Average car insurance in Northern Ireland soars to £1,059
Drivers here being hit by third highest costs in UK
The average car insurance premium in Northern Ireland has crashed through the £1,000 barrier, according to a new index.
Motorists here are now paying more than outer London and the West Midlands, making Northern Ireland the third most expensive region in the UK to get behind the wheel.
Latest figures from Confused.com show the average price offered to drivers in the province is £1,059 - more than £200 above the UK average of £847.
It also marks the highest ever average quoted to motorists here.
The study, which examined six million car insurance quotes, showed that pound-for-pound, drivers in Northern Ireland have seen the greatest quarterly and annual increases in the cost of car insurance than anywhere else in the UK.
Local drivers saw their quotes increase by £196 on average in the last year - a 23% hike.
Three years ago, the average quote was £698.
Among those paying over the average is 21-year-old farmer Francis Henry, from Comber, Co Down.
He said the most he has ever paid for car insurance was £3,550 to be insured on a Toyota Avensis. This year, insurance for his 1.9 litre Vauxhall Vectra cost him £1,038.
He said: "I'm insured with Axa through Hughes. This year I got quotes from Hughes, Brady Insurance and NFU but I was still getting quotes for about £2,900.
"The most I've ever paid was £3,550 with NFU for a Toyota Avensis two years ago."
Wedding photographer Matthew Steele (21), from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, was quoted £1,300 for his Ford Mondeo but managed to pay just £750 after finding a cheaper quote on a comparison site.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: "It is particularly surprising to see drivers in Northern Ireland hit with the biggest monetary hikes across all of the UK both annually and quarterly, given their previous period of stability.
"And, understandably, motorists are sure to be feeling bitter as they now fork out an extra £212 above the UK average.
"However, since April this year, insurers are required to show drivers at renewal what they paid for their car insurance last year.
"So, being able to compare the amount they paid the year before, and armed with the knowledge that prices are rising across the board, motorists are better equipped than ever to shop around."
Despite rules banning insurers from using gender to set premiums, it seems the gap between male and female drivers is growing.
It's thought the £120 difference is largely down to men picking more expensive cars with larger engines.