Purchasing auto insurance for the first time or switching providers after being with the same insurance company for a while can be somewhat of an experience. If you’re a new driver or if you haven’t had to purchase auto insurance before, you’ll essentially be starting from square one with your new car insurance company. If you have a long track record with your insurance provider, it will generally be wiped out upon switching and you’ll need to source out new discounts and ensure that you get coverage that’s at least as good as you had before. Below we’ll take a look at five simple questions to ask your auto insurance agent to ensure that you’re not getting run over with your insurance purchase.
1) What does my auto insurance cover?
Asking your agent what your auto insurance policies cover might seem like a given, but the majority of auto insurance customers walk out of the door knowing very little about insurance or how it works. Ask your agent to walk you through the fine details of each policy, including bodily injury liability, property damage liability, personal injury protection, and any additional collision or comprehensive policies that are part of your insurance portfolio. Focus on items such as who is covered in the event of an accident, how much each policy covers in regards to claims or damages, and what kind of deductibles you may have to pay.
2) If I cause an accident, what happens and how much will I pay?
Thirty-eight states operate their auto insurance laws under what is known as the tort system, which leaves you and your insurance company liable if you should cause an accident. Ask your auto insurance agent to be up front with you about how much you’re going to have to pay out if you cause a crash. When you purchase auto insurance, you select an amount of coverage which determines how much you will pay each month or year. The more coverage you have, the less you need to worry about having to pay out of pocket if you cause significant property damage or personal injuries to others in an accident. If you have the minimum amount of coverage required by your state, you could be leaving yourself financially exposed.
3) What discounts does my insurer offer me?
Again, it may seem silly to ask a question like this but if you don’t ask for discounts, you’re not likely to get them. Most insurance companies have a huge selection of discounts for everything from having a car alarm installed to being a member of a certain organization. Grill your auto insurance agent on discounts that should apply to your situation. There are discounts available for students, safe drivers, those with no speeding tickets, drivers who own eco-friendly automobiles and those in many other circumstances. If your current insurance provider doesn’t have any discounts available to you, ask your insurance agent to help you locate a new provider that does. One caveat with this piece of advice is that as long as you have adequate coverage, the only amount that matters is the total cost for your auto insurance, regardless of whatever discounts you may have.
4) Are there any restrictions on how I or my family members can use my car?
Another great question to ask your insurance agent is exactly who is covered while driving your car, and for what purposes the car is allowed to be used. For instance, if you have children that are getting close to driving age you’ll need auto insurance that provides protection for them when they’re behind the wheel. If you own a small business, you will need auto insurance that allows you to use the vehicle while you are out conducting your business affairs. Try to think of all of the different circumstances that you or your family members will use the car for in the average month, and grill your auto insurance agent to make sure that you are covered.
5) Am I protected against accidents caused by uninsured motorists?
This last question is one of the most critical. In states that follow the tort system, it’s up to the driver who causes an accident to pay out injury and damage claims to the other drivers and passengers that were involved. If you and your family are in a crash caused by a driver with no insurance, you may have no alternative but to sue the other driver to cover your medical bills and other injury-related costs. Chances are, if a driver has no insurance he or she probably can’t afford to pay out of pocket for these costs either. Check with your auto insurance agent to find out how to protect yourself in accident situations with uninsured or underinsured motorists.
The five questions above should help greatly when dealing with your auto insurance agent, and will help facilitate a greater conversation which should offer up many more details about your car insurance and how it affects you. Remember – auto insurance is a product like any other, and you should know exactly how you are covered by your insurance policies to prevent issues from occurring if you get into an accident or you need help from your insurance company. You’re the customer, so use your rights accordingly and educate yourself about your auto insurance!