Slogans such as "fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent on auto insurance", Flo and her Progressive shop, and the long haired man who talks about State Farm are just a few of the many automotive insurance companies that are after your business, so in order to find the right company for you it’s going to take some serious work.
It seems that too many people are listening to the commercials they see on television and basing their opinions on what the little characters have to say. We understand that shopping for car insurance is pretty dull, but it’s something that needs to be done in order to ensure that you and your car are protected in the event of an accident.
Automotive insurance is one of the most important things in the auto world because, let’s face it, there are plenty of drivers out there that don’t need to be on the road, and when they hit your car, you better be covered.
Hit the jump for our tips of buying car insurance.
What Do You Need?
Before you can start shopping for anything, you need to decide on what you need. To put it this way, you don’t go to the grocery store just because it’s fun, you figure out what you need and buy accordingly. So, take a few hours to figure out what you need and what is required in your state. Make a list of the companies that look good to you and keep that by your side when moving on to the next step.
Next, you need to figure out what else you want on top of the state minimum. There are some people out there that are going to take everything and the insurance companies are happy to provide them with all of this coverage.
This is where things get interesting. You know that you will probably get into a car accident sometime in your life, but don’t go overboard trying to protect yourself. Be sure to stay within your means. If you have assets to protect make sure you get enough liability coverage. For example, if you have $50,000 of bodily injury liability, but you have $150,000 in assets, lawyers could go after your treasuries if you’re at fault and the coverage you have fails to cover the other person’s bodily injuries.
According to Consumer Reports, a general guideline for adequate bodily injury liability limits is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, plus $100,000 for property damage. For uninsured motorist coverage, you should get the same amount as for bodily injury liability. You would be shocked at how many people don’t have car insurance. Be sure to look at your deductible as well, which is usually around $250 to $1,000. This is the amount you pay out before your insurance helps you out.
The way you drive should also be taken into consideration, as well as the roads you drive on. If you drive on the highway and in a busy city, you might need more comprehensive coverage. This comprehensive coverage pays out when your car is damaged or lost due to causes other than an accident, such as vandalism, theft, or weather. Collision coverage will pay to repair your own car if you hit something, like a tree, a pole, or anything else that might jump out at you.
Now, this is one of the most important areas of car insurance and it might be just work for anything that you pay for. READ THE CONTRACT. When we watch these TV ads, we see the insurance companies just passing out checks to people that have been in a natural disaster or a wreck, but that’s not how it works. The insurance companies will take a close look at your claim before they hand you money and when they do, it might not be for the amount you had hoped for.
Time To Start Shopping
There are plenty of websites out there that can help you find the right insurance. Be sure to bring all your records, your current insurance policy, your driver’s license number, vehicle registration, and a drink because this can be a frustrating task.
Start off with online services like Netquote.com or other various websites. This usually takes around 20 minutes to complete and, although it might seem boring, it can really help you out by saving you a lot of money. You can also go to the insurance company’s websites to get quotes from them and, in some cases, they may also offer quotes from different companies.
When you visit these websites there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Be sure to keep annual and monthly rates the same so you can compare different companies easier.
2. Call their 800 number if you have any questions that the website can’t answer.
3. Find out what payment policy the company has and what discounts are offered to you.
4. It’s always good to look at consumer complaints, as well the company’s rank on A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s ratings.
For the companies you haven’t been able to get a quote from online, give them a call and be sure to have them fax or email the quote as a record. Also, while on the phone, be sure to ask about discounts, such as student discounts, driving record discounts and safety equipment in your vehicle.
Just be sure that your only goal shouldn’t be getting the cheapest policy. You are trying to get the best policy for the best price, as you don’t want to have to deal with the consequences of having a cheap policy when you get into a wreck.
Is The Company Reliable?
Obviously, you don’t want a company that treats you like you don’t matter and doesn’t live up to expectations. You want a company that will pay you what you deserve and on time. So, after you have narrowed your list down a bit by your prerequisites, it’s time to weed out the good companies from the bad.
The first way to do this is to visit the state’s Department of Insurance website. Every state has one of these and most will publish consumer complaints for all the insurance companies that sell policies. Remember, just because they’re a big name, doesn’t mean they are any good. By looking at consumer complaints, you can see how well customers have been treated. Be sure to write down the companies with the best ratings to use later.
The second step is to go to a body shop and figure out what they would recommend. You may contact boy shops and dealerships to figure out how many consumers run into issues with their insurance companies while trying to pay for a repair. It might take time, but finding a company that will repair your vehicle correctly and completely is worth it in the end. Be careful with body shops that have a contractual relationship with a specific insurance company as they will obviously be biased towards that company.
The third thing to do might be the most important. Think about working with an insurance agent, although some companies no longer offer you that option. There are two kinds of agents, the ones that work with one company and the independent agents that work with many different companies.
Usually, agents want you to be happy and independent agents have no vested interest in selling you a particular policy. These agents are aware of many different policies and can steer you to the right one. Also, be sure to do your research on the agent, as some are better than others. Always take the time to research all your options.
One more thing to note about agents is that they may charge you for their services, but you might be able to negotiate. You should agree on a fee before making a purchase.
The fourth thing to do is check ratings. J.D. Power and Associates ranks auto insurance companies and A.M. Best and Standard and Poor’s rate financial strength ratings. The ratings for both companies are easy to figure out, but keep in mind that financial strength ratings have nothing to do with how the company treats you. The J.D. Power rankings that care of that, so be sure to check out their website.
The fifth thing to keep in mind is that insurance companies that team up with certain automakers usually don’t give the owners of that brand any special service. Sure, you can get a special rate, but the customer service will remain the same. Never assume anything.
Finally, contact the people that are forcing you to buy insurance. Most of the time, your state legislature has great information that can help you during the process. This is very useful for low income consumers.
Just About Done
Before you sign anything, read over the contact and be sure to look for two very important clauses. Be sure you can retain your right to sue and avoid aftermarket parts requirements. You should always be able to sue the company if there is a disagreement that can’t be settled and make sure that body shops can’t use aftermarket parts when repairing your vehicle.
Now that you’ve found your new insurance company, cancel your old one and be sure to keep proof of insurance with you at all times.
Find out your state’s requirements
Look at your current financial situation
Review your driving record
Check current coverage
Get quotes from many different companies to compare
Call companies that don’t offer quotes online
Look for discounts
Check J.D Power and other rankings for companies
Call state legislature and body shops
Be sure to cancel your old policy
Disclaimer - Some information gathered through The Unofficial DMV Guide and Car Buying Tips.