It is amazing how much literature has been written about the car insurance business online. The main approach in use by the bulk of the writings is in the direction of selling car insurance, rather than offer it in the proper context of insurance product or ‘a product to protect your assets and wealth.’ That is why when searching for the phrase ‘auto insurance’ a large number of websites emerge with the ‘selling’ phrases like affordable auto insurance, or cheap auto insurance or low cost auto insurance.
In the early part of 2011 and according to Google AdWords there were 8,100; 74,000; 9,900 monthly searches for the above key phrases, respectively. On the other hand, there were only 110 searches for the phrase ‘reliable auto insurance’, 170 searches for ‘quality auto insurance’, and 8,100 for ‘top auto insurance companies.’ It is rather easy to conclude that most of the searches on line are about price, not quality of insurance.
A basic principle in marketing is to understand what people ‘want’ and design and package your product or service to meet what the folks want. Looking at those numbers we can tell that most people want cheap auto insurance. As a marketer, if you design any campaign without considering that analysis you may eventually flunk the marketing tests, close your website and go do something else.
So what’s the difference between auto insurance polices? From a ‘financial planning viewpoint’ car insurance comparison should never be based on price only, and perhaps most people agree that cheap insurance is not necessarily the best car insurance. But what most people do not know is that an insurance policy with the best rated company may also be one of the most problematic contract. An auto insurance policy should be compared in reference with three factors:
1. Price: of course the cheaper the better.
2. Company Rating: Non standard companies are more flexible than their standard or preferred counterparts with regard to past violations found on the MVR activities of the drivers and the credit score of the car insurance applicants. However, non standard companies are harsher than others in customer service and paying claims. Most of complains come from non standard insurance companies. While preferred companies do not hesitate to quickly pay for smaller claims suck as seven or eight thousand dollars claim, or even little more; all companies from top to bottom will try to examine the application to see if they have to or do not have to pay a $100,000 claim.
3. Liability Limits. This is the most ignored, least understood, but is the most important aspect of the policy which affect customers during time they need the insurance. It measures how much protection you have in the event you get sued. A professional financial advisor will never ever sell you an auto insurance policy at low limits if he/she has enough information that you and your spouse have enough wealth to be sued for in the event that you or a family household member cause a major auto accident and your car insurance pays the maximum on the policy which turns out not to be enough.
There are many insurance policies sold with superior insurance companies at the lowest liability limits mandated by the state. In the State of Illinois these limits are 20/40/15, which means that in the event you cause an accident that is your fault and you get sued by others, then your company will pay to others on your behalf no more than $20,000 for bodily injury for one person, no more than $40,000 for bodily injury for all other people in the accident, and a maximum of $15,000 for any and all property damage you case in that accident. If you are a business owner and you cause a major accident resulting in a unbeaten lawsuit of $300,000 and your insurance company maxed the payment on the policy and paid $20,000, the difference of $280,000 will have to come from your own money!
Financial Planners and Auto Insurance Marketers Are Not in Harmony
Financial planners are not in harmony with insurance marketers about the weight that needs to be placed on limits of liability in auto insurance. Marketers like to stress the aspects of price and company rating, while financial planners like to stress the importance of liability limits first, then company rating second, and perhaps price at a later stage.
Although financial planners and auto insurance marketers have the common goals of maximizing their earnings while providing their services, the scope of their operations is different. Auto insurance marketers make their money by selling as many polices as they can have. The marketer does his best to make as many sales as possible, hence making small amount of money on too many policies sold. Financial planners work differently as they try to make big money from each of the few number of customers they have. Selling an auto policy is not the primary concern of a financial planner, but for him or her auto insurance is one of the fundamental subjects of the financial planning process.
Car insurance agents look at auto insurance as a way to protect the car itself in the event of theft, fire or another loss, besides the fact that it’s the law. Financial planners look at auto insurance as an integral part of their clients risk management process. To the financial planner an auto policy is not to repair the car in the event of loss, but is mainly about protecting the assets and wealth of the insured, especially against potential lawsuits.
Some auto insurance marketers would even suggest to cut down on liability insurance as a way to save money. No sound financial planner will ever make such a suggestion. No way!
When does height matter?
How high your liability limits should be is the main issue that should prevail when you buy car insurance. You probably need only the minimum liability limits mandated by the states if /when(1) you shopped for higher limits and could not afford it, (2) your current assets or wealth is not big enough to expose you to further lawsuits in the event of at fault auto accident. (3) you are a high risk driver where no one else wants to insure you except at the minimum limits. But, if you have certain amounts of assets and wealth, or is expected to have sizable assets or wealth, then you need to worry about the height of your liability limits.
What about if you are not wealthy with plenty of assets? Even for people with little or no wealth, the height of liability limits should be much of a concern to them. This is due to the fact that liability insurance contains certain coverages to pay for your bodily injuries in the event that you get hit by a vehicle that is legally uninsured, or is insured but the insurance on that vehicle was not enough to cover your bodily injuries. According to the Insurance Research Council, approximately 15% to 17% all drivers in the United States are uninsured. Coverages for Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) vary from states to states with regard to their mandatory status and limit amounts. In Illinois UM is mandatory at the limits of $20,000 for bodily injury per person and $40,000 for bodily injury per accident. Underinsured motorists coverage is not mandatory in Illinois but insurance companies must offer it to clients for policies issued with liability over the state limits. Clients can still reject to have higher uninsured/ underinsured motorists but it must be in writing. As you can see, your liability only policy provides coverage for your bodily injuries, and making sure that you have high limits on both liability, UM and UIM can have tremendous effect on your life.