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COST OF LIVING

Ten ways to save on car insurance in Switzerland

Car insurance can be expensive, but not having it can be even more expensive. Here are some ways to save.

How do you find a good deal on car insurance in Switzerland? Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

As we wrote about in our guide on the topic, car insurance in Switzerland can also be very complicated. 

For anyone who wants to know the basics of car insurance in Switzerland, check out the following guide on the topic. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about car insurance in Switzerland

This guide primarily relates to ways to save money on car insurance – here are some of the best. 

Have we missed something? Get in touch at [email protected].

1. Know what you are getting – and do your research

By far the most important thing to do is your research. Insurers love fine print and sometimes things aren’t what they seem. 

One example is so-called ‘partial Casco with collision’ insurance. 

While this may seem like a good deal where you get the added protection of collision insurance but are on a ‘partial’ plan, in reality this is comprehensive insurance under a different name. 

Most insurers will have a copy of the information in English – or at least be able to answer your questions in English should you have some. 

Besides reading the policy itself, be aware of all your other insurances as these often overlap (more on that below). 

Driving in Switzerland: How to convert your drivers licence for a Swiss one

2. Drop your licence plates at the cantonal office

One of the oldest tricks in the insurance book is one of the most effective. 

Whether you are headed away, whether the car isn’t being used or if it is set for longer-term repairs or upkeep, dropping your licence plates in at the cantonal road traffic office (via another car of course) will suspend the car insurance. 

You will see some of your premiums returned, although exactly how this is determined depends on the insurer. 

You can also return the plates via the post, with the authority informing the insurer (although you’d be best to contact them as well). 

EXPLAINED: How does roadside assistance work in Switzerland?

3. Reconsider your deductible

A bigger deductible will mean a lower premium. By reconsidering your personal circumstances, you may be able to save in the long run depending on where you set your deductible. 

If you need a car to get around primarily, then a bigger deductible may be more appropriate. 

Your premiums will be lower and any major damage will be covered, while you’ll need to cover the cost of smaller damage yourself, for instance, less urgent things like small scratches and windscreen chips that won’t spread 

If you have a luxury car however, you’ll want to keep it spic and span, meaning you might want to pay a little more regularly so that a greater amount of damage is covered. 

Reader question: When must I change to winter tyres in Switzerland?

4. Reconsider the value of your vehicle (and whether you need comprehensive insurance)

This could probably fit under the heading above, but it’s worth considering whether you want full or partial insurance. 

Comprehensive insurance is usually most appropriate for new cars, but makes less sense the older the car gets. 

For older cars however, partial insurance is usually sufficient. 

Insurers only pay out the current value of a car, rather than the amount you paid – or the amount you feel it’s worth. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis recommends comprehensive insurance for the first four years of a new car’s life – and maybe an additional year or two for luxury cars. 

After that, partial insurance “makes more sense”. 

READ MORE: Where in Switzerland can you find the cheapest fuel?

5. Don’t crash

It might seem simple advice both in terms of saving money on insurance and just generally in life, but trying to be a little more careful will make financial sense due to the way Swiss car insurance is structured. 

Most Swiss insurances will have a bonus scheme. 

For people who don’t have any accidents – or more correctly, don’t make any claims – they will usually be entitled to a discount in their regular premiums. 

Over time, this discount can grow as you go for a longer period with no or few claims. 

If you claim regularly however, you will not receive a discount in your premiums – and in some cases your premiums will go up. 

If for some reason you think you will claim regularly – for instance you live in an area with hailstorms and you don’t have a garage, or if you simply just aren’t a very good driver – then you can elect to get an insurance policy with ‘bonus protection’, which will ensure your premium doesn’t rise with more claims (or will not rise by as much). 

6. Check other insurances

Many people are overinsured in Switzerland without even knowing it. 

This means that two or more insurance premiums cover the same items. 

In the content of car insurance, you may be paying for items carried in the car – but if you have home and contents insurance, this will already be covered in most instances. 

Another example is occupant accident insurance, which is unnecessary as Switzerland’s compulsory accident insurance covers this already. 

Unfortunately for people who are overinsured, while they pay more than they should, they can’t claim back double. 

Car insurance is compulsory in Switzerland. Here's what you need to know. Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

Car insurance is compulsory in Switzerland. Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

7. Don’t be from the Balkans or Turkey

OK so this isn’t something you can exactly help, but studies have shown foreigners pay more for car insurance in Switzerland – particularly from the Balkans and Turkey. 

People from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia and Turkey all paid roughly 60 percent more than the Swiss. People from Portugal (24%), Italy (13%) and Spain (12%) also paid more. 

Insurers have defended this saying it is an automatic classification based on the amount of crashes people, particularly young men, from those countries have in comparison to Switzerland. 

But if you are from anywhere on that list, it makes financial (and ethical) sense to look for an insurer which doesn’t make such blatant differentiations. 

Swiss car insurance: Why do foreigners pay higher premiums?

8. Avoid long-term contracts

With new, more cost effective options coming up regularly, anyone bound in a long-term deal risks missing out. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis recommends signing only short-term, ideally one-year, deals, or those with an annual right of termination. 

By doing so, you can change to a better deal when appropriate. 

9. Let the insurer choose the garage

Swiss insurance contracts will usually let you decide which garage should be chosen for repairs and maintenance. 

While that might sound good in that you can choose one which is convenient and trustworthy, it will often mean a hike in premiums and a more complicated process for claims. 

EXPLAINED: In which parts of Switzerland are you most likely to lose your driving licence –and why?

10. Crash recorders

Crash recorders are installed in cars and collect a variety of important data including acceleration, speed, date and time leading up to an accident. 

The data can then be used to reconstruct the events and get a better idea of how the accident occurred, while they are also valuable in the instance of vehicle theft. 

Swiss insurer Axa notes that people who install crash recorders can save up to 15 percent in their premiums. 

Please remember this is a guide only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For tailored advice on your situation, get in touch with a registered car insurer (or a few in order to compare). 

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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