Switching insurance companies can be a positive experience. It may even result in lower fees and better coverage. But to ensure that you make the right decision, it’s important to do your research and shop wisely, as you would for any financial services products.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommends that you understand the terms used and coverage levels offered for different types of insurance before working with an agent or broker to select an appropriate policy.
Below are five things to remember when contemplating a change in insurance companies.
Ask about your current rate
Even if you've been reviewing your policies annually, it's good to double-check your rate. You could be entitled to a discount that wasn’t immediately apparent, or the current policy might not fully address changes in your situation, such as marriage or a move to a new neighborhood.
Be a smart consumer
Take your time getting to know the carriers and their products. Can they address all your needs? Do they have a reputation for providing exceptional customer service? The best carriers understand that providing excellent insurance products is only part of what defines their brand; they know that developing strong long-term relationships with customers is also very important.
Confirm your potential new coverage
Instead of comparing policies on a payment-to-payment basis, compare the benefits each offers. Create a list of the benefits your current coverage offers. Then compare the coverage point by point with the prospective policy offered by another insurer. It's important to look beyond price. Saving a few dollars for coverage that doesn't address your needs is not a sound decision.
If you’re working with an agent, ask questions that ensure you are comparing exactly the same benefits, or if the policies don't match exactly, ask how a potential new policy might offer better value. A skilled agent can raise issues that you might not have considered.
Double-check potential extra costs
By giving proper notice, you'll generally be able to switch carriers in the middle of a coverage period. The carrier refunds the unused part of the premium, although some companies may charge a small fee or penalty. Even if you've already decided to switch, you may want to calculate whether it makes more financial sense to wait until a policy term ends before making the change.
Once you’ve switched…
Don’t cancel your current policy too soon
Before you cancel, ensure the new policy is fully in effect. It might cost you an extra month's payment but it's worth it to wait until you receive documentation that your policy is 100% active.
Also, be aware that the price an insurance agent quotes you might increase, especially in the case of life insurance. With life insurance, you might need to get a physical, and the outcome of your exam could increase your risk and your insurance premium costs.
Don’t forget to cancel your old policy
Once your new policy is in place, you will need to cancel your old one; you can't just stop paying the premiums. It's also best to get written confirmation that your policy has been canceled.
Carry your new insurance card
Don't forget to swap out your old insurance card for the new card, especially if it is auto insurance. If you get stopped by the police and can't produce a valid form of car insurance, you may be fined.