[It's time to re-shop my auto and home insurance again. I updated all the links in this article I first wrote in 2009. It helped me save a lot of money then. I'm going to follow the same process this time. The edited post follows.]
I spent more than 15 minutes and I saved more than 15% on my auto and homeowner’s insurance. For the same coverage, I saved 25% on my auto insurance and I saved 38% on my homeowner’s insurance.
A typical “how to save money on insurance” article will tell you to drop collision and comprehensive coverage on older cars, ask about all discounts, increase your deductible, insure your car and home with the same company, etc. etc.
I’m not going to repeat those. I assume you already know what coverage you want and what deductibles you are comfortable with, and you already pursued all the discounts. If not, you can search for those articles on the Internet. There are a ton of them.
This article focuses on shopping for a lower rate for the same coverage. Those other articles usually leave you with “shop around” or “get at least 3 quotes.” But whom do you get quotes from?
There are probably more than 20 insurance companies in each market. If you get quotes from 3 expensive companies, that won’t help you because you don’t even know lower rates exist. On the other hand, unless you don’t have better things to do, it’s impractical to get quotes from all companies. You have to narrow down your target list to the companies that can potentially save you money.
When you shop for term life insurance, you can go to a single web site and get the premiums from practically all the companies (see How to Buy Life Insurance). When you shop for auto and homeowner’s insurance, there isn’t a central place to go. Although there are a few websites that let you obtain quotes from multiple companies, they only include companies that pay them for the lead.
I tested several of those sites with fictitious personal info. After I filled out lengthy forms, instead of giving me quotes, some of them just say the companies will contact me. Well, if they can’t beat what I already have, I don’t want a bunch of sales calls!
There are also independent insurance agents. These agents also only work with insurance companies that pay them. They are not able to give you quotes from companies who sell only through their own (“captive”) agents, such as State Farm, Allstate, or Farmers, or those who only sell directly to consumers, for instance GEICO or Amica.
Fortunately there is a great resource from a place you least expect: your state government. Insurance is regulated by the states. All insurance companies selling in a state must file their rates with a state agency. Using those rate filings, some state agencies publish a premium comparison survey or guide that shows the rates by company and by city or county.
Because people drive different cars and have different driving records, or have different homes, these surveys typically use a few driver/homeowner profiles and show the insurance premium from each company for these profiles. You have to pick a profile that’s most similar to yours.
It’s far from perfect. The rates used can be a year old. It’s still very useful for weeding out the expensive companies and narrowing down the list of companies that can potentially offer a premium lower than what you have now. For example I noticed a company offering good rates called Wawanesa. I bet not many people have ever heard of Wawanesa and most would never think of getting a quote from them.
It’s a shame that these premium comparison surveys or guides are not advertised well. You never hear about them on TV, on radio or online. On some state Department of Insurance web sites, these surveys are buried deeply in the end of a “Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance” publication with otherwise generic information on coverage and insurance terms.
The cynics will say it’s intentional. The insurance companies don’t want you to compare rates so easily. They learned the lessons from airlines. When people can go to one web site and see all the fares, the airlines are forced to compete on price. Imagine how much people will pay if they have to call each and every airline for fares. That’s the world we are in for insurance quotes.
Using the premium comparison survey for my state, I called a company that I would otherwise never call for my homeowners insurance. Although this company is well known nationally, it doesn’t give homeowners insurance quotes online. The savings are huge. I saved a whopping 38% on my homeowners insurance.
For my auto insurance, I contacted three companies that had lower rates on the premium comparison survey than the company I had before. They all gave me a lower rate. I saved 25% on my auto insurance for the same coverage. The premium comparison survey was spot on, not in the premium amount, but on how the companies rank relatively.
I went through the trouble of visiting the Department of Insurance web site for each and every state plus Washington DC. I gathered all the links to auto and homeowners insurance premium comparison surveys in the table below.
I couldn’t find the surveys for some states. Maybe they don’t publish one. Maybe I missed them because they buried them so deeply. If you find the missing links, let me know so I can add to the table. If some links become broken because they moved things around, you will have to find the surveys on your own. This map of State Department of Insurance web sites will help.
Let me know how much you are able to save on your auto and homeowners insurance with these premium comparison surveys.
State Department of Insurance Premium Comparison Surveys
|State||Premium Comparison Survey|
|Alabama (AL)||Auto | Home|
|Arizona (AZ)||Auto | Home|
|Arkansas (AR)||Auto | Home|
|California (CA)||Auto | Home|
|Colorado (CO)||Auto | Home|
|Delaware (DE)||Auto | Home|
|District of Columbia (DC)|
|Florida (FL)||Auto | Home|
|Hawaii (HI)||Auto | Home|
|Kansas (KS)||Auto | Home|
|Kentucky (KY)||Auto | Home|
|Louisiana (LA)||Auto | Home|
|Maine (ME)||Auto | Home|
|Maryland (MD)||Auto | Home|
|Montana (MT)||Auto | Home|
|New Hampshire (NH)||Auto | Home|
|New Jersey (NJ)||Auto | Home|
|New Mexico (NM)||Auto | Home|
|New York (NY)|
|North Carolina (NC)|
|North Dakota (ND)||Auto|
|Oklahoma (OK)||Auto | Home|
|Rhode Island (RI)|
|South Carolina (SC)|
|South Dakota (SD)|
|Texas (TX)||Auto | Home|
|Utah (UT)||Auto | Home|
|Virginia (VA)||Auto | Home|
|West Virginia (WV)||Auto|
[Photo credit: Flickr user Justin Grimes]