Auto Insurance, Policy Assets, and Customer Assistance

Auto Insurance, Policy Assets, and Customer Assistance

One morning, a friend of mine was running late for class at school. His wife was throwing together some kind of breakfast while he gathered his laptop and notebook and picked out the books he was going to need for a school that day. He zipped up his pack and ran outside to warm the car up. Except there was no car. It had been stolen. My friend ran into one disappointment after another that week, as he first found the insurance company wouldn’t pay for a rental, then that the damage the thief did to the car would only be covered up to the deductible, and that somehow he was going to have to come up with the $500 before the car could be fixed.

He thought he had done his homework by going to one of those car insurance quote websites and finding the cheapest quote. He’d thought that by getting cheap car insurance, he’d beaten the system. In reality, his cheap car insurance turned out to be crappy car insurance. His problem stemmed from a lack of information about his car insurance.

Before you buy your next auto insurance policy, be sure you know all of the facts about the company’s service policies. Cheap car insurance is only affordable if the product is comparable to more expensive car insurance. A good place to start is with a free car insurance quote. However, obtaining an auto insurance quote is not going to be enough unless you know what kind of service you expect and whether or not the company quoted will provide it. The two A’s will keep you straight. They are assets and assistance.

Assets

You want to make certain that your car insurance quote includes every asset you could want or need in an emergency. When you are high and dry without a car, will your insurance cover your transportation needs? Check to make certain that the company you are buying car insurance from will provide you with an auto rental if something goes wrong. If your car is stolen, undrivable, or in the shop for a few days, you want to know that you will have access to a car. If not, you will be forced to call your in-laws and give them one more reason why you aren’t good enough for their daughter. Check that you have roadside assistance, some variation on lockout service, and towing service provided by your insurance company. Remember, the car insurance quote is only low if the car insurance product is good.

Assistance

Find out what the auto insurance company’s customer service is like before you buy from them. How do you find out something like that? First, there is no way to know for certain what type of people you will end up dealing with, but there are ways to know the probability of having a good experience. First, there is the low-tech way of asking your family and friends what their experiences have been. The lemon auto insurance companies will immediately pop up in a network search of that kind, but let’s say that you are a hermit and have no family or friends, or like one friend of mine, your family is all from the Catskill Mountains without cars or running water. If that is the case, then you will need to try the high-tech method: use the internet. One way is to make use of the Better Business Bureau’s search engine. At www.betterbusinessbureau.org, you can find out if any complaints have been registered against the auto insurance company in question and whether or not the company has resolved those complaints. I have checked the auto insurance companies that have treated my family poorly, and they all seem to have a complaint—not made by me—against their name.

Another way to evaluate a company’s customer service is to locate and call a claims telephone number on their website. If their claims people are nice to you, the likelihood of the customer service team being a positive one has just increased. After you have assessed the courtesy level of the auto insurance company’s service department, politely thank them for their time and hang up. No explanation is necessary; they will just move on to their next call without giving you another thought. This technique is based on the theory that there are two kinds of companies: those who stock their sales teams with friendly people and put all the low-paid, mean folks in their claims departments, and those who stock both with friendly, professional people. Usually, this simple test will tell you the type of company with which you are dealing.

If the quoted auto insurance policy has both the assets you desire and a high quality of customer service, then the quote is a true quote. Remember, if you think you might end up actually using the car insurance—which we should all assume we will—then check these two things before running after the apparently low premiums.

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