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You’ve taken the first step by shopping for the cheapest car insurance quotes available. Now that you have some offers to compare how do you proceed? What do you look for when deciding between quotes from different car insurance companies?
As a smart consumer, you probably know there are two kinds of cheap car insurance — the good kind, that offers safe coverage at a competitive price, and the not-so-good kind, that achieves its low price at the expense of protecting you when you need it most. Let’s take a look at how to compare cheap car insurance quotes to ensure you get good coverage at a great price — the best kind of “cheap” car insurance there is!
Comparing Policy Limits for Cheap Car Insurance
All car insurance policies offer two levels of coverage: compulsory insurance mandated by each state, and optional insurance offering additional protection beyond state minimum requirements. Most everyone you turn to, from consumer advisory groups to the the insurance industry to your trusted friends and relatives, will strongly advise you to buy coverage well beyond minimum state requirements in order to protect your hard-earned assets in the event of a serious accident. Heed their advice, because all it takes is one serious at-fault accident to put you at risk of losing everything.
Compulsory car insurance limits vary from state to state, but it’s safe to assume that, whatever state you live in, these limits will need to be supplemented. Some typical car insurance you’re required to buy includes liability coverage in the event of bodily injury to others, property damage and damage caused by an uninsured car and driver. In each case, minimum requirements usually fall far short of today’s real costs, especially with respect to the sky-rocketing expense of medical and rehabilitative care for accident victims.
To take an example, compulsory coverage for bodily injury to others in Massachusetts, equipped with excellent hospitals and medical care, is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. This provides nowhere near what the real cost of medical expenses would be for a typical serious accident. Therefore, when comparing cheap car insurance quotes, look at how much additional optional coverage is offered for bodily injury to others first and foremost. All quotes should offer the same amounts per person and per accident, and most experts recommend these limits be well into six figures to adequately protect you from financial ruin. Then, compare limits for other categories and ensure that any additional optional coverage is adequate to today’s real costs, and that all quotes offer the same coverage limits. If you find differences, calculate how these variations relate to the quoted prices. It’s easy for an insurer to give a low-ball quote by reducing available limits and coverage, but you need to determine if this is the the kind of cheap insurance you would really feel comfortable with.
Comparing Deductibles: Lower Rates or Lower Out-of-Pocket Expenses?
Make sure all quotes have the same deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverage. Many insurers and financial advisors recommend increasing your deductible — the out-of-pocket amount you must pay before insurance coverage kicks in — as a way to lower monthly insurance premiums. This can be a great idea, but you must be prepared to come up with the deductible very quickly in the event of an accident. Do you have money in an emergency savings account? Then perhaps this is a good idea, because increasing your deductible from $250 to $500 or even $1000 can save hundreds of dollars a year off your premium. If you don’t want the threat of a sudden, large out-of-pocket expense, then a lower deductible may your preference, even if it means higher monthly premiums.
Compare Available Discounts
After making a thorough comparison of policy limits and deductibles, take a close look at available car insurance discounts. Make sure all quotes offer the same percentage discount for typical items such as anti-theft devices, passive restraints and low annual mileage if these apply, as well as “good student” or “student away at college” coverage if you have a young driver on your policy. If you find differences in the percentage discounts offered, or any lack of discount for certain categories, factor these in to your comparison of cheap car insurance quotes.
Now, investigate any additional discounts you may easily become eligible for. For example, many insurers will offer an additional percentage discount if you buy more than one policy from them, such as insurance for a second car or a homeowner’s policy. Another popular discount is for AAA membership. Since AAA membership is inexpensive and offers towing and other benefits, many people maintain AAA basic or premium membership for years and find that the annual fee pays for itself through insurance discounts as well as savings on breakdown and towing expenses.
Compare Customer Service and Customer Satisfaction Ratings
To complete your comparison of cheap car insurance quotes, look beyond the numbers for a moment. If you’ve found a few companies with the right price and policy coverage to meet your needs, investigate the services and perks they offer, as well as about their reputations. Do they offer accident forgiveness for your first at-fault accident? Are their respective reputations for handling claims highly rated? Do they each have a consumer-friendly assessment and repair process for damaged vehicles? What guarantees are available for repairs done to your car by insurer-approved auto repair shops?
The time you spend investigating these questions can sometimes reveal an obvious choice for you, and help you make the final decision about which cheap car insurance quote really offers what you want. As with any other major purchase, the more you as a consumer research your available options, the more likely you will be to find cheap car insurance that meets your needs and brings peace of mind.