How is Your Insurance Rate Determined?
Two factors determine what you pay for auto insurance. The first factor is underwriting and the second factor is rating. Insurance companies underwrite to assess the risk associated with an applicant, group the applicant with other similar risks and decide if the company will accept the application. Based on the results of the underwriting process, the rating assigns a price based on what the insurer believes it will cost to assume the financial responsibility for the applicant’s potential claim.
Several Factors Will Affect Risk Rating
Your driving record, area in which you live, gender and age, marital status, prior insurance coverage, vehicle use and make and model of your vehicle are common factors that can affect the price you will pay for your auto insurance.
Ask Your Agent About Discounts
Discounts are awarded because the insurance company sees you as a “better risk.” Here are some discounts you should look for: multiple vehicles, driver education courses, good student, safety devices, anti-theft devices, low mileage, good driver/renewal, auto/home package and dividends. Not all states offer all discounts, so check with your agent to see if you qualify.
Tort System vs. No-Fault System
Each state must implement either a tort system or a no-fault system. The system your state has implemented will determine what kind of insurance is available to you. The three basic coverages sold under the tort system are bodily injury liability insurance, property damage liability insurance and uninsured motorists coverage. In a no-fault state, coverages will vary, but under a no-fault system your insurance company pays you directly for your losses as a result of injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Check with your state insurance department for questions concerning tort or no-fault state systems.
Check Into Optional Coverage
The most commonly recognized coverages, in addition to the basic liability package, are collision and comprehensive coverages. Collision coverage pays for physical damage to your car as a result of your auto colliding with an object such as a tree or another car. This is relatively expensive coverage and is not required by law. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your auto from almost all other causes, including fire, severe weather, vandalism, floods and theft. This coverage will also cover broken glass and windshield damage. Comprehensive coverage is less expensive than collision, but is also optional. Other optional coverages include medical payments coverage, rental reimbursement coverage and towing and labor coverage.
Where to Go for More Information
Information is available to consumers from a number of unbiased sources. These sources include public libraries, state insurance departments, online resources, consumer groups and consumer publications. Every state insurance department has personnel available to answer questions regarding auto insurance coverage and many departments publish premium comparisons to make shopping around easier.
Shop Around Before You Buy
When shopping for auto insurance, premium quotations are a useful tool for comparison of different companies’ products. When asking for price quotations, it is crucial that you provide the same information to each agent or company. The agent will usually request the following information: description of your vehicle, its use, your driver’s license number, the number of drivers in your household, the coverages and limits you want.
Where to Shop
Check the newspaper and yellow pages of the telephone directory for companies and agents in your area. In addition, ask your neighbors, relatives and friends for recommendations on insurance companies and agents. In particular, ask them what kind of claim service they have received from the companies they recommend. Remember to shop around to get the best price and service.
For Your Protection
Once you have selected the insurance coverages you need and an insurance agent or company, there are steps you can take to make certain you get your money’s worth. Before signing an application for any insurance coverage, call you state insurance department and verify that the company and the agent are licensed to do business in your state. It is illegal for unlicensed insurers to sell insurance, and if you buy from an unlicensed insurer, you have no guarantee that the coverage you pay for will ever be honored.
Read Your Policy Carefully
You should be aware that an auto insurance policy is a legal contract. It is written so your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the insurance company, are clearly stated. When you purchase auto insurance, you will receive a policy. You should read that policy and make certain you understand its contents. If you have questions about your insurance policy, contact your insurance agent for clarification. If you still have questions, turn to your state insurance department.
People purchase auto insurance to protect themselves and their families against costs associated with vehicle-related accidents and incidents. Depending on your situation, some types of coverage are optional, while others are required.
Georgia drivers must have liability insurance that meets the minimum limits (you can purchase more coverage if you choose) required by law to drive on our state’s public roads and highways. Liability insurance helps pay damages to others on your behalf if they are injured or their property is damaged in an accident or incident where you’re ruled at-fault. There are other circumstances where liability coverage can help protect you (e.g., the person alleges you are at fault and makes a claim against you).
The minimum limits of liability insurance required under Georgia law are:
- Bodily Injury Liability – $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident
- Property Damage Liability – $25,000 per incident
Physical Damage Insurance
Physical damage insurance helps pay for loss or damage to your own vehicle. There are two types of physical damage insurance:
- Comprehensive – this type of physical insurance, also called “other than collision coverage,” covers theft, vandalism and fire-related losses
- Collision – this covers losses associated with vehicle collisions
Georgia state law does not require you to purchase physical damage coverage. However, if you financed or leased your vehicle, the lender or leasing company usually requires it.
As a policyholder, you are allowed to file a claim under your own Physical Damage coverage even if someone else may have caused the accident.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Georgia requires all drivers to have Liability Insurance to drive. Unfortunately, there are some drivers who either do not follow the law or may unknowingly allow their coverage to lapse or cancel. These drivers are considered “uninsured.” If an uninsured driver causes an accident that damages your vehicle or injures you or your passengers, Uninsured Motorist insurance would protect you.
10 Things to Know
To help you understand the basics of auto insurance and, hopefully, avoid some of the common pitfalls, here are 10 things to keep in mind when purchasing auto insurance.
You can learn more about auto insurance, coverage options, and more by reading the, authored by Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire commissioner, John F. King.