Woman given £400,000 bill for driving a hired Mercedes while her accident claim was being resolved

Woman is slapped with a £400,000 bill for driving a £300-a-day hired Mercedes for three years while her accident claim was being resolved after she crashed her £10,000 Audi into a parked car

A woman was given a £400,000 bill for the hired Mercedes she drove while her accident claim was being resolved.

Susan Harries drove her Audi, worth £10,000, into a parked Honda in Sutton Coldfield, . 

For three years, Mrs Harries hired a Mercedes C220 costing her £300 per day.

In total, the bill came to £400,000.

She rented the car through an independent firm that offered to cover the cost of the rental, but only if she was not to blame for the crash.

These sorts of firms can approach drivers after an accident with offers while the driver‘s insurer works out who is to blame.

They typically claim the cost of the hire from the at-fault driver‘s insurer, but only if the person who takes out the policy is not at fault.

If they are at fault, they need to pay the bill themselves. 

Many people opt to use these companies if getting a hire car through their insurer would impact their no claims or if their excess is too expensive. 

Richard Hiscocks from insurer Aviva told  that Mrs Harries‘s case ‘highlights how far credit hire organisations are willing to go to pursue profit.‘

In September, Mrs Harries appeared in court claiming that Kevin Baguley reversed his Honda into the path of her car. 

The crash was found to be because of Mrs Harries‘s ‘negligent driving‘, Nottingham County Court heard. 

A judge said that the four separate witness statements Mrs Harries provided to support what she claimed turned out to be connected to the car recovery company she used.

These witnesses put her in with the independent firm that ended up loaning her the car.

Is your car insurer taking you for a ride? Drivers charged up to a THIRD more if they buy the day it starts – claiming they‘re riskier 

Insurers are penalising customers who need to purchase insurance at the last minute, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of pounds a year, a This is Money investigation has revealed.

Buying car insurance on the day you need cover to start can cost up to a third more than if you arrange for your cover to kick in a week later – punishing those who have no choice but to buy in a hurry.

This can affect anyone, from a customer who has bought a vehicle that day and needs to drive it home, to those who leave it late to shop around to avoid the so-called ‘loyalty penalty‘, which sees insurers punish loyal policyholders by offering the best deals only to new customers.

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Those in these positions have no choice but to pay the extra charge – and evidence suggests that the practice is now spreading to other forms of insurance besides just car insurance.

A well placed whistleblower within the insurance industry told This is Money: ‘This is something that came to the market about a year ago and now all the companies have jumped on the band wagon.

‘I don‘t think they set out to rip people off but that‘s what they‘re doing.‘

What are they playing at?

This is Money ran two separate searches on a price comparison site for comprehensive insurance on a 1.6 litre 2015 Ford Fiesta, one of which started cover from the day of the search and one of which started cover the following week.

Both searches were for the same driver and the same car – all the details were identical, except for the start date of the cover.

We found that insurers charged on average 10.3 per cent more for identical policies if you need to be covered from the day of the quote, rather than the following week.

Within this, however, price difference varied dramatically, with some insurers adding no extra charge and others adding up to a third more.

Acorn, Adrian Flux, Insurance Factory and Sterling Insurance were among the nine insurers from the 68 compared which did not add any extra charge, while popular brands like More Than added an extra 33.4 per cent, Churchill an extra 27.7 per cent, Debenhams 22.7 per cent and Axa 21.4 per cent.

You could be charged up to a third more if you need to buy insurance at the last minute (stock image)

Sheila‘s Wheels and Hastings both charged over 20 per cent more, while the majority of providers added between 6 and 12 per cent more.

The only provider to charge less was ‘A Choice‘, which charged 1 per cent less to customers who bought on the day.

These differences are not insignificant – on average it resulted in an extra £86.35 a year, with worst offender More Than charging an extra £269.05.

As policies are tailored to the buyer‘s individual circumstances, these percentage differences are representative only of this specific scenario and providers will add different charges depending on the details given.

The insurers who top the list here may not do so every time, and those who appear to charge less may charge more depending on the type and level of cover the customer is after.

It‘s not just car insurance where this is a problem – evidence suggests it is starting to spread to other types of insurance too.

The industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘They‘ve started doing this elsewhere, like in van insurance – it‘s spreading as we speak.

‘It‘s only a matter of time before they start doing this with other types of insurance.‘

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