When an accident occurs, it's the policy owner's job to make sure the insurance company pays out appropriately, which is accomplished by filing a claim. Filing a claim can be a complicated process, and isn't the same for all insurance companies. One constant is that keeping the best possible records of the accident greatly facilitates the process. The more proof of damages, or lack of fault, the more accurately the policy-owner's claim will be filled. After an accident, the names, license numbers, and insurance policy numbers of all the drivers involved should be obtained, along with a copy of the police report, and phone numbers of witnesses. The insurance agent should be notified immediately. If injuries have occurred, all medical bills, lost wages, and anything else related to the injury should be recorded.
When filing a claim on collision or comprehensive insurance, there are a few things to consider. First, the shops that are part of the insurer's network save time, but because they seek to keep costs low for the insurer, they often provide lower-quality repairs. Second, generic replacement parts, which will be labeled as such on the repair summary, save the repair shop money, but may not work as well or last as long as parts from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM parts). Most often, if the policy owner demands OEM parts, he or she will get them.
Although car insurance can be expensive, there are several strategies experts recommend to lower premiums without giving up the needed level of protection.
Raise Deductibles - The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. When a policy owner maintains a larger deductible, it means that he or she is willing to cover more of the cost of the damages, reducing the risk to the insurance company. Of course, if the policy owner doesn't have the cash to cover small damages to the car, it makes sense to keep the deductible low. But the basic idea of insurance is to cover high-cost, low-probability events, not the minor expenses that fall within the deductible.
Ask For Discounts - Car insurers offer discounts based on a variety of different qualifications, but too often policy owners forget to ask for them. Some examples of qualifying factors include:
- Having a clean record on the current policy for a certain period of time
- Owning homeowner's coverage with the same insurer
- Taking a defensive driving class
- Installing an insurer-approved anti-theft device
- If a teen is on the policy, him or her having good grades
Choose the Car Wisely - Insurance premiums vary among the different makes and models of vehicles, for a variety of reasons. Some cars, such as sports cars, tend to get in more accidents, and thus cost more to insure. Others, like some makes of family sedans, represent more risk of theft. A new car will cost more to fix or replace than a used one. When buying a car, research how much it would cost to insure; if deciding among similar cars, take insurance costs into account .
Drive Safely - This is obvious. The fewer accidents a policy owner causes and the fewer traffic violations he or she has, the lower his or her premiums will be. A bad driving record will take a while to clean up, but the premiums will drop as it improves.
Shop Around - All insurers do not charge the same premiums for the same plans. Use online quote comparison tools to shop around, but be sure to pay attention to the other features of the policies, not just the price. Experts say the differences in prices for similar policies among different insurance companies can run into the hundreds of dollars a year, so it's worthwhile to do some research before choosing an insurer.
Don't Over-Insure - Although the basic types of coverage are a necessity and should not be skimped on, there is still such as thing as too much insurance. If the car is old and not very valuable, consider reducing or skipping collision and comprehensive coverage - the premiums may cost more than the potential maximum payout. Also try to avoid add-ons, such as glass-breakage coverage (which can add up to 20% to the premium).
Reduce Risk From Teenagers - Insurers have good reason to charge higher premiums when younger drivers are on the policy: statistically, drivers under 25 are at a greater risk of being in an accident. But if a teenager is regularly driving the car, make sure he or she is listed on the policy - the insurance company may pay if he or she has an accident, but will likely drop the policy immediately thereafter (making getting another policy very difficult). To reduce costs, always assign the child to the least expensive car available. It also helps to have less cars than drivers - then the child can be assigned as a part-time or occasional driver of one car, which will lowers premiums. Finally, encourage strong scholastic performance; insurance companies offer discounts for good grades (ostensibly because children who perform better in school are at less risk for an accident).