The General is intended for drivers who may face steep rates from other insurers, but that doesn’t mean it will be able to provide those drivers with the protection they need. Few coverage options and a history of complicated claims resolution keeps us from recommending The General. Even if it offers lower rates than the competition, you might eventually get hit with unexpected fees that drive up the price of your coverage. If you can avoid it, you should — there are better insurance options out there.
If you have poor credit and don’t live in one of the three exempt states, consider requesting an extraordinary life circumstances exemption. This exemption allows you to request insurance carriers not to use your credit score when calculating your rate. This is particularly helpful if you can show that your poor credit was caused by specific circumstances beyond your control, such as serious illness, divorce, unemployment, and similar life catastrophes. The insurance company will likely ask you to provide documentary proof, so make sure you can back up your claim.
Insurance experts suggest that you compare car insurance policies every time your current policy is up for renewal (typically every six months to a year). Before you launch your quote hunt, review your existing policy and see if your needs have changed. For example, many auto lenders will require you to have no more than a $500 deductible in comprehensive/collision coverage—but once you pay off your car loan, you can increase this deductible and save a considerable amount on your insurance premiums.
But liability coverage levels come in threes — you’ll probably see something like 50/100/50 up to 250/500/250 in typical policies. You can think of these limits like: individual injuries / total injuries / property damage. Insurers are a little more technical, calling them bodily injury liability, total bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.
Comprehensive covers theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object. This includes vandalism, natural disasters, and damage caused by animals. If you live in an earthquake-prone region or one with high deer populations, comprehensive coverage will protect against those environmental factors beyond your control.
Many insurers state that their policies offer ‘full coverage’ without detailing what that means, because, well, it doesn’t really mean anything. According to Jonathan O’Steen, personal injury attorney and partner at O’Steen & Harrison LLC, “Some insurance agents use ‘full coverage’ as a shorthand way to describe auto policies that only meet state minimum limits for coverage. True full coverage would provide unlimited protection for all losses arising from an automobile accident.”
Progressive offers a unique discount through a program called Snapshot, a usage-based insurance plan that transmits real driving data to the company. Using a telematic device installed in your vehicle, Snapshot monitors your driving behaviors — such as how rapidly you accelerate or how often you stop abruptly — as well as the miles and times you drive, which can increase your risk of an accident.
"Teens are very likely to pick up the habits of their parents,” says J.C. Fawcett of the Defensive Driving School. “A parent should think about. Do I cuss at other drivers while driving? Do I speed? Do I tailgate? The training that comes from students observing their parents is very powerful. If a parent attempts to change their habits only when their teen is learning to drive, it's probably 10 years too late."
A lot goes into an auto insurance rate quote, including your ZIP code, coverage levels, marital status, annual mileage, driving history and vehicle make, year and model. In most states, your gender and credit history are also used to determine rates. And again, the reason auto insurance comparison shopping is so important is because rates between companies are different for each person, too.
Compare.com is another online car insurance comparison tool that generates real-time quotes from multiple insurance providers. In addition to car insurance, Compare provides quotes for home, health, and small business insurance, as well as tools to help you choose car loans and mobile phone plans. The site is rated 4.5 out of 5 on eKomi, based 640 user reviews.
If you are an older driver, you should also make sure to keep your license up to date: many states will require you to renew it every four to five years. No matter what policy you choose, you should also make sure to get regular physicals to make sure you are healthy enough to drive, and to understand the side effects of any medications you are taking.
Both personal injury protection coverage and medical payments coverage can overlap with your regular health insurance coverage. Their interaction will vary based on what type of health insurance policy you have and which state you live in. Some types of health insurance policy don’t cover accident-related injuries at all; if your health insurance policy does cover such injuries, either personal injury protection coverage or medical payments coverage can give you funds to cover copay expenses and other charges that aren’t covered by your health insurance. They will also cover your accident-related medical expenses if you haven’t met your health insurance deductible for the year.
The General advertises low rates for coverage, and many customers have confirmed that they were offered lower premiums at the outset of their policy. But after the fact, The General has been known to tack on hidden fees for things as simple as monthly billing, resulting in a rate that can be significantly higher than the initial rate you were given.