Shopping for car insurance can be tedious and tiresome. But cutting corners with this process can mean wasting money at best and risking your savings at worst.
With a financial product as expensive yet indispensable as auto insurance, even a small misstep can cost you big-time.
The following insurance-buying mistakes can easily cost you hundreds of dollars a year — and potentially shave tens of thousands of dollars off your net worth.
1. Failing to shop around
You won’t be able to recognize a good deal on car insurance until you’ve shopped around. Policy pricing can vary widely from one insurer to another. You stand to save hundreds of dollars a year or more simply by comparing prices.
Consider quotes from several companies so you don’t limit your options.
If that sounds like too much hassle, you could let a third party such as Gabi Personal Insurance Agency or The Zebra do it for you. These companies specialize in streamlining the car insurance shopping process.
Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson details his own experience using Gabi in “How I Saved $546 on Car Insurance Without a Single Phone Call.”
2. Deciding based on price alone
Basing an auto insurance decision on price alone could be a costly mistake.
Saving hundreds of dollars a year in premiums won’t matter if you’re responsible for a car accident and discover afterward that you have inadequate protection, leaving you on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars.
If you find an inexpensive policy, make sure it has all of the protections and features you need. Stacy explains how to do this step by step in “The Complete Guide to Getting the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance.”
3. Buying the minimum coverage required by state law
The minimum amount of coverage that your state requires is just that — a minimum. It could be woefully insufficient.
Take for example liability coverage, which pays for damage that you cause to other people or their property. Stacy has described it as “one area of your car policy where you don’t want to scrimp.”
If a court rules that you’re responsible for an accident involving serious injuries or significant property damage, the minimum amount of liability coverage probably won’t be enough to protect your financial assets like your savings. You could end up paying tens of thousands of dollars from your own pocket after your policy pays out.
4. Not checking for complaints against insurers
Before you buy a policy, check with your state department of insurance to find out if there are complaints against an insurer you’re considering.
Ask about enforcement actions, and find out if your state publishes complaint ratio reports. These reports will tell you whether an insurer receives more consumer complaints than average.
You can also search for complaints against insurers through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ website.
5. Not making side-by-side comparisons
Once you narrow your choices down to a few policies, compare them closely to be sure the one you choose has all of the types of coverage you need.
For example, you may want uninsured motorists coverage, which helps pay for accidents caused by uninsured drivers. You also may want comprehensive and collision coverage, which pays for damages that you cause to your own car, and pays if your car is stolen or vandalized.
Again, Stacy breaks down how to weigh these options in “The Complete Guide to Getting the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance.”
6. Buying more coverage than you need
Just as you can buy too little coverage, it’s possible to buy too much. Excess coverage is a waste of money.
For example, if you have few assets, you probably don’t need as high of a liability limit as someone with a lot to lose. If your car wouldn’t be expensive to replace, you might be able to get by with less collision or comprehensive coverage or drop that coverage entirely.
Beware of unnecessary policy add-ons as well. For example, if you already belong to an auto club that provides roadside assistance, you don’t need a policy that offers the same service.
7. Sticking with the same insurer year after year
Car insurance is highly competitive. It’s possible to reduce your costs by hundreds of dollars a year by simply switching to another carrier.
When your next bill arrives, note the coverages you have and seek quotes from other insurers to find out if you would save by switching.
If you find a better deal but want to keep your present carrier, tell your agent. Your insurer might match or beat it.
Have you ever made an insurance shopping mistake that cost you? Share it with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.
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