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Dont over pay for car insurance - compare car insuranceEveryone knows you should be looking at the price when you are comparing auto insurance companies, but there are a lot of other things you should be looking at as well. The company’s financial strength, customer service and willingness to pay out in the event of an accident should all be looked at. When you’re choosing an insurance company you’re choosing a partner you want to keep for a long time, so looking at the whole picture is essential.

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Exceptions and Exclusions

Look carefully at the section on what is included and what is excluded. Different companies have different things included and excluded, so make sure the things most likely to happen are included. If you live by a river or in a valley, then don’t go with an insurance company which excludes flood damage. Always thing about what could go wrong and plan for that. Its much better to be proactive than reactive.

Applicable Discounts

After you’ve looked at the overall price then looking at future discounts should be high on the list. If you stay with a company for 5 years then you may have to pay a little extra for the first couple, but once the discounts start kicking in then you stand to save a lot. There may also be extra discounts which you plan to take advantage of, such as owning a house, getting married or adding a vehicle to the policy. Make sure those discounts don’t leave you paying more than you should three or four years into the future.

Payment Options

Once you’ve decided on the lowest price then a company with flexible payment options is important. Most companies will offer several different payment schemes so take a look and make sure there is one which suits you before you commit to a policy. Also make sure you understand whether the company is quoting the rate for one month, six months or a full year. That way you know how much you really have to budget for and you can adjust the coverage accordingly.

Customer Service and Customer Reviews

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Customer service may not seem important when you’re looking for the cheapest price through a website, but the first time you have to deal with the claims department you may wish you’d researched it. Long wait times, longhold times and impersonal service are all frustrations when you’re trying to get through to a call center. No one ever plans on having an accident, but you want to make sure that when you do you have as hassle free an experience as possible.

There are hundreds of reviews of companies online and most states have a department of insurance website which will allow you to see the complaint rates for each of the insurance companies per every 1,000 claims filed. Thisis a great way to see whether you’re really in good hands, or whether those good hands let go when you get into trouble. It’s also a great way to spot a few smaller insurance companies which you may not have looked at otherwise.

J.D. Power and Associates offers reviews of insurance companies and their customer satisfaction surveys are an industry-wide measure of excellence. Check there for opinions about your insurance company and see what current and former customers have to say about them. You may find some surprising things about the companies with the flashiest advertising.

Financial Strength

Since you’re choosing a partner who will be protecting your car and your things for a number of years, you want to make sure they’re still going to be around when you need them. Checking a company’s financial strength through the Standard & Poor’s ratings or any other ratings company is a great way to reassure yourself the company you choose will be there when you need them.

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Number of Local Agents

Companies without local agents can be cheaper without the overhead, but a local agent is a great person to know. Their only goal in life is to keep you happy, so they will bend over backwards to get you what you want and become your advocate. When you’re in the aftermath of an accident an advocate is a great person to know.

Speed of Claims Department

A slow claims department can make the process of reporting an accident and getting your car repaired take a lot longer than it needs to. Body shops cannot work without permission from the insurance company so you may end up paying extra for a rental car, taking more time off work and spending less time at home, simply because your insurance company was too slow to respond to a request. A speedy claims department will help make the post-accident interactions a lot smoother and help your car get repaired more quickly.

Local Authorized Shops and Repair Programs.

Speaking of body shops, many insurance companies have relationships with specific shops. If you have a favorite shop then make sure the insurance company will let you send your car there for repair when it’s damaged. If you don’t have a favorite body shop, then look into programs like Geico’s Auto Repair Express, where they provide you with an estimate, drop-off and rental car all in the same place. Having an accident is stressful enough; youwant your insurance company to make it as easy as possible for you to get your car repaired.

car insurance repair programsLocal shops will also have great opinions about insurance companies. They deal with them day in and day out, so asking your local body shops which insurance company they would recommend is a big step towards makingsure you get the one with the highest level of customer service and the speediest repair. Body shops don’t like your car to sit around anymore than you do, so they want you to have the fastest possible insurance company.

Opinions and Referrals from Friends and Family

Friends and family are another great source of advice. Many of them will have had extended relationships with one company, making them a very valuable resource for true reviews and data. They may even be able to refer you to a local agent who can help you answer your questions and you may both be able to get a discount if they refer you to the company. Most of all though, you should look for people who have had a smooth experience with the insurance company claims process, as well as smooth billing and customer service experiences.

The primary points in choosing an insurance company, aside from the price, should be stability and ease of use. You want a company that will be around when you need to use them, even if that happens to be five or six years into the future. You also want a company which makes the claims and repair process as smooth and simple as possible, so if you do have an accident it is as hassle free as it possibly can be.

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