Here are 3 ways to improve your car insurance, and one of them may be important to you.
- Price – You want a lower insurance cost than your current policy.
- Coverage – Your current company is unable to provide coverage that you want or need.
- Service – You want better service than your current company or agent is giving you.
Low cost insurance has, for decades, been the principal aim of most insurance shoppers. Here is what to do.
First, go to your present company and tweak your policy to get the best price you can. You can lower your liability limits, reduce other coverage, raise your comprehensive and collision deductibles. Ask them if you are getting all the discounts you deserve. If you have tickets or accidents on your record, ask your company if any are about to drop off your record in the near future. Start with your present company first. That's the easiest and fastest thing to do.
If you get an increase in premium from your current company, DO NOT drop your current policy because you're mad at them, then pout for a while, then shop for new insurance. That's a real bad idea. As we all know, the things we say, do and think when we're angry aren't the best. Instead, call the company or agent and find out why there was an increase. There may be an explanation and there may be an error they can correct. Most companies want to keep your business and will try to accomodate your wishes. If they can't or don't, then you can get mad and pout all you want, but don't drop the insurance until you get a new policy.
Shopping different insurance companies is the next way to find a better price. When you are shopping make sure that you get quotes based on the same coverage you have now with your present company. You want to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, not apples to oranges. If you just tell the quoting company "Give me cheap insurance" they might do it by simply giving you less. You could have cut your existing policy and gotten it cheaper without having to call around for quotes. That isn't saving. If you go to the store to buy milk and it is $2.00 a quart in one store and $1.50 a pint in another, you don't buy the pint thinking you got a better deal, do you? Be sure you are quoting the same car, same address, same drivers and same driving record that you have now, otherwise you will end up with a lower figure but a different policy. Once you get a quote based on comparable facts, then you can adjust things to lower your cost further. But price isn't everything and, as the old saying goes, you may just get what you pay for. So maybe price isn't all there is.
Sometimes you find, by experience or education, that your current policy does not provide coverage that you want or need. Some very cheap insurance companies, for instance, will not provide high limits of liability insurance for you. They provide the state required minimum and that's all. If you have an accident that's your fault, the amount the insurance company pays the other guy might not be enough to save you from a lawsuit. You bought a policy with $5,000 property damage on it and you totaled some guy's $80,000 Mercedes. Do the math. If you have assets, own a home, have savings accounts or other assets, the Mercedes guy is getting a lawyer and coming after your assets. If you own stuff and you don't want to lose it, you must buy better insurance. Another example is if you lease a car. Most lease companies require that you carry high limits of liability insurance as well as Comp and Collision. The 15/30/10 coverage that you have now is not adequate and you need more, but your current company cannot give you the higher limits you need. Then you have to call your friendly insurance broker for help.
Or you may want to get Loan Balance Coverage added to your Comprehensive and Collision to cover the possibility that if your car is totalled, you will still owe the bank money because the payout you receive turns out to be lower than the balance left on your loan. In other words, you've lost your car, it's totaled, and still have a balance due to the finance company. Ooops. No es bueno. Car insurance claims are most often settled on the Market Value of the vehicle at the time of the loss. As you know, when you drive that vehicle off the lot, the market value instantly drops. So you may still owe $20,000 on the car but the Market Value at the time it was totalled is $17,000 and you had a $1,000 deductible so the loan company gets paid $16,000 (they have first claim on the settlement) and you still owe them $4,000. Loan Balance Coverage would cover that type of loss. If your current insurance company doesn't offer it, you might want to shop around and change companies.
How often have you heard, or experienced: "I don't like the way my insurance company handled this." It could be a claim that went wrong or the agent taking a payment with a bad attitude or the receptionist having a rotten day and pretending she doesn't know you. Mainly it is a matter of inadequate or improper communication. When people call me wanting a quote because they are angry at their insurance company, I try to find out what the problem was so that it can be addressed and resolved. If it is a matter of the person not understanding insurance, and it often is, then a little explanation goes a long way. You may be dealing direct with the insurance company, without an agent or broker to help you, in which case you are up against a large bureaucracy with service personnel whose training and knowledge is not evident to you. I've talked to customer service personnel who were grumpy, who sounded like children and who were confused. I know what it's like to feel you are getting inadequate or untrustworthy service. That's a really good reason to change companies even if it means spending more money.
The bottom line is that insurance is a personal thing like taste in clothes, humor or food. Get insurance that makes you comfortable. If you just want "cheap", then shop 'til you drop and get a cheap policy or call a broker who can shop a variety of companies on your behalf. Remember, a broker is supposed to operate on YOUR behalf, in your interest, not the company's and not his own. If you are looking for better quality service from you company, your broker should know which companies specialize in exceptional service.
Stephen B. Groton