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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Finding and comparing car insurance rates can be a daunting task for many people. There is a wealth of information available from multiple sources, and it can be hard to determine where to start, and how to proceed. However, all it takes is a little research and forethought to make sure that you compare car insurance costs properly to get the best rate and the best policy.
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Many Americans will spend tens of thousands of dollars on car insurance over their lifetime. If you end up paying too much for car insurance, even by a little bit, it can really add up! Just follow the simple steps below to make sure you are an educated car insurance consumer.
Defining Your Car Insurance Needs
The first step towards finding and comparing the best available rates for car insurance is to understand exactly what you need. Not all car insurance is equal, and the rate that you will pay is largely determined by the coverage and options that you choose.
The first thing you should know is the level of coverage that is legally required by your state. You can find this with an online search or by contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is very important because these requirements can vary widely from state to state.
Some states require only liability coverage. Liability coverage covers any damage incurred on another’s vehicle or property that occurs because of your accident. This protects other drivers, but it does not cover damage to your own vehicle any injuries you might incur.
Collision coverage covers the damages and repairs to your own vehicle because of an accident. Comprehensive coverage protects you in the event of other, non-collision damage to your vehicle, such as vandalism or hitting an animal.
Most states require at least some level of liability insurance, and many require collision as well. Although you must satisfy the minimum requirements of your state, you can also procure more insurance. In fact, this is usually recommended, as the required minimums may be insufficient for most serious accidents or claims. This additional coverage may take the form of a higher level of coverage, or additional plan options (such as uninsured motorist coverage).
Finding Car Insurance Companies
The number of options for car insurance companies can be overwhelming. In addition to large national companies, there are many auto insurers that operate regionally. Just comparing the prices of these insurers may not give you all the information you need to make a sound decision. You will want to first narrow the field of potential car insurers by looking at several other factors as well.
One way to find solid, reputable car insurance companies is to investigate consumer reviews.
Organizations such as J.D. Power and Associates and A.M. Best regularly conduct reviews and rankings of major car insurance companies. They will evaluate companies on major criteria including value, customer service, ease of claims, and more. Their reports are a great source of unbiased information.
Smaller local and regional companies may not be included on major market consumer reporting sites. The best way to find out about these companies is to reach out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers to learn about their auto insurance experiences. Once you have identified some companies that you are interested in, you can check with the Better Business Bureau to view if they have had any customer complaints.
Comparing Car Insurance Policies
Many consumers make the mistake of looking only at price when they compare car insurance companies. While price is certainly important, there are other factors to consider. In fact, choosing a bargain basement priced policy may end up costing you a lot in the long run!
You should carefully consider the level of coverage that is being offered for the premium price. This means the max amount that is covered.
Polices may provide coverage for damages up to $100,000, $250,000, $1 million, etc. Be realistic about the level of coverage you may need if you are involved in a serious accident.
Be sure to also review your potential deductible for all scenarios, including collision, liability, bodily injury, etc. You should make sure that you are comfortable with the deductible payment in the worst-case scenario.
You will also want to carefully review to insure that there are no gaps in coverage. Does the policy protect you from weather damage, vandalism, or an accident with an uninsured motorist? Don’t feel daunted if you are not totally familiar with all of the ins and outs of auto insurance. The Insurance Information Institute has a wealth of resources and information for auto insurance buyers.
Don’t be afraid to call insurance companies or agents and ask questions about policy and coverage details. Any company that is truly interested in gaining your business should be happy to help. In fact, if you feel like an insurer is hard to reach or is not sufficiently answering your questions, which probably says a lot about what your experience as their customer would be!
Things to Look for in Your Car Insurance Company
Choosing your car insurance company can be a personal choice, and your specific “wish list” of features and amenities will be unique. However, there are several major factors that every insurance purchaser should consider.
First, you will want to look at the customer service of your insurer.
Remember, a low premium won’t do you much good if you can’t get a hold of a representative and you are unable to have your claim processed!
Read reviews and talk to current customers specifically about their customer service experience.
Also, make sure to ask potential insurers questions about the percentage of claims accepted vs. denied and circumstances surrounding them. Some insurers have a bad reputation for denying most claims as a matter of course, which necessitates a potentially long and drawn out appeals process. You will want to feel comfortable that your insurer will accommodate reasonable claims.
Finally, you may want to do a quick search into the ownership and financial background of the company. Generally, it is a benefit to do business with an insurer that has been established for a long time and that is in a stable financial position. This means that you are less likely to have flux or increases in your policy.
Getting the Best Deal on Car Insurance
Some factors that influence your car insurance are out of your control and cannot be changed. These include the make and model of your vehicle, your driving record, the town and state in which you live, and your age and sex. All of these are components of your risk profile. An insurer will review these factors to determine how likely you are to be involved in an accident or make an insurance claim.
However, there are also factors that affect your car insurance rate that are within your control. You can choose to bundle your auto insurance with another policy, such as your homeowner’s insurance, in order to get a discount.
Alternatively, you can check with any organizations you belong to, such as AAA or professional groups, to see if they offer any discount programs with auto insurers.
Your deductible will also play a part in determining how much you pay for car insurance. If you can afford to set a higher deductible, your premium is likely to be lower. However, if you know you will have a hard time affording an out-of-pocket cost in the event of an accident, you may opt for a lower deductible. This will give you peace of mind that you won’t be hit with a large expense in the event of an accident. However, you will pay a higher monthly premium as a result.
Maintaining the Lowest Car Insurance Rates
Your work isn’t done once you get a good deal on car insurance! Your next challenge will be to maintain, or even improve upon, your low rates. You can do this in several ways.
Many insurers offer special programs for premium or deductible reductions. You may qualify for a discount if you install a car alarm or an anti-theft locator device. You could also be rewarded for taking a safe driving class or, if you are a student, maintaining good grades. Of course, keeping a clean driving record and avoiding collisions and tickets can help to lower your premium over time as well.
You should also keep tabs of how much you drive. Some auto insurance companies offer special perks for low-mileage or infrequent drivers. To get this discount, it may require having a special tool installed in your vehicle to track and report your driving habits to the insurance company.
There’s no need to be daunted by the challenge of finding and comparing car insurance costs. By planning and doing your research, you can be confident that you’ll land a great rate with just the right auto insurance partner!
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