Motor insurance is inherently tricky to navigate because you don’t find out just how well it works (or doesn’t) until you have an accident. And if you’re lucky, that doesn’t happen too often. So how do you know if you have the right kind of car insurance for your budget and lifestyle?
U.S. News interviewed a handful of car insurance experts to find out what you should do before making a final decision on your policy in order to get a good deal and decrease the chance of being surprised by unexpected costs after an incident. Here’s their best advice:
When choosing a policy, start by asking friends for recommendations. “It always makes sense to first ask people who you respect who they have auto insurance with, and if they were happy when they had a claim,” says Jeanne Salvatore, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.
Strangers can also offer useful advice. People often take their complaints about car insurance to social media, blogs and other websites. Search for posts on Twitter using the hashtag for the company you are considering. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Center for Insurance Policy and Research makes it easy to find formal complaints that have been lodged against companies as well.
State buyer’s guides are another resource. States release detailed guides for purchasing auto insurance that explain the ins and out of property damage as well as collision and comprehensive coverage. “Get the buyer’s guide – don’t just go to some agent,” recommends Bob Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. Those buyer’s guides also outline the minimum required coverage and what factors influence your insurance rates, from driving records to how you use the vehicle.
When comparing policy prices, be sure to compare similar policies, cautions Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. Auto policies vary by length of time, level of service and an array of add-ons, he says. Instead of just searching the Internet to compare quotes, Reed recommends getting on the phone with companies and asking questions, too. Certain car safety features, such as alarm systems or anti-lock breaks, can help lower your rate.
At the same time, there’s no need to obsess about constantly chasing a better deal. Jeff Blyskal, senior writer at Consumer Reports, says when the magazine asked readers to try to get a better deal with a competing insurance provider, only 12 percent of respondents were able to do so. That’s despite the slew of auto insurance advertisements that would have you think a better deal is always just around the corner.
Once you’ve settled on an insurance provider, you’ll have the chance to consider various add-ons to your policy. In general, the more you pay upfront, the greater the coverage you’ll have. For example, you can opt for a higher deductible in order to minimize your rates – probably a good move for anyone who considers themselves a careful driver and can afford the higher deductible in the event of an accident.
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