You see the television commercials all of the time "15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance". Throw in some cute characters, a silly slogan, and maybe a nice little jingle. Savings on car insurance is great. But what about your coverage? If you have called a 1-800 number, did the rep ask what assets you have? Or what about how much money you make in a year? Did they give you examples of how much a bodily injury claim pays out? Let's talk about that.
At the core, your private passenger auto policy really covers a few basic items.
1. Liability coverage - protects against damage you cause to another party which includes bodily injury and property damage.
2. Physical damage for your own vehicle is separated into two parts. Comprehensive covers against perils like fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, glass damage, or hitting an animal. Collision covers your vehicle from damage if it is involved in a moving accident.
Other coverages that can be added:
Roadside assistance for immediate help after a breakdown and labor costs.
Rental reimbursement covers you for 30 days maximum at a specified value per day (30, 40, 50 dollars per day) if your car is being repaired after an accident. This does not cover leisure rentals!
Auto loan/lease protection will cover the gap in what you owe on a vehicle versus what you receive from the insurance company. So if the actual cash value of your vehicle after a total is $15,000 but you still owe $17,000 on a loan, you would fill the $2,000 gap.
Medical payments are a supplemental coverage for immediate injuries to the driver & others in your vehicle. This can be a good way to bridge a gap between a large health insurance deductible.
In Connecticut, the state minimum requirement for liability is $25,000 for each person you injure in an accident / $50,000 if you injure multiple people in an accident / and $25,000 for property damage you cause. If you put this into perspective, you are lucky to drive a new car off of a lot today for less than $25,000. So assuming you are a homeowner, what limits should you have?
Below are real life examples of losses that have happened in our own agency.
Soft tissue damage & sore back complaints: $20,000
Responsibility for causing a shattered leg in a car crash: $230,000
Hitting a pedestrian in the dark trying to cross the street, sustaining serious injury: $750,000
Incident involving a motorcycle crash, resulting in broken limbs and surgeries: $1,000,000
A death in an accident: in excess of $1,400,000
We see that many homeowner's who are shopping with us for the first time carry limits of $100,000/$300,000/$100,000.
You may even end up in a situation where the other person doesn't have insurance or not enough to cover your damages. Uninsured & underinsured motorist coverage is just as important as your liability coverage.
It is our belief that these limits are nowhere near enough. This is increasingly important for parents with young drivers on their policy who have less experience. In the event you do exceed your liability limits in a car accident and you have hard assets and a job, they will be targeted in a lawsuit. If you are a homeowner or have substantial assets, you need higher liability limits PLUS an umbrella - PERIOD!
Driving is a necessity for most of us. Some of us even enjoy driving. The biggest peace of mind you can have getting into your vehicle every day is knowing you have adequate coverage for any incident.
What Determines My Auto Insurance Price?
There are many misconceptions regarding what makes your auto insurance rate different from your friends, family, and neighbors. Insurance companies are more data sensitive than ever and every little factor can have an impact on what you pay for your car insurance. Below are a few factors that will have an impact on your insurance:
Credit score - companies in Connecticut utilize credit to determine your auto rate. If you are a person with higher credit, they will rate you much more favorably versus if you have lower credit.
Homeownership - generally speaking, if you are a home or condo owner, you are rated more favorably.
Age, Occupation, Education, and Marital Status - key demographic characteristics
Territory - Insurance rates will vary depending on address. You will most likely pay more if you live in a busy city versus a quiet rural town. There are many different sub-territories within larger cities as well.
Length of time you stay with your insurance company - Companies reward loyalty and want retention. If you are quoting your auto insurance, you will see the longer you have been with your company, the bigger the credit is on a new quote.
Liability limits - Companies see you as responsible if you carry higher limits of liability over a length of time.
Inexperienced Drivers - If you have children on your policy or if you are looking to add a new driver, you have to market your insurance! Some carriers are great with kids. Some not as good.
Accidents & Violations - An insurance company loves a clean driver. Many offer loss free credits on top of having no driving activity.
Account Credits - Do you have other insurance policies with the same company? More policies statistically means better retention for an insurance company which is why they offer credits for pairing other policies like a home, umbrella, or recreational vehicle policy.
Advanced Quoting - Companies reward taking a look out for the future and shopping ahead of time instead of the last minute.
There are different marketplaces (Preferred / Standard / Non-Standard) that you will be classified in based on a combination of factors. Within those marketplaces, there may be tens to hundreds of "tiers" that you are placed in. Each of these items may have more or less of an impact depending on that specific carrier.
This is why it is important to get rates from multiple companies when you are shopping, because one may work our great based on you as an individual while another may see you as less favorable. Also, consider the fact that you may have accidents or violations that are getting older. Not every company has the same look back period. While certain companies will look back 3 years, some look back 5. This can have a huge impact!
FAQs on Auto Insurance
What if I lapsed my car insurance?
Can I switch my insurance at any time?
Yes, absolutely. If you want to switch your insurance company, you are free to do so. If you have an unused balance on an old policy and you cancel it early, you will receive a pro-rata refund in most cases. If you cancel an auto policy in the first term you will sometimes be charged a cancellation fee. It depends on the carrier.
Why did my rate go up when I had no accidents, violations, or changes on my policy?
Does obtaining auto insurance quotes affect my credit score?
No. While insurance companies look at credit to determine rate, they do not perform a hard credit pull. They take an "insurance score" which helps determine what tier to place you in. You can get 100 quotes done and it will not affect your credit.
How do claims affect my insurance?
Should I always call my own insurance company after an accident?
Not always. If you are involved in a not at fault accident the best thing to do is get the other party's insurance carrier to accept liability and pay for your damages directly. Any activity on your insurance policy, even in an accident where you are not responsible can affect your rate. If you use the other party's insurance carrier that accident will not show on your own CLUE report. Obviously if you are hit by an uninsured driver then you will have to get your own carrier involved to pay for the damages to your car. But be smart. We advise clients if they can to call us to review an accident before we start submitting claims.
I'm buying my first car but nobody wants to give me a quote. Why?
See the question above! When you have no prior proof of insurance, you will be ineligible with a lot of carriers. There are sometimes exceptions to this e.g. overseas for military service or if you previously owned a corporate car. In most cases you will have to start off with a company like Progressive or Foremost. Once you obtain at least 6 to 12 months of contiuous coverage, you will most likely be able to get a more favorable rate.