In the last chapter, you learned about the techniques for comparing
policy coverages to make sure you are getting quotes on similar
coverage with each company. This chapter will explore additional
techniques for shopping around for the lowest rate.
As with home insurance, it is helpful to use an independent agent.
With an independent agent, you can discuss the coverages you need
with one person and get multiple quotes for automobile insurance
policies in the same time it takes to contact a captive agent to obtain
a single quote from a single company. This technique will save you
time and minimize the legwork that comes with calling every company
listed in the phone book. Your agent will also be able to assure you
that you are being quoted the same coverages on each quote.
If you decide to go through the phone book and call as many
insurance agents as possible, keep a list of what company they
represent. This will help you avoid calling more than one agent from
the same company, resulting in a duplicate quote.
One technique you may find helpful is making a list of the deductible
amounts, liability limits, and additional coverages you need so you
can ask each agent for the same quoted coverage. You also need to
keep a list of drivers in your household with the birth date, license
number, and social security number for each driver. You should also
write down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for each vehicle
you own. Not all companies ask the same questions, but it will save
you time and having to call agents back with information if you keep
the information readily available.
If you are not comfortable getting a quote over the phone, you can
walk into an insurance agency to get a quote. If you decide to shop
for quotes this way, be sure to have all your personal and driver
information, as well as your VIN numbers available. You can find an
agent in your area by searching online, checking the yellow pages, or
asking your friends and family whom they have their insurance with. It
is also helpful to take the declarations page for your current insurance
company with you if you already have insurance. The declarations
page will show all the coverages you currently have and will often list
the Vehicle Identification Number for each vehicle covered by your
You may also find it helpful to make a list of any questions you have
before going to the agent's office. It is often easy to forget the
questions you may have had when you get on the phone or to the
agent's office. Having a list ready to check off will help assure you
that you understand what is covered and what is not and that you are
being quoted for adequate coverage limits.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you do not ask questions, you
may not find out that your coverage is inadequate until you have to
file a claim. Being involved in an accident is stressful enough without
having to worry about paying for a rental car or not being able to pay
the necessary deductible to get your car fixed. An insurance agent
who has been in the business any time has most likely heard every
question at least once or twice, so do not be afraid to ask no matter
how stupid you believe your question is.
Many insurance agencies have the ability to print off quotes or e-mail
quotes to you. It is helpful, when determining which quote to
purchase, to compare coverage line by line. Having printed copies of
each quote can help you keep track of each quote you have received
and will give you a hard copy to review at your leisure.
Do not wait until the last minute to purchase insurance. If you are
purchasing a car for the first time, do not wait until you are sitting at a
car dealership purchasing your vehicle. Auto dealerships often have a
referral network set up with a few different agents, but they may not
be able to provide the lowest quote or the most advantageous
coverage. Instead, when you begin car shopping, get an idea of what
year, make, and models you are interested in and compare quotes on
the different types of vehicles. If you look at a vehicle you are
interested in purchasing, you may be able to secure the VIN number
from the dealership so you can get quotes before buying the vehicle.
This practice will also give you a realistic idea of what the rates will be
on different vehicles, and you can factor in the cost of insurance
when making the final decision on the vehicle you want to purchase.
Another way to find cheap insurance is to use the Internet. There are
Internet companies that give you an online form to fill out. These
companies will then sell your information to different insurance
companies or agencies, and the agents will call you back with the
quote. This can save you the time of having to call different
companies. If you use this technique to shop for automobile
insurance, keep a list of questions you want to ask located near the
phone so you will be prepared when these agents start calling you.
Keep your insurance declarations pages on file. Some insurance
companies will discount your rate or offer standard or preferred rating
if you can show proof of prior insurance. By keeping your declarations
pages filed together in a specific location you will be able to provide
the proof of insurance that your new company requires. You will also
have them available when comparing quotes with new companies to
make sure you are not getting a reduction in coverage along with a
reduction in price.
It is best to start shopping before your policy renews. Most
companies will charge you for the coverage you have had between
your last payment and your cancellation dates. Some companies will
charge you an extra fee for canceling mid-term. If possible, it is
always best to switch insurance companies at renewal to avoid any
If you are not satisfied with the claims handling, customer service, or
other aspects of your current company and do not want to wait until
renewal to cancel your policy, ask your agent if any penalty fees for
canceling midterm will be added. Many insurance companies levy
hefty fees on policies that are canceled at the request of the insured
for any reason other than disposal of the insured vehicle, voluntary
forfeiture of an insured person's driver license, or relocation of the
named insured to another state. In some states, insurance
companies are permitted to assess fees equal to 10 percent of the
unearned policy premium.