Seven Things to Know Before Buying Car Insurance
Whether you buy your car insurance from a broker or purchase it directly off the company’s website, it’s important to do your research in advance. Knowing what you’re buying will help save you money on premiums and ensure that you have adequate coverage. You can’t always trust that an insurance representative will tell you everything you need to know about a policy without being asked. Even if you never need to use your coverages, it’s a good idea to understand them before you need to use that knowledge. Here are seven questions you should be able to answer before you buy an insurance policy:
1.) What coverages do you need?
Insurance laws vary from one state to the next, so sufficient coverage in one state may not be enough in a different area. All states requires liability coverage, but some have higher minimum limits than others. Some states also require drivers to carry first-party medical coverages and uninsured motorist insurance. You can check your state’s insurance requirements online. If you have a lien holder, be sure to check with them about your coverage requirements as well.
2.) How high is your risk assessment?
Auto insurance companies calculate rates based on the amount of risk you pose to the company. People who are likely to get in accidents will pay more for insurance than those who are less likely. You must be honest with yourself when assessing your risk factors. If you’re young, have a history of speeding tickets or have been in multiple accidents, you will not have the same low rates as someone with many years of perfect driving. You can still get plenty of discounts, but your rates may never be ideal until your risk level decreases.
3.) Who will be covered under the policy?
Most insurance policies follow the vehicle rather than the driver, so your car should be covered regardless of who uses it. Some insurance policies over only people listed on the policy, however, as a way to reduce the car’s risk and keep prices low. Before allowing anyone else to drive the car, it’s imperative that you know any accidents will be covered. If someone will have frequent access to a vehicle, be sure to add them as a driver to prevent any coverage problems.
4.) How will the car be valued if it’s ever totaled in an accident?
Insurance companies generally determine a car’s replacement value by looking at similar vehicles in the area and subtracting preexisting damage and high mileage from that figure. In other words, your car might not be worth as much as you think, and you could be disappointed after an accident if the total loss settlement is lower than you’re expecting. Try to get an idea of how much your insurance company believes that your car is worth, or have an independent appraisal done to help prove its value.
5.) Are you getting all the discounts that you can?
Auto insurance companies may not immediately offer every possible discount. Try to probe for more information or possibilities. Some commonly overlooked discounts include those for vehicle safety features, low annual mileage and paperless billing.
6.) How do any special programs work?
Many insurance companies offer safe driver discounts or accident forgiveness, but they handle these programs differently. You can’t assume that accident forgiveness with one company will be identical to your last insurer. Before opting into any kind of extra protection, make sure you understand how it will apply to your policy and whether it’s worth any additional cost.
7.) How are claims reported?
In an ideal world, you’d have car insurance for a lifetime without ever needing to use it. Car accidents aren’t fun, but you should know how to handle the claim before one occurs. Many insurance companies give checklists that can be kept in your car to keep you on-track when reporting an accident. Find out if you need to go to your agent’s office or if you can file a claim over the phone. Some insurers also have online claims reporting.
By doing your research, you can prevent yourself from buying unnecessary coverage or leaving yourself unprotected. You’ll also be prepared in the event of a claim. The Internet makes it easier than ever to do your homework on an insurance company before buying a policy, and the answers to most of these questions can be found online with a little searching. If you’re still not sure about something, you can ask the insurance representative directly; he or she should be happy to go into detail about any concerns you might have.