All auto insurance policies – and companies – are not created equal. It's true that most insurers offer a basic level of protection in their policies as regulated by your state, like providing coverage for liability. From there, policies can vary substantially, both in features and in the level of customer service you'll receive if you ever have a claim. In the end, those qualities are what can set one insurance provider apart from the rest.
Get to know the company
While you're comparing insurance policies, make sure to compare insurance companies, too.
"You'll hear people say insurance is a commodity product – it’s all the same. That's absolutely not true," says Brian P. Sullivan, editor of Risk Information and an insurance industry advisor. "What you're really buying is the performance of the company when you file a claim."
So how do you find the best company? "There are a couple ways to figure it out," Sullivan says. "One is by looking at customer satisfaction surveys, such as those conducted by J.D. Power.” Another helpful source is A.M. Best, which reports on the financial strength and stability of a company. Researching objective studies and learning which companies rank highest is a great way to single out the best choices. Sullivan adds, “The most important thing is trying to assess how a company is going to treat you.”
Policy bells and whistles
To stand out in a crowded field, many companies will offer policies with extra features and benefits. Some that are worth considering when you're comparing quotes are:
- Rental Reimbursement – Following a claim, this coverage reimburses you for the cost of a temporary ride while you’re shopping for a new car or waiting for yours to be repaired.
- Accident Forgiveness – If you're a safe driver with few or no accidents claims, accident forgiveness (if available in your state) means your insurer won't raise your premiums after a claim. Keep in mind this coverage typically comes at a higher cost, which could outweigh the benefit.
- Repair Assistance – If your car is ever damaged, some policies will help you fix it. For example, Amica Auto Repair Assistance lets you choose from more than 1,200 certified repair shops across the country who will give you a warranty for all repairs for as long as you own your car.
- Roadside Assistance – This includes towing, locksmith, battery jumps or fuel delivery in case you're ever stranded. This benefit can save you from having to pay for separate coverage from other companies.
- Full Glass Coverage – What if a random piece of gravel gets kicked up and cracks your windshield? Sometimes the damage can be fixed, but other times the entire windshield needs to be replaced. Either way, this type of coverage, which varies from state to state, can take care of the costs.
What about discounts?
The reputation of the company is paramount, and extras are nice to have, but baseline price still matters. Look for an auto policy that offers you discounts on your premium. "The most valuable one is almost always bundling your car insurance with your home insurance or renters insurance,” Sullivan notes. “It’s a very good idea to make sure that a company is going to give you the best price on more than one policy.”
More discounts to look for include multi-car, anti-theft and safety features, electronic policy delivery discounts, billing discounts for paying the premium in full and automatic payments, as well as good student and driver’s training if you have a teen driver in the house.1
Getting the most value
Ultimately, choosing an auto insurance provider is about finding the right fit and service quality for you. “You really want to go to a company where you feel comfortable that they're going to give you good advice and the right coverage,” Sullivan says.
It’s no surprise that everyone wants to save on auto insurance. But it really pays to compare policies – and companies – when you're getting a quote. What seemed like the most economical policy could end up costing you a lot if an insurer isn’t financially stable or there for you when you need them most.