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Years ago, sourcing insurance quotes was a long and time consuming process that required calling providers, or visiting their offices. Options were also limited by agents who were as likely to sell what was profitable instead of what was best for you, their client.
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Most families had one trusted agent on hand who would provide the bulk of the family’s insurance needs. Unfortunately, like an ice cream parlor with a single flavor, the old system of insurance shopping left few alternatives, especially if the insured lived in a smaller and less populated state or rural area.
The Good Old Days
Nowadays, you don’t have to take time off work or spend your few free evening hours entertaining your local insurance agent. You don’t have to spend hours on the phone either. Most often, you would end up relaying personal information to a secretary or clerk who would then leave the message for your agent. Then if you were lucky, your agent would call you back several hours or perhaps several days later and you’d finally have your one insurance quote.
In the past, even when your agent was conveniently able to visit with you in your home, he would spend precious hours sitting in your living room jotting down information and filling out forms. Your agent would proceed to drink your coffee and eat the requisite cookies or cake you had stored in your pantry for just this special occasion.
Finally, when it was time to leave you would hear him say, “Well, I’ll have to run the numbers by our carriers. I can get back to you with a quote in a few days.” Most of us are pretty glad that those days have passed!
The Internet Is for Everyone
In the last decade Internet usage and e-commerce has exploded exponentially. According to research conducted by the web-hosting site Pingdom, the number of Internet users has grown from 361 million in 2000 to over 2 billion today! In the United States alone, more than 80% of the population, some 240 million people not only have access to, but also use the Internet on a regular basis!
Today, the Internet offers almost every American the opportunity to shop quickly, conveniently, and effortlessly online.
Now, when we shop on the Internet, we have more choices than ever before! Anyone within reach of a computer can shop and compare quotes instantly online. Local, regional, and national companies can compete head-to-head for your business.
This new business model creates stiff competition and competition among auto insurers means better coverage, better prices, and better service for you! On average, car insurance rates have been steadily dropping over the last several years.
Prices Are Dropping
According to a 2012 study by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an average car insurance policy in 2005 cost about $832 per year. By 2009, the last year that statistics were available, that same typical policy cost only $785, which is a drop of 6%.
The percentage of a typical family’s income that was required to purchase car insurance also dropped during these years. So not only is car insurance cheaper, but we have more money left in our family budgets to buy other goods and services.
Prices for most other items have increased in recent years, but not car insurance!
The increased costs for medical services and manufactured goods such as auto parts have made it more necessary than ever to shop wisely for car insurance. While car insurance rates may have dropped, the average motorist is well advised to buy enough coverage to protect his family in the event of a motor vehicle accident.
Car Insurance Customers Already Shop Online
J.D. Power and Associates recent insurance shopping survey, discovered that more than half of car insurance shoppers, 52%, began their search for a new policy online.
More than a third of all car insurance shoppers stated their preference for buying car insurance online as well. In addition, J.D. Power determined that 73% of car insurance shoppers browse at least one insurance carrier’s website. It was also determined that shoppers looking for the best deals on car insurance will visit one or more informational and comparison websites as well.
Comparison sites allow consumers to compare the rates and coverage of all available companies instantly! This kind of side-by-side comparison-shopping gives consumers the opportunity to compare the offerings from a number of companies quickly, make informed decisions, and most importantly, save money!
The new J.D. Power study also found that 32% of car insurance shoppers get quotations and other information only from the Internet. An equal number of consumers told the Power survey team that they prefer to buy their auto policies online.
With the convenience of shopping online, consumers can enjoy the benefits of visiting a comparison website, obtain information, select a company, and purchase a policy in just one Internet session. Comparison websites also offer the opportunity to chat with a live agent who can quickly give you answers to questions you may not have been able to find on your own.
Most insurance websites also provide consumers the opportunity to receive a callback from a licensed local insurance agent. This is especially helpful for insurance shoppers who would rather take their time investigating their car insurance options and prefer to deal with a local representative.
Switching Insurance Companies
One of the findings of the recent J.D. Power survey is that the number of consumers looking for a new insurance company has reached a five-year low. Only one fourth of existing customers considered shopping for a new car insurance carrier in the last year. Of the customers who did search for a new company however, 43% ended up switching!
While there is still money to be saved by switching carriers, the rewards are less than they were in the past, partly because of the thousands who have already switched companies in the last decade, when national companies first started promoting their services on the Internet. Those who switched companies in 2011 saved on average $359 on their car insurance premiums.
In 2010, customers saved an average of $412 by switching auto insurance providers.
While there are still significant savings opportunities available for car insurance customers willing to switch companies, the decreasing numbers of those who are looking suggest that company and brand loyalty may be on the rise.
To keep customers aware of their auto policy services, insurers are spending more and more of their budget dollars on advertising, 2011 saw a 12% increase. A similar increase is expected for 2012.
The Importance of Websites
In addition to their annual insurance shopping and insurance customer satisfaction surveys, J.D. Power and Associates initiated a new study this year surveying customers’ reactions and responses to insurance companies’ websites.
According to this new study, websites are tremendously important and insurance companies may be quickly judged on how easy their sites are to navigate and use. A well designed and user friendly website can be the key to attracting new business and keeping existing clients satisfied and comfortable.
On the other hand, websites that are seen as unfriendly and difficult to navigate can potentially cause a consumer to shop elsewhere. The Power survey shows that consumers who are turned off by an insurance provider’s site will pass the word on to their friends, family, and other associates.
The insurance shopping study by J.D. Power also indicated that companies have responded to customer demands for more specialty type policies as well as a quicker and more convenient shopping experience.
Customer satisfaction and brand loyalty have both risen in the past few years. Overall, the level of satisfaction for car insurance customers rose 1.5% in the last year and is now at its highest level since the annual survey began in 2000. Power recorded an average of 804 points on their scale out of a possible 1,000. Of the most highly rated companies, several strictly online insurers stand out. Among them are GEICO, Progressive, and Esurance.
The J.D. Power “Five Star” winner for 2012 is the Hartford with an average point score of 857.
Consumer Reports advises its readers to check rates each year to make sure you get the best deals. They do admit that if you’ve been with the same auto company for a number of years, it may be difficult to beat the rates you’re already getting.
Of those who responded to the Consumer Reports survey, 60% indicated that they had been with the same carrier for 10 or more years. Insurance companies are known to reward long-term customers who are accident free with the lowest possible rates.
Even with this sound advice, CR found that the majority of consumers, 75% to be exact, have not shopped for better rates. Of those who did, many consumers stopped short checking in with only one or two providers.
By comparison shopping online, you’ll always find the best available rates, so use the FREE tool on this page!