By Amy Cartwright, AXA Business Insurance

Quite rightly, you expect a lot of your work vehicles. If your car or van is out of action on a wet Monday morning, it can leave your clients fuming or a job put on hold. The last thing you need is an insurance policy that leaves you holding the baby — either by leaving you without wheels or by making you pay a big excess out of your own pocket.
It’s a balancing act, and it pays to know how to get it right.

1. Don’t just look at the premium
Comparison websites are a fantastic tool. The downside is that they sometimes act as a list of prices without enough detail on what you’re actually getting — which makes it difficult to understand what really is a good deal! Here are some of the pitfalls:

• The lowest premium on the day can come with a hefty price tag later on. Sometimes insurers offer cheap prices by stripping away bits of your protection. This is where it pays to read the small print. Without a courtesy vehicle as standard, you’re off the road and losing money while you sort out a hire vehicle, as well as being hit for hire fees. Far from saving, you’re now out of pocket badly.

• A lower premium can often have a huge excess. Set your excess at £1,000. Fair enough. But are you saving a couple of quid on your premium, just to pay for it when you’re facing an accident or theft? Make sure you will be able to cover the premium comfortably at short notice. Otherwise, it might be better to have a slightly higher premium and some peace of mind.

• You could be missing out on online discounts. Many insurers offer special deals and online discounts when you buy direct on their websites.

2. Those two little words
When you get a quote for a company vehicle, your insurer will ask you to tick the box ‘business use’. That’s short-hand for ‘you use your vehicle to travel on business or carry tools/equipment/materials (not just commuting to one place of work)’.

Think carefully if this applies to you. If you’re a builder with a van emblazoned with your company name and phone number, you’ve an obvious business use. But how would a freelance architect or surveyor describe use of the car he uses for family trips and visiting sites? If he’s just chosen ‘personal use’, his insurer might ask questions if he needs to make a claim for something that happened on site or while travelling on business.

3. Should you think ‘fleet’?
If you’re running more than four vehicles, it’s time to think ‘fleet’. Even if you have a mish mash — a car, two vans and a tipper, say — you can still insure them under one policy. It’s far easier to administer and often offers wider cover as standard — like legal expenses and manslaughter defence.

What many people don’t realise is that a fleet policy is very different from a single vehicle policy in that insurers are often more open to negotiation on price. Insurers are often happy to arrange a driver training course or risk assessment for you, potentially giving you a discount at the same time. Helping you improve the fleet’s safety, it also helps reduce costs over the long-term.

4. Are you a good driver?
We’ve all heard of insurance apps for cars. You download them on your smartphone and it uses your GPS signal to monitor your speed, braking, cornering, etc. Drivers with good scores (and thus lower risk) then get a discount on their insurance. These apps are increasingly available for vans and fleet vehicles too. It’s worth asking your insurer about them. After all, you can’t lose anything — low scores usually don’t increase premiums!

More information:
Help stop your fleet costs rising in 2014
Vans: the definitive guide

AXA Business Insurance specialises in protecting and supporting businesses of all shapes and sizes. We understand that surviving and thriving through the years takes a lot. That’s why we’re committed to providing tailored policies, as well as free information and expert guidance on Business Guardian Angel.