Choosing an insurance agent: Experience is not expertise

In my last blog post, I wrote how you should choose an agent with enough experience to be competent. More than 2 years is enough, but 5 to 10 years experience is preferable. Anything more than 10 years is not relevant. But experience does not guarantee expertise.

True expertise is hard to find. I have always been surprised how little your average, experienced & successful agent knows about the products they sell, or how much bad information they can provide to their customers & prospective customers. Continue reading

Answer Financial ( online auto insurance quotes review

Auto insurance buyers may be aware Allstate purchased an online auto insurance company called Esurance a few years ago. What people may not know, is the previous parent company for Esurance, White Mountains Insurance Group, also owned an online insurance agency, Answer Financial, authorized to represent multiple insurance companies as an agent or broker, which was also included in the sale of Esurance to Allstate insurance. is one of the few places on the Web showing you the prices for different auto insurance companies online on their site, once you complete submitting your information for the quote, instead of selling your personal information to insurance companies and agents, to e-mail or call you with auto insurance quotes. How accurate are the auto insurance rates quoted by Answer Financial? Can you rely on Answer Financial to compare the best auto insurance companies for you? Should you buy auto insurance from Answer Financial? This review will tell you about how Answer Financial quotes auto insurance, and assesses the usefulness of to the online auto insurance shopper. Continue reading is now selling insurance: auto, home, & business policies, the online retailer, has established its own insurance agency, and now you can request auto, home, & small business insurance quotes through its website, and purchase policies through the same shopping cart customers use to make other purchases. Can you really get online insurance quotes from multiple companies from, and buy a policy from the website? Is it a good way for people to purchase insurance, or does offer better prices than other insurance companies or insurance agencies? I tested the “insurance” tab at the website to get insurance quotes, as well as researched how is providing insurance, and I’ll tell you the advantages, and significant disadvantages, of using to insure your cars and/or home. Continue reading

Walmart is selling auto insurance online?

There have been many articles this week reporting about Walmart selling auto insurance online. The article headlines about this story have often been misleading. Walmart, known for its ultra low prices, is not forming its own auto insurance company to sell car insurance at low, market-beating prices. Walmart is teaming with an online insurance agency,, to promote an auto insurance price comparison tool to compare the rates of several companies. Is this auto insurance price comparison service useful? Will it really save people money as advertised? I’ll tell you about how this new service works, and as a former auto insurance industry insider, I’ll tell you why I think you shouldn’t rely on it to find the best rates or auto insurance company for you. Continue reading

Does your job or education increase your auto insurance rates?

A consumer advocacy group, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), announced its recent analysis shows some of New York State’s largest auto insurers are charging higher premiums to motorists who have less education and non-professional, non-managerial jobs. Four major auto insurance companies were examined: GEICO, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, and Progressive. Although the analysis is of auto insurance rates in the state of New York, many states allow a customer’s education and occupation as rating factors. This blog post will discuss the results of the NYPIRG analysis for each company, and tell you what you need to know to find the best auto insurance rates for you, no matter your occupation or level of education. Continue reading

Is Allstate Insurance Expensive?

Is Allstate Insurance expensive? Does Allstate home & auto insurance cost a lot more than other companies, like State Farm, Progressive, or GEICO? Are insurance companies with lower rates than Allstate selling “cut-rate” insurance, inferior to Allstate? As a former sales person for an Allstate agency, I’ll tell you what you need to know about Allstate’s pricing, and how you really can save a lot of money on your auto or home insurance. Continue reading

Changing auto insurance companies? Here’s how to avoid mistakes.

Suppose you’ve taken my advice, shopped your auto insurance with all the major insurance companies in your state, and you found a much lower rate. What is the best way to start your new auto insurance and cancel your old policy? This blog post will give you advice on how to avoid mistakes when changing auto insurance companies, like an accidental lapse in coverage, by canceling your old policy, before your new policy has started. Continue reading

Low Annual Mileage Auto Insurance Discount

Some auto insurance companies offer a low annual mileage auto insurance discount, if you do not put a lot of miles on your car. What happens if you put more mileage on my car than you reported to your auto insurance company? Can they charge you more money for not driving low miles you reported, or not pay a claim? Here is what you need to know about the low annual mileage discount, how to get it, and the consequences of misreporting annual mileage. Continue reading

Do you need an insurance agent?

Yesterday, I posted about finding auto & home insurance companies with good customer service. Something that can help you get better insurance company customer service, is having a great agent working for you. However, it’s almost 2014, and it’s easier than ever to buy auto & home insurance online, direct from the company. Do you need an insurance agent these days? Buying direct does not always save you money. You should shop with all the major insurance companies in your state, regardless if they have agents or not, to find the companies with the best rates for you. With some insurance companies, you pay the same, whether you buy direct, or from an agent responsible to serve you. This blog post will explain what value insurance agents provide their customers, and how it can cost you money, and be more than just a hassle, if you don’t have one. Continue reading

Auto Insurance Companies with Good Customer Service

Do you get what you pay for when you buy cheap auto insurance? Can you save $100s on your auto insurance, and regret it when you have a claim? The short answer is, “No.” The price you pay for insurance has nothing to do with how happy you will be with the insurance company’s customer service. So, how do you find auto insurance companies with good customer service? This blog post will give you some tips to finding the best combination of price and service for auto insurance. Continue reading

Nonstandard Auto Insurance: How to Get the Best Rates

Have you called around for auto insurance price quotes, only to be told you don’t qualify for standard rates? Do some auto insurance companies say they won’t insure you? Are the auto insurance companies willing to insure you very expensive? Welcome to the world of nonstandard auto insurance.

From my experience, the people most interested in shopping for better auto insurance, are people paying or being quoted high rates, because they’ve had a lapse in coverage, have not been licensed to drive in the US for enough time, or have tickets, claims, or accidents. Unfortunately, these are the people some insurance companies want to avoid as customers, because they are considered at being a greater risk than the average driver for claims in the near-future. Rather than qualifying for lower standard or preferred rates, these people are offered nonstandard auto insurance rates, or turned away, if the insurance company does not offer nonstandard auto insurance rates.

If most auto insurance companies consider you a high risk driver, what do you do about it? You do what every auto insurance policyholder should do at least once a year — shop for better auto rates. Nonstandard auto insurance is expensive, but if you shop around, you’ll find some companies are much more expensive than others. This blog post will give you tips about how and where to shop for nonstandard auto insurance, and what you can do to get lower auto insurance rates. Continue reading

How Much Do Speeding Tickets Increase Auto Insurance Rates?

Speeding tickets increase auto insurance rates. But by how much? I decided to write about moving violations and your auto insurance, after reading this NY Times Money blog post here. The NY Times blog mentions an study stating one moving violation can lead to 18% higher rates on auto insurance. This strikes me as high, based on my many years experience working with auto insurance companies, and I think the problem might be the study treats all moving violations as equal. For example, a reckless driving or DUI violation is lumped in the same class as a minor speeding ticket. I assure you, insurance companies have MUCH higher rates for major violations, like reckless driving, than they do for a speeding ticket. This blog article will explain how minor moving violations impact auto insurance rates. Continue reading

Auto Insurance Policy Exclusion: Pizza, Newspaper, & Other Types of Delivery May Not Be Covered by Auto Insurance

Cars used in pizza or newspaper delivery, or transportation of any person(s) or property for a fee, are usually excluded (not covered) by personal auto insurance policies, while engaged in these activities. In fact, if you use any vehicles insured by a personal auto policy (instead of a commercial auto insurance policy) for any business pursuit (picking up supplies at office depot, dropping off paperwork with a co-worker, etc.), whether you are self-employed, or work for a company or someone else, you should check with your agent or car insurance company, to see if you are covered, should you be involved in an accident or need to file a claim. This blog post will explain more about this common auto insurance policy exclusion. Continue reading

Why would anyone pay more than the lowest price for auto insurance?

In my last blog post, I explained auto insurance is not priced like a commodity, with low profit margins for auto insurance companies, as each company competes to offer the lowest price and under-cut the competition. In reality, the thorough auto insurance shopper can save a lot of money by shopping with all the major companies, and find a reputable company charging a lot less than other companies for the same coverage. Continue reading

Is Auto Insurance Soon to be Priced Like a Commodity?

When it comes to getting people to switch their auto insurance, the biggest factor influencing most consumers is the price. But is auto insurance a commodity product, like buying gas for your car, where the auto insurance offered by one company, is the same as the auto insurance offered by any other company, with the only difference being the price each company charges for its coverage? Continue reading

Insurance Zebra, Ratekick Reviews : Which Websites Provide Accurate Auto Insurance Quotes from Multiple Companies in the USA?

Its hardly news to point out the Internet has revolutionized business in the 21st century. Thanks to the Web, consumers have more information than ever to make smarter buying decisions. Websites like Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline and Kayak have changed the travel business, and put many travel agents out of business. But where is the Kayak of auto insurance, helping consumers find the best deals and lowest rates to insure their cars & trucks?

At least two websites are attempting to provide consumers with auto insurance quotes online from multiple companies, without the consumer having to disclose specific personal information, like names, social security numbers or vehicle identification numbers. I’ve looked at both Insurance Zebra and Ratekick, and although I’m impressed with each site’s design and ease of use, it’s not possible for them to give even approximately accurate auto insurance quotes to consumers anonymously through their websites.

The best way to get auto insurance quotes online is to go to each auto insurance company’s website (and include an online independent insurance agency operating in your state, if available) and provide your personal information as requested. This blog post will review Insurance Zebra and Ratekick, and explain why they are a far cry from being the Expedia of auto insurance. Continue reading

American Fellowship Mutual Insurance of Southfield is going out of business effective 7/12/2013

The 1,943 remaining auto & home insurance policyholders for American Fellowship Mutual Insurance need to find replacement coverage by July 12th, 2013, when their policies will be cancelled. The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Director Kevin Clinton recommended the liquidation, after the insurance company’s finances failed to improve this spring, despite large rate hikes and months of cost-cutting moves under state-guided rehabilitation. If you are insured with American Fellowship Mutual, you may have already arranged to insure your home or cars with another company, but don’t let this situation keep you from shopping your auto & home insurance thoroughly, because getting price quotes from only a few companies, may mean you will be paying a lot more for your coverage, or miss out on a coverage option you need. This blog post will show you the largest auto & home insurance companies in Michigan, and how they can be contacted for price quotes & coverage advice. Even if you don’t insure with American Fellowship Mutual Insurance of Southfield, this article will give you information to help you shop for better auto & home insurance coverage & prices in Michigan. Continue reading

Why is auto insurance expensive? Why do some companies charge a lot more than others?

According to US Department of Commerce motor vehicle accident statistics, approximately 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents occurred on US roads in 2009. Considering how often car accidents occur, it is no surprise that auto insurance is a major expense for even the safest drivers. But what has always surprised me, no matter whether you are considered a good driver or higher risk driver by auto insurance companies, is some companies charge more than twice as much as other companies for the same coverage. This is why it’s so important to check the rates of many auto insurance companies, so you can find the companies that have the best rates for you. This is also why many auto insurance companies can honestly claim to save people hundreds of dollars a year. But there are not a few companies with low rates for everyone. You have to shop to find the auto insurance company with the best rates for you. It’s not unusual to find big price differences among companies for other types of insurance, too, like home and life insurance.

However, with auto insurance, I have always wondered why major companies, competing to have a good price for the best drivers, charge very different rates, when these companies use the same considerations to determine the lowest risk drivers. If you are married, in your thirties, own a home, have two late model cars, have great credit, had no claims in the last 5 years, and all the drivers in your household have clean driving records, every auto insurance company selling preferred or standard auto insurance wants your business. So why do some of these major companies charge so much more than other companies? Why would two or more households, having all the same qualities I listed, find a different group of auto insurance companies have the best rates for each household? Shouldn’t the same group of companies have the best rates for all the customers with the same characteristics? I will answer these questions in this blog post, and tell you why a part of the problem is consumer behavior, and what people can do to influence over-priced auto insurance companies to lower their rates. Continue reading

Are Insurance Companies Owned by their Policyholders Better or Less Expensive than Companies Owned by Stockholders?

I’ve noticed some insurance companies, like Nationwide Insurance, have been emphasizing their ownership by their policyholders, not investors, as a selling point in their TV ads. One of the more popular ways to organize an insurance company is as a mutual company, like Nationwide, where the policyholders are the owners of the company, instead of the typical ownership of companies in other industries, where the companies are owned privately, or by stockholders. But some insurance companies are organized as stock companies, owned by stockholders. Some examples of major mutual companies are State Farm, Amica, American Family, Northwestern Mutual Life, Mass Mutual, Guardian Life, & Nationwide. Some examples of major stock companies are Geico, Progressive, Allstate, Prudential, Travelers, & Metlife. Are mutual companies better for the customer than stock companies? Do mutual insurance companies have lower rates, since they don’t need to provide a profit to investors? Do mutual companies provide better service, because the companies operate for the benefit of their policyholders? I’ll answer these & other questions in this blog post, and explain why I think, whether an insurance company is a mutual company or a stock company, its type of ownership should not sway your opinion when buying auto, property, or life insurance, except in certain situations. In fact, in spite of the appeal of policyholder ownership, where an insurance company works for its customers, instead of investors, I’ll tell you how some mutual insurance companies can cost you money. Continue reading

Are Big Auto, Home, & Life Insurance Companies Better than Small Companies?

When insurance companies want to convince people they should insure with them, they often cite their long history and size, usually expressed by the dollar amount of their assets. For example, Prudential Financial, Inc., a major life insurance & financial services company, states on their website they have been in business for 137 years and have $1.061 trillion of assets under management. Does this make Prudential better than a competing company like TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Company, which has been in business 95 years, and has only $520 billion assets under management? Is Prudential financially stronger than TIAA-CREF? Not according to the rating agency AM Best, which rates Prudential at “A+” for financial strength, but gives the higher grade of “A++” to TIAA-CREF. State Farm states on its website it has 81 million policies & accounts in the USA & Canada. State Farm is the largest insurer of cars in the US, and its subsidiary, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, has close to 115 billion dollars in assets for 2012 (according to the financial statement from its website). In comparison, Auto Owners Insurance has less than 6 billion dollars in written premium. But Auto Owners Insurance scored higher than State Farm in both the 2013 JD Power US Property Claims Satisfaction Study and the 2012 JD Power 2012 US Auto Claims Satisfaction Study. It’s good to see any potential insurance company has a long history, and a significant asset base, but bigger does not mean better for the customer, beyond a certain point. When it comes to getting a competitive price for insurance, size does not matter at all. However, there are pros & cons for both small & large companies. This blog post will give you tips about how to consider a company’s size, when buying auto, home, or life insurance. Continue reading

An auto insurance shopping strategy that really does save you $100s a year

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how important it is, when shopping for insurance, to speak with more than a few companies with familiar brand names, if you really want to save money and choose the best coverage. There are many fine companies you may not know, some sold through independent insurance agents, that could have the best price and coverage for you. Some auto insurance companies charge some drivers twice as much as other companies with the same coverage. You have to shop to find the companies with low rates for you. But the insurance companies with low rates for you will change over time. Insurance company rules & rates are always changing, and your risk profile (length of your insurance history, driving record, age, etc.) changes over time, too. This blog post will tell you what you can do, to make sure you never overpay for your auto insurance. Continue reading

Auto, Home, & Life Insurance Companies: Stick with the Big Brand Names?

State Farm. Prudential. Allstate. AFLAC. GEICO. Metlife. Progressive. These insurance companies are household names. No one likes paying for insurance, much less paying more for insurance, but if you are in a major car accident, your house burns down, or you get a life threatening disease or develop a health condition, you want to be sure your auto, home, or life insurance company will be there to take care of your claim. Because of this concern, many people prefer familiar brand names when buying insurance. What if an insurance agent quotes you an insurance company with the coverage you need at a great price, but you have never heard of the company? Can you trust this unknown company to pay your claim? You know the big brand name companies are legitimate companies, even if you have heard stories about some of them having bad customer service. Is some insurance company unknown to you a fly-by-night company? Do they lure you in with low rates, but can’t be reached when you have a claim? It’s human nature to be inclined to buy a product from a company with a familiar name, but are you familiar with the company name because their customers rave about it being a great company, or is it because you are constantly exposed to the company’s advertising? An insurance company is not a better company because it spends a lot of money on advertising, or because it has a lot of customers and many agencies in your area. The wise insurance buyer does not limit their shopping to a few companies with brand name recognition. However, whether you know them or not, all insurance companies are not equally good. This blog post will tell you how to shop for your insurance without being misled by insurance company hype, and what you need to consider, when evaluating an insurance company, to see if it’s the right choice for you. Continue reading

Your Age & Your Auto Insurance — How to get the best rates.

Anyone who is (or was) under age 25, and paying for their own auto insurance, looks forward to attaining an age when their rates go down. In most states, your rates are very high on your own auto insurance policy, until you have three years experience as a licensed driver. This means if you were licensed on your 16th birthday, you should look forward to your 19th birthday, and that would be an excellent time to shop for much lower rates. Even for drivers with clean driving records, auto insurance can be very expensive until you are age 25 or 30. But this blog post is not just for younger people, because your age is an auto insurance rating factor throughout your life, and has big price implications whether you are 16, 30, 50, or 70 years old. I’ll give you simple tips, no matter what your age, on how & when to shop, so you can use your age to your advantage, to get lower auto insurance rates. Continue reading

Auto Insurance & Out of State Coverage

Do you know how your auto insurance covers you when you are driving outside the state you reside? Most US auto insurance policies will cover you when you are driving inside the United States or Canada. But auto insurance is regulated by each state, so auto insurance law and mandatory or compulsory coverage will vary from state to state. Are you properly insured when you drive out of state? Will you be held responsible for a gap in your coverage, due to different compulsory insurance laws? Some auto insurance companies provide broader out-of-state coverage than others. This blog post will explain the issues surrounding out-of-state coverage, whether you are travelling in another state for your work commute, vacation, or other reasons, or if you have moved to a new state, to help inform you how to choose the right policy & coverage to meet your needs. Continue reading

Allstate owns Esurance auto insurance to cater to Internet shoppers: Here are tips on how to shop online

Allstate has purchased Esurance, an insurance company selling auto insurance directly to the public, mainly through its website. Allstate hopes to expand its business in the rapidly growing market of consumers purchasing insurance direct from the company, by phone or online, so it can better compete with other companies, like Progressive and Geico, already successful marketing this way. Allstate has also purchased Answer Financial, an online independent insurance agency, previously owned as well, by the former parent company of Esurance, White Mountains Insurance Group. Continue reading