Car insurance companies: All you need to know
Most drivers get their knowledge about car insurance from commercials by the major insurers. But there are literally hundreds of car insurance companies. Yet they re all very different, and most of the difference is behind the scenes. Everything about the way each prices its policies is unique — and has a direct effect on how much you ll pay.
Top Insurance Company Questions
Insurance companies are in the risk business. If the average driver has an accident every 17.9 years (they do) and the average cost of repairing a car is $2,426, according to CCC Information Services, your insurance company will price its policy to pay for that accident long before you have it, plus a little something for profit. Everything that causes you to deviate from the average changes your rate.
What makes you a better or worse risk than the average driver? Your age and gender. Your driving history and your car. Where you park and how far you drive to work. And on down the line, all the way to your profession, marital status and your credit history.
Any car insurance company doing business in your state has to file the formula showing how it will price each of the rating factors it uses.
Insurance companies see a statistical correlation between a credit score and the likelihood a person will cost them money. Researchers found consumers with lower credit scores are more likely to file claims, file exaggerated claims, and even commit insurance fraud. As with the other statistics insurance companies use, credit scores help the insurance companies assess the risk level of a potential customer. Researchers found that people with poor credit scores, below 600, tend to file more claims.
Credit score also affects how an insurance company allows you to pay for your policy. Customers with very poor credit scores may be required to pay the entire premium for a six-month policy up front. Customers with poor credit scores sometimes will not qualify for monthly billing, or may need to pay a large percentage of the policy up front and the remainder monthly.
Why should I shop around for car insurance?
Insurance companies win your business by pricing their coverage low enough to attract you but high enough so that they make a profit. Giant teams of underwriters and uncounted terabytes of computing power go into their calculations.
But not every insurance company comes to the same conclusions about what s risky and what s not. One, for example, may believe that a person who has one DUI conviction is statistically less likely to have another and price that policy more cheaply than other companies do. Another might decide that 16-year-olds are unacceptably risky, then make any policy that includes one very expensive.
What is the fastest way to cut my car insurance bill?
Try raising your deductible. That reduces your car insurance company s risk, and thus your bill.
But it leaves you on the hook. If you raise your deductible from $250 to $1,000, do you have the extra money stashed somewhere to repair your car? If you don t have some kind of savings to deal with an emergency, you might wind up without a car.
If you lease your car, the finance company may require certain deductibles. Check first.
In the end, you might save some money. But you can be certain that these car insurance discounts would not be offered if companies did not make more money by offering them.
Do your homework. Make sure they re licensed to do business in your state, and see how many people have complained about them. CarInsurance.com has a link to every state s insurance regulator. and most of them will have reports that show you the number of complaints filed versus similarly sized companies.
You also want to make sure that the company has the money set aside to handle your claim. Financial strength and satisfaction ratings come from variety of companies such as A.M. Best, Fitch and J.D. Power.