Determining the “best” car insurance company for your unique needs and budget is always a challenge, but here are some tips
Most people want to have the best, but many don’t believe they can always afford it. When it comes to services such as car insurance coverage, finding the best car insurance companies for your money is an ongoing pursuit.
Even if you've been buying insurance for years, new companies enter the market and technology changes the way they do business. The best car insurance companies in business when you first started driving may not be as good today. Taking a few steps along the way can get you positioned to have the most comprehensive coverage for your budget.
Question everything...and always get competitive quotes
The smartest thing you can do to get better rates on your car insurance coverage is to be prepared to question everything. Start with whatever insurance company you already do business with. Call your current car insurance agent when your policy renewal date is approaching and ask if your rates can be reduced.
If you think you can do better, get quotes from a couple other insurance companies and negotiate with your current company, keeping the prices it offers in mind. If your current car insurance company can’t budge on rates, perhaps they can offer you upgrades to coverage by adding options or new endorsements without adding costs, or expanding the limits of your existing coverage without a rate hike, or even adding another driver or car for little or no additional premium cost.
Remember, situations change
Just as the car you first drove may not be suitable for your current circumstances, the same can be said for your car insurance coverage. As you’ve gotten older as a driver, your car driving needs may require you to consider additional insurance coverage options such as:
- Rental reimbursement
- Roadside assistance
- Uninsured motorist
- Underinsured motorist
(For detailed information on any of these coverage options, click on the one you want to find out more information about)
You may have gotten married, bought a house and added kids to your family who may be approaching driving age. If your car insurance agent hasn’t kept up with your changing lifestyle and driving needs, you may want to consider finding a new agent or a new company to represent you.
Routinely suggesting discounts?
One strong sign that you are working with an insurance company or agent that has your best interests in mind at all times is how often they suggest new discounts on your insurance premium you may be eligible for. When you were just starting out as a driver paying your own insurance premiums, you may not have had access to the growing number of insurance premium discounts that seem to expand every day.
Some of the more common discounts include:
- Safe driver discounts
- Good student discounts
- Multiple policy (bundling) discounts
- Select professions discounts
- Good credit rating discounts
- Military service (even ROTC) discounts
- Fraternity, sorority and select organization membership discounts
- Advanced features and safety equipment discounts
- Green energy discounts
- Early renewal discounts
- Pay-in-full discounts
Cost/price or value/service?
Try to strike a good balance between service and price. Companies with dedicated car insurance agents often provide great service, but you will generally pay more for it. On the other hand, cut-rate companies will offer you rock bottom pricing, but the quality of service may be lacking and in many cases, it may be impossible to get anybody local to help you should you encounter challenges with coverage or claims
You can control some of your costs by taking steps such as opting for a higher deductible plan. This strategy works especially well for people who rarely get into accidents. If you take this route, however, make sure you have access to or can set aside the amount of your deductible in a savings account so that it will be there if you need it.
If you have a car that's at least five years old, review its value versus what you're paying in premiums for coverage. Frequently, you'll find that you may be paying more in premiums than your car is worth. If that's the case, work with your agent to determine if you have coverage options that have outlived their usefulness (like collision coverage on an older car you own outright.)
Reviews and referrals
Of course, one of the best ways to determine if you are working with the “best” insurance company you can afford is to consult reviews and seek referrals from friends, relatives, co-workers and other people you trust the opinion of.
Consumer Reports remains one of the most reliable ratings agencies in the country. They routinely publish annual surveys ranking car insurance companies for everything from claims handling to cost to ratio and number of consumer complaints.
J.D. Power & Associates is another rating agency that routinely publishes annual surveys of car insurance companies. They offer a 100-point scale on a number of areas including value and customer satisfaction with billing and claims processes.
Money/MSN the combined resources of Money magazine and MSN conduct annual surveys of a broad range of financial services companies and categories, including car insurance providers. You can keep track of how your current and any prospective insurers are faring in categories such as consumer satisfaction, complaints, customer and claims services and overall financial strength.
You can also consult the offices of your state’s insurance division or commissioner to find out if the car insurance company you are with or are considering getting coverage with has a record of complaints or deceptive practices and what disciplinary actions (if any) has been taken by your state’s insurance commissioner.
Don't overlook local and regional options
There are more than 2,000 business registered and licensed to sell car insurance in the U.S. and not all of them have multi-million dollar advertising and marketing budgets or buildings and stadiums with their logos plastered all over them. In fact, some of the most highly rated car insurance providers are regional or even local companies representing a handful of states or even a single state. Don't overlook these options when you start looking at alternatives for car insurance coverage.
Regional insurance companies like Erie Insurance, and Pemco Insurance and even Auto-Owners Insurance routinely outrank national big-boys like State Farm and GEICO in categories like claims handling, overall customer service and even value.
You can quickly get information about all of the companies licensed to sell car insurance in your state by contacting your state's Insurance Department or the office of the Insurance Commissioner. You can also avail yourself of the growing number of online car insurance quotes and comparison services and find out who ranks well in your region.
You might be well served to seek out the assistance of an independent car insurance agent. In general, an independent agent will have access to more companies and may be able to steer you to a local or regional provider with lower or comparable rates, a local connection and a higher ranking for customer and claims services. Unlike a captive car insurance agent who is locked-in to selling only one line of insurance products, and independent agent is free to contract with numerous providers and is generally more familiar with some of the regional and local companies that can get crowded out in the glare of national providers and the marketing clout they wield.
If you’re looking for the best car insurance company you can afford, sitting down with an experienced insurance professional is one way to get started on your quest. Reply! can help by putting you in touch with insurance professionals in your area who will be happy to answer all your questions and work with you to get you the best car insurance coverage you can afford.