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Car Insurance Deals for Smart Shoppers

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Research Last Updated: 01/17/2011

Finding car insurance deals by purchasing multiple insurance, getting group discounts, being a good driver and buying insurance directly.

Car Insurance Deals: Road Sign "Savings Ahead"

When you just need a better price - try these tips.

Finding a sale on something that you had to purchase anyway is a great feeling.  Unfortunately, finding a sale in the world of car insurance never happens.  But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find some great deals on your premiums in other ways.

Multi-Everything Deals

Insurance companies like it when you keep everything you need insured all together with their company.  To encourage this they offer multi-line discounts, in other words, they give you car insurance deals for agreeing to insure other items with them also.

The most common of these discounts are offered for insuring two vehicles together on the same policy (multi-car discount) or placing homeowners insurance with the same company that has your auto insurance.  Some companies even offer discounts for adding your boat, motorcycle or recreational vehicle with them as well.

Group Insurance Deals

Most people know that employers offer health insurance to their employees, but few know that some even offer a discount on their home and auto insurance as well.  The discount is usually through a specific insurance company that is offering a group discount to your employer.

These group car insurance deals aren’t just exclusive to an employer either.  You can possibly qualify for one of these deals by having a membership to certain large warehouse stores, credit unions, athletic clubs and whatever other group that has made a deal with an insurance company to offer its members a deal on their premiums.

To find out more ask the insurance company that you are getting a quote through if they offer any group deals. They may be able to give you a list of participating groups.  Also keep an eye out for advertisements offering this discount with the different groups that you belong to.

Car insurance companies like good drivers.  They like them because they can keep gathering the premiums and only have to pay out on small, if any claims at all.  Being a good driver also qualifies you for one or multiple car insurance deals with your premium.

Get a Deal by Passing on the Agent

Agents live off of the commission that they make on the insurance that they sell to you.  This is why they are always interested in trying to get you more coverage when you ask them for a quote. In general, the more coverage that they sell to you the higher their commission is.

Passing on an agent and buying an insurance policy directly from an insurance company either on the phone or online, can get you a deal on your insurance.  How?  Because in most cases you won’t be paying that extra percentage that goes to paying the agents commission.  The savings can range from 10%+ on your policy. Again, the savings doesn’t always happen, but it’s something to consider.

A word of advice: if you plan on going this route to get a car insurance deal be ready to be going at it alone.  The 10%+ that you pay for an agent also buys you the experience and assistance that the agent can offer you.

The Auto Insurance Claims Process

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Research Last Updated: 01/14/2011

How to file an auto insurance claim, what the claims adjuster does and how you’re compensated in an auto insurance claim.

Your adjuster is never your agent.

It’s the proverbial good news and bad news situation. The bad news is you caught a bad piece of black ice on the freeway and took out a speed limit sign.

Everyone in the car is OK, but your driver’s side door is toast. After a tow back to town, you remember the good news: you have full coverage auto insurance.

But now what do you do?

Starting an Auto Insurance Claim

Given that if it weren’t for claims there wouldn’t be any point to insurance, the claims process itself is nevertheless often overshadowed by constant talk of premiums, discounts and the latest marketing campaigns. Agents are salespeople. When it comes to claims you’ll find many of them know shockingly little about the subject.

Nevertheless, often times your agent is who you contact to start the claim process. Larger insurance companies have a dedicated call center devoted entirely to claims. If yours is one of them, you need to call that number. If unsure, call your agent – he or she will be able to point you in the right direction.

When filing your claim, provide as much specific information as you can. Among other things, you’ll be asked when and where the accident occurred, if any other vehicles were involved, if there were any injuries, if any law enforcement agency responded, and if any citations were issued.

You’ll probably notice on the back your insurance card an admonishment NOT to admit blame to law enforcement in an accident situation. There’s a reason for this. For one, you may not be at fault even if you think you are. For another such statements tend to find their way into police reports, making them much more difficult to contest later.

The Claims Adjuster

Your claim will be handled by an insurance specialist called an adjuster. An insurance claims adjuster is either an insurance company employee or a third-party contractor trained to assess the damage caused in an accident. That way the insurance company can reimburse you in such a manner that you neither gain nor lose financially because of the accident. This concept is called indemnification. It’s a central philosophy behind all insurance, not just auto insurance.

An auto insurance claims adjuster is usually local and has good working relationships with auto body repair shops in your area. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see auto claims adjusters who have prior auto body repair experience in their own right. This is particularly important if you’re unsure where to get your car fixed. The adjuster will know. Take his advice; it’s definitely not in his interest to steer you towards some shady outfit.

A claims adjuster is never an agent. In fact, once a claim is filed your agent may very well be out of the loop on its status. While the claim remains open, keep in touch with your adjuster instead.

Collecting on Your Claim

Once the adjuster looks over your vehicle, he or she determines how much it’ll cost to fix it. Then the auto body repair shop goes to work. In a full coverage situation you may pay the deductible directly to the repair shop while the insurance company pays them directly for the rest. If your car is “totaled,” you may get a cash settlement instead.

Unless you’re in a no fault state, if your car was damaged in an accident in which another party was found at fault, the process is much the same apart from the fact you’ll be working with the other guy’s insurance claims adjuster.

Also before the claim is closed be sure to inquire about any secondary coverages you may have, such as for towing or rental reimbursement. If the adjuster doesn’t have the answer to these questions, your agent certainly will.

It’s possible to hire an outside, independent adjuster to get a second opinion, however this is not commonly seen in an auto insurance claim situation. It’s an added expense to you, and of little benefit unless there’s a serious dispute in a major accident.

Can You Really Name Your Own Price at Progressive?

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Research Last Updated: 12/30/2010

How Progressive’s “name your own price” auto insurance options work, what they don’t do, and why agents and companies charge what they have to anyway.

No, you don't really use one of these.

Recently Progressive launched an ad campaign proclaiming you can name your own price on car insurance. Sounds like a great deal. Now you can buy auto insurance coverage based on your budget rather than by having to sort through confusing liability limits and deductibles, right?

Well, sort of…but not entirely.

How Name Your Own Price Works

Like accident forgiveness, the choose your price feature is primarily a marketing tool. There’s really not anything new about it other than presentation.

When using the feature, which according to Progressive itself is available in “most states” (read: not all states), the company actually has you quote your coverage the old fashioned way first. That is, you provide them with your vehicle information, driving history and desired coverage levels.

After that they give you a premium quote but let you adjust the price. Of course, adjusting the price has an impact on the coverage. For example, if Progressive (or anyone else, for that matter) offers you a 50/100/50 liability only policy for $50/month, it’s still $50/month regardless of the marketing. If you want a policy for $40/month, you’ll get it at lower liability limits.

In short, it’s really little more than a new way to accomplish a very old insurance sales tactic. Agents adjust coverages to fit into their clients’ budgets all the time in the exact same way. Given that the first auto insurance policy was sold in 1897, we figure the practice dates to, oh, 1898 or so. You can “choose” your price anywhere in this manner; it’s just that Progressive found a new way to package it.

When You Can’t Name Your Own Price

Choosing your price doesn’t mean you can just go down to your local insurance agent and get some arbitrary discount. Insurance agents can’t do that. They have to use the approved prices and discounts given to them by the insurance company for a particular driver, vehicle and coverage level.

What’s more, the agent can’t offer you a lower price and offer to make up the difference, even as a charitable contribution. This practice is called “rebating,” and it’s illegal. Agents can lose their license doing this, therefore no reputable agent will do it.

States Help “Name” Your Price Too

Agents can’t just charge what they want for car insurance. In many ways, neither can insurance companies. States require insurance companies to hold a certain amount of money in reserves for claims at any given time. Even for small carriers, this is a substantial amount, easily in the tens of millions of dollars. When an insurance company fails and is taken over by the state, a process called “receivership,” chances are problems with this are a primary reason for it.

To that end, states require insurance companies to charge rates that allow them to sustain these cash reserves. The insurance rates a company charges must also be approved by a state’s insurance commission. Any available insurance discounts are factored into this beforehand. Yes, this means that rates can (and are) different from state to state even within the same insurance company, all other things equal.

SR-22 Insurance

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 12/24/2010

Who needs an SR-22, what it is, and how it works with your auto insurance.

Ultimately it's just another piece of paper.

Car accidents aren’t just about claims. On occasion if you’re found at fault in an accident (or even if you’re not) you can be cited by the police. If you’re convicted of certain traffic violations, the court may order you to carry an SR-22 for a specified amount of time.

Admittedly this can be overwhelming at first. Not only do you have to carry auto insurance to stay on the road, but now you have to carry “SR-22 insurance.” You’ve seen agents advertise that before, but what exactly is it?

What is an SR-22?

An SR-22 may sound scary and complicated, but it’s really not. It’s just an insurance liability certificate filed with the state by the insurance company on your behalf, quite similar to the binder your agent sends to the bank who holds your car loan. That’s pretty much it. However, if you’re caught driving without active insurance and an SR-22 filing, the consequences can be severe.

Accordingly, the term “SR-22 insurance” is something of a misnomer. Instead, the term usually refers to auto insurance with a non-standard or “high risk” company. The two are closely associated because if you need an SR-22, it follows you don’t have a perfect driving record. People with less than perfect records, of course, are a non-standard company’s bread and butter. As a result, the majority of people who have to file an SR-22 do so with a non-standard company.

However, people who don’t need an SR-22 may still only qualify with a non-standard company. Conversely, those who need an SR-22 may not necessarily need to insure with a non-standard auto insurance carrier. The two are closely associated with each other, but not joined at the hip.

Getting Insurance With an SR-22

Getting auto insurance with an SR-22 requirement isn’t that much different from getting auto insurance under any other circumstances. You meet with your agent, go over your driving history, and look for the appropriate coverage with a company that will take you. After the policy is written, you tell the agent you need an SR-22 filing. A good agent may ask you first, especially you’re getting a policy with a non-standard auto insurance company or through an assigned risk pool, but it never hurts to remind him or her.

If you’re shopping for insurance online, asking for an SR-22 may be as simple as checking a box. If you already have insurance, just call and ask for the filing. Simple.

An SR-22 filing is commonly done for a small flat fee above and beyond the premium (usually around $25), but once it’s done, it’s done.

Keeping Your SR-22 Valid

Keep in mind an SR-22 filing is independent of auto insurance underwriting requirements. The state will require you to keep minimum liability limits with your SR-22, but they do that anyway. Meet with your agent before every policy renewal to see if you qualify for better rates. If you keep your record clean, you’ll eventually qualify for standard company rates, possibly in as little as six months depending on the situation.

Make sure your SR-22 filing remains active as long as it’s needed. Once you no longer need it, don’t keep filing it. Once the state says you no longer need it, you don’t need it.

Accident Forgiveness: Is It Worth It?

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Research Last Updated: 12/24/2010

How insurance companies rate accidents, how an optional accident forgiveness option can stop auto insurance rate increases, and how it really works.

You don't have to pay more for this ... if you already are.

No doubt you’ve seen the commercials by now. The announcer strolling through a quiet, idyllic suburban scene, telling you how you can protect you and your loved ones with optional accident forgiveness on your car insurance coverage. In other words, if you get in a wreck the insurance company promises not to raise your rates. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

Well, it can be. However, it’s important to know exactly what “accident forgiveness” entails.

How Accidents Factor in Insurance Rates

The philosophy behind charging people who get in accidents more than people who don’t is pretty simple: those who use insurance benefits more should pay more than those who use them less.

That said, not all auto insurance claims result in higher rates. Those that do tend to fall in one of two categories: liability claims resulting from accidents when you’re found at fault, and full coverage collision claims. What’s more, the latter is usually only subject to rate increases if the claim exceeds a certain dollar amount. That exact amount varies from company to company, but is usually in the neighborhood of $750 to $1,000.

Accident claims stay on your record for three to five years, again depending on the company. Multiple claims in that three- to five-year period may result in you being dropped, forcing you to go to a non-standard or “high risk” company.

How Accident Forgiveness REALLY Works

Accident forgiveness simply means that if you’re in an accident that would otherwise raise your rates, the insurance company instead will keep your rates where they are. Here’s the rub, though. Accident forgiveness is an optional feature, and therefore comes at an additional charge. In other words, in many respects it’s easy for the insurance company to keep your rates where they are after an accident … because you allowed them to raise your rates beforehand.

A lot of it is truly in the marketing. With accident forgiveness or without it, the company’s loss exposure remains covered. It’s all motivated by the bottom line, not by altruism.

Accident forgiveness typically applies to only one accident. If you’re in a second accident – particularly if it occurs in the same policy period as the first – you’ll most likely get uprated (premium increase) anyway. You also may still be subject to being dropped for multiple accidents in the same way you would be without the accident forgiveness option. Consult with your insurance agent for details specific to your company, assuming your company offers an accident forgiveness option in the first place (not all do).

Is Accident Forgiveness Right For You?

One could make the argument that those who take the accident forgiveness are assuming they’ll be in an accident in the next three to five years. Indeed, many may scoff at such a sentiment. For people who do, optional accident forgiveness is probably not a good fit for them. However, if you find the knowledge that your rates won’t go up after an accident comforting, perhaps the peace of mind is worth it. Ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference.

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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.