By Zev Goldstein
Legendary comedian Don Rickles once quipped, “Show business is my life. When I was a kid, I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.”
You know as well as I do that the car insurance business can be no laughing matter.
Between the increased cost premiums and the seemingly endless number of possible companies we could insure with, it can be difficult to handle.
Here are some useful tips to help you choose the best car insurance:
Determine a Good Coverage Level
Sometimes, coverage choices are already made for you. For instance, your state already mandates legal minimum coverages for your vehicle, which you cannot dip below. Likewise, if you finance your vehicle, then the financing company may require you to carry comprehensive and collision coverage.
However, for cases where you have the luxury of choice, experts roundly agree that you should tailor the coverages so they roughly track the age and replacement cost of the vehicle.
If you drive an old junker, for instance, then the added yearly cost of carrying comp and collision insurance may be a losing proposition. On the other end of the spectrum, newer vehicles or gently used luxury or classic cars, may be underinsured at your state’s legal minimums.
It Pays to Shop Around
Every insurer uses its own unique algorithm when calculating rates. Therefore, it is advantageous to cast a wide net when pricing out policies, and to know the factors that insurers may use in determining rates.
Some insurers may only go by points, while others take every incident into consideration. In the latter case, timing can sometimes mean everything. The typical look-back period on incidents is 5 years, meaning that if you are sitting at, say, four years and nine months since your last accident, then it would be best to just wait another 3 months before shopping, so you can get the best possible rate.
However, if you know your insurer only penalizes points, in the event of a traffic ticket,do everything possible to have it switched to a non moving violation.
Online First, Phone Calls Second
In almost all cases, it’s best to get your initial quotes online. First, there is the obvious convenience and immediacy of it. You just fill out some basic information about driving history and the vehicle you are insuring, and then you typically get a quote within minutes.
Second, you are pre-establishing a base rate of coverage that the company cannot easily up-sell or weasel away from. Generally, your process should be to get online quotes from the insurers you like, narrow down your choices, and then follow up on those with phone calls. Keep conversations focused, keep coverages locked in, and be sure to mention that you are shopping around for a new insurer, and you wonder if there is anything more the salesperson can do to win your business. Remember, they need you more than you need them.
Payouts Over Pricing
Because the car insurance industry is so cutthroat, it often pays to let the lower cost of identical coverages inform your decision. There is one other important consideration, though, and that is whether or not a company pays out on claims, along with the ease with which they facilitate the entire claims process.
A company that pretends to insure you, yet does not pay out, is ultimately of no value to you. Similarly, even if they pay out on claims, but the experience of filing is difficult and onerous, then that should figure into your choice of insurers as well.
J.D. Power maintains a great list of ratings that ranks most of the nation’s major insurers on how they perform at each stage of the claims process, from first notice of loss all the way to settlement of the claim. Do not hesitate to pay a little extra each month, if it means possibly ending up more satisfied if the rubber hits the road and you need to file a claim.
Yes, buying car insurance may at times be a chore. Nevertheless, if you keep these tips in mind, the shopping experience can be lighter on your wallet and less challenging to your patience.
Zev Goldstein is an experienced New York traffic attorney with more than 28 years of experience. For more information, visit: www.zevgoldsteinlaw.com.