Frequently Asked Questions
How do I save money on auto insurance?
9 WAYS TO SAVE
The Insurance Information Institute has nine suggestions to help you save on your auto insurance policies. Auto insurance premiums can vary from company to company and from coverage to coverage, so be sure to shop around.
1. COMPARISSON SHOP
Use consumer information provided by your state’s insurance department. If you use an independent agent, ask if he can offer you a better rate with one of his other companies.
2. ASK FOR HIGHER DEDUCTABLES
When you file a claim, a deductible is the amount of money you pay before your insurance company kicks in. Higher deductibles mean lower premiums. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 on collision coverage could reduce your cost by as much as 30 percent.
3. DROP COLLISION AND/OR COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGES ON OLDER CARS
If you own a car that’s worth less than $1,000, you’ll probably pay more for the coverage than you would ever collect on a claim. Your bank can tell you how much your car is worth, or check out the Kelley Blue Book.
4. BUY A “LOW-PROFILE” CAR
Cars that are expensive to repair or that have a high theft rate generally have higher insurance costs. Insurance Information Exchange has the newest statistics that show the most-stolen vehicles in the U.S. and data on collision-repair costs.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOW-MILAGE DISCOUNTS
Some insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who put fewer than a predetermined number of miles on their vehicles each year.
6. CONSIDER INSURACE COST WHEN MAKING A MOVE
Costs tend to be lowest in rural communities and highest in cities, where more traffic congestion occurs.
7. FIND OUT ABOUT DISCOUNTS FOR AUTOMATIC SEATBELTS OR AIRBAGS
Your insurance agent should let you know about these discounts when you purchase your coverage. Most policies give discounts for airbags and automatic seatbelts.
8. ASK ABOUT ANTI-LOCK BREAKS
Some states, including Florida, New Jersey, and New York, require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with anti-lock brakes. Some insurance companies give the discount no matter where you live.
9. ASK ABOUT OTHER DISCOUNTS
Some companies offer discounts for insuring more than one car, having no accidents in three years, being a driver over 50, taking driver training courses, and having anti theft devices. Plus, remember good-student discounts when you are insuring a teen driver.
How do I save money on home insurance?
12 WAYS TO SAVE
The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on the company you buy your policy from.
Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don’t offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. That’s why you should ask your agent or company representative about any discounts available to you.
Here are 12 STEPS you can take to help you SAVE MONEY on your HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE:
1. SHOP AROUND
Friends, family, the phone book and Internet are some of the sources you can use to find homeowners insurers. Get a wide range of prices from several companies. But don’t consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer both a fair price and excellent service. Quality service may cost a bit more, but you buy insurance in case you need to make a claim, so it’s important to get a company with a good reputation. Talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial ratings of the companies with AM Best or Standard and Poor’s.
2. RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay. Deductibles on homeowners policies typically start at $250. Increase your deductible to $ 500 — save up to 12 percent; $1,000 — save up to 24 percent; $2,500 — save up to 30 percent; $5,000 — save up to 37 percent. Depending on your insurance company.
3. BUY YOUR HOME AND AUTO POLICIES FROM THE SAME INSURER
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.
4. WHEN YOU BUY A HOME…
Consider how much insuring it will cost. A new home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those of an older house. Insurers may offer you a discount of 8 to 15 percent if your house is new. Check the home’s construction: In the East Brick, because of its resistance to wind damage In the West Frame, because of its resistance to earthquake damage Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent. Avoiding areas that are prone to floods can save you about $400 a year for flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related damage. The closer your house is to firefighters and their equipment, the lower your premium will be.
5. INSURE YOUR HOUSE, NOT THE LAND
The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you’ll pay a higher premium than you should.
6. IMPROVE YOUR HOME SECURITY AND SAFETY
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police station or other monitoring facility. These systems aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for the discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends and how much the device would cost and how much you’d save on premiums.
7. STOP SMOKING
Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires a year. That’s why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in a house don’t smoke.
8. SEEK OUT DISCOUNTS FOR SENIORS
Retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people and have more time for maintaining their homes. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.
9. SEE IF YOU CAN GET GROUP COVERAGE
Alumni and business associations often work out an insurance package with an insurance company, which includes a discount for association members. Ask your association’s director if an insurer is offering a discount on homeowners insurance to you and your fellow graduates or colleagues.
10. STAY WITH AN INSURER
If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive special consideration. Several insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for 6 years or more.
11. COMPARE THE LIMITS IN YOUR POLICY TO THE VALUE OF YOUR POSSESSIONS AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need.
12. LOOK FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE FIRST
If you live in a high-risk area — one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime — and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.
How do I file an auto insurance claim?
You should Keep your auto insurance information in the glove compartment, including a preprinted form allowing you to provide the particulars of any accident, including a sketch of the scene.
Stay at the scene of the accident until police have been and gone, making sure you have the name of the officer(s) and that they have your version of what happened. Do not assume a police report will “take you off the hook” or even that one will be generated in the event of a minor accident (minor may mean no one is injured even though your car suffers a direct hit).
Exchange names, addresses, driver’s license and insurance information with the driver of the other car.
Review your policy to make sure of your coverage.
Make a list of questions and related information you want to know.
Report the accident promptly to your insurance company. This may not seem wise or necessary to you. The accident may be minor, you may not want to risk seeing your rates rise or you may live in a no-fault state and think that the other driver’s insurance company will pay for everything. But state laws generally protect you from higher rates unless an accident was your fault. And even though you may think no-fault lets you off the hook for the other driver’s medical expenses, it does not. It simply says his insurance will pay for his expenses (up to the limits of his coverage) regardless of who is at fault. But rest assured his insurance company will come knocking on your insurer’s door seeking repayment if it believes you were at fault in the accident. The point is, your insurer should be informed.
Admit it. You’ve never read your auto insurance policy, you don’t want to read it, and even if you’re in an accident, you’re still not sure if it would force you into those endless lines of fine print and insurance-ese. Assuming you can even find the policy. If you can, look in the back for what are called the conditions of your policy — what you are supposed to do in the event of an accident. These requirements are pretty straightforward, although compliance may seem like a hassle when you’re already upset by the accident itself. But you may forfeit some of your rights if you don’t follow these instructions.
Next, look at the cover sheet of the policy, which is called the declarations page and which lists the types and dollar limits of your coverage, including shorthand references to any discounts or special provisions you have elected to purchase.
Last, there’s the actual insuring agreement, itself, which explains what your insurer is protecting you against, including definitions of terms used in the agreement and explanations of what’s not covered (called the exclusions). If you don’t understand your policy, keep calling your agent and/or state insurance department until you get clear answers to your questions. Most people have heard that ignorance is no defense under the law, but they don’t think they’ll ever have to find out. Auto accidents are one of the most common ways to discover the sobering cost of ignorance.
Hopefully, your accident involves only damages to things and not to people. And, hopefully, it wasn’t your fault. Even if it’s just your car that’s banged up, repairs can be a major headache. This is where the reality sets in that replacement cost is not the same thing as market value.
Your car can easily be declared a total loss even though the money you’d receive is nowhere near what it would cost you to replace the vehicle. The best advice about getting your car fixed is to remember that the money may be coming from the insurance company but you should control the repair process. This means refusing to settle for a repair job you don’t like. And it may also mean refusing to accept the use of generic replacement parts instead of the original manufacturer’s parts (your policy may give your insurer the right to use generic parts, so it’s important to check the fine print to know your rights). Even if your favorite shop doesn’t do the repairs, you can still have your mechanic look at the car (although this may be at your personal expense) and provide an assessment of what should be fixed. Ultimately, it’s your car and your call about what’s done to it.
Talk to your agent and/or insurer about your rights (better still, you should really ask these questions before you buy a policy). And if you don’t like the answers, call your state insurance department.
To retrieve an accident report that you can print, click here. (keep this in your car)
How do I file a property insurance claim?
A homeowners insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. You should understand the policy before a loss occurs. Review your policy with your insurance representative so you’ll know what’s covered.
FILING YOUR CLAIM
1. Report any burglary or theft to police.
2. Phone your agent or company immediately.
(Insurance policies place a time limit on filing claims.) Ask questions: Am I covered? Does my claim exceed my deductible? (Your deductible is the amount of loss you agree to pay yourself when you buy a policy.) How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs to structural damage?
3. Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage.
Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
4. Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles.
5. Save receipts from any additional living expenses you incur if your home is so severely damaged that you have to find other accommodations while repairs are being made.
Most homeowners insurance policies include a provision for reimbursement of these expenses.
6. Get claim forms.
Once your insurance company has been notified of your claim, the company is required to send you the necessary claim forms to you by the end of a specified time period. (The time period varies from state to state.) Return the properly filled out forms as soon as possible.
7. Have an adjuster inspect the damage to your home.
Your insurance company will probably arrange for the adjuster.
SETTLING YOUR CLAIM
Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of the settlement, the law requires that you be sent payment promptly. Unless there are problems with your claim, it will be processed quickly. If you are unsatisfied with you claim, follow these steps:
1. Talk to your agent or the claims manager at your insurance company.
Explain your side of the matter. Provide copies of supporting documents. Also, send a letter and documents to the claims executive at the insurance company’s headquarters whose address is usually found on the first page of the policy.
2. Call the National Insurance Consumer Helpline.
If after hearing from your insurance company’s claims executive, you still feel your claim hasn’t been handled properly, call 800-942-4242. It is a toll-free consumer information telephone service sponsored by the insurance industry. Trained personnel and licensed agents are available to assist consumers who have complaints. The Helpline operates Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET.
3. Contact your state insurance department.
Explain the reasons for the disagreement to a consumer services representative at the department. He or she will discuss the matter with your insurer and help to resolve any difference so the claim can be settled.
4. Consult an attorney.
The American Bar Association notes that many situations involving legal matters can be handled by consumers on their own, without a lawyer. If you do hire an attorney, provide them with a copy of your insurance policy and all other relevant documents. If the insurance company has made a settlement offer, tell your attorney about it and ask if he or she believes that a lawsuit will help you get a larger settlement. Attorneys usually work on an hourly rate, but with cases involving injuries, they generally work on a contingency basis. Get the attorney’s fee structure in writing before you decide to pursue the case. You can remain current on the progress of your claim by insisting that you receive copies from your attorney of all correspondence involving your case. Your attorney must have your agreement before committing to any settlement.
REVIEWING YOUR POLICY
After your claim has been settled, take time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate protection.