Because your need for insurance will be with you for a long time, it never hurts to do your homework and make certain that you’re getting the best rates.
When you’re buying insurance, you’ll want to be sure of three things:
•You are saving as much money as you can;
•You have as much coverage as you need;
•You’ll be happy with the service you get when the time comes to file a claim.
Here are some tips to help you in your search.
Save with a bundle
If you buy home and car insurance from the same company, it’s very likely that you can get a discount for your policies. Insurance companies will tend to reward you for your loyalty and your increased business. If you don’t see a discount, ask for one. The same goes for buying insurance on multiple cars or for multiple drivers for your family.
Having your policies with one company can also be convenient: if you need to make changes to multiple policies, you only need to call one number. It’s something to consider if one of your policies is up for renewal, or if you’re shopping around for new insurance after a recent car or home purchase.
If you shop on your own, it’s a good idea to call up or visit several insurance companies to get quotes. You can talk to agents about your specific situation or history, and you can ask them about different discounts that may apply to you. Different companies may assess certain risks at different rates, and your particular situation could result in different premiums from the companies you call.
You’ll also want a general idea of how each company handles claims. You can ask your insurance agent about the claims process, including the records you need and the time it takes to file and process a claim. You can also talk to friends and family about their experiences to determine which companies have a reputation for efficiency and good service.
Use a broker
You can save time and money by shopping through an insurance broker. A broker’s primary obligation is to the customer: he or she acts as your agent, negotiating rates for you with insurance companies.
A brokerage firm is authorized to sell insurance from different companies, so a broker can give you multiple quotes and policies in one visit, allowing you to compare rates. A broker can also ask different companies for discounts that you specifically qualify for, and search for discounts that you were unaware of.
A broker will never charge you for services: any commissions are paid from the insurance company to the brokerage firm once a policy is signed, not from the customer to the broker.
Reassess for change
As your assets grow and change, your insurance policies will also need to change, so that you have the proper amount of coverage at all times.
If you remodel your home or add an additional structure, you’ll want to change your policy to accommodate higher replacement costs. Conversely, if you get rid of an expensive appliance that you insured, you can save money by altering your policy.
A bit of effort now to check on your insurance policies will save you money over time, freeing up room in your budget for your other needs in life.
Michael Camacho is the president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 18 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii.