How to understand and shop insurance to save big

How to understand and shop insurance to save big

Most people can name ‘shopping your insurances' as a way to save money but aren't as confident actually doing it. This isn't surprising. There are so many differences in insurance these days. You can take the traditional route of dealing only with companies with a local agent office, where you can go in and talk to an insurance agent face-to-face or you can take the more modern route where your insurance is set up and handled entirely online. You can even go with a company that offers a combination of both.

No matter how you choose to approach it, shopping insurance can be one of the most confusing and overwhelming tasks on your personal finance to-do list. You have to understand terms, limits, exclusions, riders, standard state requirements, and, in some cases, even federal and local requirements.

The good news is that millions upon millions of dollars are spent competing for customers in the insurance world, so competition works in the favor of the consumer. All you need is knowledge and a little of your time.

How to understand and shop insurance to save big:

Understand insurance terminology. This is easily accomplished online. A good place to start is to look at your current policy and see what terms are used. That way, you'll know what quotes are actually saying for coverage, liability, terms, limits, and costs when you begin to compare them.

Critique your current policy. To know what's a better deal, you have to compare quoted policy coverage in an apples-to-apples method. Dissect any lumped-together coverage and understand what you already have and how much it's costing you.

           A tip: One tactic insurance companies use to get you to stick with them is to tell you how crucial it is to not have less coverage than what you already have – and that the way they price theirs is the lowest you'll find. Don't defer to them and assume they must know best. Instead, know precisely how your coverage breaks down, so you can determine if that's actually true.

Know what's required and what's optional. You may find that you have far larger coverage than what is required or even necessary. Find out what your state, and if applicable, federal and local laws require and start there. Then do some searches online about insurance coverage recommendations. There's a wealth of articles to teach you what you need to know.

Shop carefully. Be specific about which companies you request give you quotes. Don't put your information into forms all over the internet. All that happens when you do that is you get a lot of calls and emails; sometimes even from different places than you filled out. That's because there is a glut of websites that do nothing more than curate information and sell the lists to insurance providers. Instead of using a vague site, go specifically to the websites of 3-5 companies you're considering. Call them or fill out the quote form directly on their site.

Consider an independent agent, but get quotes from other sources too. Independent agents don't represent just one company, so you can receive multiple quotes from one person. This can save time, as well as introduce you to insurance companies you might not have considered. However, they do make their money on commission, so be aware that some may be tempted to steer you toward an insurer that pays them a higher commission.

End your quest to save big by talking with your current insurance company. Sometimes you can save money with your current insurance simply by having a discussion with them. But you'll need lower quotes first. That's how you can entice them to cut you a better deal to keep your business. Remember, you need apples-to-apples comparisons, so have your breakdown ready before making a call or in-person appointment.

Never cancel a policy until you have a new one. Once you find the policy and company that is going to save you the most money, get the new one in effect – then, and only then, cancel the old one. Never cancel a current policy until your new one is in place and fully enforced. A quote is NOT a guarantee of coverage.

           Note: This is especially important with life insurance. You may get a quote, but that quote is based on general health factors. You could find further into the insuring and underwriting process that the insurer has some kind of an issue and your price just went up – or, worse, that they won't cover you at all. And getting your prior insurance coverage back might not be easy – and could even cost you more than before.