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Auto Insurance Article

Hidden Dangers of Cheap Auto Insurance

When it comes to car insurance, cheap isn't always better. Find out why...

By Chris Kyle    

Are you looking to cut costs on your car insurance? Here's some advice: Proceed with caution. Cheap auto insurance could actually end up costing you more down the road.

"Nobody should shop for auto insurance by price alone," says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Information Institute (III), an organization dedicated to improving public understanding of the insurance industry.

"You want to get a great price that comes with great service," Salvatore says. "It's a balancing act."

To help you make an informed decision, we've outlined five potential pitfalls of cheap auto insurance. Keep reading to learn why the lowest insurance rates can end up costing you big-time in the long run...

#1 - You're probably not getting the coverage you need

Okay, so after some digging, you found a cheap quote on a car insurance policy. But do you know what's covered in the policy - and more importantly, what's not?

In most states you need some liability insurance, which covers the damage you cause to others or to property in the event of an accident, to legally drive. So, make sure you know your state's minimum coverage requirement.

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However, collision and comprehensive coverage - which covers your car in the event of an accident, theft, vandalism, fire, and weather-related disasters like floods - is not required by law in the United States, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) website, which helps regulate insurance requirements.

Do you want protection from these types of accidents? If so, you can expect your rate to rise accordingly.


#2 - Your low-priced deductible payment could lead to higher costs

One popular way to save on car insurance is to opt for a higher deductible, the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in, according to "How Can I Save Money on Auto Insurance?" an article on the III's website.

This could help reduce your premium because you are agreeing to pay a set amount (perhaps the first $1,000) on any future claims.

The danger is that if you are unlucky enough to have several accidents, this strategy can quickly become an expensive one.

You should take a look at your finances and make a realistic assessment of what you can afford.

A $1,000 deductible may not make sense if you don't have that kind of money handy in case you need repairs. On the other hand, a higher deductible could make sense for low-risk drivers who rarely get behind the wheel.

The important thing here is to be honest about what kind of protection you need and can afford.


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#3 - Bad customer service is bad news, even if your policy is cheap

You know the old adage about how the customer is always right? We all know that's not true. However, it is reasonable to expect prompt and courteous responses to your questions and concerns.

"You want to find a company with a really good reputation for customer service," Salvatore says.

Salvatore urges consumers to ask friends and family members for recommendations, just like you would do if you wanted a doctor or dentist referral. Ask if they have filed a claim with their company and how it went.

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You can also check with your local state insurance department to find out the number of consumer complaints received about a particular company in relation to the number of policies sold, according to the III website.


#4 - Friends may not be covered on a cheap policy

Hey, you're a nice guy or gal. Sometimes you let a friend borrow your car. But is he or she covered?

"Perhaps," writes the Ohio Department of Insurance in a consumer guide on the Ohio state's website. "Some liability policies cover a licensed driver who drives with your permission, while other policies state specifically that no other person is covered when driving your car."

And in a related hypothetical situation, what if you borrow a friend's car?

Whether you live in Ohio - or elsewhere - you owe it to yourself to find out the answers to these questions now. Don't wait until after you or a friend get into an accident to find out that your cheap policy has some holes in it.


#5 - You need to watch out for cheap insurance scams

If a cheap car insurance quote sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In fact, it may even be fake. Potential red flags can include dirt cheap rates as well as companies and agents who are difficult to reach.

In 2011, some Detroit-area drivers were scammed into buying low-cost, bogus auto insurance through a company called Ethos, according to Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website.

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Fortunately, insurance companies and their agents must be licensed in the state that you live, so verification is usually only a quick phone call away to your local insurance department.

And while auto insurance scams can be uncommon, it's better to be safe than sorry.


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