Category Archives: Insurance

Avoid for Theft and Insurance Problems

images-13A vehicle theft occurs at least twice each minute in the United States, at an estimated cost of $6.4 billion last year. Fewer vehicles are stolen by that legendary joy-riding teen than by pros who drive your car onto a freighter heading overseas, or to a chop shop to cannibalize it for parts.

To help consumers avoid getting burned not just once, but twice, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Insurance Information Institute have teamed up with a program called Wiser Drivers Wise Up to address both vehicle theft prevention and what to do if your car is stolen or in an accident. Here are some of their tips:

  • Don’t think manufacturer-installed vehicle theft protection is enough. It can be disabled by experienced and determined thieves, who also know how to unlock a Club and similar devices. Even Steve Cox, a BBB vice president, was the victim of car theft. In fact, he lost two vehicles in three years with these protections; his Pontiac Firebird was stolen in daylight, and his Nissan 300ZX at night. Aftermarket vehicle anti-theft systems are usually more sophisticated and are worth paying a professional to install.
  • Don’t think your old clunker is safer than a shiny new model, or that a luxury sedan is more attractive to thieves than a less expensive model. Older vehicles are usually stolen for their parts, which are no longer being manufactured; newer cars are stolen for their popularity. In 2008, the top five model years stolen were 1995, 1991, 1989, 1997 and 1994, respectively, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In recent years, cars that have been glamorized in pop culture, like the Cadillac Escalade , have put it on many “most stolen” lists.
  • Contact police immediately, preferably while still at the scene of the crime. Speed is essential to recovering stolen cars, since any delay means your car is more likely to be in a chop shop or driven out of town. Of course you know the make, color and model of your car, but you also should know the license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN). Keep a copy of those identifying numbers and your insurance card in your wallet, and keep a photocopy of your registration and insurance card at home, so you can provide information quickly to both law enforcement and insurance claims agents.
  • Don’t assume your insurance covers you. Take a close look at your policy to see if you are covered for a replacement rental car if your car is stolen, and if there’s a waiting period before you’re allowed to rent a car. Many people don’t elect the rental car coverage, but it costs only a few dollars a month. A year’s worth of replacement rental coverage usually costs less than renting a car for a day or two, so it’s a good deal.
  • Make sure you have roadside assistance. Your insurance company will likely offer this for a few dollars per term, or you can go through an outside company such as AAA or even your automaker. Be sure to research the details of the coverage. For example, if your car is broken into and disabled, are you covered for a tow to any mechanic, or only a dealer’s service shop? Are both towing and labor costs covered?
  • Despite the bells, whistles and computer chips of today’s technological vehicle theft-prevention devices, the most important theft deterrents are simple ones. Park in well-lit areas. If you park in a lot, resist the temptation to park near the exit, because it makes your vehicle a more likely target for thieves. According to the FBI, more than one-third of all vehicle thefts occur at a home or residence. So always lock your car, even in your own driveway.

Teenage Drivers and Car Insurance is Needed

unduhan-21However, not all car insurance companies take the same dim view of young drivers. And some discounts are available to help you cut costs. Remember, the higher the risk, the higher the cost of insurance premiums. Let this be your guiding principle as you shop for insurance.

Here are 10 suggestions to help lower premiums and keep your teenager’s license free of violations:

1. Help your teen learn the laws and follow them to the letter. By far, the best way to lower car insurance costs for teens is for them to keep their driving record clean. Make safe driving a family project. In some states, restrictions apply to new drivers. Parents should know what the laws are and insist that their sons and daughters follow them.

2. Set a good example. Do you break the speed limit and tailgate? Do you yell at other drivers when you’re behind the wheel? If you do these things, how can you expect your children to act differently? Start watching your own driving long before they get their license and you’ll have a much easier time convincing them to be safe drivers. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

3. Put your teenager on your policy. Rather than setting up an independent policy for your teen driver, put them on your auto insurance policy as an additional driver. In this way, all the discounts applied to your policies will be passed on to them.

4. Pay your teenager to get good grades. Here’s a creative tip — find out how much you save if your teenager gets a good grade point average and pass it on to them. Usually, having a 3.0 or higher GPA will reduce your car insurance premium by 10 percent. Figure out exactly how much this saves you and give that money to your teenager. This accomplishes two things. First, it provides a direct reward for academic performance. Secondly, it motivates them to continue getting good grades.

5. Enroll them in driver education courses. Discounts are available for teens who take recognized driving classes. But call your car insurance company to find out which schools are covered before paying big bucks.

6. Steer clear of sports cars. Don’t try to live vicariously through your teenager by giving them the hot car you couldn’t get in high school. Getting your teenager a safe car to drive, with the latest safety equipment, will lower your premiums. Not only will you save money on car insurance, but fast driving will be less of a temptation.

7. Get their support. Don’t assume that your teenager wants to vacuum clean your wallet. Ask them for help cutting costs and point out that you will share in the savings (see rule #4). Tell them how much car insurance costs and show them how this fits into the family budget. If nothing else, you will score points for treating them as adults.

Top tips for shop a car insurance

The word shopping brings a feeling of immediate excitement to most people. But if you combine the word shopping with car insurance — as in “shopping for car insurance” — it produces the opposite effect. The thought of shopping for auto insurance makes the eyes glaze over and the heart rate drop to the pace of a slumbering couch potato. Couch potato? Indeed. Doug Heller, a consumer advocate at The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (a California-based consumer advocacy group) and a recognized insurance issues specialist, told us that too often “people purchase insurance by calling the number on the screen.”

But wait, this is important stuff! You want to be adequately covered if you get in an accident. And you certainly don’t want to pay more for car insurance than you should. Maybe waiting for a solution to be beamed into your living room is not the best idea.

How can you stay awake while navigating through this murky subject? Just remember: There is money to be saved. How much? Hundreds, even thousands, per year. For example, one of the authors typed all of his insurance information into a comparative insurance service. The quotes (for very basic coverage on two old cars) ranged from $1,006 to $1,807 — a difference of $801 a year. If you’re currently dumping thousands into your insurance company’s coffers because of a couple of tickets, an accident or a questionable credit rating, shopping your policy against others may be well worth the effort.

Look at it this way — you can convert the money you save into the purchase of something you’ve lusted after for a long time. Hold that goal in your mind. Now, let’s begin.

Before you can shop for something, you have to decide what you need. The first step in finding the right auto insurance for you is to figure out the amount of coverage you need. This varies from state to state. So take a moment to find out what coverage is required where you live. Make a list of the different types of coverage and then return for the next step. (You will find a list of each state’s requirements and an explanation of the various types of insurance in “How Much Auto Insurance Do You Really Need?”. Also, check out “Little-Known But Important Insurance Issues” as it has a glossary of basic insurance terminology.)

Now that you know what is required, you can decide what — if anything — you need in addition to that. Some people are quite cautious. They base their lives on worst-case scenarios. Insurance companies love these people. That’s because insurance companies know what your chances are of being killed or maimed, and how likely it is for your car to be damaged or stolen. The information the insurance company has collected over previous decades is crunched into “actuarial tables” that give insurance adjustors a quick look at the probability of just about any occurrence.

It is important to keep in mind that the basis of insurance is a difference of opinion between you (the insured) and them (the insurance company). You believe you will, at some point, probably get in an auto accident. The car insurance company believes you probably won’t. And the insurance company is willing to take your money to prove you wrong.

So how much auto insurance should you buy beyond your state’s minimums?

“Look at your personal financial situation,” Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) and former insurance adjuster, advised. “If you have assets to protect — and that is all insurance is doing — get enough liability coverage.” For instance, if you purchase $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage but have $100,000 in assets, attorneys could go after your treasures in the event of an accident in which you’re at-fault and the other party’s medical bills exceed $50,000.

Tips for Save Money on Car Insurance

unduhan-19There is a very good chance that you are — this very moment — paying too much for your car insurance. There is an even better chance that you could get a better rate, from another insurance company, than you could from your existing insurer.

So why not take an hour or so and review your policy for potential savings? Or, if you’re fed up with the high insurance rates from your current insurer, shop around for a new company.

The Internet has created increasing competition between car insurance companies. It is easier than ever for consumers to shop for low insurance rates, to analyze coverage and compare premiums. Still, studies have shown that people don’t shop around for insurance in the same way they might shop for a new car. Also, people tend to stay with the same car insurance company for years. Why not prove these studies wrong? Put the power of the Net to work for you and save money in the process.

You can save on auto insurance in five ways:

  1. Make sure you get all discounts you qualify for
  2. Keep your driver’s record clean and up-to-date
  3. Adjust your coverage to assume more risk
  4. Drive a “low profile” car equipped with certain money-saving safety features
  5. Shop around for a good, low cost insurance provider

First, let’s look at the discounts you might qualify for. Discounts fall into a number of categories:

  • Low-risk occupations
  • Professional organizations
  • Combined coverage
  • Discounts for safety features
  • More risk assumed by driver
  • Discounts for senior citizens


Low-Risk Occupations

Insurance is a numbers game. Adjustors collect information about what types of people get into accidents. Over the years they see a trend. Drivers that work as engineers tend to get into fewer accidents. Why? It would be fun to speculate about the reasons (pocket protectors — need we say more?) but the insurance companies don’t really care about that. All they know is that, in fact, engineers are a low risk. Since there is less chance that they will wrap their cars around the trunk of a horse chestnut tree, they charge engineers less for insurance. Simple.

But you say you are a teacher instead of an engineer? You might still be in luck. There may be discounts for teachers. You never know unless you ask — and unless you shop around. Not all insurance companies are the same.

Professional Organizations and Auto Clubs

Have you ever been about to pay $100 for a hotel room, only to discover that a AAA discount saves you 15 percent? Now you’re paying $85 and feeling proud of yourself. It’s similar in the insurance business. Affiliation with AAA — and certain other professional organizations — will lower your rates. You should check with your employer to see if there are any group insurance rates. At the same time try checking directly with the insurance company representative when you inquire about the cost of policies.

How to get auto insurance

When it comes to auto insurance, you want to be adequately covered if you get in an accident, but you don’t want to pay more than you have to. Unfortunately many people are doing just that, simply because they don’t want to spend time shopping for car insurance. It’s not inherently enjoyable, after all, despite how it looks in commercials featuring disgruntled cavemen and joke-cracking spokespeople.

But by doing some comparison shopping, you could save hundreds of dollars a year. When one of our editors used a rate-comparison service, he got basic coverage quotes for his two old cars that ranged from $1,006 to $1,807 — a difference of $801 a year. If you’re paying thousands to your current insurance company because you have a couple tickets, an accident or an out-of-date and unfavorable credit rating, shopping your policy against others might be well worth the effort. Look at it this way: You can convert the money you save into buying something you’ve wanted or needed for a long time.

Step 1: Decide How Much Coverage You Need
To find the right auto insurance, start by figuring out the amount of coverage you need. This varies from state to state, so take a moment to find out what coverage is required where you live. You will find a list of each state’s requirements and an explanation of the various types of insurance in “How Much Car Insurance Do You Need?” Also, check out “Little-Known but Important Car Insurance Issues,” which has a glossary of basic insurance terminology. If you’re a first-time driver and need a comprehensive overview of car insurance before you go on, review this guide from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Now you’re ready to make a list of the different types of coverage you are considering.

Once you know what’s required, you can decide what you need. Some people are quite cautious. They base their lives on worst-case scenarios and insurance companies love that. Insurance companies are in the risk business, and they know a policyholder’s likelihood of being in an accident, as well as how likely it is for a car to be damaged or stolen. The insurance company crunches the information it has collected over decades into actuarial tables that give adjustors a quick look at the probability of just about any occurrence. You don’t have those tools at your disposal, so your decision will depend on your own degree of comfort in assuming a certain level of risk.

Experts recommend that if you have a lot of assets, you should get enough liability coverage to protect them. Let’s say you have $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage but $100,000 in personal assets. If you’re at fault in an accident, attorneys for the other party could go after you for the $50,000 in medical bills that aren’t covered by your policy.

General recommendations for liability limits are $50,000 bodily injury liability for one person injured in an accident, $100,000 for all people injured in an accident and $25,000 property damage liability (usually expressed in insurance shorthand as 50/100/25). Here again, let your financial situation be your guide. If you have no assets that an attorney can seek, don’t buy coverage unnecessarily.

Your driving habits might also be a consideration in determining the coverage you need. If your past is filled with crumpled fenders, or if you have a lead foot, or if you make a long commute on a treacherous winding road every day, then you should get more complete coverage. Collision coverage pays for damage that your car experiences in an accident or damage from hitting an inanimate object (a tree, light post or fence, for example). Comprehensive coverage addresses damage that didn’t occur in a collision — such as from fire, theft or flood. It also covers damaged windshields.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy collision and comprehensive coverage. Let’s say your vehicle is older, you have a good driving record and there is little likelihood that your car would be totaled in an accident, but a high likelihood of it being stolen. Then you could buy comprehensive coverage and skip the collision insurance.

Insurance Fraud For Your Auto

Auto insurance fraud adds $200-$300 a year to your individual insurance premium, according to estimates from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). But that’s a paltry sum compared to its overall impact, because every business has to pay for insurance as well.

When fraud boosts their insurance rates, businesses have to charge you more for goods and services, according to the NICB. That means that not only consumer goods and insurance premiums, but taxes and anything else with a dollar sign in front of it are affected by insurance fraud.

Forms of Fraud

Auto insurance fraud is generally classified as “hard” or “soft.” Hard fraud, which involves staging or inventing an event that would be covered by insurance, includes:

  • Staged accidents, such as an intentional rear-end collision
  • Phony injury claims, where criminals lie about trauma sustained in an accident
  • “Jump-Ins” — inventing injuries to people who were not in the vehicle at the time of the accident
  • Claiming a one-car accident was a hit-and-run

An increasingly common scam that has proliferated along with the number of people who are upside downon their car loans is “owner give-up.” A policy holder secretly abandons their car, possibly by dumping it in a lake or even paying an arsonist to torch it, and then reports it stolen. If the insurer pays out, the policy holder can pay off their car loan without damaging their credit rating.

Staged accidents are the most harmful type of insurance fraud for the average driver, as a victim of a staged accident could be injured or killed. Even if the victim was not at fault, their premiums may rise or their policy could be cancelled. They can also lose wages and be bogged down in an endless chain of claims paperwork and vehicle repairs.

Soft fraud, also known as “build up,” is more opportunistic, involving policy holders who pad an otherwise legitimate claim. They may:

  • Add previous damage to a current claim
  • Conspire with a body shop and/or claims adjuster to pad a repair estimate
  • Conspire with doctors to obtain unnecessary medical treatments

So it’s not just the policy holders who participate in auto insurance fraud. Organized fraud rings have become a major national problem, and can include dishonest doctors and lawyers, auto mechanics, even insurance salespeople.

Funding the Fight

The nation’s property/casualty insurers have created special investigative units (SIUs) to fight insurance fraud, and many states have dedicated bureaus and specific laws and regulations to combat fraud. While this all sounds good, the sophisticated systems designed to protect insurance companies (and their customers) from fraud can also take a toll on the policy holder who’s filing a claim.

“We don’t want to go out with the attitude that our policy holder is lying,” says Peter Van Patten, a director for Nationwide Insurance’s Claims SIU. “But if there’s a red flag that comes up — like the law enforcement agency thinks it’s not legitimate, or there’s reasonable cause to believe that it’s not, we’ll get an opinion from legal…and if things build up, we have to make a referral to the state insurance fraud bureau.”

A claim flagged as potentially fraudulent takes longer to settle because it has to be investigated, according to Victoria Kilgore, director of research at the Insurance Research Council. While a claim is under investigation, an insurance company can request medical or police records. Meanwhile, the policy holder, who could be facing expensive medical and vehicle repair bills, waits for the insurer to reimburse him or his doctors. If the policy holder gets fed up waiting or is wrongly denied, Patten says, he can file a suit or take legal action. That’s a heavy financial and emotional burden, if you happen to be wrongly accused.

Car After a Natural Disaster

The night Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, Mandee Bellarosa and her roommates were hunkered down in their multilevel condominium in Hoboken, New Jersey. At 9 pm, the power went out, and shortly afterward they went to bed.

Bellarosa woke just two hours later when a friend called with bad news. Water was already entering his garage, where she had earlier parked her 2009 Volkswagen Jetta, hoping to keep it out of harm’s way. Despite the blackout, she could see that the streets below her windows were fast becoming rivers.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon that the water had receded enough for Bellarosa to venture outside, and even then it was a knee-deep trudge to check on the status of her car. The Jetta actually looked OK, but when she opened the driver’s door, water poured out.

Car shopping would probably be the last thing on your mind if you were caught in a natural disaster. But events like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or this year’s so-called Frankenstorm can destroy tens of thousands of cars in little more than the blink of an eye, leaving their owners no choice but to pick a replacement vehicle as they start to rebuild their lives.

Even a lesser calamity — a toppled oak or a deer leaping from a dark wood — can unexpectedly leave someone without wheels, while life continues forward at full speed.

In these situations, the last thing you want is any more stress or drama. With that in mind, here are a few basic strategies — from filing car insurance claims to car shopping — to get you back on the road as swiftly and painlessly as possible.

Determining if Your Car Insurance Covers Natural Disasters
You’ll want to establish what’s covered by your car insurance policy before making any big decisions. “If your car was damaged in [a storm like] Sandy, it is likely covered if you have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto insurance policy,” says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. Comprehensive coverage — which is sometimes known as “other than collision” insurance — “covers many things that could happen in a storm, including water or flood damage, falling objects including trees, signs and such, and wind damage,” he says.

People with newer cars usually have this coverage. But Hunter also advises those with older cars, who may be thinking of dropping collision from their policies, to “keep the usually much less costly comprehensive coverage.” It can be especially important if they live in areas prone to floods, high winds, earthquakes or other calamities.

“File your claim fast, as they are usually settled on a first-come, first-served basis,” he advises. This is critically important after a widespread disaster like Sandy, since insurers can quickly become overwhelmed with claims. Bellarosa, for instance, has gone weeks without a final settlement for her totaled Jetta despite almost daily calls to her adjuster.

Car Accident Claims

When Apple programmer Kit Cutler’s 2012 Ford Focus was slammed from behind by a silver Lexus, the hit was so hard that it shoved his car into the Honda Accord in front of him. Although no one was hurt in the accident, the driver of the silver Lexus drove off without providing insurance information to anyone. Cutler and the Accord’s driver exchanged insurance information, filed reports with the police and went home. The accident was only slightly more confusing to Cutler than the insurance claims process that came after.

That car insurance claims process baffles nearly everyone. “Most people only file a claim every eight to 10 years,” says Jeanne Salvatore, vice president for public affairs and consumer spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-supported, non-lobbying group dedicated to improving public understanding of insurance.

Cutler filed his claim by phone. “In that initial interview, the agent told me very quickly that I wasn’t at fault,” he says. Then she asked him questions about the accident and typed his answers into an online form. Cutler checked and verified the information.

“They go through it all very quickly, so you have to pay attention,” he says. “I hadn’t been in an accident before, and I didn’t know what was going on.”

This article explains what insurance companies are doing behind the scenes in the wake of an automotive mishap or collision. It also discusses what happens if you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Immediately After the Accident
If you’re involved in an accident, “The first thing to do is let your insurance company know you were in an accident and provide all the specifics of it,” Salvatore says. “From the second of the accident, keep good records.” Use your smartphone (or keep a notebook in your glovebox) and write down the time, date, plate number, make and model of their car, their registration information, license number, name, insurance company and contact information.

If the police are on the scene, Salvatore says, take their names and badge numbers. Get the names of any witnesses and note whether emergency medical personnel were called. “Photos are helpful. Take pictures of the car and the license plate,” she says. “If the claim is straightforward, you may not need any of it, but if a problem occurs, you need all the information possible.” Again, with the prevalence of smartphones these days, this is all quite easy to do.

From filing the claim to resolving it, every insurance company’s methods are different. However, the essentials of the process are fairly standard. You’ll only see part of the process, though. All negotiations between insurance companies about payments and reimbursements will be carried on behind the scenes.

Filing Your Claim
As with Cutler’s case, it’s standard for your insurance carrier to call soon after you report an accident. During that call, “We’ll match the person to their policy, determine what happened in the accident, find out about any injuries, the extent of damage to both vehicles and get some demographic information,” says Mike Flato, a process business leader for Progressive Insurance. “We’ll make sure everyone is OK; if not, what happened and then who’ll handle the medical claims.”

After a claim is filed, your insurance company assigns you a claims adjustor, who is your contact from then on. Adjustors coordinate teams that look at medical reports, investigate the accident, speak with witnesses, view the scene, examine the vehicle damage, manage all the repairs and any medical treatments, check all coverages (how much your policy pays for medical injuries and property damages) and ultimately determine fault.

Companies Use Facebook for Claims Investigations

In the hours after a car accident, filing a claim with your auto insurance company is one of the first steps you should take. But auto insurance industry insiders say a smart second step is giving social media accounts the once-over to prevent all or part of that claim from being denied.

In the past five years, the use of social media has exploded within the insurance industry, says Frank Darras, an insurance attorney in Ontario, California, who represents plaintiffs in suits against insurance companies. Because social media Web sites provide a real-time examination of users’ lifestyles, insurance companies, claims adjusters and attorneys have begun to monitor and mine them as a valuable source of claims-investigation evidence. Insurers are reviewing information found on such social media sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Google Plus and Pinterest, and applying it to auto claims, says Chicago personal injury lawyer Michael Helfand.

“This happens all the time,” he says.

Facebook is used in almost every claim now, especially when there is an injury. “Checking social media accounts has become one of the first things an insurance company or adjuster will do when you file a claim,” adds Darras. Especially when any injuries stem from the accident.

Claims Investigation by Social Media
Part of the new claims-investigation process is for an adjuster, agent or insurance company to look for the Facebook, Twitter or other social media account of a person claiming bodily injury stemming from an accident, Helfand says. They’re looking for proof that the person is filing a fraudulent claim, he says.

If the part of your accident claim is for a back injury and you share post-accident pictures of you golfing, surfing or playing ball with the kids, your claim could be denied.

“Over the years, social media has killed a bunch of claims,” says Helfand.

“Almost every insurance company has a special investigation unit (SIU), and policyholders should work on the assumption that SIUs will look into questionable or fraudulent claims,” says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute.

“Mining social media for clues is one of the fastest-growing areas of insurance-fraud investigation,” says James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud in a report published in 2012.

While insurance adjusters or agents may not look into the social media accounts of every person who files a claim, they will definitely dig into social media if they have any reason to suspect a fraudulent claim.

“It’s simply part of the due diligence in investigating a case, because so many people are brazen or dumb enough to say one thing to an insurance adjuster while at the same time telling the world something else,” Helfand says. “It’s not unusual for a person to tell the adjuster and doctor how much their back hurts and then post photos from their softball league.

“Facebook and other social media sites have become a great tool for fighting claims because the ‘look at me’ nature of social media causes people to shoot themselves in the foot,” he says.

A claims adjuster will also stick directly to the language you use in the claim. If you report that you’re unable to lift more than 20 pounds, but a picture on social media shows you doing otherwise, Darras says you can expect the claim will be denied.

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.