Auto Insurance Shopping Tips

Below are several insurance shopping tips to help you in your quest for lower rates along with several things you definitely shouldn’t do with regard to insurance. Additionally, learn how to reduce your premiums.

Auto insurance shopping Tips:

1. Auto insurance rates vary by company, so be consistent in the coverages you specify when requesting rates from different agents, brokers, or companies.

2. The rates should be free but will ask details about your car, driving record & insurance history, so if you have a policy, find it, then begin. DO NOT GUESS AT YOUR COVERAGES!

3. Print copies of the quotes for a side-by-side comparison to see if the coverages match, and if not, ask for an explanation.

4. NEVER CANCEL A POLICY BEFORE SECURING ANOTHER ONE IF THAT IS YOUR INTENTION. The worst thing you can do aside from not paying the bill is to cancel out of anger only to find higher rates later. There are times where you will find that your rate is not all that bad when compared with your (fill in the blank)- who of course pays less than you for her brand new car(usually incorrect info by the way).

5. Seek professional advice: do not rely on your cousin the plumber as to whether you are covered properly or not, because he will not be the one paying the claim- the insurance company will.

6. Never buy a car before you know what the insurance rates for that vehicle are! This may sound silly, but there are people who buy on impulse only to find that they cannot possibly afford $4200 for insurance on that 1999 BMW Convertible that had a terrific lease. Do not accept ballpark guesses and do not ask your agent to provide them.

7. If you own a home, never take minimum liability! I cannot stress this enough. To place one’s home in jeopardy for the sake of saving $40 per year is ridiculous- eat one less pizza every two months, clip coupons, but don’t take minimum liability unless instructed to by your attorney(you do have one… right?). :o)

How Can I Reduce My Premiums?

1. Take a Drivers Education Course. If you are still in high school, take a driver’s education course. It can be worth up to 15% off all of the coverages your driving effects(property damage, collision, etc.). The discount applies in most states until you are 21!

2. Take an Accident Prevention or Defensive Driving Course.
This course is not only for young drivers or those with bad driving records. This course is usually 6 hours long and is worth 10% off all of the coverages your driving effects. The National Safety Council will have information on locations and availability.

3. Install an Alarm Systems. A passive alarm is one that arms itself soon after you close the door, requires no intervention and has an audible siren(a keypad in the car that you must set before leaving, is NOT passive). Passive alarms can apply up to a 15% discount to your comprehensive or “other than collision coverage”.

4. Install a Vehicle Recovery System. Commonly known as “Lo-Jack”, vehicle recovery systems are activated when your vehicle is stolen, allowing police to track the location of the vehicle. When combined with Passive alarm systems, the discount on your comprehensive can increase to 25%.

5. Higher Deductibles=Lower Premiums. Most policies have a standard $200 or $250 deductible on Comprehensive and Collision. Today’s higher priced vehicles are more expensive to insure, thus higher deductibles, ($500,$1000) bring greater savings.

Be sure you can afford that increase in deductible before making the change to your policy. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket in the event of a covered claim.

6. Combine all of your cars under one policy. Combining two or more cars on the same policy can reduce your premium by up to 25% per car(varies by company).

7. Ask about Multi-Policy Discounts. Placing your Auto & Home insurance with the same company can bring a 5-10% discount on both policies(varies by company).

8. Ask about Loss or Claim Free Discounts. Many companies offer a discount of 5% to policyholders who are claim-free in during the last 3, 4 or 5 years. If you are accident and claim free, inquire about the availability of this discount.

9. Consider the value of your older cars. Do you still have full coverage on a 1986 Chevette?? Many people still carry full coverage on vehicles with little or no book value.

For example- your car is worth $600 and you pay $180 per year for the Comprehensive & Collision coverages with a $500 deductible. The car is totaled in an accident. You would receive $100 after the $500 deductible, but paid $180 for full coverage, so you lose $80.

10. Inquire about Good Student Discounts. Many companies offer discounts for students away at school with a high GPA’s. If you have your car away at school with you(in the same state) and have your own policy, inquire as to the premium for rating your policy in your school’s town(using dorm or apartment address).

This is especially true for students who live in cities but go to school in a rural area. If your car is under your parent’s policy and you DO NOT TAKE IT TO SCHOOL, they may be eligible for a discount if you are 150 miles or more from home.

You will need a copy of your dorm or tuition receipt to prove residency and may have to change the address on your driver’s license.

11. REVIEW YOUR POLICY. It pays to review your policy at least annually. Situations change over time, i.e.:

  • Perhaps you used to drive 45 miles to and from work and now live around the block from the office(or better yet, retired). Distance to work makes a big difference in the rate.
  • If you are in your state’s assigned risk plan, check with your broker as to when you will be eligible for insurance through normal channels.
  • Maybe you are still carrying full coverage on that 1986 Chevette.
  • If you don’t know how to read your policy, now would be a good time to become educated. Call your agent or broker to review the coverages, but have your questions ready before you call.

What NOT to Do Involving Insurance

1. Do not hide drivers! Example: your son just turned 17, got his license and is now driving the family wagon. Here’s the dilemma: if you call the company and add him as a driver, your premium will increase, but if you do not notify the company, you risk:

  • a.) the company not covering a claim involving him,
  • b.) cancellation of your policy
  • c.) increased premiums and cancellation of your policy. This is never truer than when you switch companies because you are signing your name to the fact that there are no other drivers while knowing your son has been driving for months. Omitting your son is called material misrepresentation and the company does not have to pay the claim, but will usually refund your money, cancel the policy and leave you liable for the whole claim- NOT GOOD.

2. Do not use a relative or friend’s address because the rates are lower there. This happens often and I witnessed a case where an insured stated that his cars were kept in the country at his father’s house, but he really lived in the city. The family minivan was stolen and stripped clean.

The fraud was proven, which resulted in the company refunding all of the premiums the insured had paid, while canceling the policy flat(back to the date he purchased it) so that no coverage ever existed! The insured had to pay $18,000 out of pocket to the leasing company to avoid prosecution!

3. Do not put a friend’s car under your name because his license is suspended or revoked. This happens all the time and is a pretty stupid idea. I liken it giving a bank robber a mask- you didn’t rob the bank but will be implicated.

Your policy will be canceled if the company ever finds out, and they will. We are in the information age and if you think Elaine on Seinfeld had a problem with the A.M.A. when she went to the doctor and her chart followed here around, you haven’t seen anything.

Why am I telling you all of this? So that you can avoid that sinking feeling when things go wrong. There is nothing worse than wishing you could go back in time to make the right decision, so do it now!

Good luck with your shopping!

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