Self-drive-hire case study: Seekers Motorhomes
When Gill Hodgson and Paul Frankland established Seekers Motorhomes in 2006, it didn’t take them long to realise that they were going to need a close working relationship with their insurance provider.
Based in Richmond, North Yorkshire, the couple run their self-drive hire company from a site adjoining their home – Gill performing the customer-facing duties of bookings and vehicle handovers; Paul working behind-the-scenes as fleet manager; and a small team of three employees assisting with cleaning and administration.
Over the years they’ve expanded their fleet from four to nine luxury vehicles, ranging from two- to seven-berth. Their core customer base is located within a 50-mile radius, plus others who travel from further afield to holiday in the local area. Many of the renters are dog owners attracted by the company’s pet-friendly policy.
“It’s a small business, and we’ve kept it like that so that it’s manageable. It’s mainly managed by me and my husband,” says Gill. “But we recognised very early on that we were going to require quite a bit of support from our insurers.”
Insurance broker support
With expensive vehicles to cover and the self-drive hire business model generating regular insurance queries – from client breakdowns and vehicle damage to driver insurability – the couple found themselves in need of a far more tailored service than an insurance company’s call centre could provide.
“It was very difficult back then to find an insurance policy that would cover the vehicles – as well as insuring the people driving them,” Gill explains. “We started working with Alan Boswell Group because they specialise in self-drive hire and gave us a very good deal right from the start.”
More recently, the couple have added a motorhome sales arm to their company’s activities, offering fully restored, second-hand vehicles for purchase or, in some cases, part-exchange. It required them to take out a motor trade policy in addition to their existing self-drive hire business insurance and liability cover. This, too, was a product that needed to be chosen wisely with expert advice. It had to be exactly the right fit – and price – for the business.
“Having an independent insurance broker means that you’ve got someone you can be in contact with all the time – and it’s the same person, so you don’t have to keep repeating yourself over and over again!” Gill smiles, knowingly.
An independent insurance broker means that you’ve got someone you can be in contact with all the time
“Our account manager, Mark Casey, even comes to visit us twice a year, which makes the service much more personal – we feel that he really takes care in how he looks after us.”
Keeping claims on track
Indeed, Gill and Paul have had to call upon their insurance broker’s services on many occasions. There have, for example, been several instances of major roof damage, as a result of motorhomes being driven under low bridges – and in most cases the vehicles have been written off because the value of the repairs was too great.
“But sometimes the damage isn’t the driver’s fault,” Gill adds. “On one occasion, a vehicle was guided onto a ferry and into an area where the roof was too low to accommodate it, because the ferry worker wasn’t paying attention. Thankfully, Alan Boswell Group worked with us and we managed to claim the money back from the ferry company.”
On one occasion, a vehicle was guided onto a ferry and into an area where the roof was too low to accommodate it
Of course, the value of the vehicle isn’t the only consideration, either. Any motorhome that’s off the road due to damage is a motorhome losing income, so a long-winded or unsuccessful claims process would have serious implications for Seekers Motorhomes – especially as a small business with close profit margins. Using such a personalised insurance brokerage service has allowed Gill and Paul to avoid any such disasters, however, with all claims to date running smoothly.
Similarly, the additional vehicle breakdown cover that the couple were advised to take out has proved to be vital to the efficiency of their business – as well as providing peace of mind to customers.
“One of our policies also comes with legal advice, which I made use of when we had a problem with unwarranted defamatory comments on social media,” Gill adds. “I was able to speak to someone straight away who gave me good advice. They then rang back later to give me even more good advice! That situation is all resolved now.”
Ultimately, then, Seekers’ regular – and successful – use of its armoury of insurance products is evidence of the value an experienced, independent insurance broker can bring in protecting a business’s interests – at a fair price.
“The main benefit is being able to liaise with the same individual,” Gill reiterates. “You have one person allocated to your account, who you can build up a bit of a rapport with. He or she sees everything through – whether it be sorting out our policy renewals or dealing with claims. So that, for me, is a really positive thing. It means I can call or email with any enquiry and my account manager will know exactly what’s what.
“Mark knows us. He knows our needs. He knows where we are – because he’s been here. So he’s able to negotiate with the insurance companies and get the best deal for us.”