From regular oil changes to changing furnace filters and annual trips to the dentist, smart consumers know that preventive maintenance can avoid costly repairs down the road. Insurance is another item that needs to go on your routine maintenance list.
No one wants to think about insurance until forced to. But at least once a year, it’s important that you do a quick review of your insurance coverages to make sure you have the right amount of coverage at the best price. You can do this on the phone or, if you prefer, in person.
Some of us have to learn these things the hard way. I really don’t know how many years we paid for a special rider to cover my husband’s photography equipment on our homeowner’s policy. Sure, it was a good idea when he was actually a photographer. But that rider rode on for many years after he’d sold the equipment.
And then there’s my friend Lucy who got tired of me nagging her and agreed to shop-to-compare her car insurance. Within 15 minutes after calling an insurance broker, she had a quote for identical coverage at $500 less per year. Her problem was the loyalty she felt for the agent she’d been with for 13 years. But $500 is a lot of money so she called him to break the news that she would be moving on to cheaper pastures. “Wait,” the agent pleaded. “Give me one day to try to beat that quote.” He did and rewrote her policy for $600 less per year with no changes in coverage.
As your policies come up for renewal, make time to shop around.
As your automobiles age, your insurance needs change. Factor in the vehicle’s age and condition when you choose (or renew as you make take this annual check-up) your deductible. You may be wise to carry a high (big) deductible on an older car that it won’t make sense to fix in the event of a fender bender.
At some point as that vehicle becomes less valuable, you would be wise to consider dropping expensive collision coverage in favor of carrying your state’s required liability protection. Remember: The higher the deductible (the amount you will pay should you make a claim), the lower the premium.
Changes in the number of young drivers included in your policy, the distance you commute to work, and where you park your car will also significantly affect your premiums.
Inquire about other discounts for which you may qualify for being a good driver or good student. Hint: You have to ask. I don’t know why most insurance agents are not proactive in this regard. Well, maybe I do. Just keep this in mind as you make that call.
The salient question
A courteous, “Are there any other discounts at all for which we might qualify?” will help to move this conversation forward. Remember, you have many choices when it comes to insurance providers. A subtle hint that you may be calling other companies to compare rates will go a long way to getting any and all discounts you can.
If you are a homeowner, take an inventory of your belongings once a year and adjust your contents coverage accordingly. Review all riders and addendum. Update or delete as appropriate.
As home values have risen in the past couple of years, you may find you are drastically under-insured. A recent fire near our home, that wiped out more than 1,000 homes, has put us on alert. A phone call to our agent revealed that if we were to suffer a similar disaster, we would find ourselves only 50% insured, meaning we would have to come up with hundreds of thousands out of pocket to rebuild. As painful as the new premium will be, wisdom insisted that we increase the coverage.
Look closely for changes that the insurance company may have made in your coverage that you haven’t noticed. You want to know about this before disaster strikes. Remodeling, renovation, and major purchases like appliances should be factored into your policy. A new roof or security system may actually reduce your premium.
While you don’t carry insurance on the dwelling you rent, should there be a fire, burglary or another disaster, all of your stuff inside that apartment or house you rent is at tremendous risk. Renter insurance is something you should consider highly. And every time you move—or at least once a year even if you’ve made no changes—review your premium and actual coverage and compare that to at least 3 other renter insurance providers.
How you assess in order to update life insurance—to either retain, reduce, or increase—depends on what your stage of life, the number of people who are dependent on your income, and the type of policy you have.
Term life insurance
For term life, do a quick comparison of premiums to see if yours are still competitive, especially if your insurer raises them more than you expected. Call several companies. Listen but do not feel compelled to make any on-the-spot decisions. You are gathering information at this point. Term insurance remains quite cheap, so it may be the right time to take advantage. Just make sure you understand fully everything about your policy. Don’t feel pressured or coerced to make a decision with which you do not feel confident.
Whole life insurance
For whole life insurance, get rid of riders you no longer need. If you find you don’t need as much coverage as you’re paying for, request a reduction of the face amount (a “partial surrender”). Watch for extra fees and if you see them, ask that they be waived or at least negotiated down.
When making changes in any insurance coverage, never cancel one policy until you are certain its replacement is in full force and effect. You want a comfortable overlap; never run the risk of even the smallest gap in coverage.
Updated and Republished 4-5-23