How To Switch Car Insurance Companies
November 4, 2005
It may be easier than you think!
There are many reasons why you may choose to move your auto insurance coverage to another company. You might have changed jobs and are eligible for a group discount through another insurer, or maybe you're unhappy with the service that your present company provides. Perhaps you've simply found another company willing to offer you the same level of coverage for considerably less money. Nowadays, many insurance companies provide 24-hour rate information through their toll-free numbers or websites, so investigating your options has never been easier. Another valuable source of information is your state's Department of Insurance.
Why switch to a new insurance carrier?
Regularly review your auto coverage to make sure that you're receiving the best insurance value for your money. You'll discover that it pays to shop around. In some states, premiums for identical policies vary widely among different companies. The reasons for this price variation can be very complicated, but they boil down to a company's claims experience with policyholders in your coverage group (e.g. people of similar age, number of accidents, type of vehicle). For example, if a large number of people in your coverage group files claims during a given year, your rates will likely rise. When this happens, better discounts and lower overall premiums may be available at other companies, although some states strictly regulate the price of coverage. When you decide to switch your auto insurance to another company, you'll find that it's fairly easy to do so.
How to cancel your old policy
Generally, all you need to do to cancel your auto policy is to inform your insurance company in writing, specifying the date you want the policy canceled. In some states, your new agent must notify your previous agent of the policy change. Some companies ask that you send back the actual printed policy. Your insurance company will send you a cancellation request form that you should sign and return. Examine the form carefully to make sure that all information regarding your policy is correct. If you do not receive such a form within two weeks of sending your letter, call your agent or the company immediately to check on the status of your cancellation. Don't just walk away from your old policy without formally canceling it. Otherwise, the insurance company might assume you wished to continue your coverage, and it might eventually terminate the policy for failure to pay premiums and report your lack of coverage to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. This can hurt your credit rating and your ability to get a new policy.
Be sure to get a new policy first
Always have a new policy in place before canceling your old auto insurance coverage. You don't want to have a gap in protection for even one day. Fortunately, there is little danger of this happening. Most states require all drivers living within their borders to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. So, most insurance companies now require policyholders to present proof of new coverage before they will cancel an active policy. You may need to show your old carrier copies of a new insurance identification card or the Declarations Page of your new policy. Your new company will be able to time the onset of your new policy to coincide with the cancellation of your old coverage.
When to switch policies
The best time to switch auto insurance carriers is just before your old policy is about to renew. This will allow you to avoid paying for printing and start-up expenses the company incurs as part of the policy renewal process. You also avoid the inconvenience of figuring out the amount of any unused premium that should be returned to you.
A renewal notice will be sent to you approximately a month before a new policy period begins, depending on the regulations in your state. The notice will describe your coverage, discounts, and the amount of premium you owe. Should you decide to switch policies, you'll need to line up a new policy by the time your current policy renews, although most states allow about a month after renewal to switch. If you miss the deadline, you may end up paying a cancellation penalty.
You don't have to wait until renewal
All standard auto insurance policies contain a provision giving you the right to cancel your policy at any time, once proper notice is given to the insurance company. You don't necessarily have to wait until renewal time. Cancellation after a policy has renewed is most convenient at the end of a payment cycle. That way, you're not forced to deal with recovering the unused portion of your paid premium. But if you choose to cancel in the middle of a cycle, the company will prorate your latest premium payment up to the cancellation date and return the remainder to you. However, a special "short rate" (cancellation penalty) will be deducted to pay the administrative costs of renewing the policy.
How long does it take to switch?
When you switch companies, your new agent or insurer can execute the change in as little as one day. You'll need to provide a cancellation date, your former agent's name, and the name of the insurer. It would also be helpful to show your new agent a copy of the old policy's specifications page in order to match the coverage.
Please note that this description/explanation is intended only as a guideline.
For more information about auto insurance please go to: Insurance.com
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