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Car Insurance Reviews

Selecting the Best Car Insurance Plan and Using Car Insurance Reviews & Ratings

Unless you live in a state, such as New Hampshire, that doesn't require it, car insurance for your vehicle is mandatory. Even if you are not obligated to have car insurance, it's still a good idea to have it. If all the information available at your fingertips only leaves you more confused about which policy is best for you, read on. Here's an overview of what to look for in car insurance reviews, including questions you want to ask and how the price of your policy can go up or down depending on numerous factors.

What determines the cost of a car insurance policy?

There are certain elements that determine the base price of insurance for most drivers. Where you drive the vehicle and park the vehicle is a major factor. The risks are just inherently higher if you live and work in a city like Chicago than if you only use your car in a remote rural area.

The type and value of your vehicle is also a significant price determinant. Obviously, a new luxury car will cost more to repair or replace than a used car that may not be running as well or have the same safety features.

The drivers of the vehicle and their ages and driving records are also a factor. Statistics show, for example, that younger drivers, specifically teenage males, are at higher risk for accidents. If you add your child to your policy, expect the price to go up. Furthermore, some insurance carriers will assume that your teen is driving the most expensive car in your garage, even if you insist otherwise. The rates on all your vehicles may be raised accordingly. Insurance providers do, however, frequently give discounts for a long history of safe driving with few or no accidents.

Some insurance carriers offer low introductory rates for new customers. This may be appealing, if they average well with the rate once the intro period is over. Make sure to do your homework and discover what the long-term premium for the insurance policy will be.

Of course, the type of coverage you purchase is a big part of your insurance cost as well. Please see the section below entitled "How much coverage should you have?" for further discussion about this element.

Are there other factors they're not telling me about?

While some insurance carriers may volunteer certain price discount information or survey you to find out if these discounts apply, others won't offer them unless you ask. It's worth asking a potential provider if they will give you a price break for any of the following:

Another way to get a discount on the cost of your insurance policy is to increase your deductible, or the amount you have to pay out of pocket when you file a claim. If you elect to go with a higher deductible, you can pay less on your premium, while if your deductible is lower, expect your premium cost to go up.

Having a higher deductible usually makes sense, because you're not likely to file a small claim anyway if your deductible is low. Imagine this scenario: you are in a fender bender with a light pole, and the cost to repair the damage is $800. If your deductible is already $500, you probably won't ask your insurance carrier for the remaining $300 because you'll pay that with with future rate increases as a result of the claim. Unlike homeowner's and renter's insurance, your car insurance will probably increase with a claim if you are at fault.

View more ways to get the cheapest car insurance quotes.

How much coverage should you have?

One of the decisions many people struggle with is how much coverage to purchase. If you are financially strapped, you need to carry at least the bare minimum required by your state laws. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, to find out what your compulsory insurance requirements are. This gives you a starting point for coverage.

Give serious consideration to purchasing more than the minimum liability requirement, however. If you have assets like a home or business, and your insurance does not cover damages you inflict while operating a motor vehicle, you could lose them in a lawsuit.

One way to help manage liability insurance is to have an umbrella policy that can pick up where your car insurance leaves off. An umbrella policy can also cover you if someone slips and falls in your home or if your dog bites someone. If you bundle your auto insurance and umbrella policy with one carrier, you should be able to save some money, and it will be easier if you ever have to use your umbrella policy for a motor vehicle-related claim.

The decision about buying collision and comprehensive insurance is one that stumps many buyers. If your car is more than about five years old or is paid off, it may be time to drop these parts of an insurance policy or not buy them in the first place. However, if your car is new, or if you are still paying on a loan or a lease for it, conventional wisdom says collision and comprehensive insurance makes sense. If you are very hard on your vehicles, even through no fault of your own, like rough roads on your commute, you may want collision insurance. Likewise, if you have a history of accidents, collision is good idea.

You can purchase comprehensive insurance without collision. Comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle in the event of things like theft, fire or flood. If you live in a high-crime or hurricane area, for example, comprehensive insurance can save you money and heartache.

What should you expect from billing and customer service?

These days, billing should be a breeze, with automatic payments that can be deducted regularly from your bank account or credit card. Be sure to ask, though, about whether you can get a discount by paying your premium in one lump sum versus monthly or quarterly payments.

Questions or problems should be answered promptly by customer service, and you want a carrier that has representatives available day and night. This is one area of insurance reviews to pay close attention to as customers that aren't treated well about billing issues or policy inquiries will probably get even worse treatment when they file a claim.

What happens when you file a claim?

Filing a claim should be as painless as possible, given that sometimes this occurs in an emergency situation and that the police may be involved. You should find a carrier that has 24/7 live representation in case you have an accident in the middle of the night or on a holiday.

Check the reviews to see how customers liked the claims process with any prospective insurance carriers you are considering. Also find about any limitations such as towing companies and distances, repair shops and replacement costs. Ask if you are entitled to factory replacements on any parts, or if you may have to settle for refurbished or after market parts. Inquire about how quickly claims are paid out too as being without your vehicle can be a huge headache. Some carriers cover loaner vehicles, so that's worth asking about too.

Are all insurance carriers basically the same?

While many insurance carriers may look alike, they can be very different, not only in how they treat their customers, but in how financially sound they are. You can find out information about the financial strength of an insurance company by reviewing A.M. Best, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Consumer Information Source. If your city were hit with a major flood, and your prospective carrier had to pay out thousands of claims at once, would they have the money to do so?

Some companies, such as State Farm, will connect you with a local, captive agent who will only be able to sell you insurance from State Farm. Using a local, independent broker can help you compare rates from multiple companies at the same time, but they may not sell insurance from certain companies, specically those who use captive agents. A third way of comparing car insurance is by using a site like this to match you with multiple companies and maximize your ability to compare and contrast quotes.

Buying car insurance doesn't have to be a complicated or fear-inducing process. Use the tips above to review the options, customer satisfaction and financial rating of any carrier, and you can drive knowing you have the best protection available to you.