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Meet the Bells- USAA insurance

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Advertising, Research Last Updated: 08/31/2011

USAA tries to make insurance out to be a family heirloom just like an antique that is passed from one generation to the other.



Commercial opens with three generations of what we assume are the Bell family men sitting at the kitchen table. Grandpa is putting his hat from his army uniform onto his grandson with a smiling dad looking on.

Narrator: Often passed down from generation to generation. USAA auto insurance is more than just insurance; it’s a family heirloom.

Narrator is speaking as we see more of the Bell family together along. Screen introduces us to Mike Bell (the smiling father from the first scene) and informs us that Mike is a “2nd Generation USAA Member”.

Narrator: Begin your legacy, get a quote. USAA, we know what it means to serve.

Point of the Commercial

USAA is very much playing on the emotional aspect of family ties and tradition. They show a happy family that spends time together, served in the military and looks to be financially stable. USAA ties all of this together with the fact that this family has multiple generations insured with them.

As USAA is a specialized insurance company that the general public cannot access they are speaking directly to military and their families. For military personnel, their main source of support is their family which makes sense why USAA is playing up on the solidarity of the family (even when making insurance choices).

You may argue the point that family is the source of support for most people. You would be right, but for military personnel that need for the support is stronger. To understand think about this, who needs their families support more; the people that live in the same town as multiple generations of their family or the soldier that is deployed overseas?

What the Insurance Company Wants You to Do

They want you to switch to them or even stay with them, regardless of cost, because it is a family tradition for some families. They want your family to be just like the Bells with multiple generations insured with USAA.

My Opinion

Please don’t mistake my dislike for this commercial as a dislike for the military. USAA has put out many other commercials that I like, but this one is not one of them. I strongly disagree that you should be loyal to an insurance company just because your parents were.

Insurance is NOT a family heirloom; it is something that has to fit you and your situation individually.

Sorry, but I have to give this one a thumbs down.

Going Long to Show Nationwide’s Vanishing Deductible

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Advertising, Research Last Updated: 08/24/2011

Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. provide a demonstration on how Nationwide’s vanishing deductible program works.



Danica: We’re here to demonstrate how vanishing deductible from Nationwide Insurance works. (Looking at Dale) Now go long.

Dale takes off in a jog for a short distance.

Danica: With vanishing deductible you get 100 dollars off your deductible for signing up.

Dale (Stops running and turns around): Good?

Danica: Keep Going.

Dale runs a little farther.

Danica: Then for every year of safe driving it gets 100 dollars smaller.

Dale (stops running): How about now?

Danica: Little bit more. Until it could vanish completely.

Camera draws back and we see that Dale has now vanished.  Danica looks around calling for him.

Scene changes to Dale driving off in a car.

Dale: Looks like her ride home vanished too.

Point of the Commercial

Nationwide gets to plug two things in this commercial. One, they are using two well-known NASCAR drivers to give you a physical demonstration of how their vanishing deductible works. The vanishing deductible program is their latest gimmick to get new customers so they want to make sure you really understand how it works.

As silly as it sounds, most people are visual learners and this commercial really does help drive the point home on how it works.

Two, Nationwide is a huge sponsor of NASCAR. With the commercial using drivers that even people who know nothing about NASCAR can recognize and also shooting the commercial on a racing track; Nationwide is plugging NASCAR also.

What the Insurance Company Wants You to Do

At the end of the commercial the screen has the company’s phone number and also the phone number is in the jingle at the end. Obviously, they want you to call them for a quote about this vanishing deductible program that they have. The phone call is the key here, there is no emphasis on a website or contacting a local agent, they want you to call them directly.

My Opinion

Even if you aren’t a fan of NASCAR, you have to admit that it is fun to watch these two drivers in this commercial together. There is a fun onscreen chemistry with them and they each get the best of each other while making the point about the vanishing deductible.

Not only is it fun, it also balances out the sexism. Since they each get the better of the other one, there is no “one sex is better than the other”. This is especially nice to see since Danica is the only female NASCAR driver at this time.

I give it a thumbs up.

What Is a Claim in Auto Insurance?

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Definitions, Research Last Updated: 08/19/2011

What an insurance claim is, the process of an auto insurance claim, and what to do if there’s a problem with your auto insurance claim.

Insurance is nothing without claims.

Much can be said about the various nuances of insurance, but ultimately it all boils down to one thing: claims. Without claims, or at least the possibility of claims, there is no point to insurance. It is therefore an exceedingly important subject to consider when discussing any insurance topic.

Property and casualty insurance companies fully expect to spend two-thirds of their revenue on claims. They are required by law to keep large amounts of money on hand in reserves for the purpose of paying claims.

Claims are a big deal for any insurance company, auto insurance or otherwise; any company that doesn’t take claims seriously should be regarded with immediate suspicion.

Simply put, a claim is a notification of loss made by an insured to the insurance company. The insurance company then investigates the claim and assuming the claim is legitimate indemnifies the insured for the loss per the terms of the policy. It’s pretty straightforward, but there are certain steps that need to be taken to get to that all-important claim check.

The Auto Insurance Claims Process

Instructions to contact your insurance company are located on your auto insurance card you should carry in your vehicle at all times. Some companies will have you contact your agent, while others provided dedicated claims phone services. Contact your company as soon as possible after an accident.

Provide all the facts you can about the accident, including time, date, what vehicles were involved, extent of damage, if there were any injuries and if any law enforcement was called on the scene. Don’t worry if you can’t remember all that, the agent or claims representative will be able to help you.

Once the claim is reported it is assigned to a claims adjuster. The adjuster is either an insurance company employee or a contractor who specializes in investigating claims. A claims adjuster is never an agent. Indeed agents often have no direct contact with the claim itself after the initial report. Keep in contact with the adjuster for up to the minute reports. In addition, some companies now offer a special service that allows you to keep track of your vehicle while it’s being repaired.

After any deductibles the claim is paid in one of two ways, either directly to you as a cash payment or in services performed by the repair or auto body shop. Either way, the payment must be approved by the adjuster before the insurance company authorizes payment. Of course, if a cash payment is made the insurance company won’t pay to have the car fixed. You’re on you’re own with that.

Handling Disputes

If you are unable to resolve disputes with your adjuster, you can hire a third party adjuster for a second opinion of the damage. Lawyering up and going to arbitration or court should only be done in extreme cases after all other avenues are exhausted.

While a claims adjuster necessarily works for the insurance company, a good adjuster will work with you to give you the best claim settlement possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and check up on the work done throughout the process.

Can I Regularly Drive another Person’s Vehicle with No Insurance?

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Ask An Insurance Question, Research Last Updated: 08/21/2011

If you regularly drive a vehicle that you do not own it is still in your best interest to make sure there is insurance coverage in place.

Liability insurance coverage is required to drive in every state.

For example, in the state of Texas there has to be some evidence of insurance on the vehicle to avoid penalties. With their new TexasSure program it is the owner of the vehicle that is the one responsible for providing verification of insurance coverage.   

If you are driving a vehicle on a regular basis that is owned by someone else, insurance companies require that you be listed on their policy. If you are not listed and are a regular driver, they could deny coverage in the case of an accident.

If you are driving a vehicle and the owner of the vehicle does not  list you on their policy and refuses to give you any information in regard to the insurance coverage (if any) for the vehicle it would be wise to purchase a non-owner insurance policy.

A non-owner policy provides insurance coverage for you on any vehicle that you drive. You do not have to own a vehicle to be able to get this coverage and it is usually a very cheap policy.

Even if you are not the owner of the vehicle it is prudent for you to make sure that there is insurance in place. In some states both the driver of the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle will be ticketed for no insurance if there is an accident or the driver is pulled over.

Underwriting: The Rules of Auto Insurance

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Definitions, Research Last Updated: 08/18/2011

What underwriting is, why statistics drive it, how computerized underwriting streamlines the auto insurance buying process, and why underwriting fosters auto insurance competition.

Let computers do the underwriting. Life is less stressful. Really.

As with everything else, auto insurance has rules. One has to follow those rules in order to get the right policy issued to the right driver and the right vehicle to ensure both proper coverage and to keep the insurance company in the black at the same time.

But what are the rules?

This is a question that can confound even the sharpest of minds. Fortunately there is a method to know how the game is played: underwriting.

In a general sense, underwriting refers to the qualifying and pricing rules insurance goes by. Underwriters work in all forms of insurance: homeowners insurance, life insurance, renter’s insurance, commercial general liability insurance, you name it.

For auto insurance underwriting is dependent on literally thousands of variables regarding the auto, the driver and the conditions the auto is driven under, such as miles driven to work each day. All of these factors and more can not only determine if the auto and driver qualify for a policy to begin with, but also how much the premium will be.

Statistics Rule in Underwriting

Auto insurance underwriting is driven by statistics. The basic premise behind auto insurance pricing is that groups which cause the most accidents should pay the most in premium, while safer groups should pay less.

These experiences vary from company to company, but for the most part insurance companies agree that teenage drivers cost more than their older counterparts. Also,  Women are slightly less expensive to insure than men and people with tickets and claims cost more to insure than those with clean records. Insurance companies employ actuaries to crunch the numbers and back these claims up with hard facts.

Underwriting Goes Digital

Despite often complex variables, many auto insurance carriers are moving away from human underwriters and relying more and more on automated underwriting to allow for quicker policy issuance. In the past agents temporarily bound coverage when an application was written with final approval, or policy issuance, coming only when the policy was approved by an underwriter at the home office.

Today many auto insurance companies will issue a policy on the spot thanks to computerized underwriting systems, sending an application to an underwriter at home office only if a particularly unusual circumstance is encountered.

Computerized auto insurance underwriting takes the guesswork out of auto insurance applications, which saves both insurance agents and customers a lot of grief. Customers know that their policy is issued and in force before they walk out the agent’s office, and agents don’t have to go back days or even weeks later to tell a customer their policy was turned down by underwriting, something agents dread more than just about anything in the business. If there are problems, it’s known right away.

Different Companies Use Different Underwriting

Not all insurance companies are created equal, and some companies look at the business with very different mindsets. For example, a standard insurance company will underwrite very differently than a high-risk insurance company, and a specialty car insurance company will underwrite even more differently than their mainstream counterparts.

This is why price can vary widely for the same driver and the same car from company to company; different companies consider different things in their underwriting. Because underwriting is by no means uniform across the industry, it pays to shop around.

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