For years, replacing windscreens has been covered as part of comprehensive insurance policies. But we can no longer take it for granted.
Windscreen cover is currently a ‘free’ extra. It’s couched in this way so we think our kindly insurers are giving us something for nothing. Of course there’s no such thing as free in this world and we’re still paying for it. But ‘free’ things are easy to take away and that’s exactly what some cover providers, particularly on comparison websites, are doing.
Eliminating the cost of windscreen replacement enables a cheaper headline price. Knowing how many insurance policy buyers go for the cheapest possible cover these insurers take out screen cover and bingo! They can offer a lower price. The message is: ensure your windscreen is included in your cover or you could have an expensive surprise.
There again, the writing could be on the wall for ‘free’ windscreen cover any way. Anyone who thinks – as I did – that glass is glass, is in for some re-education. A new report by windscreen replacement giant Autoglass reveals that the simple windscreen will shortly be anything but. Car makers are working on adding systems such as eye trackers, augmented reality GPS and head-up displays to the windscreen. According to Dr Chris Davies, head of technical research and innovation at Autoglass, by 2020 there’ll be at least a couple of these systems on the road.
On the one hand, this is great. They’ll mean we don’t have to take our eyes off the road and thus make driving safer. They can also convey information about the driver to a third party meaning insurers can monitor people and reward or penalise them more accurately. On the other, it’s bad news. Dr Davies explained: “More exclusive, cutting edge products like this will generally see a higher price tag. Insurers will be required to take this into account as far as the pricing for premiums goes.”
So premiums could go up to take account of replacing this technology. Or windscreens may no longer be covered. I’m not saying this to scaremonger. Look back a few years and there’s a precedent. The advent of the panoramic windscreen introduced massive screens to everyday cars such as Vauxhalls and Citroens. Trouble was, they could cost the best part of £1000 to replace. The result was some insurers refused to cover them under the free windscreen section. Instead they were part of the main policy. And that meant a new windscreen stood as a claim and could have an impact on your no claims discount and therefore premium.
According to acquaintances in the trade, simply getting replacements was a challenge. The new breed of high tech windscreens is going to pose fitters such as Autoglass with similar problems. Dr Davies added: “More sophisticated technologies may require different fitting procedures and a higher level of expertise to perform additional actions such as the calibration of sensors. All of these factors can mean that the cost of replacement may be higher in future.”
So the ability for insurers to charge cheaper premiums because this technology will cut the number of accidents will be reduced by the expense of replacing the technology. However, Dr Davies said: “Glass technology will change. Companies are working on indestructible glass.” For drivers, that could be the final piece of the jigsaw, although I doubt companies like Autoglass are looking forward to that day quite as much.