THE RELEASE of new car registration plates makes September one of the busiest months for insurance purchases, and for many people, the price will come as a shock.

The rise in insurance premium tax from 10 to 12 per cent, which came into effect in June, is unavoidable, but there are other factors drivers can influence.

Insurers charge those with motoring convictions more, as they are more likely to have accidents. The most common offence is speeding, and Scots are the UK’s worst offenders.

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According to price comparison site MoneySuperMarket.com, 275 out of every 10,000 Scottish drivers have at least one conviction, compared to 242 Welsh motorists and 238 in the South West of England.

Kevin Pratt, the site’s consumer affairs expert, said: “Flouting the law is not only dangerous, it could also cost you, as having a conviction on your licence will bump up the cost of your car insurance at renewal by around three per cent.”

The easiest way to reduce your premium is to look beyond your existing provider - but act early.

According to GoCompare, those who shop around a week before their cover start date can save an average of 12 per cent, or £76, on the cost of a policy. The greatest potential benefits are for young drivers, who can reduce their annual cost by up to £265.

The average saving falls to £45 the day before the start date, as insurers know people are running out of time to search for a better deal.

GoCompare spokesman Mark Gutteridge said: “Car insurance is one market where leaving it until the last minute in the hope of getting a bargain definitely doesn’t work.”

The easiest way to get a range of quotes is via comparison sites, but check more than one as they do not all list the same providers. Aviva and Direct Line do not appear on any, but you can get additional quotes direct if you want them.

Financial information provider Defaqto said that any action that lowers the risk to the insurer should improve your premium.

If your annual mileage is 6,000 or less, be sure to mention this, as a quote based on the average will be higher. Company cars typically travel almost 19,000 miles, while the average for private diesel cars is 10,400 and 6,500 for petrol.

Do not be tempted to lie about this. If your insurer discovers the truth from MOT records or milometer readings, it could reject a claim.

Adding a named driver is another way to save, particularly for young drivers. If the secondary driver is more experienced and has a good safety record, insurers will see them as reducing the accident risk.

Opting for a telematics-linked policy should also cut the cost, provided you drive well while the black box is in operation. If you are a poor driver who regularly breaks the speed limit, the price is likely to rise and cover could even be cancelled.

Insurers charge less for lower performance cars, partly because of the decreased accident risk and partly because they are cheaper to repair or replace.

Keep your vehicle safe at night in a garage or on a private drive, and make sure it is fitted with an immobiliser.

Check whether you could save by opting for a higher excess – the amount of any claim you pay yourself – but do not raise it more than is worthwhile. For example, a £250 higher excess might only take £20 off your premium.

Do not assume third-party cover will be cheaper. Some insurers believe customers who take comprehensive cover drive more carefully as they value their vehicles more, meaning it often costs less.

If your household has more than one vehicle, check if you could save with a multi-car policy.

Do not pay for unnecessary extras. Freemotorlegal.co.uk, for example, provides legal services without charge and you may already have breakdown insurance through a packaged bank account.

According to comparison site CompareTheMarket, drivers on a tight budget should think twice before buying an electric car. Their typical premium will be almost £1,070, compared to £740 for a traditional vehicle.

Paying for the whole year in advance is generally cheaper, as most insurers add interest to monthly payments. If you cannot afford this, spread the cost with an interest-free credit card.

Before accepting a quote, read the small print to ensure you are comparing like-for-like and that you understand what is and is not covered.

And do not forget to check back with your existing provider – it may be willing to lower its original quote sufficiently to keep your business.