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Is a Newly Purchased Policy Refundable if Cancelled?

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Ask An Insurance Question, Research Last Updated: 08/30/2011

No matter if the policy is new or old; if there is unused premium you should get a refund.

If you have just purchased a new insurance policy for your vehicle and then found better coverage or cheaper coverage with another company, cancelling the initial policy is going to be your first reaction. If you have paid for the insurance coverage with the first company in advance, you are owed a refund.

The refund should be for the insurance coverage that you have not used yet. As an example, say that you paid for the full 6 month policy period and you cancel after the first week of coverage. The time period after the first week through the end of the term is refundable.

The insurance company will not be covering you if you were to get into an accident for this time period so the unused premium should be refunded immediately.

However, there are companies that charge “penalty fees” for cancelling your policy early. Is this fair? No, it is not.

But, it is a way to get you to not cancel your policy. It also gets you to pay for the cost of  writing your new policy in the first place, the paperwork that was sent and also the work that has to be done to process the cancellation and any refund.

This is why it is so important to read the fine print before you buy a policy from an insurance company. If you do cancel your policy and then they claim that there is a penalty for cancelling early, check your insurance papers.

If there is nothing in your papers about this penalty, complain to a supervisor at the insurance company.  If that doesn’t resolve the issue file a complaint with your state’s Department of Insurance or Insurance Commissioner.

What is Insurable Interest for Cars?

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

The definition of insurable interest, examples of insurable interest in auto insurance, and how it’s applied by different insurance companies.

Nope. No insurable interest here.

Without something to insure, insurance is pointless. That should be a no-brainer. So what exactly does one insure? It’s not as dense a question as it seems.

You can’t insure just anything and expect to recover a claim from it. This is why no auto insurance company will cover the junker rusting away in your front yard which doesn’t even run.

The insured must also have a tangible interest in the entity insured. This is why you can insure your own car and place your spouse and children on the policy as drivers, but not the guy across the street just because you want to.

In order to properly indemnify the insured in a claim situation, an insurance company must make sure it is insuring something of value such as a car, a house or a life, the loss of which would cause financial hardship. This is the concept of insurable interest.

You must also own the item in question to have insurable interest. For example. If a storm knocks over a tree which damages both your car and your neighbor’s, you would have insurable interest in your vehicle but not your neighbor’s.

Examples of Insurable Interest

In auto insurance, the most obvious example of insurable interest is the auto itself on a full coverage policy. As your auto has intrinsic value, it can be insured for up to that value as determined by the insurance company. This is usually determined by its “blue book” value at the time of loss. Ask your insurance agent to see if specific losses are covered by “replacement cost” or “actual cash value” criteria.

Insurable interest can also be represented by liability. Say you’re in an automobile accident and found at fault. The insurable interest in this case is the damage to the other vehicle up to its value and the liability costs incurred for any bodily injury up to the pre-determined limit in your policy. Bodily injury coverages incurred in your vehicle such as medical payments and PIP work in a similar manner.

Insurable interest also applies to aftermarket auto accessories on inland marine policies. If your car stereo is stolen, the stereo has insurable interest and you can be indemnified for it per the terms of your policy.

Insurable Interest by Company

Unlike many other concepts in insurance, insurable interest is pretty much universal across companies. Differences in underwriting requirements, however, may make it look different as one company may take one vehicle while another won’t. Even so, the concept remains the same. Remember, insurable interest is a key concept in auto insurance. No claim can go forward without it.

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.

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Car Insurance Guidebook Unravels the Car Insurance Mystery

Unless you work in the car insurance industry, the topic is probably a mystery to you. The words deductible, comprehensive, collision, liability, premium, loss of use and bodily injury are all gibberish when they reach your ears.

Unfortunately, insurance is something that you are required to have by law if you want to drive. Because of how confusing it is many people go around in almost an insurance daze while they get car insurance quotes from the auto insurance companies that they have heard of. In reality, they are completely lost as to what they are actually buying.

Instead of looking at what each insurance company offers in the terms of protection for both themselves and their car, they are instead looking for cheap car insurance. Finding the cheapest car insurance coverage makes having to buy the required product all that much less painful, but misses the whole point of having insurance.

Learning about insurance through your insurance agent or websites like Car Insurance Guidebook will give you the upper hand when you looking for car insurance. You can take your knowledge and not only find the best price for insurance, you can use it to find really great insurance to protect you and your assets. Then you aren’t stuck settling for just average car insurance that can hurt you financially if you ever need it because there isn’t enough protection.

For example, when looking for insurance the car insurance rates are just the first of many factors that need to be taken into account when you are shopping around for car insurance. You also need to take into account the type of vehicle that you are driving. Many people don’t know this.

Are you driving around a vehicle that is a new sedan and can be protected under any blanket insurance policy? Or do you have an old car that you fixed up that needs special protection and could be better covered under classic car insurance?

Don’t just assume that when you compare car insurance that it will be a one-size-fits-all policy. This is where the insurance knowledge will come in handy; you will know what you need to protect yourself and your vehicle.

You will understand what your insurance agent is talking about when they use insurance terms and you will actually be able to make an informed decision. This is much better for you instead of the “nod and smile” approach people take in their insurance agent’s office.

Also just like your life changes your insurance needs will change. This year you may just need to learn about the best deductible to have. Next year you may need to educate yourself on car insurance for young drivers. As the years pass, motorcycle insurance may be something you will need to know.

Many wise people say that you never stop learning, so take their advice and educate yourself on the insurance that you spend a lot of money on and can’t get away with not having.