Auto Insurance Comparison
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Convenient transportation is one of the leading reasons to own a private vehicle, but one unavoidable operating expense for every driver is sufficient auto insurance. Cheap auto insurance rates may sound appealing when the monthly bill arrives, but one of the most important components of any auto insurance policy is the peace of mind that comes from knowing an auto insurance claim will be paid and your personal loss will be mitigated.
Refer to the information in this guide prior to choosing a car to buy, finding a reputable auto insurance company, selecting components of the coverage, trying to figure out the truth about no-fault auto insurance laws, and attempting to lower your car insurance rates.
Prior to Vehicle Purchase
Automobiles have an attraction like no other, and most people tend to purchase more car than is necessary. Even if the actual price is affordable for the buyer, the cost of insurance may be unmanageable within the monthly budget. Careful consideration must be given to the following factors prior to the purchase of that expensive automobile.
Automobile Type & the Affect on Insurance Rates
Every vehicle is rated by the perceived risk associated with ownership of the car. Insurance companies rate makes and models of every vehicle style when they are introduced by the automobile manufacturers and in subsequent years those ratings are changed based on actual loss records. Each style attracts drivers with certain driving characteristics.
- Four-Door Sedan – This style of car is perceived to be the safest car on the road, so the annual insurance rates are lower. Corporations that provide cars to executives will offer four-door sedans with higher purchase prices because the insurance rates are substantially lower. Insurance companies know that responsible drivers tend to choose this vehicle style.
- Sports Car – The number of sports cars that are stolen each year drives the insurance rates up. Sports car drivers may take more risks and drive somewhat faster than other drivers, but the replacement cost of stolen vehicles weighs more on the insurance companies than repair costs. When repairs are necessary, sports cars sustain more extensive damage in a collision than other makes and models.
- Pickup – People use pickups for every imaginable use which can cause injury and property damage. The insurance agent will ask specific questions surrounding the intended use of a pickup which may assist with the annual premium charged. Very large vehicles from certain manufacturers have high theft ratings that will directly affect their insurance rates.
- SUV – Sports Utility Vehicles have some of the highest safety ratings and possess safety features that directly influence the annual insurance premium. Certain models have ratings that reflect the increased occurrence of property damage and personal injury because of the unique uses of these vehicles.
- Hybrid – Most car insurance companies are waiting to see how hybrid cars are affected by collisions. Concern exists within the industry about the risk of fire the battery system might sustain or cause when direct impact is sustained. Two insurance companies, Farmer’s Insurance and Traveler’s Insurance, offer a 10 percent discount on the annual insurance premium for a hybrid car.
Make sure you understand how the type of automobile that you choose can and will affect the cost of your auto insurance coverage.
Additional Vehicle Insurance Considerations
- Price – Higher purchase prices also mean higher replacement costs in the event of a major accident or theft of the car. Insurance rates are directly affected by the replacement cost of the car. Used cars are less expensive to purchase and usually cheaper to insure, but if the used car is rare, the insurance rate will be higher.
- Safety Features – Vehicles with airbags, roll bars, crash bars, and automatic seatbelts will be less expensive to insure because of the effort invested to keep passengers safe in the event of a collision. Structural reinforcement features also decrease the damage the vehicle sustains in a crash, which lowers repair costs.
- Anti-Theft Devices – Factory-installed security systems will reduce the annual insurance premium more than a system that is added later. Satellite-monitoring systems have reduced the number of thefts in certain areas of the country, so insurance rates are changing accordingly.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – Read the “Insurance Losses by Make and Model” summary sheet information for each car that might be of interest. These information sheets are created for a range of model years and provide insight for the potential buyer to see how the cars are rated for injury, accident, and theft.
How to Choose an Auto Insurance Company
The auto insurance industry is closely regulated by the government, and every car insurance company must provide information concerning the health of their company on a quarterly basis. This oversight creates confidence in the insurance industry’s ability to insure individuals and company’s against loss. When choosing an insurance company, review the following ratings for each company of interest.
A.M. Best Company Rating
Since 1905 the A.M. Best Company of Oldwick, New Jersey, has published A+, A, B+, B, C+ or C grades for every insurance company that sells insurance across the United States. This report is available at most public libraries or of course at ambest.com. The strongest ratings for insurance companies are stated as, “Most substantial,” or “Most favorable.” Descriptive words, such as “very,” are used to indicate companies that are not as strong as the highest rated insurers. If a qualifier does not precede the company description, the financial strength of the company is weaker than its peers.
Customer Service/Complaint Ratio
A specific rating scale for customer service departments does not exist, but one of the ways to know how well an insurance company handles customer requests and claims is to evaluate the insurer’s complaint ratio.The National Association of Insurance Commissioners maintains statistics from the complaints filed with the state insurance commissioner in each of the fifty states. A complaint ratio is calculated when the insurance name and the state name is input. Compare the company-specific ratio to the national average.
Auto Insurance Coverage
Every auto insurance policy is composed of the coverage types required by the state that apply to the driver’s situation. An experienced auto insurance agent will work with the auto owner to assemble the most appropriate coverage for the best possible annual car insurance rate. Accurate information should be provided to the agent for sufficient coverage to be provided without overinsuring the vehicle. Here is a definition of key auto insurance terms:
- Collision – Damage sustained in a collision with another vehicle or a stationary object is covered under this component of the standard insurance policy. Replacement coverage should be purchased for vehicles that are under an outstanding loan because most lenders require the insured to cover the risk of loss.
- Comprehensive – If the car is stolen or sustains damage from falling debris, fire, or any act of nature, this component of the insurance policy would pay the repair or replacement costs. When you rent a car, this component covers the rental car throughout the duration of your rental period.
- Liability – Every state requires that every licensed automobile is covered by the minimum amount of liability coverage. Some agents recommend substantially higher liability rates to cover the possibility of lawsuits that exceed minimum state liability amounts. Liability coverage is split into two major categories.
- Property – Any property damage to public or private property that belongs to another party will be covered by the liability component. Your personal property is not covered under the liability portion of the auto insurance policy.
- Bodily Injury – When other people are injured in a collision with your vehicle, including unrelated passengers inside your car, their medical expenses are covered by this sub-component of the liability coverage.
- Medical – This component of the auto insurance policy would cover the medical expenses sustained by you and your immediate family in the event of an automobile accident. If other health insurance coverage exists, this coverage may not be necessary, but care must be given to this decision.
- Uninsured/Underinsured – Even though every driver is required by law to carry insurance, there are still many drivers that do not have any insurance or do not carry enough insurance. This UM/UIM component of the standard insurance policy will cover your expenses in the event an uninsured driver is at fault in the accident. If a hit-and-run driver hits your car, or you, this portion of the policy will cover your expenses.
No-Fault Auto Insurance Laws
Lawsuit awards have increased drastically, and the cost of those awards leads to increases in the car insurance rates for every person that holds an automobile insurance policy. As insurance rates increase, state governments become concerned with the cost of insuring a vehicle. To restrain the size of amounts awarded through lawsuits, some states have adopted a modified no-fault system. Under a no-fault auto insurance system, the following applies:
- Pain and suffering is covered under the existing liability limits of the insurance policy without intervention by the courts.
- Fault is removed as a part of liability decisions, which means that each insurance company pays for the damage caused by the accident without waiting for a legal decision. Court costs are eliminated since legal actions are avoided.
- Payments are made in a timely manner since each insurance company is expected to pay legitimate claims.
- Lawsuits are not permitted until certain levels of loss are sustained. Each party is immune from lawsuits until the dollar amounts exceed these thresholds.
Lower Auto Insurance Premium Rates
Aside from the existing features on the automobile at the time of manufacture, there are ways to lower the annual insurance premium by considering each of the following options and auto insurance discounts:
- Multi-Car Discounts – When more than one car must be insured, the agent can recommend the best way to list each vehicle on a policy. Specific information concerning how each vehicle is used must be provided. One car that is only driven occasionally will cost less to insure than a full-use vehicle.
- Multiple Policy Discounts – Home, car, and life insurance policies that are carried by the same insurance company will be given a discount on each policy.
- Limited Drivers – Teenage drivers can be expensive to insure, and one way to lower the impact on the annual insurance premium is to limit the teenager’s driving to a less-expensive car. The experienced insurance agent can make recommendations for these decisions.
- Liability-Only Coverage – Older cars that are not worth replacing can be driven under a liability-only policy. The cost to repair some cars would be higher than the value of the car so the decision to carry liability coverage alone may be prudent.
- Low-Mileage Discount – Cars that are rarely driven are less expensive to insure because the risk of loss is lower. Usage information must be provided to the agent to leverage this discount.
- Increase Deductible – If a higher deductible is affordable within the household budget, raise the deductible paid on each claim. Consider the deductible on the home insurance policy in addition to the automobile deductibles since multiple losses can occur in major natural disasters.
- Maintain Good Credit – People with health credit scores are rewarded by insurance companies because of the perceived reliability of these drivers. Insurance companies run credit reports when calculating the annual insurance premium.
- Clean Driving Record – All moving violations will increase the annual insurance premium charged by an insurance company. Speeding and other dangerous driving habits raise the risk of loss for the insurance company and a higher premium is one of the methods used to restrain risky habits.
Applying for Auto Insurance
Auto insurance is a necessary aspect of being a responsible driver, but appropriate coverage can be purchased without carrying unnecessary auto insurance. Agents are required to include all information that is provided by the insurance applicant.
Accurate information must be provided because falsifying any entry on the insurance form can negate the coverage. When the insurance company discovers the inaccuracy, the policy will be canceled and any claims will be denied. The importance of including every driver that will operate a vehicle on the policy cannot be overstated.
Insurance companies can challenge car insurance claims that are filed to cover a driver that was intentionally omitted from the policy, which happens frequently with teenage drivers. Insurance companies have worked diligently to influence laws that reduce the risk and loss of income they incur by inaccurate information on policy applications.
Denial of claims will be supported by the courts if proof of intent can be provided. Always provide accurate information to prevent claim denial after an incident occurs.
Finding the Best Auto Insurance Rates
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