Category Archives: Insurance

How to Switching Car Insurance

Could you save hundreds of dollars by switching your car insurance? It is a question worth asking yourself at least once a year. By doing a little research now, you may be able to find a comparable insurance plan at a better rate with another company, and save money. But you have to make sure you take the appropriate steps to switch, because you don’t want to have a lapse in coverage.

Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president at the Insurance Information Institute in New York, suggests asking yourself if you’re happy with the cost, coverage and service of your current policy each time it comes up for renewal. “If the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes,’ then stay with them. But if you’re not sure, it’s a good opportunity to shop around,” she says.

Here are four key steps to take when it comes to switching car insurance:

1. Review your current driving situation.
Take note of your driving circumstances as well as the needs of other drivers in your household. Do you have a newer model car? Do you commute several miles each week to work? Do you have recent traffic tickets?

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), your potential new insurance company may ask you all of these questions as part of the underwriting process. You’ll also likely be asked about the number of drivers on the policy, your driver license information, and the insurance coverage and limits you’d like to purchase.

Take a look at your existing auto insurance policy. Knowing what you currently have will make it easier to create apples-to-apples comparisons with the rates you receive from different insurers. An easy way to do this is to study your current policy’s declarations page, says Vaughn Graham, president of Rich and Cartmill insurance company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The declarations page describes the insurance you have, including the amount of coverage as well as coverage limits, and the amount of your deductible,” he says. When you’re more informed about your current coverage, it can help you become a smarter shopper.

2. Shop around.
Once you’re familiar with your current policy, it’s time to look for alternatives. A good first call is to your current insurance agent or the insurance company itself (some insurers, such as Geico and Progressive don’t work with agents). Even if you’re not happy with your existing policy (if you think the premiums are too expensive, for example), ask if there are ways to lower your rate for the same amount of coverage, says Salvatore. You may be eligible to receive discounts you’re not getting.

Here’s a list of common insurance company discounts, according to the NAIC:

  • Having safety devices in the car, such as anti-theft features
  • Having a good driving record
  • Driving a low number of miles a year
  • Having multiple cars on the same policy
  • Being a student who gets good grades
  • Insuring both your home and car with the same provider

While you’re reviewing discounts, be aware that switching to a new provider could affect discounts you already have with other types of insurance. For example, if you’re already getting a homeowner’s and car-policy rate reduction from your current provider, and you then move your car insurance to a different company, you may lose the discount you receive for homeowner’s insurance. It may make more financial sense to stay where you are, or switch both policies to a new provider that will give you a rate reduction for both.

Find the Right Insurance Company

unduhan-20If you’ve read our “10 Steps to Buying Insurance” article, you should have a pretty good idea of how much car insurance to buy and how to find a low-cost policy. But how do you make sure that the company you sign on with is going to be reliable? When we say “reliable,” we’re talking about how the insurer treats you, the customer. Most importantly, how will the company deal with you when you file a claim?

To help answer this question, we consulted two insurance experts: Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) and a retired insurance adjuster, and Doug Heller, a consumer advocate at The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, a California-based consumer advocacy group. Both had several ideas for consumers determined to make sure their car insurance investment is directed toward a trustworthy company, one that will pay on time and in full.

1) Visit your state’s department of insurance Web site. Although you may not be familiar with it, your state, and every state, has a department of insurance. Most departments have Web sites, and many publish “consumer complaint ratios” for all of the insurance companies that sell policies in their state. This ratio tells you how many complaints a car insurance company received per 1,000 claims filed.

Both experts recommended that consumers use complaint ratios to screen prospective insurers. “Just because they’re a big name doesn’t mean that they’ll be a ‘good neighbor’ or that you’ll be ‘in their hands,'” Heller noted.

If you’ve done your homework, you should already have a list of car insurance companies with the lowest premium quotes. Now jot down the companies with the lowest (or best) complaint ratios. Then, compare your two lists — the companies that rank best on both lists merit your strongest consideration.

If you can’t find complaint ratios for your state, Heller recommends examining the complaint ratios published by other states. Keep in mind that a single insurance company’s practices can vary significantly from state to state — a subpar ratio in one state doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is the same in your state. But watch for general trends. If an insurer is getting a lot of complaints in several other states, you probably don’t want to get involved with this company. The I-CAN Web site provides links and contact information for every state’s department of insurance.

Also note that insurance department Web sites often provide basic rate comparison surveys. These can give you a rough idea of which insurers might interest you on a financial basis without the hassle of typing in all your personal information (as you must when you use one of the online quote sites).

2) Find out which insurers body shops recommend. One of the best ways to identify reliable insurers, according to Howard, is to contact local body shops that you trust and ask for their recommendations. Body shop managers have a unique perspective to offer, since they regularly interact with insurance adjusters. They know which companies have the smoothest claim processes, which affects how quickly the work can be completed on a damaged vehicle. And they know which companies are pushing aftermarket parts, in lieu of genuine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, to cut costs.

3) Check the J.D. Power Ratings. J.D. Power and Associates collects data from individual policyholders nationwide and rates them according to coverage options, price, claims handling, satisfaction with company representatives and the overall experience. A quick visit to the J.D. Power Consumer Center will give you a feel for how the major carriers stack up. J.D. Power also publishes an annual survey of major auto insurers — Amica and Erie have finished at the top for the last three years. These are also companies that Howard recommends: “Erie is sold by independent agents, who are very knowledgeable about the product. I like their claims handling approach. Almost all other companies look at a claim and find a way to not pay it. Erie and Amica will look at it and try to find a way to cover it.”

4) Consider insurers’ financial strength ratings. As a final check, you can take a look at the A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s ratings. Both companies publish financial strength ratings for all insurance companies — these “measure” an insurance company’s ability to pay out a claim (they have nothing to do with the way a company treats its customers).

Car Insurance Policies That You Should To Know Before

Chances are, car insurance wasn’t the first thing you thought of after the proposal. In fact, you might not have thought about how marriage might affect your car insurance rates at all. But after the decorations have been cleared and honeymoon adventures logged, you’ll want to consider adding “check on combining car insurance policies” to your newlywed to-do list. Car insurance is usually cheaper for married couples — with a few important caveats.

No Matter What, You’ll Likely Save
Even if you do absolutely nothing, the sheer fact of being married is likely to have a positive impact on your rates once your policy is up for review. The Zebra, a car insurance comparison engine and digital auto insurance agency, projects a premium savings of 10-12 percent when all other factors remain the same.

Why is this the case? According to Frankie Kuo, an auto insurance specialist at Value Penguin, “Insurers find married people less likely to file a claim compared to single drivers of comparable profile, and so consider them less risky to insure.”

When Combining Policies Makes Sense
To nab an even steeper discount, consider combining your car and your beloved’s in a single policy. This makes the most sense if you both have spotless driving records and no recent gaps in insurance coverage, Esurance explains.

Remember, too, that in addition to lower rates, having two cars on the same policy can often earn you multi-car discounts from insurers. Moreover, even if your household only has one vehicle, you can still earn discounts for sharing a policy.

“Even if a family only has one car, we would still recommend a single policy that would cover both drivers, since it ensures that both drivers are insured without incurring the extra cost of a second policy,” says Eric Madia, vice president of product for Esurance.

Finally, combining your auto insurance policy with existing homeowners’ or renters’ policies from the same company could lead to even greater discounts overall.

Take a Combined Policy Test-Drive
Many factors shape one’s insurance premium, and driving is only one of them. In some states, insurance companies use credit scores as one element in determining rates. So you may have some choices to make, based on your separate driving and financial histories.

For example, what if your spouse has a decent driving record but a poor credit score? Or what if you’re a great money manager, but your lead foot has recently scored you a speeding ticket?

You should first get a quote for adding your spouse to your insurance or vice versa, says Jean-Marie Lovett, president of independent insurance agency MassDrive Insurance Group in Boston. Asking for a quote doesn’t obligate you to follow through with the change. (If your spouse is a champion speeding-ticket holder, however, you might have to list him or her as an excluded driver in your household. More on that in a moment.) Lovett says it’s a good practice to first get quotes for two drivers on one policy.

If putting the policies together does not help you save on the premium, you can just list your spouse on your policy and defer them to their own individual insurance, Lovett says.

When it comes to credit scores, one of the smartest things you can do is place the person with the best credit score as the primary named insured. “Their credit is the one that will be portrayed to the insurance company,” Lovett notes, “and will be the credit score that the insurance company will rate off of.”

Keep in mind this is only true in states where it’s legal to use credit scores as a rating factor. Some states, such as Massachusetts and California, do not permit the practice. In that case, Lovett explains, the person with the best driving record should be the primary insured.

Still unsure on whether to combine policies? It can help to know the value of your cars. “Maybe your spouse has a good driving record,” Lovett says, “but a junker of a car.”

Credit Insurance When You Buy a Car

For most of us, buying a car is the second largest financial transaction we’ll make, next to buying a home. And we’re likely to get loans to finance our car purchase. In the fourth quarter of 2014, 84 percent of new cars purchased were financed, according to Experian Automotive.

If you’re financing your car purchase through a dealership, it’s also likely that the finance and insurance manager will offer you warranty and insurance products, such as an extended warranty, gap insurance or tire-and-wheel protection. The F&I manager might also offer credit protection, which is meant to cover your car payments should you be unable to pay them yourself because of layoff, injury, illness or death.

The most venerable of these products, with an almost 100-year history, is credit insurance. Consumer groups have long been leery of credit insurance products, which are offered not just for cars, but also for credit cards and other consumer loans. Often, the consumer groups contend, the products are expensive and unnecessary. Further, there have been instances of lenders forcing the credit insurance on consumers.

“It’s often very expensive when you compare it to the benefits,” says Chris Kukla, senior vice president with the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focusing on consumer lending, based in Durham, North Carolina. Further, he says, the credit insurance policies are “riddled with exclusions.”

Payout rates (the premium dollars paid compared with the amount paid out in claims) are typically low. That’s because the money is going to commissions, he says.

There are some decent providers of credit insurance, such as credit unions, Kukla says, but it’s tough for consumers to know which products are worthwhile and which ones are rip-offs. To protect themselves, potential buyers should look for coverage they can afford that specifically addresses their financial concerns and which comes from a reputable insurer. The insurance department in your state is the place to check in order to see that the company is licensed and legitimate, says automotive expert Lauren Fix.

The three most common types of credit insurance coverage are:

Credit life: This pays off all or some of your loan if you die during the time you’re covered.
Credit disability: Pays on the loan if you become ill or injured and can’t work during the time you’re covered. It’s also sometimes called credit accident and health insurance.
Credit involuntary unemployment: Pays a specified number of monthly loan payments if you lose your job through no fault of your own, such as in a layoff, during the coverage term. It’s also known as “involuntary loss of income” insurance.

None of these coverages is required with a car loan. You can’t be denied credit if you say no to a credit insurance offer, Kukla says.

Payment Protection: A Newer Product
A more recent type of credit protection is called debt protection, which might also go by such names as debt cancellation, debt suspension or payment protection. Federal law allows national banks, most state-chartered banks and credit unions to offer this benefit without involving an insurer. The bank or credit union fills that role.

The Right Insurance Company

If you’ve read our “10 Steps to Buying Insurance” article, you should have a pretty good idea of how much car insurance to buy and how to find a low-cost policy. But how do you make sure that the company you sign on with is going to be reliable? When we say “reliable,” we’re talking about how the insurer treats you, the customer. Most importantly, how will the company deal with you when you file a claim?

To help answer this question, we consulted two insurance experts: Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) and a retired insurance adjuster, and Doug Heller, a consumer advocate at The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, a California-based consumer advocacy group. Both had several ideas for consumers determined to make sure their car insurance investment is directed toward a trustworthy company, one that will pay on time and in full.

1) Visit your state’s department of insurance Web site. Although you may not be familiar with it, your state, and every state, has a department of insurance. Most departments have Web sites, and many publish “consumer complaint ratios” for all of the insurance companies that sell policies in their state. This ratio tells you how many complaints a car insurance company received per 1,000 claims filed.

Both experts recommended that consumers use complaint ratios to screen prospective insurers. “Just because they’re a big name doesn’t mean that they’ll be a ‘good neighbor’ or that you’ll be ‘in their hands,'” Heller noted.

If you’ve done your homework, you should already have a list of car insurance companies with the lowest premium quotes. Now jot down the companies with the lowest (or best) complaint ratios. Then, compare your two lists — the companies that rank best on both lists merit your strongest consideration.

If you can’t find complaint ratios for your state, Heller recommends examining the complaint ratios published by other states. Keep in mind that a single insurance company’s practices can vary significantly from state to state — a subpar ratio in one state doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is the same in your state. But watch for general trends. If an insurer is getting a lot of complaints in several other states, you probably don’t want to get involved with this company. The I-CAN Web site provides links and contact information for every state’s department of insurance.

Also note that insurance department Web sites often provide basic rate comparison surveys. These can give you a rough idea of which insurers might interest you on a financial basis without the hassle of typing in all your personal information (as you must when you use one of the online quote sites).

2) Find out which insurers body shops recommend. One of the best ways to identify reliable insurers, according to Howard, is to contact local body shops that you trust and ask for their recommendations. Body shop managers have a unique perspective to offer, since they regularly interact with insurance adjusters. They know which companies have the smoothest claim processes, which affects how quickly the work can be completed on a damaged vehicle. And they know which companies are pushing aftermarket parts, in lieu of genuine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, to cut costs.

3) Check the J.D. Power Ratings. J.D. Power and Associates collects data from individual policyholders nationwide and rates them according to coverage options, price, claims handling, satisfaction with company representatives and the overall experience. A quick visit to the J.D. Power Consumer Center will give you a feel for how the major carriers stack up. J.D. Power also publishes an annual survey of major auto insurers — Amica and Erie have finished at the top for the last three years. These are also companies that Howard recommends: “Erie is sold by independent agents, who are very knowledgeable about the product. I like their claims handling approach. Almost all other companies look at a claim and find a way to not pay it. Erie and Amica will look at it and try to find a way to cover it.”