Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy.
Auto insurance provides property, liability and medical coverage:
- Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
- Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
- Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
An auto insurance policy is comprised of six different kinds of coverage. Most states require you to buy some, but not all, of these coverages. If you’re financing a car, your lender may also have requirements.
Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance company should notify you by mail when it’s time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.
Your auto policy may include six coverages. Each coverage is priced separately.
1. Bodily Injury Liability
This coverage applies to injuries that you, the designated driver or policyholder, cause to someone else. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission.
It’s very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
2. Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.
3. Property Damage Liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually, this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car hit.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1,000—the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company. If they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium.
Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Some companies offer glass coverage with or without a deductible.
6. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
This coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver.
NO! Almost every state requires you to have auto liability insurance. All states also have financial responsibility laws. This means that even in a state that does not require liability insurance, you need to have sufficient assets to pay claims if you cause an accident. If you don’t have enough assets, you must purchase at least the state minimum amount of insurance. But insurance exists to protect your assets. Trying to see how little you can get by with can be very shortsighted and dangerous. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident since accidents may cost far more than the minimum limits mandated by most states.
If you’ve financed your car, your lender may require comprehensive and collision insurance as part of the loan agreement.
Properly insuring a rental car can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many consumers do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in costly mistakes—either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage.
Before renting a car, the I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance agent or company representative and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.
- Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, providing you are using the car for recreation and not for business.If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.Check to see whether your insurance company pays for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges. Some companies may provide an insurance rider to cover some of these costs, which would make it less expensive than purchasing coverage through the rental car company. Keep in mind, however, that in most states diminished value is not covered by insurers.
- Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card. Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. There may be no personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.To know exactly what type of insurance you have, call the toll-free number on the back of the card you will be using to rent the car. If you are depending on a credit card for insurance protection, ask the credit card company or bank to send you their coverage information in writing. In most cases, credit card benefits are secondary to either your personal insurance protection or the insurance offered by the rental car company.
If you have more than one credit card, consider calling each one to see which offers the best insurance protection.
At the Rental Car Counter
Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:
- Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or “waive” renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for “loss of use,” in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car can not be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.Waivers, however, may become void if the accident was caused by speeding, driving on unpaved roads or driving while intoxicated. If you already have comprehensive and collision coverage on your own car, check with your personal auto insurer to make sure you are not duplicating coverage you already have. Should you decide it is necessary, this coverage generally costs between $9 and $19 a day.
- Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.An umbrella liability policy, however, may be more cost-effective. Umbrella liability insurance is so named because it acts like an umbrella, sitting on top of your auto and homeowners (or renters) liability policies to provide extra protection including accidents while driving your own car or one that you rent. These policies, usually sold in increments of a million dollars, cost as little as $200 to $300 annually for a million dollars worth of coverage and another $50 to $100 for each additional million.Those who do not own their own car and are frequent car renters, can also consider purchasing a non-owner liability policy. This not only provides liability protection when you rent a car, but also when you borrow someone else’s car.
- Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.
- Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.
Other Things to Consider
States have minimum age requirements for renting a car and most major rental car companies refuse to rent a car to someone who is under 21 and in some cases under 25. In addition, some rental car companies now investigate your driving record and/or credit history so check with the rental car company before picking up the car.
If you are planning to rent a car abroad, contact both your insurance agent and travel agent to find out what you need to do to be properly insured. Those driving a rental car from the U.S. into Mexico may find it progressively more difficult to rent a car as U.S. rental car companies are increasingly concerned about the rising crime rates in that country. The minimum required insurance coverage to drive in Mexico is civil liability insurance which covers you in case you cause injury or damage. Your American liability insurance is not valid in Mexico for bodily injury, though some American insurance policies will cover you for physical damage—check with your agent or insurance company representative. You can also buy Mexican car insurance in several American border towns; there are generally several storefronts selling Mexican car insurance near the border.
Note: If you’re renting a car abroad, you may need an international drivers license.
There is a big difference between an insurance company canceling a policy and choosing not to renew it. Insurance companies cannot cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except when:
- You fail to pay the premium
- You have committed fraud or made serious misrepresentations on your application
- Your drivers license has been revoked or suspended.
Nonrenewal is a different matter. Either you or your insurance company can decide not to renew the policy when it expires. Depending on the state you live in, your insurance company must give you a certain number of days notice and explain the reason for not renewing before it drops your policy. If you think the reason is unfair or want a further explanation, call the insurance company’s consumer affairs division. If you don’t get a satisfactory explanation, call your State Insurance Department.
The company may have decided to drop that particular line of insurance or to write fewer policies where you live, so the nonrenewal decision may not be because of something you did. On the other hand, if you did do something that raised the insurance company’s risk considerably, like driving drunk, the premium may rise or you may not have your policy renewed.
If your insurance company did not renew your policy, you will not necessarily be charged a higher premium at another insurance company.
If you lease a car, you still need to buy your own auto insurance policy. The auto dealer or bank that is financing the car will require you to buy collision and comprehensive coverage. You’ll need to buy these coverages in addition to the others that may be mandatory in your state, such as auto liability insurance.
- Collision covers the damage to the car from an accident with another automobile or object.
- Comprehensive covers a loss that is caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as a fire or theft or collision with a deer.
The leasing company may also require “gap” insurance. This refers to the fact that if you have an accident and your leased car is damaged beyond repair or “totaled,” there’s likely to be a difference between the amount that you still owe the auto dealer and the check you’ll get from your insurance company. That’s because the insurance company’s check is based on the car’s actual cash value which takes into account depreciation. The difference between the two amounts is known as the “gap.”
On a leased car, the cost of gap insurance is generally rolled into the lease payments. You don’t actually buy a gap policy. Generally, the auto dealer buys a master policy from an insurance company to cover all the cars it leases and charges you for a “gap waiver.” This means that if your leased car is totaled, you won’t have to pay the dealer the gap amount. Check with the auto dealer when leasing your car.
If you have an auto loan rather than a lease, you may want to buy gap insurance to protect yourself from having to come up with the gap amount if your car is totaled before you’ve finished paying for it. Ask your insurance agent about gap insurance or search the Internet. Gap insurance may not be available in some states.
Your agent will ask you what make and model cars you own, roughly how many miles you drive each year, and what kind of liability coverage you will need. The agent will also want to know how many people drive the cars, how old the drivers are, where you live, and driving records of each household member.
The agent will then ask more detailed questions about your cars, such as their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), whether they have passive restraint systems or air bags, anti-lock brakes or anti-theft devices. If you already have another insurance policy with the company for home or life insurance, you might receive a discount on your auto policy. You should also mention if you or other drivers in your household have completed safe-driving courses and if student drivers in your home are getting good grades—both of these may qualify you for discounts on your auto policy.
Once the agent has assembled all of the information, he or she will quote you a premium. The premium will depend on all the factors above and on the deductibles you choose.
If you are ever sued, your standard homeowners or auto policy will provide you with some liability coverage, paying for judgements against you and your attorney’s fees, up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have an extra layer of liability protection. That’s what a personal umbrella liability policy provides.
An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.
For about $150 to $300 per year you can buy a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy. The next million will cost about $75, and $50 for every million after that.
Because the personal umbrella policy goes into effect after the underlying coverage is exhausted, there are certain limits that usually must be met in order to purchase this coverage. Most insurers will want you to have about $250,000 of liability insurance on your auto policy and $300,000 of liability insurance on your homeowners policy before selling you an umbrella liability policy for $1 million of additional coverage.
As soon as your teenager begins to drive, notify your insurance agent that there will be an additional driver in the house. Since teenagers are inexperienced drivers, they tend to get into a lot of accidents. This will, unfortunately, be reflected in higher insurance rates. If you have a daughter, you can expect your insurance to go up as much as 50 percent. A son will increase your car insurance by as much as 100 percent. Consider also raising liability limits or buying an umbrella liability policy for additional protection.
Also, we have partnered with SAFECO to offer our Teensurance program, complete with GPS tracking. Ask your agent for details.
How to keep the increased cost to a minimum
- Insure your son or daughter on your own policy.
It is generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your insurance policy than for them to purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, insure it with your company so that you can get a multi-policy discount.
- Let your insurer know if your teenager is going away to school.
If your your kids are living away at school–at least 100 miles from home–you will get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car. This, of course, assumes that they leave the car at home!
- Encourage your teen to get good grades and to take a driver training course.
Most companies will give discounts for getting at least a “B” average in school and for taking recognized driving courses.
- We will pick the right Carrier.
Insurance companies differ dramatically in how they price policies for young drivers.
- Pick a safe car.
The type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance. You and your teenager should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash. You should avoid small cars and those with high performance images that might encourage speed and recklessness. Trucks and SUVs should also be avoided, since they are more prone to rollovers.
- Talk to them about safe driving.
Driving safely will not only keep your son or daughter alive and healthy, it will also save money. As your teenager gets older, insurance rates will drop–providing he or she has a good driving record.
- Talk to your teen about the dangers of combining driving with alcohol, lack of sleep and distractions.
Accidents occur each year because a teen driver was using a cell phone, playing the radio or talking to friends in the backseat. Also, teens should be careful not to provide distractions and to exhibit safe behavior when they are passengers in their friends’ cars.
- Be a good role model.
New drivers learn by example, so if you drive recklessly, your teenage driver may copy you. Always wear your seatbelt and never drink and drive.
Institute your own version of a graduated drivers licensing program.
A number of states have reduced teen accidents by restricting the amount of time new drivers may be on the road without supervision. If your state doesn’t have such a program, you may institute this same policy with your own children. Also, take an active role in helping your teenager learn to drive. Plan a series of practice drives in a wide variety of situations–nighttime, rain and snow. Give them time to work up to challenges such as driving in heavy traffic, on expansive bridges or on freeways.
Many drivers don’t think about their insurance coverage until after they have an accident and call their insurance company to file a claim to help pay for car repairs, a rental car and other expenses.
Unfortunately, many insured drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident. Since the average car is in the repair shop for two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a replacement car. But, some insured drivers pay little or nothing to rent a car because of an inexpensive but often overlooked option known as rental reimbursement.
Rental reimbursement coverage is available for only $1 or $2 a month with almost every auto insurance policy, but it is bypassed frequently by those who believe they will not have a car accident or those shopping only for the lowest cost premium. The cost of a rental replacement car adds up fast, so even if you don’t have an accident for eight or nine years, the coverage pays for itself when you need it most.
Sometimes working out the details of a claim with the auto insurance company can take time. Even if the accident is the other driver’s fault, you may have to wait several days or longer to get the other insurance company to agree to pay for a rental car. With your own coverage, there is no waiting.
The price you pay for your auto insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending what type of car you have and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some ways to save money.
Let Pacific West Shop around
Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to use an agent. We shop at least three major carriers for each quote.
But don’t shop by price alone. You want a company that is going to be there when you need them, answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently.
You can also check the financial health of insurance companies through the independent rating agencies.
Select an agent or company representative who takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company if you have an accident or other emergency.
Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Your premium is based in part on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices. Some states require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with air bags or anti-lock brakes.
Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. Information that can help you decide what car to buy is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( http://www.iihs.org ).
Ask for higher deductibles
Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 percent to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more.
Reduce coverage on older cars
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of a car, or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book ( http://www.kbb.com ). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.
Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer
Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. But shop around; you may save money buying from different insurance companies despite the multi-policy discount.
Take advantage of low-mileage discounts
Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.
Ask about group insurance
Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, or through professional, business and alumni groups and other associations. Ask your employer or any groups or clubs to which you belong.
Maintain good credit
Your credit rating may affect what you pay for insurance, so keep a close eye on it. Credit makes insurance rates more accurate, fair and objective. While the use of insurance scoring varies from state to state and company to company, it is a fact that drivers with long, stable credit records have fewer accidents than drivers who don’t. There are various Internet services that allow you to check your credit rating and provide tips on how to improve your score.
Seek out safe driver discounts
Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course.
Inquire about other discounts
You may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or in some cases 55 and retired or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.
When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts* for:
- $500 deductible
- $1,000 deductible
- More than 1 car
- No accidents in 3 years
- No moving violations in 3 years
- Drivers over 50-55 years of age
- Driver training course
- Defensive driving course
- Anti-theft device
- Low annual mileage
- Air bag
- Anti-lock brakes
- Daytime running lights
- Student drivers with good grades
- Auto and homeowners coverage with the same company
- College students away from home
- Long-time customer
- Other discounts
*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.
But don’t forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.
We represent many insurance companies, one of the benefits of having an agent is helping you choose. Here are the main points to keep in mind when selecting an insurance company:
Not every company is licensed to operate in each state. As a general rule, you should buy from a company licensed in your state, because then can you rely on your state insurance department to help if there’s a problem. To find out which companies are licensed in your state, contact the State Insurance Department.
Many companies sell insurance policies and prices vary greatly from one to another, so it really pays to let us shop for you. Your State Insurance Department may publish a guide that shows what insurers charge for different policies in various parts of your state.
- Financial Solidity
You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. We represent only carriers rated A or better.
Your insurance company and its representatives should answer your questions and handle your claims fairly, efficiently and quickly. You can get a feel for whether this is the case by talking to other Pacific West Insurance clients.. You may also want to check a national claims database to see what complaint information it has on a company. Also, your state insurance department will be able to tell you if the insurance company you are considering doing business with had many consumer complaints about its service relative to the number of policies it sold.
You should feel comfortable with your insurance purchase, whether you buy it from a local agent, directly from the company over the phone, or over the Internet. Make sure that the agent or company will be easy to reach if you have a question or need to file a claim.
There are many factors that influence the price you pay for auto insurance. The average American driver spends about $850 a year. Your premium may be higher or lower, depending on:
- Your driving record.
The better your record, the lower your premium. If you’ve had accidents or serious traffic violations, you will pay more than if you have a clean driving record. You may also pay more if you haven’t been insured for a number of years.
- The number of miles you drive each year.
The more miles you drive, the more chance for accidents. If you drive a lower than average number of miles per year, less than 10,000, you will pay less. For instance, some companies will give discounts to policyholders who carpool.
- Where you live.
Insurance companies look at local trends, such as the number of accidents, car thefts and lawsuits, as well as the cost of medical care and car repair.
- Your age.
In general, mature drivers have fewer accidents than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. So insurers generally charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car.
- The car you drive.
Some cars cost more to insure than others. Variables include the likelihood of theft, the cost of the car, the cost of repairs, and the overall safety record of the car.
The amount of coverage.
Of course, like anything else, the more coverage you have, the more you pay. However, you may qualify for discounts.
o file a claim, follow these steps:
- Call your insurance agent as soon as possible, regardless of who is at fault. If it is after hours, contact your carriers claims department directly and find out whether you’re covered for this loss. Even if the accident appears minor, it is important that you let your insurance company know about the incident.
- Ask your agent or company representative how to proceed and what forms or documents are needed to support your claim. Your insurance company will require a “proof of claim” form and, if there is one, a copy of the police report. Increasingly, companies allow you to monitor the progress of your claim on their web site.
- Supply the information your insurer requests. Fill out the claim form carefully. Keep good records. Get the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with and copies of any bills related to the accident.
- Ask your insurance agent or company representative the following:
- Does my policy contain a time limit for filing claims and submitting bills?
- Is there a time limit for resolving claims disputes?
- If I need to submit additional information, is there a time limit?
- When can I expect the insurance company to contact me?
- Do I need to get repair estimates for the damage to my car?
- Will my policy pay for a rental car while my car is being repaired? If so, how much?
You may be reluctant to file a claim because you fear that your premium will go up or your insurance will be canceled. Practices vary from company to company. In general, an insurer will increase your premium by specific percentages for each chargeable claim made against your policy above a specific dollar amount. A chargeable claim is one the insurer considers primarily your fault. The percentages and ceilings vary from company to company. These increases generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim.
Your company may also decide not to renew your policy if your driving record gets markedly worse or you have several accidents. Different insurers have different rules about what constitutes an unacceptably bad driving record. But some accidents, such as those caused by drunk driving, will probably trigger a nonrenewal from virtually every insurance company.
If you have an accident but don‘t report it to your insurer, you are taking a risk, even if the damage seems minor. If the other driver sues you weeks or months later, your failure to report the accident might cause your insurer to refuse to honor the policy. And even if they do honor the policy, the delay will certainly make it harder for the insurer to gather evidence to represent you.
There are several standard guidelines for determining the value of your car for insurance purposes. You and your insurer can refer to one of the books that list the depreciated value of all new and used cars. One of these books is published by the National Association of Automobile Dealers another is published by Kelley Blue Book.
When you file your claim, your insurance company will refer you to a claims adjuster. The adjuster will verify the loss and determine what it will cost to repair the car. The adjuster’s estimate can serve as a benchmark to which to compare your own mechanic’s estimate.
No good adjuster or insurance company will expect you to sign an agreement accepting the insurer’s estimate as the total claim payment until you’ve established, to your own satisfaction, that it will cover the cost of repair. The insurer will expect you to get your own estimate from your mechanic, garage or car dealer. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured into accepting the insurer’s estimate of repair costs without getting at least one estimate of your own.
Your insurance company can’t require you to have repairs done at a particular shop. But they can insist that you get more than one estimate for the work to be done on your car. Just as you want to make sure that your car is adequately repaired, the insurer wants to make sure it doesn’t pay a grossly inflated repair bill.
Don’t be surprised if your insurance company opts to pay for the lowest bid. You don’t have to accept that bid if you believe the low bid won’t adequately repair your car. Don’t hesitate to argue with the adjuster if you really believe his repair estimate is too low based on what your mechanic has told you.
One factor that could reduce the amount of your claim for a repair job is what insurance companies call betterment. If your old car is repaired with brand-new parts, your insurer may argue that the repairs have actually enhanced the car’s value and therefore they can legitimately reduce your claim by the difference between a used part and a new one.
It is up to your insurer to decide whether to pay for repairing your car or to declare it a total loss and pay you its book value. Most standard auto policies will not pay to repair a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car. There won’t be any dispute about whether to repair the car if it was completely totaled. But you may argue about what the pieces of the car were worth when they were assembled as a car. For you to get a settlement higher than the book value of your car’s make and model, you will have to submit evidence such as mileage records, service history and affidavits from mechanics to show that your car was worth more. You’re entitled to the market price of the car you just lost. You shouldn’t get more or less than what you are due.
Your insurance company can’t require you to use only certain kinds of auto repair parts. However, if the insurance company’s rates are based on a certain type of part and you want something different, it can ask you to pay the difference if the part you want is more expensive.
The parts most frequently damaged in auto accidents are “crash parts”. These are the sheet metal pieces that cover the engine and frame of the car. There are two sources for crash parts: auto manufacturers, who sell them under their own names, also known as original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and generic or aftermarket crash parts suppliers. Studies have demonstrated that these crash parts do not affect the safety of the car. The development of a market in generic parts has brought prices for car replacement parts down and can help consumers save money.
In general, if generic parts have been ordered for the repair of your car, this information must be disclosed. The car repair order should state that the parts are not from the original manufacturer and the warranty may be different. Many generic parts are made at the same factories as OEM parts, and in fact very few OEM parts are actually made by car makers.
Insurance companies that use generic parts guarantee the parts they use. If the part doesn’t fit properly, the insurance company will generally put on an OEM part at no extra cost.
Some auto insurance companies offer their policyholders a choice between OEM and generic repair parts as part of an endorsement (addition to the policy that changes its terms and conditions) that includes other choices as well. Some always specify OEM parts for repairs and some use OEM parts for repairing recent model cars. A few states require insurance companies to offer generic parts when they exist and some may require OEM parts to be used.
Ask us about your state and your insurance company’s claim settlement guidelines so that you’ll know what to expect if your car has to be repaired after an accident.