While paying monthly will make the initial cost of car insurance cheaper, you likely won’t save money by opting for a low deposit, month-by-month policy.

However, if paying monthly is your only option, you may find insurers that charge a higher upfront deposit (for example, 30% rather than 10%) work out cheaper overall than those that require a lower initial payment. That’s because the outstanding premium you need to pay interest on will be lower.

It’s always worth comparing multiple policies and insurance providers so you can find the policy that best suits your financial situation.

Low deposit car insurance vs paying annually

To give you an idea of likely deposit levels and how paying monthly compares with paying annually, we used a price comparison site to run some car insurance quotes for a 40-year-old Peugeot 208 driver based in Bristol.

The table below shows the cheapest 3 policies overall for paying monthly, including the initial deposit amount, plus the cost for the same policies if our driver paid annually.

In all 3 cases, paying monthly would work out substantially more expensive than paying annually. But this example also shows the potential benefit of opting for a higher upfront deposit if you pay monthly.

While our driver’s cheapest quote also had the smallest deposit, their second quote had a higher upfront deposit than the deposit for the third, and overall more expensive, quote.

Pay annually

PolicyAnnual cost
1£533.76
2£679.30
3£694.40

Pay monthly

PolicyInitial depositRemaining premiumTotal payment
1£80.06£510.40*£590.46
2£135.86£642.10**£777.96
3£104.16£701.46***£805.62

Source: Quotezone. Correct as of March 2021. *Spread across 11 payments. **Spread across 10 payments. ***Spread across 9 payments

What affects the cost of low deposit car insurance?

The cost of low deposit car insurance is likely to be affected by the same factors that affect any car insurance policy. Factors that can have the biggest impact include:

  • Your age. Younger drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident. Industry data also shows they’re more likely to make a claim. So if you’re under 25, you’re likely to pay more compared to those in their 30s to 60s. Much older drivers (85 and over) may also pay more, as the same industry stats show they’re more likely to make claims. A higher risk of making a claim means higher insurance premiums.
  • The car you drive. Powerful, expensive cars in high car insurance groups will typically be more expensive to insure.
  • Where you live. Urban areas such as busy towns and cities often have higher than average crime and accident rates. This will push up premiums.
  • Your driving history. Points on your licence and previous claims will both result in higher premiums.

What are the alternatives to low deposit car insurance?

If you can afford to pay your annual premium in a single hit, you’ll likely pay less overall. If your premiums are driven up by the fact you’re a higher-risk driver, it’s worth thinking about:

  • Black box car insurance. Officially known as telematics insurance, this rewards responsible driving through reduced premiums. It uses a tracker, or “black box”, installed in your car to record your driving behaviour and report back to the insurer. Watch out, though – bad driving will be penalised by higher premiums.
  • Pay-as-you-go car insurance. With pay-as-you-go policies, you pay for cover based on how much you drive. You’ll still need to pay an initial deposit or premium, but this will likely be lower than the upfront cost of regular car insurance.

How else can I save on my car insurance?

You can’t change your age or, in most cases, where you live. But you can keep costs as low as possible, no matter how you pay, with these tried and tested tactics.

  • Shop around. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Don’t just buy from the first insurer you come across, or the one you’ve always used. Use price comparison sites and check providers that only offer insurance directly. Importantly, don’t assume that just because a certain insurer was cheapest last year that they will be cheapest when it’s time to renew.
  • Boost security. If your car doesn’t have an alarm, consider adding one to reduce your premium. Parking in a secure place, such as a garage or private driveway, can also help.
  • Drive less. If you have no choice but to drive long distances (for example, for work), this may not be realistic. But if you could replace some regular car journeys with foot or pedal power, this could reduce your annual mileage. The result could be lower premiums.
  • Increase the excess. Upping your voluntary excess can reduce your premium. You just need to be sure you can pay the increased amount if you have to claim.
  • Drive safely from now on. This isn’t going to work as a short-term win, but if you can avoid making claims or picking up points on your licence, you’ll build up your no-claims bonus. Over time, this can significantly cut your premiums.

Pros and cons of low deposit car insurance

Pros

  • Spreads the cost of car insurance across the year, so you don’t need to pay the full amount upfront.
  • Makes costs easier to manage in the short term.
  • A few insurers don’t charge interest if you pay monthly, meaning that doing so won’t cost you any more than making a single annual payment.

Cons

  • In most cases, paying a low upfront deposit then making monthly payments will cost more than a single annual payment.
  • Not all insurers publish their low-deposit, pay-monthly terms on price comparison sites. You might need to get quotes from more insurers directly.
  • If you have a poor credit history, it may be harder to find an affordable pay-monthly policy.

Bottom line

There’s no way around it: Car insurance is a legal essential if you want to drive on UK roads. Paying your full car insurance premium upfront is almost always the cheapest option. But if this isn’t practical, perhaps because you’re a high-risk driver with high annual premiums, low deposit car insurance can help you manage the costs. The same basic money-saving rules apply as for any car insurance purchase. Compare quotes every time you renew, and use our money saving tactics to keep costs as low as possible.

Frequently asked questions


The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you.
*51% of consumers could save £257.97 on their Car Insurance. The saving was calculated by comparing the cheapest price found with the average of the next three cheapest prices quoted by insurance providers on Seopa Ltd’s insurance comparison website. This is based on representative cost savings from January 2021 data. The savings you could achieve are dependent on your individual circumstances and how you selected your current insurance supplier.

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