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Driven to find the best deal

Reva Klein finds having a low profile is a bonus when it comes to car insurance. "What I want to achieve is a position where the man in the woolly sweater and the battered sedan and the grimy house at the corner of the street is not the good teacher. We want the good teacher to live in a good house and drive a good car."- John Major, November, 1990.

While able male teachers may still be sporting woolly sweaters and going home to grimy houses, the Prime Minister's aspiration for teachers to have "good cars" has apparently been achieved. Most no longer drive around in jalopies.

According to research carried out by Zurich Municipal, specialists in public sector insurance, the traditional image of the teacher juddering around in a beaten-up Morris Minor or Citro n 2CV is as passe as child-centred education. ZM's findings show that teachers are in a relatively high vehicle class compared to other professionals.

While the largest number of the company's policy-holders drive Group 6 vehicles (which include the Ford Escort 1.4 Bonus and 1.4 Volkswagen Golf), teachers are more likely to drive slightly more up-market models, such as the Rover 414 Si, Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8 Li or LS, or Citro n BX16 TGS. Flashy sports cars and gas-guzzlers are not really the teachers' thing, though; ZM has found that they are more the "low profile sensible saloon" type.

In keeping with the "sensible" profile is ZM's finding that teachers are a low-risk category for insurance, which is why it is one of several companies offering discounts based on the profession's low claims profile. That teachers tend to be such careful drivers is good news and good sense, since they often use their cars to transport children, whether in medical emergencies or for outings, sports events and the like.

There are, however, insurers who only offer standard coverage for social, domestic and pleasure use of the car. This means that if an accident occurs while a teacher is driving children to, say, an away game and it is shown to be the fault of the teacher, the company may not pay the insured person's car repair costs. It is always wise to check what coverage you are getting under your "standard" policy. But National Union of Teachers' members at least are automatically covered under the union's group policy for accidents that occur while the car is being driven on school business. In addition, the automatic protection covers malicious damage to cars on school premises, (maximum Pounds 75), and disablement or death (Pounds 7,500).

For general car-insurance protection, the NUT recommends two companies, Commercial Union and Frizzell Insurance Services. Based on the hypothetical profile I concocted (single woman teacher, early 40s, no previous claims, clean licence, driving a 1992 Rover 414 Si, opting for a Pounds 100 voluntary excess, and living in the car thieves' paradise of Hackney, east London) Commercial Union quoted me Pounds 220.99 for third party, fire and theft and Pounds 330.51 for fully comprehensive insurance, both of which are inclusive of a 20 per cent teachers' discount (the CU has a special arrangement with both the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the NUT) and cover "personal business use", for protection against accidents occurring while on school business. Frizzell's figures were Pounds 264.28 for third party and Pounds 382.27 all inclusive as above.

The NASUWT automatically covers members for malicious damage to the car (up to Pounds 80) while on school premises if they pay their subscriptions by direct debit or before January 1. The union recommends Endsleigh or Boncaster.

Endsleigh offers discounts to teachers and additional discounts to NASUWT members. Their quote for fully comprehensive insurance is Pounds 328.14; Boncaster's is Pounds 297.10.

Zurich Municipal will not provide third-party coverage for a car unfortunate enough to be parked in my appalling postcode area - too risky. But fully comprehensive coverage amounts to Pounds 384.27. ZM, however, promises to meet policy-holders' legal costs in the event of a court case and provides above-average injury compensation. Like those already quoted, it offers Class 1 cover for personal business use.

The figures show that it is worth shopping around and that you should make sure you know what protection you are getting. You may find the insurance world's stereotype of teachers a trifle dull, but when you can capitalise on it to save a few pounds - who cares if your taste in cars is given the ultimate put-down of "low profile and sensible"? You can wait for the Ferrari until you retire.

Zurich Municipal: Freephone 0800 445588. Commercial Union: Freephone 0800 010199. Frizzell Insurance Services: Freephone 0800 272355. AA Insurance Services lists four other companies that offer discounts to teachers, ranging from 12-20 per cent. Most will extend coverage to include personal business use, but this may include payment of an extra premium. Freephone 0800 444777.

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