10 Things to Consider About Insurance When You Pay Off Your Car Loan

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.  Coverage and descriptions are summaries, subject to the terms and conditions and definitions in your own policy .  Talk to your agent!

PT at Prime Time Money just paid off his car, and he wrote a post about the decision he must make about what to do with the extra money.  He mentioned the possibility of changing his insurance coverage now that he no longer has a loan.  I, being me, always have something to say, and that’s especially true when insurance is a topic.

So, should you change your insurance when you pay off your car loan?

That depends.  Here are some things to consider:

Only two coverages have anything to do with the type of car you have: Comprehensive and Collision.  Those are the only two coverages that cover the car itself.    That’s why the lienholder requires it – they don’t care if you’re hurt or if you hurt someone else; they just care that their collateral is covered.

Collision covers damage to your car when your car hits or is hit by another vehicle,  or other objects.  It pays whether the incident is your fault, no one’s fault or a hit and run.  Most people carry a deductible, so the insurance pays the amount of loss after your deductible is reached (paid by you).

Comprehensive (also called Other Than Collision) covers most other things that physically happen to the car – if it’s stolen, damaged by a hurricane, flood, falling object, or animals. Most people carry a deductible, so the insurance pays the amount of loss after your deductible is reached (paid by you).

So, what should you think about doing?

  1. Find out how much you pay for each of those coverages, and determine your deductible.
  2. Get quotes for raising the deductible(s) and for eliminating the coverages altogether. Get the quotes for each individual coverage so you can see what they cost separately, for all your cars.
  3. Consider what you’d be giving up. I suspect you’ll find that you won’t save as much as you think, especially with Comprehensive coverage.  Also, keep in mind that if you remove them you will be completely out of luck if you get into an accident that is your fault, if it’s a hit and run or if the at-fault party doesn’t carry enough coverage to fix your car (Florida only requires $10000 property damage coverage.  Have you thought  about what happens if they hit more than one car, or if you drive something that $10000 wouldn’t fix?).  Also, you’d have no coverage if it’s stolen, damaged in a hurricane, etc.
  4. Figure out how much of a loss you could absorb without too much financial difficulty. Compare it to the cost of the coverage. Could you come up with the money to replace your car to fix it if the damage is $1000?  $5000?  If it is a total loss could you replace it?  Is it worth it to you to spend X dollars for that peace of mind?
  5. Figure out how much of a loss you could absorb without too much mental/emotional difficulty. Will you be able to sleep at night knowing that you’re not covered?  Is it worth it to you to spend X dollars for that peace of mind?
  6. Consider starting a Deductible Fund.  Think about increasing the deductibles on all of your insurance (including health insurance) and putting that into a fund to pay those deductibles if you incur a loss.  You might be amazed at the money you can save, and over time you’ll almost always come out ahead (well, unless you’re really unlucky). I used to write an individual health policy where the difference in premium between the $500 deductible and the $1000 deductible was  (depending on the insured approximately) $600 per year – more than the deductible difference!  If you chose the $500 deductible you started off $100 in the hole.  Ridiculous. If the patient chose the $1000 deductible they paid less, and if they didn’t get sick they could save as much as $600!  That’s what they call a no-brainer.
  7. If you decide to drop these coverages, consider keeping just Comprehensive. It doesn’t cost much at all, and in many states you can get your windshield replaced if broken without having to pay your deductible.  Many of my clients kept Comprehensive with the largest deductible just for the glass coverage.  My company actually would replace any of the glass on the car (side glass, mirrors) without requiring the insured pay their deductible, and the coverage often cost about $10 every six months.
  8. You don’t want to reduce your liability or uninsured motorist coverage. They have nothing to do with the type of car you drive – you can do just as much damage with a brand new car as an old clunker!  In fact, you may want to get quotes to increase these coverages…
  9. Consider getting quotes from other companies. Hey, as long as you’re doing the work.  And if you do, read my series on  Auto Insurance 101 to get some good tips!
  10. Don’t forget to remove the lienholder! Make sure your insurance agent removes them as the loss payee – sometimes they forget.  It’s not that the bank could actually collect the insurance money if you had a loss, but it would delay your payment at claim time while they straighten it out.

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different.  There’s a reason why “insurance” is synonymous with “risk management”.  Whatever you decide, make sure you can sleep soundly.

And to anyone who pays off their car loan, congratulations!!!!

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If you liked this post, check out these related posts:

Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have

Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart

Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them

Deal of the Day October 11, 2008

Another Halloween Deal!

Joann Fabric & Craft Store is knocking 60% off all Halloween costumes, Halloween fabrics, and accessories. You can also save 50% off the price of any one regular priced item from the store with coupon code SFD287. Sale ending unknown, coupon expires 10/14/2008.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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The $50,000 Escape

If you were given $50,000USD (tax free) today, what would you spend it on? That’s the question on Hank’s (from My Investing Blog) mind. So here’s my answer:

What would I do with $50,000?

I’d do something totally irresponsible. Something that completely goes against my sensible, logical, frugal financial persona.

I’d take my family and move to Georgia. Even though my house here isn’t sold. Even though Husband doesn’t have a job. Even though we wouldn’t be able to buy a house and would have to rent.

Not that it would be a complete waste of money. We’d get a chance to feel out the area and decide where we really want to live, which could save us from making the mistake by buying the wrong house in haste. It would give Husband time to find a job that he really wanted, versus any job as quickly as possible to start bringing money in.

And my frugal ways would still be in force. I’d still buy generic and clip coupons and do all of the other things that allow us to stretch our money as far as it will go.

Yes, that’s definitely what I’d do.  I’d hope Husband would find a job and our house would sell long before the money ran out, but a nice big cushion always makes  me breathe easy.

Now I just need to find the person willing to give me that money. Anyone………?

Why Buy Long Term Care Insurance? The Short Answer.

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

Recently someone asked me what I knew about Long Term Care insurance, and whether or not I thought it was a good thing to buy.

The answers to that are a little, and yes.

Why buy it?

Because generally Medicare doesn’t pay for long term care. They only cover nursing home costs under very specific conditions for a very short period of time, and eventually they stop paying at all.

And most long term care isn’t as an inpatient in a nursing home, it’s at home for what they call “custodial care” or “activities of daily living” – toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, transferring (getting into and out of bed) and continence. Medicare doesn’t cover that at all.

Long Term Care Insurance (LTC) starts covering if you can’t do two out of the six activities of daily living for a period of (usually) at least 90 days. Coverage can also be triggered if you require substantial supervision because of a cognitive impairment (like Alzheimer’s). It can cover care at home, in a nursing home or in the community (i.e. Adult Day Care). You also have to be eligible and pay for services for an Elimination period (which you choose). You can also choose how long the policy will pay (usually 3 years, 5 years and lifetime).

Some people think they can just go on Medicaid. They can, but not unless they meet very specific guidelines on assets and income. Many people think they can just give their assets to their kids to protect them, but you can’t. There are HUGE penalties if you try to do this.

In my opinion LTC is very important if you want to protect your kids from having to foot the bill, and if you want to have an estate to pass on to them. Sure, you can sell your house to pay your expenses. Nursing homes cost about $150-$160 a day now, which is $55k – $58k a year. My grandmother was in a nursing home for twelve years before she passed.

Many people thing they don’t need Long Term Care because they have family that can take care of them.   But is that a burden you really want to place on them?  That’s a position I never want to put Son in.  He’ll want to, he’ll even do it, but what kind of life would that be for him?

And I never want my son to have to wipe my tushy.  Dignity is important to me, and it would already be a huge blow to mine to have someone else do that.  I would be mortified if that someone else was my son.

I want my son to live his life, not spend it taking care of me.

My Dad has LTC, thank goodness, and my Mom would qualify for Medicaid without having to divest any assets (the one advantage to her poverty). You can bet that my husband and I will get LTC, probably when we turn 55.

Either that or we’ll retire to Guam. If you have to be sick, might as well be sick in a tropical paradise.

Hospital Income Policy A Terrific Buy For My Family – How About Yours?

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. This is only a brief explanation of coverage. Modifications are applicable in some states. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

Also know that I don’t work for State Farm any longer and am not being compensated in any way for this article. It’s just a good policy.

I love this policy. And them’s some strong feelings about an insurance policy. I promised you all I would tell you about it, so here it is.

I’m not sure if I’d have discovered this policy if I hadn’t been working for State Farm as an insurance agent. It’s not well publicized, but it can be a terrific part of anyone’s health insurance portfolio.

What is it?

If you’ve ever been hospitalized you know that there are expenses your primary health insurance just doesn’t cover. Additionally the inconvenience of simply being hospitalized means additional expenses for you and your family. Things like:

  • Deductibles and Co-insurance
  • Private Room and Private Duty Nursing Fees
  • Transportation
  • Child Care
  • Lawn & House Care
  • Meals Out
  • Pet Care

State Farm’s Hospital Income policy helps provide the money you’ll need to pay for those extra expenses when you’re hospitalized. It can offer you an ideal way to supplement your health insurance coverage.

If you are hospitalized for a covered injury or sickness (and really, there aren’t many exclusions) the policy pays the selected hospital income amount (mine’s $100/day*, but I wish I’d taken more!) for up to 365 days of confinement in a hospital.

One of the exclusions is for normal pregnancy and childbirth. However, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are covered. When I had Son I needed an emergency Cesarean Section, so my five day hospital stay was covered. Son had some minor complications so his stay was covered, too. He was automatically covered at birth as long as I added him to the policy (and paid the additional premium) within thirty days of his birth. It also covered his three day RSV induced hospital stay when he was 21 months old – the longest days of my life.

When Intensive Care is needed the policy pays an additional benefit equal to the hospital income amount not to exceed 14 days. So for me that means I get an additional $100 per day if I’m in ICU.

One of my former coworkers has a $200 per day policy. When her daughter was born six weeks prematurely she was in the pediatric intensive care unit for three weeks, then hospitalized another two. With her own hospital stay, her daughter’s hospital stay and the extra $200 per day she received for 14 of the 21 days her daughter was in intensive care my coworker received over five thousand dollars from her hospital income policy – enough so that she could stay home with her, unpaid, until her daughter was off a heart monitor and able to be placed in daycare so she could return to work.

Can you imagine the financial disaster she would have suffered if not for this spectacular little policy?

When Extended Care is needed the policy pays half the hospital income amount (so for me that would be $50 per day) for up to sixty days per calendar year while in a qualified Extended Care Facility. In most states extended care must begin within 14 days after at least a three day hospital confinement.

But that’s not all. And that’s not even my favorite part of the policy.

When you are injured accidentally the policy pays up to five times the hospital income amount (in my case up to $500) for x-rays or emergency first aid if received within 72 hours of the injury. If I have over $500 in emergency room or doctor costs, I get $500. If the bills are less than $500 I get whatever the bill amounts to.

I have used this portion of the policy many, many times. In the last ten years there have been at least three car accidents (none my fault!) that have ended in emergency room visits and one broken arm (on January 7th, so my $500 primary policy deductible had not yet been met). Each of those (and there may be more events I’m just not recalling right now) netted me $500.

There was also an incident, when Husband and I were trying to conceive Son, where I stepped wrong and broke a few toes. I wasn’t sure if it was just my toes or if my foot was broken, too, so I went to the ER (if I’m going to be in so much pain I may as well get paid for it!). I wouldn’t allow them to do X-rays (I could have been pregnant). The doctor assured me my foot wasn’t broken, taped my toes together and billed me $420. My primary insurance paid 90% (I’d met my yearly deductible, and my co-insurance was reduced because I went to an in-network hospital), so after paying my co-insurance I pocketed $378.

Isn’t that fab?

And if you have kids you know how often accidents happen. We’ve already collected from the policy twice for Son, including the incident last summer when he thought it would be fun to shove a rock up his nose. That sucker was wedged up there.

And there’s more.

When outpatient surgery is needed the policy pays the hospital income amount ($100 for me) for outpatient surgery not otherwise covered by outpatient benefits.

This is probably the part of the policy we’ve used most. Any outpatient surgery is covered. We’ve collected for all three of my colonoscopies and Husband’s one, his cardiac catheterization, three of my cyst removals, several mole removals, skin cancers. It even covers skin tag removal, which is so much of a nothing I’ve taken them off myself (isn’t aging sexy?).

So if I really needed some money one month I could, if I were so inclined, go to the dermatologist and pay my $25 co-payment, have her remove a skin tag or two and file a claim under my Hospital Income policy. I’d make $75 on the deal. And have fewer skin tags. Not that I’ve done that just because I’m short of money.

But I could.

Yes. I get paid to go to the doctor. Isn’t that smashing?

What else to like about this policy?

The benefits start from the first day of confinement. No waiting period!

The money is paid directly to you, unless you say otherwise. You decide how the money is spent. Use it to pay your deductible, you coinsurance or go on a trip to Tahiti. You decide!

The money isn’t taxable income. It’s insurance policy proceeds, so not counted as income (There may be some odd rule somewhere that I’ve never heard about that may make this taxable some minute fraction of the population, so please ask your tax advisor for a definitive answer. After all, if I wanted to know everything there was to know about taxes I’d have become an accountant like my father!).

Family coverage is available. You can cover just yourself, or add your spouse and kids. Remember that newborns are covered automatically as long as you notify the company and pay the premium.

It’s not expensive. We cover all three of us for about $280 for the year, and we’re oldish. The premiums will vary based on your age(s) and the policy amount chosen. I’ve not had a year yet that I didn’t collect more than I’ve paid. Of course if it was that way for everyone the company couldn’t offer it! Also know that the premiums can and do increase periodically as you age.

The policy is Guaranteed Renewable. Except in the event of fraud, material misrepresentation, nonpayment of premium, or expiration of the policy.

This policy is a great supplement to today’s high deductible plans, and also a great option for anyone with a HSA plan (State Farm also offers one of those). It should obviously not be your only coverage. If you have State Farm Auto and no other insurance with them you’ll also get a discount on your auto insurance for buying this policy.

You do have to medically qualify for the plan, and there are exclusions. The medical qualification is the only thing that keeps me from increasing our policy amount – with Husband’s diabetes and Son’s asthma we’d get denied. Dadgummit!

So call your local State Farm agent and get a quote. Even if you don’t have any other State Farm coverage. It’s definitely worth looking into.

I Walked Out of Target Richer Than I Walked In

Something happened yesterday that hardly ever happens.

I went to Target and didn’t buy anything. Not only that, I returned something. So I left the store $5.92 richer than I was when I walked in.

I didn’t even buy popcorn for my son.

This is highly unusual. Regular readers know that I love Target, and with the upcoming Birthday March Madness (8 family birthdays, including my father’s 70th and Husband’s grandmother’s 95th!), I expected to spend.

I didn’t find anything to buy. Oh, I found plenty I liked, and wanted. I always do. But there was nothing I needed.

I was almost out the door when I noticed that some of the dollar bin items were 50% off. I made a beeline and selected two items: some glitter glue (I am working on Valentines, after all) and a really cute set of rubber dishwashing gloves. Both items I could use.

But neither item I needed.

So, I put them back and Son and I walked out of the store.

Thank goodness they weren’t 75% off. I would have been a goner.

Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

This is the third installment of a series of articles about Auto Insurance. You may want to read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have and Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart before reading this article.

Okay. You understand what you have and you’ve shopped smart. Now it’s decision time.

Here are some things to consider as you look at the quotes.

1. These are only quotes. The insurance company is under no obligation to give you the rate quoted if you aren’t eligible for it, even if you get a binder of coverage. If the agent made an error, or if you forgot to tell them something that would affect the rate, the policy could be canceled or you could be offered a policy at a higher rate.

2. Make a decision well in advance of your own policy cancellation. If you’re switching companies get the new policy written as soon as possible. Most companies will allow you to do the policy 30 days in advance of your current policy’s expiration and have it be effective on the expiration date. That gives them and you 30 days to decide if you really, really like each other.

3. Don’t tell your old company you’re not renewing until after the new policy has been issued as quoted. That way if there is a problem you can continue with your current policy and the only things you’re out is your time and aggravation. If your old company does not give a grace period make sure you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

4. Longevity counts. The longer you are with a company the more favorably they’ll look upon you, and that translates into savings. Some companies will “forgive” (not raise your rate or cancel you) for a first accident if you’ve been with them X number of years. Some will reconsider cancellations for multiple claims. I’m not suggesting you stay with your original company if you’re going to save a considerable amount of money, but decide for yourself how much of a savings is worth losing the benefits of longevity.

5. This isn’t a one shot deal. Even if you can’t save a bundle this time, try again in six months, or a year, or when it’s been three years since your last accident or ticket. Just like medical checkups keep you abreast of your physical health, insurance checkups should be a part of your financial health plan.

Another thing.  I did speak in Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart about how rates are cyclical.  I wanted to bring it up again because I cannot tell you how many times people would cancel policies with us to go to another insurer, only to come back six months later because the company had raised their rates significantly.  They didn’t always qualify for the rate they had enjoyed with us before.  Now you can’t plan for everything, but this again is another reason you have to decide the magic number that makes a switch worth the risk.  To you.

Even if you change nothing, you know more than you did. That’s almost always a good thing.

Good luck!

If you liked this article check out the rest of the Auto Insurance 101 Series, and check out ways to Stretch Your Dollar.

Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

This is the second installment of a series of articles about Auto Insurance. You may want to read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have before reading this article.

Now that you’ve read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have and have spoken to or met with your insurance agent, you’re almost ready to shop.

Before you get on the phone or start surfing the web, here are some important things to remember when shopping for auto insurance:

1. Know who you’re talking to. Ask the agent you’re speaking with about their qualifications and experience. How long have they been selling insurance, and how long have they been licensed? What types of insurance are they licensed to sell? In all my years as an insurance agent no one ever asked me this, and it just shocks me. I will always ask this question of insurance agents, doctors, attorneys, etc. You want someone who knows what they’re talking about, don’t you? It takes at least a few years to become familiar enough with just about any vocation to be able to understand nuances, and to see the bigger picture of how one decision affects another. Don’t be embarrassed to ask to speak to someone with more experience.

2. Compare apples to apples, as closely as possible. This is probably the most important thing to remember. Spending our time calling around without getting the same quote for the same coverages will not help us make an accurate comparison, so it’s a massive waste of time. Sometimes companies may offer slight variations in the same type of coverage. Company A may offer Car Rental coverage of 80% of the daily rental up to $500 while company B offers $25 a day up to $400. Another example: in Florida insurers are required to waive the deductible for windshield replacement for those who carry Comprehensive coverage. My company extended the deductible waiver to any glass breakage (side windows, mirrors) while other companies did not. Make sure to ask about and note these differences.

3. They’re likely going to check your credit. No matter your feelings on the validity of the actuarial process, most insurers will factor in your credit rating when quoting insurance. People with better credit will get the batter rates, period. Another reason for fiscal responsibility. Be prepared to give your social security number, and try not to take it out on the agent. They don’t make the rules. Also know that while an insurance inquiry doesn’t have the same effect on your credit rating as a credit inquiry, it is still an inquiry. If it didn’t affect your credit rating at all, they would have told us to tell you that it had no effect. They didn’t.

4. Financial strength counts. Their fiscal responsibility counts, not just yours. A good balance sheet not only reassures you that they will be able to make claims, it also suggests that the company is managed well. Personally, I’d only go with a company rated A or better by a rating company such as AM Best.

5. Reputation counts, too. If a company has a bad reputation for either claims or customer service, don’t bother getting a quote. That’s just a headache waiting to happen. That said, no insurance company has only happy insureds. People get angry when their claims don’t get paid, even if the insurer is completely justified in not paying it. That’s another reason it’s so important to know your coverage.

6. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways you can buy insurance.

  • Captive Agents – sell policies for (usually) only one company, and usually a major insurer (State Farm, Allstate, etc.)
  • Local Insurance Brokers – sell policies for many different companies, some larger, some smaller (Progressive (also sells direct), Integon_
  • Direct Insurers – sell directly to the consumer (Geico, etc.)
  • Internet Brokers – gather your information and get quotes from several insurers at once, without having to speak to anyone (Insweb, etc.) Some captive agents’ companies and direct insurers also allow you to get quotes online.

Personally, I want an agent. I want someone I can go see if there’s a problem, and someone who can go to bat for me, if need be. Agents want to keep you happy. They only make money if you stay with them and pay the premiums. Often times an agent can get a claim paid, or get a cancellation rescinded. Last month my mother got a cancellation notice from her insurer, as she’d had 2 claims in a year. I called her agent and they were able to call the underwriter and get her another chance. Direct insurers can be great, but it’s hard to create a relationship with them. They are just a voice on the phone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a quote from them, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I’m going to do an entire article on the pros and cons of each of these, so look for it soon!

7. Know if the insurer is a stock company or a mutual company. Unlike a stock company, a mutual insurance company does not offer shares of stock on public exchanges. Rather, it is operated and maintained for the benefit of its members, or policyowners. All policyowners have the right to vote for the Company’s Board of Directors and to receive a fair share of the dividends declared by the Board each year. In a stock company, by contrast, any dividends are paid first to shareholders, and only after to policyholders. Not a huge deal, but having stockholders sure can affect a company’s policy decisions. And it’s always better to know than not to know.

7. Rates are cyclical. Even assuming nothing changes in your driving or claim record, rates go up and down. That’s because rates are also affected by what all insureds are doing, not just you. Insurance is all about sharing the risk, so if there’s lots of claims in your area you may see a spike in rates. And if they have a good year you may see the savings via rate reductions or dividends. I’ve gotten dividends on my auto policy many times from my mutual insurer.

8. Don’t assume that the big, “preferred” companies will have the more expensive policies. And don’t assume that the smaller ones do. You may be surprised.

9. If they won’t sell you the policy you want, call another agent. Some agents set “agency minimums”, setting a policy that they won’t sell any auto policy that doesn’t  have, for example, at least 100/300/100 liability limits. Whether they can/should or cannot/should not do this is a matter for someone else to debate. If you want lower limits than what they’re willing to write, ask if that’s an agency policy or a company policy. Or just call another agent.

10. Two quotes from different agents from the same company for the same coverages with the same deductibles should always be exactly the same. To the penny. If it’s not then something is wrong. Perhaps one person has mis-classified how you use the vehicle, perhaps they rated you in the wrong territory. You need to find out what.

Also, if you have a child that will be driving in the next few years you may want to get some quotes for adding them to the policy when the time comes. Few people are really prepared for the sticker shock of adding a teen driver to the policy. Sure, the rates will change, but it gives you an idea. The more time you have to prepare the better.

Okay, you’re almost ready. Before you begin, make sure you have your Declarations Page (which lists all of your current coverages) in front of you. Also have the quotes for different coverage and deductible options that you may have gotten from your current insurer, and any notes you may have taken while speaking with your agent.

Once you’ve got all the quotes, check out Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them, to be published tomorrow. And good luck!

If you liked this article check out the rest of the Auto Insurance 101 Series, and check out ways to Stretch Your Dollar.

Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

I read an interesting article over at Single Guy Money about Auto Insurance. He has some great tips about making sure we’re getting all of the discounts we’re entitled to, and encouraging us to shop around for the best rates.

As a retired insurance agent, I thought I’d give my perspective. In fact, I’d been meaning to do a series on different insurance topics, but I’ve been more interested lately in talking about things like politics, conserving water and my husband’s new computer. But I digress.

This is the first installment of that three part series.

Before we shop around for auto insurance we should make sure we are being charged correctly for our current policy. We want to make sure that our current insurer is rating us correctly, both in our usage of the vehicle and the discounts we’re getting. So, let’s pull out our Declarations Page, call or visit our current insurance agent and ask the following questions:

1. What are my current coverages? Sometimes Declarations Pages aren’t so easy to understand. We not only want to know which coverages we have, we want to know what they do for us.

2. Are any of these coverages possible duplications of coverage I have elsewhere? Although they can’t really answer this question for you, they can help you figure out if you do. Do you have AAA? Then you may not need their coverage. Or their coverage may better suit your need. Have excellent, broad health insurance? Perhaps you don’t need Medical Payments coverage, or perhaps you should keep it if you often transport your friend who has none. Don’t work? Then you might not need the lost wages coverage under your Personal Injury Protection.

3. How do you show me using the vehicle? Is it rated as going to and from work, or for pleasure driving only? Most insurers only ask about your usage of the vehicle when you first take out the policy, so if you’ve had a change in your circumstances (changed jobs, stopped working) then chances are you’re not being rated correctly. Realize, though, that they could be undercharging just as easily as overcharging you.

4. What are my current discounts? Every company has their own discount programs. These discounts are applied after they’ve already given us the base rate. We need to ask them about all of the discounts they offer, and how we qualify. Some common discounts are:

  • Multiple Policy – having more than one car insured with the same company
  • Multiple Line – having more than one type (auto and homeowners, for example) insurance with the same company
  • Accident Free – not having a claim for a specified period of time with that company
  • Good Student – typically a 3.0 or higher GPA, usually as a full time student, and only up to a certain age
  • Vehicle Discounts – Airbags, alarms, VIN etching
  • Defensive Driving Discount – voluntarily taking a defensive driving class
  • Age-based discounts – Over 50 , single head of household (my company rated young single parents that lived on their own as if they were over 30 – a huge savings)

Now that we know our policy is rated correctly, let’s get quotes to make some changes. We may or may not make any changes, but let’s make sure we’re getting the most bang for our insurance buck.

1. Get quotes to raise deductibles on any coverage that has one. Find out how much can be saved by going to the next highest deductible. For example, if the current policy has a $250 deductible for Collision, get quotes for $500, and perhaps even $1000. Then weigh the savings against our ability to pay more out of pocket and our risk tolerance. I know lots of people who take high deductibles on everything, take the savings and put it in the bank in a “deductible fund” so the money is there if needed.

2.Get quotes for more and less Bodily Injury and Property Damage liability coverages. Get quotes for at least one step up and one step down from where we are now. For example, if the current liability limits are 50, 000 per person/100,000 per accident get quotes for 25,000/50,000 and 100,000/300,000. If we can double our coverage for, say, $50 more per year – and we have assets enough that we could use that additional protection, would that be worth it?

Okay. Now we’re ready to talk to other insurance companies. That’s the subject of Part 2 of the series, so look for it soon!

Frugal vs. Sensible, and Which is Which?

I have a choice to make, and I’ve got to decide which of my choices makes the most sense, frugal or not.

My son slept in his crib-converted-to-toddler-bed until yesterday, when we trekked it across the state to a friend who will have use for such a contraption in about 5 months, give or take.

His new bed is an Ikea loft bed with a slide, inherited from his older cousin who at 8 years of age has sadly outgrown such coolness.

Ikea Slide Bed

Really, could any child have a more rockin’ bed?

So, we need a new twin mattress to make the bed complete. I am not one to purchase previously-owned mattresses – at least not from someone I don’t know well. The decision to buy new was easy.

What’s not so easy is deciding what quality of mattress to buy. After perusing the internet and visiting several local stores, I have narrowed my choices to two:

Option 1 , from a non-national company that is unknown to me. According to the salesman, that’s because they spend no money on advertising. Yeah, right. The quality of that bed I’ll rate as “okay”. Not good, not horrible. Price: $99.00

Option 2, from a national company that is not unknown to me. The quality is a step up from the other – somewhere between “decent” and “good”. Price $149.00

The difference is “only” $50, but here are the factors that keep this from being a no-brainer:

  • My son is three, and according to many sources doesn’t “need” a high quality mattress.
  • He will use this bed for about five years.
  • When he graduates to a new, conventional bed we’ll most likely get him a full-sized bed, not twin.
  • If we were to find a use for the twin mattress we’d have to purchase a foundation/boxspring.
  • If we keep the bed for five years, the difference is only $10 a year – less than $1 per month.
  • There’s something to be said for quality.

So, there you have it.  I haven’t decided yet, so I’m definitely taking suggestions.

Which, really, is the more frugal option? Which is the more sensible option? And are they mutually exclusive?

I can’t wait to see what you all think!

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