Why is my credit score used when buying insurance?

This is a common question with clients and it is never an easy conversation. Like many of my clients my gut goes sour when I need to discuss or request information regarding credit reporting. There are a few things to know.

  • State of Maryland has approved the use of credit as a rating factor for auto insurance. Credit is not used for home insurance in Maryland. Almost all insurance companies doing business in Maryland will want to obtain a credit report in order to provide an auto insurance quote. There is only 1 or 2 insurance companies in Maryland that do not.
  • Your insurance agent will never see a credit score or credit report when quoting your auto insurance. For this reason your insurance agent will also not be able to provide specifics about what was contained in the report, and will direct you back to the insurance company quoted to obtain more information.
  • Your insurance agent will not know specifically how your credit impacted your auto quote. Insurance companies have rating structures based on hundreds of rating factors. As information is entered into an insurance company’s quoting system the rate changes. Credit score is only one factor for rating.
  • The process of obtaining your credit report will not impact your credit score. Unlike when you are applying for a loan or line of credit, we are not looking to confirm if you are a good applicant. For this reason you can not be turned down for auto insurance based solely on your credit score.

While the thought of your credit score being run for an auto insurance quote has you sick to your stomach, your insurance agent is doing their best to meet your insurance needs. Your insurance agent will not pry into your financial situation but will guide you on the best auto quote for you. Maintain an open dialogue with your insurance agent and voice your concerns to help settle your nerves.

Call your independent insurance agent for more information on the auto insurance quote process.

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Do you need Rental Reimbursement on your auto insurance?

The short and sweet answer is yes but I am not the short and sweet type when it comes to insurance. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Many individuals dont think they need it and many times forgo it to save money. Honestly this coverage is only about $30 to $40 per vehicle annually, if not less. That’s not alot when you consider it’s an annual cost and what it means for you.

Recently I had a client find out the hard way how important Rental Reimbursement is. Another vehicle hit my client’s vehicle while parked and unoccupied. Initially the client attempted to have the claim handled by the responsible party’s  company. However the adjustor was indicating the vehicle was a total loss and that decision made the client uncomfortable. Add on the client had paid extra money for Replacement Cost coverage on the totaled vehicle on their own auto insurance policy. The client attempted to go back to their own insurance for Replacement Cost coverage but it was determined they had no Rental Reimbursement on their own auto policy. The claim process would start over with the client’s own insurance company and leave them out of pocket for another rental vehicle.

In the end the client settled with the responsible party’s insurance company to reduce the amount of stress and move on ultimately.

Had the client opted for Rental Reimbursement when the policy was purchased the client would have had a completely different result.

Yes, you can shave off a few dollars on your auto insurance by not including Rental Reimbursement but it can have a severe impact at the time of a claim.

So purchase Rental Reimbursement for all of your vehicles. I recommend a limit of $40 per day based on the average cost of a small rental vehicle. You can certainly bump it up if you will need more rental vehicle, such as a mini van or SUV.

An independent agent can help you pick the right limit and find a competitive auto insurance policy for you.

Why you should shop your insurance.

Previously I gave reasons why you should not shop your insurance. My goal is not to discourage people from shopping their insurance but to help people be smart about managing their insurance. There below are valid reasons for shopping your account.

  • Major lifestyle changes are a valid reason. Marriage, divorce, a child getting licensed, a child moving out, starting a new business, retirement, etc. Your current insurance company may not have the most competitive pricing once these changes are applied to your account.
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, etc. Selling your home and renting. Again the current insurance company may not be the most competitive based on your new home situation.
  • Change in net-worth or value of your assets. If your net-worth has increased significantly the current insurance company many not be providing you the broad coverage you now need. They may also not be able to provide you the coverage or policy limits your financial advisor, attorney, or accountant are now recommending.
  • Change in the coverages desired. If you now want full glass coverage or GAP coverage or Agreed Value on your vehicle you may need to change insurance company. If you need workers compensation insurance you may need to change insurance companies. If you sit on boards or volunteer your time to associations or committees you may need a different insurance company.
  • Bad claim experience. If you find that your insurance company was uncooperative, lacking in communication, difficult to work with or any other reason and your insurance agent could not help you work through it there is no reason you should torture yourself again in the future.

Ultimately you should not shop your insurance frequently or even every year. You will lose out on valuable coverages, benefits, features, etc. Your program should be reviewed annually but only shopped every 3 to 5 years. If you feel your need your program shopped talk to your insurance agent about why you should or should not shop your insurance program. Your agent will have a good sense what you can do with your current program and if having your program shopped is warranted.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Shop Your Insurance

 

Now that the New Year has begun many individuals and families have resolved to improve their finances. This includes reducing their debt, reducing monthly expenses, saving more money, or saving more for retirement. This plan almost always leads people to shop their insurance policies. I do not encourage this decision 100% of the time. Below are reasons not to shop your policies.

  • Before you shop your policies you should look to save premium on the policy you already have. The insurance company you are with will have a different opinion of you then the company you are looking to switch to. A new company has stricter guidelines for new customers than for existing policyholders. If you have driving history or are a bad pay history you may not qualify for the new company.
  • If you do qualify for the new company you may pay more premium. All reports the insurance company uses will be run for a quote. This includes credit history if your state allows credit history as a rating factor. Also Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) for tickets, citations, violations, and license status. A Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report will also be run to disclose accidents, driver and vehicles in the household, and claim payments made by prior insurance companies. If your credit history has declined you may not be eligible for the best priced tier. Based on your overall driving history you will be tiered with the new company. Your current insurance company may not have a violation or accident rated due to failing to verify reports or possibly violation/accident forgiveness.
  • You may be receiving a longevity credit with the current insurance which you will not get automatically with a new company. Also if you have little to no tenure with your prior insurance company you may lose out on valuable credits on the new policy.
  • You may lose a violation or accident forgiveness benefit if you switch your insurance company. For some companies you need to be with them 3, 5, or even 6 years to gain this benefit and you may be giving it up if you have a major accident after switching insurance companies.
  • Not all insurance policies are created equal. Each policy and insurance company has a different insurance contract. When you switch insurance companies you may be losing valuable insurance coverage or policy language. Although limits and deductibles may be identical on the policy declaration page it does not mean all the same benefits and features are in the new policy.

If you must shop your policy you should not shop your policy more than every 3 to 5 years. Insurance companies make major changes to their insurance products and pricing in this range. When you do receive a quote make sure you complete a through comparison of your policy against the quote.

Always use an insurance professional for this process. Insurance professionals know the policies they sell better than anyone else. They also will know if the product you are looking to switch to will provide you similar coverage as your current program and the tricks to getting your best price. An insurance professional can also help you review your current policies to save money so as to avoid losing valuable coverages and benefits by shopping your policies.

It’s Not About Price

When you pick out a car is your only deciding factor the price? No! In your mind you have already picked a color and all the cool features you want. Leather seats, navigation system, parking assist, heated steering wheel, etc. The list is endless. You’ve done your research and know the listed price of the vehicle you want. You also researched pricing for your trade in and the financing. When you arrive at the dealership and finally get behind the wheel, you are in love. You are sold. You want that car no matter what. Price is a factor but not the only factor.

Insurance should be the same way. There is no one size fits all. There is no standard policy. Not all policies are the same. And price should not be the only deciding factor. There are a lot of benefits and features available and every insurance company has a different selection of coverages available.

With home there is water back-up, personal injury, and guaranteed replacement. With auto there is medical payments, rental reimbursement, and agreed value. Like buying a vehicle the more features you want the more it costs. Why would you settle for Kia coverage when you purchased a Mercedes? Why would you settle for a home policy designed for some one that has $0 assets when you need to insure a million dollar home?

Do the research. Know what the value of good coverage means to you. Don’t settle for typical coverage. Don’t focus on the bottom line when it comes to insurance. When something catastrophic happens you are going to want peace of mind, not the lowest price.

What is water back-up coverage?

Recently I had a conversation with a client regarding water back-up. They recently purchased home insurance and in reviewing their home policy I noted that they only had $5,000 for water back-up.

The standard home policy does not provide coverage for water back-up. In fact you will see an exclusion for water back-up. Water back-up is considering water that backs up into your home from a drainage system. It could be a sump pump that fails. It could be a toilet that overflows. It could be a shower drain that backflows. It could be a hot water heater that breaks. The easy way to think about it is water back-up is any drainage system to your home that could back-up or overflow.

Water back-up is not flooding. Flooding is water from the outside your home coming in through the foundations, windows, doors, etc.

Why is water back-up so important? It is one of the top causes of homeowner claims across the country. Every homeowner will experience at least one water back-up loss in their lifetime. 

Secondly, the average water back-up claim is $20,000. Think about it… you clean up the free flowing water, you need water mitigation to dry out the floors, the walls, and the room to reduce the chance of mold. You may need to replace the flooring and the walls. And possiby some furnishings. And you may still have mold after all.

In some cases a water back-up loss could mean a total loss of your home. Think of sewage back flowing into your home.

Kind of scary stuff.

So what do I recommend? I recommend full water back-up coverage. This doesn’t mean up to the total value of the stuff in your basement or the basic limit for water back-up. Water back-up should be up to the dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use policy limits.

Yes, water back-up can be expensive but is it more expensive then the cost of the average water back-up loss? Water back-up coverage has gotten more expensive of the years because of the frequency of such claims and the average cost of a claim.

If your insurance company doesn’t provide full water back-up coverage as we insurance professionals call it then find another insurance company. This applies to rental and investment properties.

Have your insurance agent review your policy today to determine if and how much water back-up coverage you have.

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Bestfriend!

It is that time of year where many of my client’s will give or receive a very sparkly gift from Santa.

I can’t deny that I get a little excited when a client calls to provide the specifics on their new diamond encrusted whatever.

That being said, now is also the time to start talking about insurance for those beautiful items.

I recommend everyone have at least some type of jewelry schedule or jewelry insurance. It should be a given when talking about homeowners insurance.

There are two ways to do a jewelry schedule, a blanket or an agreed value. Blanket requires less effort but agreed value will provide more definitive coverage.

If you are unsure which direction you should go you need to look at your jewelry collection.

Go home and pull out all of your jewelry pieces and lay them out on the bed. Decide which is your most inexpensive piece? Which is the most expensive piece? What items do you wear regularly? Do you keep any of the items in a safe? Knowing what you have will help you decide what is more important.

You can even do a combination of blanket and agreed value. The one thing I don’t recommend is no jewelry schedule.

Keep in mind that if you have no jewelry schedule, coverage will be found under your homeowners insurance. The missing item would be subject to the policy deductible. The minimum deductible with most insurance companies is $1,000. Also, you have to account for any limitation in the homeowners policy for lost or misplaced jewelry. The policy may limit coverage to $2,500 or $5,000, less the policy deductible. That can really hurt when your heirloom engagement ring disappears.

Before you go and buy your next piece of jewelry go get some type jewelry insurance in place. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pamela