Maybe a claim wasn’t handled well. Maybe a customer service rep was less-than-polite. Maybe you checked thezebra.com and found that a particular car insurance company’s claims are true and they really can save you 10, 15, whatever percent. For whatever reason, say you’ve found yourself in a position where you’re finished with your current auto insurance company. You need to break up, and move on. You’d prefer a clean break—but you’re not sure about the particulars. How do you actually go about switching car insurance companies? The bummer-ish news is, the process is just a bit complicated. But the great news? There are tons of tricks to make it easier:
First, Check Your Coverages
Before you go about comparison shopping, you want to make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges. In order to accomplish this, you’ll need to understand your current, no-longer-cool-enough policy and all the coverages you’re currently paying for. “There is no benefit in getting a quote for two-thirds the price you are currently paying if you are being quoted half the coverage,” explains Zebra licensed insurance agent Rick Vasquez. “Always have a copy of your current declarations page to make sure the same coverages are being quoted.”
What in the world is a declarations page, you might ask? Also known as a dec page, it’s the piece of paper that outlines all the particulars of your policy and your coverages. If you can’t remember how high your deductible is, or whether you’re paying for comprehensive and collision insurance, your dec page will hold all the answers you seek. So fish it out of your files, or if you can’t find the paper copy, chances are you can access it online through your current provider’s website.
Then, Shop Around
Whether it was your mother or The Miracles who first told you to shop around is beside the point: They were right. We (of course) think the best place to start is thezebra.com. As a bonus, you don’t even have to fork over any personal details, so your browsing can remain truly anonymous. As you answer questions about your desired coverage, your vehicle, and your driving history, you can watch your rate estimates change in real time. Also be sure to check into payment options—many companies now require an email address and/or offer discounts for online billing vs. paper statements.
A few other factors to keep in mind when selecting a company:
- Is 24/7 customer service important to you?
- Is online claims service important to you? (With some companies, you can nearly take care of the whole kit and kaboodle online, at this point.)
- Is an app or mobile presence important to you? Nearly all of the major companies have at least mobile-friendly versions of their sites, but honestly, this is where many insurance companies are still dragging their feet a bit into the 21st Century. I carry USAA auto insurance, and am relatively impressed with their app, but several other major companies have pretty gnarly reviews in the iTunes app store.
Consider Making up Before you Break Up
It’s worth calling your current insurer to tell them about the oh-so-appealing deal you’ve just found with their biggest competitor. Many insurers will, in fact, offer competitive discounts in order to keep your business. But because car insurance isn’t quite as simple as matching the price on a washing machine, the discounts can’t vary too much, explains Zebra agent Rick Vasquez.
“Since all discounts offered are regulated by the individual state’s Department of Insurance or similar office, there are only a handful of discounts available to them. I do, however, suggest customers call their insurance companies and request a “policy review”. In a policy review, not only would the company rep look at the additional discounts for which the customer might qualify for, but they also can make suggestions about certain coverage which might be unnecessary or redundant.
(Did you know, speaking of additional discounts, that most companies offer discounts for Automatic Braking Systems (ABS)? And daytime running lights?)
Believe it or not, you have yet another tool in your arsenal with your old company, Vasquez says:
If the policy review fails, and the customer is still not satisfied, they can always request to rewrite the quote. Since insurance companies are always adjusting the way how they rate their customers, renewing a policy is NOT the same thing as rewriting the policy. Sometimes when the insurance company changes the rules of how they rate customers (called rate revisions), it might be more beneficial to switch to another rate revision (much like switching to another calling plan through your cell phone provider), and rewrite your policy.
Still not better? Leave ’em in the dust. Your dollars are too precious!
Take the Plunge with your New Insurance Company Before Cancelling Your Old
This might be the most crucial piece of advice we offer you: Do not cancel your old policy just because you know you’re about to set up a new one! Even one day of a lapse in insurance coverage could lead to higher rates in the future.
Also check with your company to see if there are any penalties for cancelling the policy—usually, there won’t be, and you’ll be able to get any remaining money left on your policy paid back to you in the form of a refund. But by all means, don’t simply stop paying your old policy bills—you have to let your old company know you’re switching, either via phone or in writing. Get written confirmation from them that the policy is cancelled as well.
Finally, Get Settled In with your New Company—and Play Nice
Don’t say yes to a new company before making sure they’re reputable, reliable, and don’t have monstrous complaints. Online reviews are a decent place to start, but you can also check with your state’s insurance office, which usually monitor customer complaints. You can also check in with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners with questions.
And then, once you have said yes, make sure you’re a great partner to your company as well—in the first 60-90 days of an insurance policy, it’s much easier legally for your company to drop you if you’re involved in an accident or miss payment, so check your due dates, or better yet, pay in full if you can—you usually get a discount for that, too. Happy shopping!