Apparently insignificant caveats and clauses ensconced deep in the fine print of auto insurance policies frequently spell the difference between good policies and bad ones. You can ask your insurance agent the following questions before signing an auto owners insurance contract, and make sure the identical answers are found in the policy itself.
Is this a “family policy” or a “named-insured-only” policy?
Family policies protect each of the drivers in the home and anyone they lend their vehicles to, whilst “named-insured-only” policies cover only drivers explicitly named on the policy. Family policies cost probably 10% to 15% additional (or higher, based on many factors, such as the driving records of any of the other drivers), but they will be the proper choice if anyone other than the policyholder ever drives the automobile. A lot of auto owners don’t even understand that they have named-insured-only policies, and they lend their vehicles to friends and family unaware that they might not be covered in the event of an accident.
Do I have the right to decide on my own repair facilities and decide on original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts with this policy?
A number of insurance agencies, including Geico, Nationwide and Progressive, have reworded some auto insurance contracts to limit automobile owners’ repair selections following accidents. Using aftermarket parts — parts not made by the vehicle’s manufacturer — in the vehicle could void its warranty. As an example: Your radiator must be changed following an automobile accident. A year later, your engine seizes up. The dealership likely will won’t honor your warranty because of the aftermarket radiator.
Does this insurance policy have an appraisal clause?
This clause permits the policyholder to seek an appraisal in the event the insurance provider offers you a lesser amount for a totaled vehicle than the policyholder thinks it’s valued at. Also ask: Does this appraisal clause allow for the appointment of a third participant by a “court of jurisdiction”? Using this method, when the policyholder’s and insurance company’s appraisers cannot agree on who to pick as an umpire, either appraiser could ask for the appointment of an umpire by a court of jurisdiction to interrupt the deadlock. If the reply to either of the questions is no — be warned. You may be powerless if your insurance company contends that your car is worth less than its Kelley Blue Book or NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) Guide value.
Does the “Limits of Liability” section of the contract contain the phrase “as defined by us”?
This specific part of your car insurance policy sets limits on just how much the insurer will pay. It could say that the insurer can pay “no more than the prevailing per hour labor rate of repair shops within the region,” or “no more than a competitive estimate of repair costs.”
Unfortunately, some insurers have begun attaching the phrase “as defined by us” onto the conclusion of the limitation clauses in some contracts, effectively giving the insurance company the right to insist on below-market repair rates. Their policyholders have to either take their vehicle to the insurer’s “approved” repair shop, which is prepared to do repairs for that lowball rate, or take the automobile to a superior repair shop and pay out the difference up front.
Where to find The Very Best Insurer
Some insurance companies make a responsible attempt to look out for their customers’ interests, while some mostly consider their very own bottom lines. Wise ways to tell which are which…
Examine the level of customer problems. Call your state’s department of insurance, as well as ask which insurers have the smallest rates of customer complaints.
Examine client satisfaction ratings. Business research firm JD Power and Associates produces its own annual survey of car insurance customer satisfaction. Its most recent ratings can be obtained at http://www.jdpower.com/autos/ratings/autos-insurance.
Obtain suggestions from body shop managers or owners. Ask which insurers take care of their customers well and which try to scrimp on repairs.