If you are like a lot of people, chances are that it has been a while since you have shopped around for car insurance. Just checking some Internet auto insurance quotes doesn’t count either. This little oversight could be costing you a lot of money.
Why You Should Shop Around For Auto Insurance Every Year or Two
Most people think that the advice to shop around for car insurance is based on their being a company out there that is more competitive and just flat out has cheaper rates, that isn’t really true.
While it is possible that another car insurance company has cheaper car insurance rates for you, the real reason that you should check every 12 to 18 months for new car insurance quotes is actually different.
It can be hard to find accurate, non-biased, information on auto insurance on the Internet. Your best bet is InsureUOnline.org (notice that it is ORG, not COM). InsureUonline is the consumer education website from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the group that represents the Insurance Commissioner from all 50 states. Unlike most other insurance websites you will find, they are not affiliated with any insurance company, and do not make money by selling insurance or selling leads to insurance companies.
Car insurance, like all forms of insurance, is based upon pooling risk. The ides is that for any group of like people, there is an amount that can be collected from each member of the group that would add up to cover the collective losses of the whole group.
For example, assume that there are 1,000 people in a group. In a given year, 5 of them have accidents. Those damages and other payouts (like medical expenses) for those 5 accidents total up to $100,000. Given that scenario, if you charged each person $100, then you could cover the annual car accident costs of the group. If you charged $150, then you could cover the group, and make a $50,000 profit. Not bad, right?
Of course, it isn’t this simple. What if there is a bad year and there are 20 accidents? Or, what if it is a normal number of accidents, but one accident is really bad and costs $500,000?
The trick is, that the larger the group (sample, statistically speaking), the less variable the outcome. In other words, while those worries are probably a pretty big deal with 1,000 people, they become much less significant with 100,000 people, and even less significant with 1,000,000 people.
Furthermore, the more alike the group is, the smaller the variables are likely to be. That is why auto insurance companies charge you different rates depending upon who you are, they are breaking you out into groups of people who are the most like you and dividing the risk over the entire group.
All you have to do to make money as an insurance company is get large enough groups of drivers paying premiums to even out those unusual cases that arise, and then charge them the right amount of money. Of course, this is the tricky part.
Charge too much money, and not enough people will buy your brand of car insurance which means your groups will be too small. Charge too little money, and no matter how many customers you have, their premiums won’t add up to enough to cover all the expenses.
Car Insurance Companies Re-Rate and Change Rates Every Few Years
This is where shopping around for auto insurance comes in.
Every so often (typically 12 to 36 months), car insurance companies will look at their “experience”, that is how much money each group is costing them, and adjust their rates up or down accordingly. Auto insurance companies often do this on a state by state basis, because insurance is regulated at the state level. That means that the rules for how they are allowed to divide out the insured groups, as well as the rules for changing people’s auto insurance premiums, are different in each state.
If you live in California, for example, and the car insurance company has lost less money there than they expected to, they would likely lower their auto insurance premiums. If, on the other hand, you live in Texas, for example, and the insurance guys lost more money there than they expected, they might raise their rates in Texas.
So, how does this save you money on your auto insurance premiums?
Because, the insurance companies don’t do all 50 states every year, and they don’t use the same schedule or rotation. That means that State Farm might have re-done its numbers (and its rates) for Oregon in 2008, and Washington in 2009. Allstate, on the other hand, might have done Oregon and Washington together in 2007. They are scheduled to do Oregon and Washington again in 2010.
Since all car insurance companies are likely to have the same experience in each state that means that if things were better in Oregon in 2008 than in 2007, then all of the auto insurers will be lowering their rates for Oregon. The catch is that, in our example, State Farm lowered them in 2008, while Allstate won’t lower them until 2010.
If, on the other hand, Washington was terrible in 2009, then State Farm will be raising its rates in Washington, while Allstate will still have their lower rates in place until at least 2010.
This is why you should shop around for car insurance every year. If you can’t make yourself do it every year, then at least do it every two years.
Another reason to shop around is that each insurer builds different groups and different costs which they also adjust periodically. If Geico decided to charge bad drivers $100 more than the base rate (there is no such thing, but for example purposes, just go with it) and good drivers $100 less than the base rate, while Amica decided to charge bad drivers $50 more than the base and good drivers $50 less, then a good driver would get a better deal at Geico, while a bad driver would get a better deal at Amica.
Depending upon how that works out for the insurers, they might switch up their models and who gets a better deal where, could flip.
What it all comes down to, is that you can potentially save a lot of money on car insurance just by checking around every year or two.
If you haven’t done it in a while, make three or four calls, the results might shock you.
State Insurance Regulator – Insurance Commissioner
For specific consumer information and info on insurance laws and regulations in your state, visit your state’s website. This website has a link to all 50 states’ insurance commissioner or insurance regulation agency.
Look for data to help save you work on researching car insurance.
In the State of Colorado, for example, insurance regulation falls under DORA, Department of Regulatory Agencies. Keep your eyes peeled and you find this official report of Private Passenger Automobile Premiums in Colorado based on where you live and type of Driver. Don’t forget to run this report yourself. There are 4 different driver types (younger, older, male, female) and rates change depending upon which city you live in.
You’ll notice right away that some auto insurers are much more expensive for under 25-year old males, while some are better bargains for over 60-year old drivers. Use these real data sample premiums to thin down the list to the companies that look like they do the best deals with the kind of driver that you are, and make some calls.