Most of us have what would be best termed as “basic knowledge” of car insurance procedures and practices. That doesn’t help much when it comes time to shop for a new policy. Before you do, you should be ready with questions that help cover the finer points of a policy.
The idea isn’t to get the best policy possible, or even the cheapest, but rather one that offers the best value for the money.
Here are 10 questions that will help you to accomplish that goal.
Will my policy cover other drivers of my vehicle?
Naturally, your policy will cover you while you are driving your own vehicle. But what happens if a family member is driving your car on a run to the grocery store? Or a friend borrows it to run an errand? And how will the policy work if you are driving someone else’s vehicle and you are involved in an accident?
How each of these situations will be handled will depend upon your insurance carrier, as well as the laws in your particular state. Never assume that each of these incidents will be covered simply because you have a car insurance policy.
How will certain jobs affect my coverage?
When you apply for a car insurance policy, you will be asked specific questions about your driving habits. This will include the distance that you commute to work or school, as well as the type of work that you do and whether or not your car will be used in connection with your work.
Understand that certain lines of work will be specifically excluded by your policy. For example, it is very typical for car insurance policies to exclude coverage if your car is used in connection with sales work or any kind of delivery function. Even if you have a policy in place, if you are using your car for an excluded function, you will have no coverage should you get into an accident while you are doing your job.
What coverage do I need in excess of state required minimums?
If you are looking to keep your premium costs to an absolute minimum, the insurance company may offer you only the least amount of coverage required by your state. But there may be additional coverage that, while not required, is highly desirable.
One example is un-/under-insured motorist, or UM. Even if it is not required by your state, it’s good insurance coverage to have. It is fairly inexpensive, and it will cover the cost of repairs if you’re hit by a driver who is uninsured or underinsured. Still another example is personal injury protection. This is another inexpensive add-on that will pay for your medical expenses (up to a certain limit) and lost income if you are hit by another driver.
This is a logical question if you feel that your premium is excessive. What you’re doing with this question is asking the insurance company to give you specific reasons why your premiums are so high. This will give you an opportunity to address the offending causes and find a way to work around them, if possible.
For example, if high premiums are being caused by too many traffic violations, you can ask if participation in a defensive driving course might lower your premium.
Consumers—and car insurance agencies—often lower car insurance premiums by increasing your deductible. But while that may be a good strategy to keep your premiums low, it could be the wrong strategy for you individually.
For example, if you can save $200 per year on your premium by increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000, you will be increasing your personal risk in the event of an accident. Sure, you may save $200 on the premium, but you will now have to pay $1,000 on a claim rather than $500.
If you’re not particularly good at saving money, and you don’t normally keep at least $1,000 in savings just for emergencies, raising the deductible could put you in a financial bind should you get into an accident and need to pay the higher deductible.
Can you provide me with your company’s complete list of discounts?
Most car insurance companies offer dozens of different discounts. But unless you volunteer certain information, or your agent asks you specific questions, you may never know whether or not you are eligible for those discounts.
For example, it’s common for discounts to apply when you have certain safety equipment, such as airbags. There are also typically discounts for good students, and for certain occupations that are known to carry a lower risk than normal.
The only way you will know if you qualify for any of the discounts that you are entitled to will be to review the entire list.
Will I have “gap coverage”?
This coverage is typically required if you lease your car, but you may want to have it if you have a loan on your car. Car insurance policies typically cover no more than the book value of your vehicle. But if the amount of the loan you owe on the car is higher than the book value, you could end up getting stuck paying the difference between the two should your car be totaled.
Gap coverage is specifically to cover the difference between a car loan and the value of the vehicle. If you have it, the loan will be paid off even if it exceeds the car’s book value.
Insurance companies will typically discount your premium if you pay on an annual basis, instead of quarterly, or if you pay quarterly instead of monthly. But some companies also offer you a discount if you pay by credit card—presumably this will make it easier for you to make an annual payment.
This is one of the easiest ways to save money on your premium, which is why it is a question you should always ask.
How will my car be repaired following an accident?
This question relates primarily to the parts that will be used in the repair. Will the repairs be completed using brand-new parts and, if so, up to what age of the car? Or will repairs be completed using second hand parts?
Coverage may be less expensive if secondhand parts will be used, but do you really want to have 10-year-old parts put into your two-year-old car?
Does the policy include towing and roadside assistance, and is it available on a 24/7 basis?
Towing is typically available for either an accident or a mechanical breakdown while you’re on the road. This is important because such episodes tend to happen without warning. Roadside assistance is also valuable, because sometimes all you need is to have a flat fixed or to have your battery jumped. Having this coverage will save you a considerable amount of money, as opposed to calling a local mechanic.
It’s also important that these services are available on a 24/7 basis, since accidents and car stalls often occur on weekends or during the late-night hours. A policy that has these coverages will be advantageous because it will require less out-of-pocket costs on your part in the event of an emergency.
Take the time to ask these questions when shopping for car insurance. One or more of them just might save you hundreds of dollars in premiums.