When to go for online insurance plans

Karan Chopra, head, retail sales, HDFC Ergo General Insurance Company, says one in every seven, or 14 per cent, of private car insurance policies are renewed online. However, of all insurance policies sold by the company, only three per cent are bought or renewed online.

He says this is partly because more effort is required for a sales process, while renewal is easier online. That is why customers who buy through an agent or banks also prefer to renew online.

Among the policies sold online, those for motor, health, term life insurance and personal accident covers sold more than traditional plans, for which the consumer might require some help from an agent.

A recent report by The Boston Consulting Group and Google said the percentage of customers purchasing insurance policies online had gone up steadily over last year. Health insurance buyers had increased from 13 per cent in 2012 to 19 per cent; motor insurance also went up from 13 per cent in 2012 to 16 per cent. Still, the share of digital sales continues to be low, at only two per cent, the report said.

Yet, the potential savings in total costs with

How Car Insurance Companies Handle Car Accident Claims

When Apple programmer Kit Cutler’s 2012 Ford Focus was slammed from behind by a silver Lexus, the hit was so hard that it shoved his car into the Honda Accord in front of him. Although no one was hurt in the accident, the driver of the silver Lexus drove off without providing insurance information to anyone. Cutler and the Accord’s driver exchanged insurance information, filed reports with the police and went home. The accident was only slightly more confusing to Cutler than the insurance claims process that came after.

That car insurance claims process baffles nearly everyone. “Most people only file a claim every eight to 10 years,” says Jeanne Salvatore, vice president for public affairs and consumer spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-supported, non-lobbying group dedicated to improving public understanding of insurance.

Cutler filed his claim by phone. “In that initial interview, the agent told me very quickly that I wasn’t at fault,” he says. Then she asked him questions about the accident and typed his answers into an online form. Cutler checked and verified the information.

“They go through it all very quickly, so you have to pay attention,” he says.

Personal Factors That Affect Insurance Rates

A reporter recently asked Edmunds about the kinds of personal information that can affect the cost of car insurance. She also wanted to know whether people could do anything to address personal factors that were keeping their car insurance rates high.

They’re good questions, and Edmunds was happy to help answer them. During the research it became clear that when it comes to car insurance, there’s hardly anything that isn’t personal. Here are five all-about-you factors that can affect your car insurance premium:

1) Your driving profile. Such factors as the number of miles you drive annually and your accident and ticket history are major elements in setting your insurance rate. The less you drive, the less risk of an accident and a claim. Safer driving — meaning a history free of accidents and moving violations — also points to someone who’s less likely to file a claim.

2) The car you drive. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The cost of fixing a brand-new $225,000 2010 Ferrari 458

Why You Need Financial Cheat Days

When we think of “cheat days,” we tend to think of a sweet treat or indulgent meal that breaks a cycle of strict dieting. A cheat day is meant to satisfy cravings, and it’s a great way to incorporate foods you normally wouldn’t include in your diet without ruining your metabolism. Similarly, a financial cheat day can help you budget better and prevent an overindulgent, perhaps impulsive, shopping spree.

There are plenty of financial resolutions that can help fatten your wallet this year. You can check your credit card history, increase your savings or adjust your lifestyle to live well below your means. The Internet and mobile apps make it easy to monitor spending, and even blogs like this one provide helpful tips on how to maximize your savings. But sticking to a strict money diet can be mentally exhausting, and even the most diligent saver can suffer the occasional slip up here and there.

The discipline and patience needed to stick to your financial resolutions can be taxing, just like how following a strict diet can drive you crazy. Just like a cheat day when you diet, allowing yourself the occasional financial celebration can help you feel indulgent without going overboard.

Edmunds.com Editors Shop for Auto Insurance on Their Personal Cars

With money tighter than ever, it was time for us to see if we could do better than our existing auto insurance policy. Our current insurance company (which shall go unnamed) was known for its low premiums. Would it be possible to meet or beat those rates, while possibly improving other aspects of our coverage?

We thought about trying an auto insurance broker who represented several different brands of car insurance, but we wanted to keep our options open to the entire range of companies. Armed with our current policy’s declaration page, we set out on a hunt for the best value.

Step 1: Check Customer Satisfaction Scores
We started by looking at the results of the J.D. Power National Auto Insurance Survey, in which more than 21,000 insurance policy holders rated their insurers. This extremely useful chart let us sort results by any of five criteria: Overall Experience, Policy Offerings, Pricing, Billing and Payment, or Contacting the Insurer. We noticed that our current insurer was low down on the ranking list.

Of the five criteria, our two highest priorities were Policy Offerings and Pricing. After playing around with the chart, we narrowed down our choices to Amica (a multiyear award winner), Automobile

Should You Get Credit Insurance When You Buy a Car?

For most of us, buying a car is the second largest financial transaction we’ll make, next to buying a home. And we’re likely to get loans to finance our car purchase. In the fourth quarter of 2014, 84 percent of new cars purchased were financed, according to Experian Automotive.

If you’re financing your car purchase through a dealership, it’s also likely that the finance and insurance manager will offer you warranty and insurance products, such as an extended warranty, gap insurance or tire-and-wheel protection. The F&I manager might also offer credit protection, which is meant to cover your car payments should you be unable to pay them yourself because of layoff, injury, illness or death.

The most venerable of these products, with an almost 100-year history, is credit insurance. Consumer groups have long been leery of credit insurance products, which are offered not just for cars, but also for credit cards and other consumer loans. Often, the consumer groups contend, the products are expensive and unnecessary. Further, there have been instances of lenders forcing the credit insurance on consumers.

“It’s often very expensive when you compare it to the benefits,” says Chris Kukla, senior vice president with the Center for Responsible

Should Newlyweds Combine Car Insurance Policies?

Chances are, car insurance wasn’t the first thing you thought of after the proposal. In fact, you might not have thought about how marriage might affect your car insurance rates at all. But after the decorations have been cleared and honeymoon adventures logged, you’ll want to consider adding “check on combining car insurance policies” to your newlywed to-do list. Car insurance is usually cheaper for married couples — with a few important caveats.

No Matter What, You’ll Likely Save
Even if you do absolutely nothing, the sheer fact of being married is likely to have a positive impact on your rates once your policy is up for review. The Zebra, a car insurance comparison engine and digital auto insurance agency, projects a premium savings of 10-12 percent when all other factors remain the same.

Why is this the case? According to Frankie Kuo, an auto insurance specialist at Value Penguin, “Insurers find married people less likely to file a claim compared to single drivers of comparable profile, and so consider them less risky to insure.”

When Combining Policies Makes Sense
To nab an even steeper discount, consider combining your car and your beloved’s in a single policy. This makes the most

Top 10 Ways to Steal a Car (and how to defend against them)

Lists come out every year detailing the most stolen cars and, with that, what steps one can take to deter car thieves. Yet, a car is stolen in the United States every 24 seconds according to the Insurance Information Institute. Auto theft continues to thrive despite those lists and regardless of new anti-theft technology that emerges with every new model year.

What else can you do besides not drive the most stolen car in America and equip your car with anti-theft protection? We’re going to give you the unique opportunity to look inside the mind of the car thief and learn how he steals cars. With the help of police auto theft experts and auto theft professionals, we’ve compiled this list of some of the ways thieves steal cars followed by suggestions of how to stop them from doing it to you.

We have no intention of providing new information to the wrong people and simply want to educate the good guys. We haven’t disclosed anything that car thieves don’t already know and we have left out specific details to avoid making this a “how-to.” Knowing the insider tricks of auto thieves will motivate you to take the necessary precautions

Four Steps to Switching Car Insurance

Could you save hundreds of dollars by switching your car insurance? It is a question worth asking yourself at least once a year. By doing a little research now, you may be able to find a comparable insurance plan at a better rate with another company, and save money. But you have to make sure you take the appropriate steps to switch, because you don’t want to have a lapse in coverage.

Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president at the Insurance Information Institute in New York, suggests asking yourself if you’re happy with the cost, coverage and service of your current policy each time it comes up for renewal. “If the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes,’ then stay with them. But if you’re not sure, it’s a good opportunity to shop around,” she says.

Here are four key steps to take when it comes to switching car insurance:

1. Review your current driving situation.
Take note of your driving circumstances as well as the needs of other drivers in your household. Do you have a newer model car? Do you commute several miles each week to work? Do you have recent traffic tickets?

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC),

How To Tell If Usage-Based Car Insurance Is Right for You

Plug-in devices that monitor aspects of an auto insurance customer’s driving are nothing new. And it’s nearly impossible to miss the commercials touting the savings that good drivers might enjoy if they try out their carrier’s usage-based programs.

But what is still only whispered about are the potential downsides: surcharges for bad driving. Most auto insurers go out of their way to insist that their driver-monitoring programs exist only to reward safe drivers and that the worst outcome for trying one is that drivers don’t get the advertised savings. And even then, insurers say, drivers will gain valuable feedback and be able to make positive changes in their driving.

But in spring 2015, Progressive announced that it would begin charging some members of its Snapshot program a surcharge for aggressive driving behaviors.

Dave Pratt, Progressive’s usage-based insurance business leader, said Snapshot 3.0 currently exists in Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Oregon.

“Because insurance is regulated at the state level, the full rollout will take time and vary based on the Department of Insurance in each state,” Pratt said.

As of now, Progressive is the only major insurance carrier moving away from the reward-only model of usage-based insurance programs,

How To Replace Your Car After a Natural Disaster

The night Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, Mandee Bellarosa and her roommates were hunkered down in their multilevel condominium in Hoboken, New Jersey. At 9 pm, the power went out, and shortly afterward they went to bed.

Bellarosa woke just two hours later when a friend called with bad news. Water was already entering his garage, where she had earlier parked her 2009 Volkswagen Jetta, hoping to keep it out of harm’s way. Despite the blackout, she could see that the streets below her windows were fast becoming rivers.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon that the water had receded enough for Bellarosa to venture outside, and even then it was a knee-deep trudge to check on the status of her car. The Jetta actually looked OK, but when she opened the driver’s door, water poured out.

Car shopping would probably be the last thing on your mind if you were caught in a natural disaster. But events like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or this year’s so-called Frankenstorm can destroy tens of thousands of cars in little more than the blink of an eye, leaving their owners

How To Get Affordable Car Insurance

If you lose your job, take a pay cut or encounter another kind of financial hardship, affordable auto insurance quickly turns from nice to necessity. While it’s easy enough to find companies offering cut-rate car insurance, is that the best way to go?

Not really, according to consumer watchdogs and insurance experts. To find the lowest possible rates from an insurer that’ll be there when you need it, learn what type of coverage you must carry, research the reputations of insurance companies and take advantage of every possible discount for which you’re eligible, experts say. They also recommend checking out pay-as-you-drive policies that peg premiums to how many miles you put on your car each year. Finally, if you’re eligible, look into low-cost auto insurance programs that such states as California, Hawaii and New Jersey offer to people with very low incomes.

When it comes to buying affordable car insurance, you’re your own best advocate. At the same time, it’s not always easy to take on that role, says J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner and insurance director at the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America in Washington. Don’t settle for the first insurance company or agent you find,

How to Choose the Right Insurance Company

If you’ve read our “10 Steps to Buying Insurance” article, you should have a pretty good idea of how much car insurance to buy and how to find a low-cost policy. But how do you make sure that the company you sign on with is going to be reliable? When we say “reliable,” we’re talking about how the insurer treats you, the customer. Most importantly, how will the company deal with you when you file a claim?

To help answer this question, we consulted two insurance experts: Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) and a retired insurance adjuster, and Doug Heller, a consumer advocate at The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, a California-based consumer advocacy group. Both had several ideas for consumers determined to make sure their car insurance investment is directed toward a trustworthy company, one that will pay on time and in full.

1) Visit your state’s department of insurance Web site. Although you may not be familiar with it, your state, and every state, has a department of insurance. Most departments have Web sites, and many publish “consumer complaint ratios” for all

Protect Yourself From Auto Insurance Fraud

There are various ways consumers can fall victim to auto insurance fraud, including accident scams, insurer tricks and referral fraud. Whether you’re buying auto insurance or on the road, it’s important to know how to protect yourself. To keep you out of trouble, we’ve compiled the most important tips from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the North Dakota Department of Insurance, FraudGuides.com and Edmunds.com.

When Buying Auto Insurance

  • Be wary of insurance offers from door-to-door salespeople, telephone callers or unsolicited Internet advertisements.
  • Be suspicious if the price of insurance seems much lower than the competition’s. It could be a scam, or the coverage might be full of exclusions that are only discovered when you need the coverage.
  • Contact your state’s insurance department to make sure the agent and company are licensed.
  • Check the company’s rating at the Better Business Bureau.
  • Make sure “free services” aren’t actually hidden in your insurance bill.
  • Ask if the insurance company has purchased or invested in vehicle repair shops; this is a red flag. You are not required to use them, and they will not give you better service or prices — in fact, they could be worse.
  • Guard your insurance identification number the same way you would your social security number,

How To Cut Teen Insurance Rates

Teens ages 16-19 are three times more likely than drivers older than 20 to be involved in a fatal crash (or any crash, for that matter) according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It’s not too surprising, then, that teen drivers tend to have high insurance premiums. For parents, this can mean a big jump in insurance premiums once you add your teen driver to your policy. However, there are ways to reduce your costs right out of the gate, even for very inexperienced drivers. Here are some ways to keep policy costs at a minimum.

Choose the Right Car
It’s simply a matter of economics. There are some cars that cost more to repair and replace than others. There are also some cars that are more likely to be stolen and others that protect passengers better in a crash. Combined, these three characteristics have a lot to do with how much you’ll pay for the collision and theft portions of your policy, says David Goldstein, the author of Insure Your Car for Less: A Practical Guide to Saving Money on Automobile Insurance.

There are several ways to choose the least expensive car to drive. First, check the Insurance Institute

How to Save Money on Car Insurance

There is a very good chance that you are — this very moment — paying too much for your car insurance. There is an even better chance that you could get a better rate, from another insurance company, than you could from your existing insurer.

So why not take an hour or so and review your policy for potential savings? Or, if you’re fed up with the high insurance rates from your current insurer, shop around for a new company.

The Internet has created increasing competition between car insurance companies. It is easier than ever for consumers to shop for low insurance rates, to analyze coverage and compare premiums. Still, studies have shown that people don’t shop around for insurance in the same way they might shop for a new car. Also, people tend to stay with the same car insurance company for years. Why not prove these studies wrong? Put the power of the Net to work for you and save money in the process.

You can save on auto insurance in five ways:

  1. Make sure you get all discounts you qualify for
  2. Keep your driver’s record clean and up-to-date
  3. Adjust your coverage

In Under Two Minutes: Catalytic Converter Theft

You walk out to your car and it’s gone. Not your car itself, the navigation system or even your cell phone. The “it” is your catalytic converter. If you don’t happen to notice it right away, the moment you start your car, you will. The sound has been described as “a deep loud noise,” “an unmistakable roar,” and even like “a Harley Davidson.”

Dan McColl of Upland, California, remembers when it happened to him.

“When I got out of the gym, I started up my truck and it sounded like there was a hot rod in the parking lot,” said McColl. “In fact, I didn’t even think it was my truck at first. But when I cut the engine and it stopped, I knew that it was me. I was able to drive it, but it was like the gas wasn’t really engaging. I drove it to the mechanic and he was able to tell me right away that the catalytic converter had been stolen.”

The catalytic converter was mandated for all U.S. cars and trucks in 1975, to convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they left the exhaust system. Precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium or gold are used

How Much Car Insurance Do You Need?

The next time you’re on the freeway, think about this: Approximately one of every seven U.S. drivers on the road has no automobile insurance. That’s the most recent estimate from the Insurance Research Council, which noted that the five states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers were Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee. With that many people driving without coverage, it’s more important than ever for you to be insured. But how much car insurance do you need to have?

If you’re like many people, you might be in an economic pinch these days. Your inclination might be to get the minimum insurance coverage required by law in your state. The trouble with minimum coverage is that it might not fully protect you — or your assets — if you’re at fault in an accident. It’s a better idea to carry more than the minimum coverage unless you are driving an older car with little value and have no assets to protect.

Every state in the nation except for New Hampshire requires you to have liability insurance. That mandatory coverage varies according to state.

The chart below shows minimum liability limits (in thousands of dollars):

    • Bodily injury liability

10 Steps to Buying Auto Insurance

When it comes to auto insurance, you want to be adequately covered if you get in an accident, but you don’t want to pay more than you have to. Unfortunately many people are doing just that, simply because they don’t want to spend time shopping for car insurance. It’s not inherently enjoyable, after all, despite how it looks in commercials featuring disgruntled cavemen and joke-cracking spokespeople.

But by doing some comparison shopping, you could save hundreds of dollars a year. When one of our editors used a rate-comparison service, he got basic coverage quotes for his two old cars that ranged from $1,006 to $1,807 — a difference of $801 a year. If you’re paying thousands to your current insurance company because you have a couple tickets, an accident or an out-of-date and unfavorable credit rating, shopping your policy against others might be well worth the effort. Look at it this way: You can convert the money you save into buying something you’ve wanted or needed for a long time.

Step 1: Decide How Much Coverage You Need
To find the right auto insurance, start by figuring out the amount

Avoiding Auto Theft and Insurance Problems

What’s worse than experiencing auto theft? Finding out your car insurance policy doesn’t fully cover your loss or out-of-pocket expenses.

A vehicle theft occurs at least twice each minute in the United States, at an estimated cost of $6.4 billion last year. Fewer vehicles are stolen by that legendary joy-riding teen than by pros who drive your car onto a freighter heading overseas, or to a chop shop to cannibalize it for parts.

To help consumers avoid getting burned not just once, but twice, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Insurance Information Institute have teamed up with a program called Wiser Drivers Wise Up to address both vehicle theft prevention and what to do if your car is stolen or in an accident. Here are some of their tips:

  • Don’t think manufacturer-installed vehicle theft protection is enough. It can be disabled by experienced and determined thieves, who also know how to unlock a Club and similar devices. Even Steve Cox, a BBB vice president, was the victim of car theft. In fact, he lost two vehicles in three years with these protections; his Pontiac Firebird was stolen in daylight, and his Nissan 300ZX at night. Aftermarket vehicle anti-theft systems