Kerry McClean: The cost of insuring my car was already driving me round the bend... and that's before my sister and I had a little bump
It took me many years to pass my driving test. The combination of being a nervous driver after I was involved in a bad crash and disjointed lessons thanks to moving home every few years for work, resulted in me being the grand old age of 30 by the time I finally walked out of a driving test centre with a smile on my face.
On the three previous occasions I attempted my test, all I left with was a sense of failure and the knowledge that I was going to have to fork out a good percentage of my wages to my driving instructor yet again.
I foolishly believed that once I held my driving licence in my hand, the massive expense would be at an end. Instead, it was only beginning...
The good thing about being 30 by the time I was considered roadworthy was that I had saved up enough to pay for my little car without taking out a loan.
I adored that first car, a tiny, seven-year-old runaround with low mileage and an even lower top speed. I'm not sure I ever managed to push the needle past 60, even with the pedal to the metal, but I didn't mind. I'd just had my first baby so the anxiety of being a new driver and a new mum meant that I was as careful as it was possible to be.
I was also anxious about having a bump and sending my already sky high, first time car owner insurance payment into orbit. I was paying just over £500 but I was assured by other long-term drivers that this cost would decrease as my driving experience increased. This week, 13 years after first passing my test, I had my renewal form sent through, asking for exactly the same amount as I initially paid all those years ago.
I'm not driving a big flash car. I haven't been attempting wheelies or doughnuts as I drive homeward, down the Frosses Road towards the north coast on my way home from work.
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Instead, I made a rookie mistake. A couple of years ago I was parked up at my children's school when another mum, in a distracted moment, veered too close to me and went into the side of my car. There wasn't a lot of damage, just a bump and a scratch and she told me her insurance would pay. No bother, I thought, and phoned my own insurance company to let them know what was happening.
Despite not being my fault, that accident, combined with the annual hike in fees, has sent my insurance heavenward. I've spent the last week shopping around, trying to get a better deal. Am I the only one who finds price comparison websites confusing, time-consuming and soul-destroying?
In the last few days I've been involved in another little bump, but this time I'll stay well away from the insurance companies.
My fabulous mum looks after my children two days a week after school and it just so happened that one of her days coincided with an early evening concert she really wanted to go to. Being conscious of this and knowing that I don't normally get back home from Belfast until after 6.30pm, I made a concerted effort to be out of the door at work as soon as the clock's hand hit 5pm. I made it back home with five minutes to kill and, feeling smug about my time keeping, pulled into her drive and turned my old car off.
What I didn't know was that my mum had enlisted my sister to babysit and was ready to go, in her car, parked in front of mine in her driveway… and she hadn't spotted me. When her car started up and her white reversing lights switched on, everything seemed to go into slow motion. I fumbled trying to get my key in the ignition, all the while tooting the horn. The realisation of what was about to happen hit me and then her car did. There is no sound more distressing than the sound of crunching m etal on metal… apart from the sound of the resulting hefty bill, landing though the letterbox.
I still love my car, bump and all, but it's driving me straight into the red…