Auto Insurance on Their Personal Cars

With money tighter than ever, it was time for us to see if we could do better than our existing auto insurance policy. Our current insurance company (which shall go unnamed) was known for its low premiums. Would it be possible to meet or beat those rates, while possibly improving other aspects of our coverage?

We thought about trying an auto insurance broker who represented several different brands of car insurance, but we wanted to keep our options open to the entire range of companies. Armed with our current policy’s declaration page, we set out on a hunt for the best value.

Step 1: Check Customer Satisfaction Scores
We started by looking at the results of the J.D. Power National Auto Insurance Survey, in which more than 21,000 insurance policy holders rated their insurers. This extremely useful chart let us sort results by any of five criteria: Overall Experience, Policy Offerings, Pricing, Billing and Payment, or Contacting the Insurer. We noticed that our current insurer was low down on the ranking list.

Of the five criteria, our two highest priorities were Policy Offerings and Pricing. After playing around with the chart, we narrowed down our choices to Amica (a multiyear award winner), Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) (which is part of AAA), Erie, Auto-Owners and American National Property and Casualty (ANPAC). A quick review of their respective Web sites revealed that Erie and Auto-Owners did not provide coverage in our state, thus narrowing the field to three — a great number for comparing quotes.

Step 2: Check Companies’ Financial Strength
Given the state of the economy, our next step was to verify that the insurance companies would be around for the long haul — and would have the resources to pay their claims — by going to A.M. Best’s Rating Center. There, we reviewed the three insurers’ “Financial Strength Ratings” and “Issuer Credit Ratings.” Not surprisingly, all three companies had solid financials.

Step 3: Know What Coverage You Want
The insured parties would be one man and one woman, 45 and 44 years old, respectively.Before getting our quotes, we made sure of the coverage we wanted:

  • Bodily injury: $250K bodily injury per person/$500K per accident
  • Property damage: $100K
  • Medical payments: $5K
  • Uninsured motorist: $250K bodily injury per person/$500K per accident
  • Deductibles: $250 for Comprehensive, $500 for Collision
  • Uninsured deductible waiver included
  • Car rental coverage

Raising the deductibles further would lower our rates, but we wanted to use the current coverage levels of our policy for the comparison.

Step 4: Try To Compare Apples to Apples
We used both the Internet and the telephone to gather our quotes, but didn’t identify ourselves as being with Edmunds. Each insurer promoted its advantages, sometimes bullet-pointing them on its Web site.

Amica, for example, waives the deduction for depreciation if your new vehicle is declared a total loss within the first 180 days of ownership. It also waives the deductible for lock replacement (if your keys are lost or stolen) and on glass repair.

ACSC, for its part, offers free identity theft monitoring and an immediate repair program at its many authorized service centers. And the list goes on, making it almost impossible to do a perfect comparison.

Even trying to get coverage limits to line up exactly proved to be a challenge. While ACSC offers split limit coverage in our state (250/500/100), Amica offers only single-limit coverage — a single dollar amount that covers both bodily injury and property damage. To be fair to Amica, we priced out both $300K and $500K per accident to see what happened.