On April 1, 2008, Massachusetts began its policy of managed competition
for auto insurance premiums. Instead of requiring every company to charge
the same rates, the state now allows insurers to set their own rates. The
new rules were enacted with the hope that price competition would lower
costs for consumers who have been paying some of the highest auto insurance
premiums in the U.S.
Although the new system has not yet brought the dramatic company-to-company
price differences we see in other parts of the country, where companies
have even more latitude in setting their rates, most insurance consumers
in Massachusetts do have much to gain by shopping around for the best rates
When we checked rates for one illustrative driver with a clean driving
history living in Cambridge, annual premiums for standard auto insurance
coverage ranged from $736 to $1,092, a difference of over $350 per year.
Even with Commerce, the states largest insurer, the annual rate was $1,010$274
higher than the lowest rate.
If youve had an at-fault accident in the last five years, the rate differences
loomed even larger: from $1,230 to $1,702 per year.
If you have someone with less than three years driving experience on your
policya nightmare for most insurers (and most parents)the most expensive
rate was more than $700 higher than the lowest.
Have more than one car to insure? You can expect your potential savings
to be even larger.
You can obtain comparative rates for yourself by visiting the states Insurance
Premium Comparison website at www.autoratecompare.doi.state.ma.us.
It takes a little effort to shop for insurance. To get the best rate, you
might have to call multiple companies or agents for quotes, since few of
the auto-insurance companies writing policies in the state yet have websites
that provide online quotes. Fortunately, at www.autoratecompare.doi.state.ma.us
the state is maintaining a database of companies current rates for several
sample profiles that will help you narrow down choices to those companies
that likely will have the best rates for you. And even if you have to request
quotes by phone from companies and agents, the effort is small compared
to the potential year-after-year savings.
You wont want to give up having a company that will deliver quality service,
financial soundness, and a willingness to stick with you if you have an
accident or violation or two. But you dont have to. Such concerns are
not a reason to stand pat.
In this article, we will give you the background you need to shop successfully
and on our Ratings Tables, comparisons of individual companies to help
you focus your shopping efforts on the best prospects.
The first step in shopping is to decide on the types and levels of coverage
that will keep your risk to an acceptable level, at a reasonable annual
premium cost. You will have to decide among a broad range of available
auto insurance coverage options. When thinking about how much coverage
to buy, try to keep in mind that the purpose of insurance is to protect
you from losses that you cant afford to cover yourself. When you buy more
insurance than you need, you are wasting money that goes to insurance companies
profits and administrative costs.
Part 1: Bodily Injury to Others
Compulsory Bodily Injury to Others coverage pays for damages (for example,
medical expenses or pain and suffering) to anyone injured or killed by
your car, but only in an accident that occurs in Massachusetts, up to a
basic limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Injuries to
the driver or passengers in your car are not covered under this Part. If
you want coverage when driving outside of Massachusetts, or in places where
the public has no right of access, or for guests who ride in your car,
you will need to purchase Optional Bodily Injury to Others (Part 5) coverage.
Part 2: Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage pays up to $8,000 to you or anyone
you let drive your car, anyone living in your household, passengers, and
pedestrians, no matter who causes an accident. PIP coverage pays for medical
expenses, replacement services, and 75 percent of any lost wages. PIP coverage
includes protection for owners of cars and motorcycles, and members of
their households, if they are injured while occupying, or struck by, a
car that does not have Massachusetts Compulsory Insurance.
If you have medical insurance (a health plan), you can turn to PIP coverage
rather than your health plan for payment of medical expenses up to $2,000,
but if you seek payment from your PIP coverage for medical expenses in
excess of $2,000, PIP will pay only after these expenses have been submitted
to the health plan to determine what it will and will not pay. Your PIP
coverage will not pay for expenses over $2,000 that your health plan would
have paid if you had sought treatment in accordance with the terms of the
The driver and passengers riding a motorcycle are not covered by PIP.
But the owner of the motorcycle must purchase this coverage to protect
other people who may be injured by the motorcycle.
You can save on your premium by agreeing to have a deductible, applicable
either to you alone or to you and other members of your household. The
policy will pay expenses for you, or you and your household members, only
up to the difference between $8,000 and the amount of your deductible.
The option of taking a deductible is more attractive if you have a health
insurance plan and a disability income plan. But even if you have a health
insurance plan, that plan may not cover all of your accident-related medical
expensessuch as for cosmetic and dental services, co-payments, and deductiblesso
PIP coverage might still be of use to you. As Figure 1 shows, taking an $8,000 deductible
for PIP coverage instead of a $0 deductible usually only saves about three
percent off a policys total cost.
Part 3: Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto
Coverage for Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto protects you, anyone
you let drive your car, household members, and passengers (unless covered
by another Massachusetts policy with similar coverage) against losses caused
by an uninsured or unidentified (hit and run) driver. A minimum limit
of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident is required. This coverage
does not pay for property damage or damage to your auto. Many consumers
raise their policies limits for this coverage to match the optional, higher
limits they choose for bodily injury to others coverage (described below).
Raising this coverage from the minimum limits to typical $100,000/$300,000
coverage levels typically only costs an additional three percent of a policys
total annual cost.
Part 4: Damage to Someone Elses Property
Coverage for Damage to Someone Elses Property pays not only for damage
to another persons property but also for costs associated with the loss
of use of that property when you, a household member, or another authorized
driver of your car causes an accident. A minimum limit of $5,000 is required
but you can purchase higher limits and might want to do so to protect yourself
in case you become liable for the kind of large expenses that might result
if you cause one or more other cars to be totaled or seriously damaged.
It usually adds only about four percent to total premium costs to increase
the minimum $5,000 limit to a $50,000 limit, and going from a $50,000 limit
to a $100,000 limit will cost most policyholders only a few dollars more
per car each year.
Part 5: Optional Bodily Injury to Others
Coverage for Optional Bodily Injury to Others extends your liability protection
(the basic $20,000/$40,000 limits under Compulsory Bodily Injury to Others).
This option provides coverage for accidents beyond Massachusetts to anywhere
in the U.S., its territories or possessions, or Canada. This coverage also
pays for damages suffered by guests in your auto. And under this option,
you can increase the coverage limits above the $20,000/$40,000 limits for
Compulsory Bodily Injury to Others (Part 1).
Most drivers buy coverage above the basic $20,000/$40,000 limitsperhaps
out of a social concern for the possible victims of their negligence or
perhaps out of a personal concern to protect their assets from catastrophe.
If you have substantial assets (or expectations of substantial assets in
the future), that is a compelling reason to purchase sizable additional
bodily injury coverage: you have a lot to lose; you are an attractive target
for suit; and you might get relatively little sympathy from juries.
Although buying coverage with higher limits will cost more, the cost increases
are often modest. As Figure 1, a policyholder with $50,000/$100,000 optional
bodily injury coverage might expect to increase his or her total annual
premium by only about five percent by moving up to $100,000/$300,000 coverage,
and buying coverage at $250,000/$500,000 limits would only increase his
or her premium by about 12 percent. Most consumers consider these extra
costs a reasonable expense for increased peace of mind.
Part 6: Medical Payments
Medical Payments coverage pays for medical expenses for you, your household
members, and passengers, over and above amounts covered by Personal Injury
Protection no matter who caused the accident. The minimum amount you can
buy is $5,000. Minimal Medical Payments coverage is relatively inexpensive,
costing only about $17 per year per car for most consumers, but it still
may not be a good option for you if you have a good health plan. Increasing
medical payments coverage to a high limitsay, $25,000is also relatively
inexpensive. But you likely will do better to spend your money instead
on a more comprehensive health insurance policy, since good health insurance
coverage would protect you and your family from catastrophic expenses caused
by any disease or injury that might befall you, not merely to cover limited
amounts of expenses resulting from injuries that involve automobiles.
Part 7: Collision
Collision coverage pays for damage to your car in a collision, less any
applicable deductible, no matter who causes the accident. If your car is
financed, your lender may require this coverage as well as a particular
Most policyholders have $500 deductibles, but you can select a different
amount. You can save a substantial amount on your premium by choosing a
larger deductible. As Figure 1 shows, our illustrative policyholder would usually
save about 15 percent off his or her total premium by increasing the Collision
and Comprehensive deductibles from $500 to $1,000.
In determining the amount of deductible that is right for you, decide how
much you can afford to pay out of your own pocket in the event of an accident
or loss in which you are at fault, or the other driver is unidentified.
It doesnt make sense to buy insurance of any kindincluding Comprehensive
coverage described below and PIP coverage described abovefor expenses
that would not be catastrophic for you. (Insurance generally costs more
than the companys expected payout for losses because the insurer must
charge you not only for the losses but also for sales commissions, administrative
expenses, claims-handling expenses, fraud losses, and other costs.)
If your car is old and not worth much, it doesnt make sense to buy Collision
(or Comprehensive) coverage; you dont have much to lose.
Part 9: Comprehensive
Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to, or loss of, your car, less any
applicable deductible, resulting from perils such as fire, theft, vandalism,
and striking an animal, but not a collision. Personal property is not covered
unless it is permanently installed in your car as, for example, a CD changer
might be. If your car is financed, your lender may require this coverage.
You may be denied Comprehensive coverage or required to pay a higher extra-risk
rate if you own a high-theft vehicle that does not have a qualifying anti-theft
or recovery device. Coverage may also be denied or priced higher under
certain other conditions.
As with Collision and PIP coverage, having a relatively high deductible
under your Comprehensive coverage is a way to hold down your total premium
Part 10: Substitute Transportation
For an additional premium, you can broaden your comprehensive coverage
to include reimbursement for the expense of a rental car and taxi, bus,
and train fare while damages to your car are being repaired.
Given that even a modest level of coveragetypically $30 per day with a
limit of $900 per claimusually costs $30 to $60 per year, our advice is
to decline it altogether, since the additional premium costs are very likely
to exceed any benefit youll ever collect.
Part 11: Towing and Labor
Towing and Labor coverage pays up to $50 for towing and labor charges each
time your car stops running whether or not there is an accident involved.
You are covered only for the on-site labor costs at the breakdown site
(not any parts) needed to get your car towed or running again. This coverage
usually costs $6 to $12 per year, and some insurers offer this coverage
at no additional premium cost. Coverage of up to $100 per disablement is
available for usually double the cost of standard coverage.
If you belong to a motor club, you probably dont need this coverage since
many motor clubs services include towing and labor.
Part 12: Bodily Injury Caused by an Underinsured Auto
Coverage for Bodily Injury Caused by an Underinsured Auto pays for bodily
injury damages to you, household members, and passengers, unless they have
a policy of their own, or are covered by a Massachusetts auto policy of
another household member with similar coverage. The accident must be caused
by someone without enough bodily injury coverage to pay for your loss.
This coverage pays you up to the difference between the total amount collected
from the bodily injury liability insurance covering the owner and driver
of the other car and the limits you purchased for this coverage.
Massachusetts has relatively few uninsured drivers compared to many states,
but many Massachusetts drivers buy only minimum required amounts for Bodily
Injury to Others.
You may purchase both Uninsured Auto coverage and Underinsured Auto for
coverage up to, but no more than, the limits of the Bodily Injury to Others
coverage you carry. In general, it makes sense to purchase as much of the
Un/Under coverage, which protects you, as you purchase of coverage that
Your Un/Underinsured coverages will not pay for damage to property.
Armed with knowledge of various possible coverages, you can ask each company
you consider to give you a breakdown of its premium by type of coverage
and to quote premiums for different liability limits and deductible levels.
A typical annual premium quotation might look like the following:
Part 1: Compulsory Bodily Injury to Others $201
Part 2: Personal Injury Protection$8,000 $54
Part 3: Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto$100,000/$300,000 $17
Part 4: Damage to Someone Elses Property$100,000 $258
Part 5: Optional Bodily Injury to Others$100,000/$300,000 $130
Part 6: Medical Payments$5,000 $17
Part 7: Collision$500 deductible $440
Part 9: Comprehensive$500 deductible $109
Part 12: Bodily Injury Caused by an Underinsured Auto$100,000/$300,000 $33
The company you choose and the coverage types and levels you select are
critical to your costs, but so are various facts about you and the vehicles
you drive. Some of these facts are beyond your control; some you can change,
and in doing so substantially affect your annual insurance costs.
Your driving record is very important. Industry data indicate that an individual
who has had two accidents in the past two years is almost two-and-a-half
times more likely to have an accident in the coming year than someone who
has had no accidents. Similarly, the accident rate for individuals with
two traffic convictions in a three-year period is twice as high as the
rate for those with no convictions.
It will come as no surprise, then, that your previous driving record will
have a big impact on the best rate you can get.
Under the states new rules, insurance companies now can either continue
to set rates using the states old Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) or
use their own merit-based systemswhich must be approved by the stateto
rate drivers based on their driving records. No matter which manner the
companies use, drivers who have not caused an accident or had traffic violations
in the last five or six years can expect to receive the best auto-insurance
rates; those who have had accidents or traffic violations pay higher rates.
It is difficult to predict exactly how much one speeding ticket or one
accident will affect how much more youll have to pay in premiums. But
our estimate is that having even one speeding ticket in the last five years
will usually cause premiums to increase, on average, by about 18 percent.
Having two speeding tickets will result in having a more substantial cost
increasean additional 60 percent per year.
Having a previous accident will often be even more costly than if you just
had a speeding ticket. We estimate that having one at-fault accident in
the last three years will cost most drivers an additional 57 percent per
year in premiums, and two at-fault accidents will for most drivers more
than double their annual premiums.
Most companies consider the driving records of everyone who will be driving
your car or cars. Therefore, if you have a perfect driving record but your
spouse has had violations or accidents, you may not qualify for the companies
Fortunately, even if youve recently had an accident or tickets, the insurance
companies cant hold it against you forever. Whether an insurance company
chooses to use the states formula or its own for deciding how much to
penalize drivers for having accidents or tickets, the system will incorporate
a merit-based rating system that rewards safe driving and will wipe out
penalties for previous accidents and tickets after a policyholder has gone
for a period of years without another accident or ticket.
How much driving experience you have has a strong relationship to your
likelihood of having accidents and claims, and therefore will have a big
effect on your rates.
In Massachusetts, insurers cant use age of drivers to set rates, but they
can charge higher rates if you will have an inexperienced driver on your
policy. Usually, companies classify drivers into three length-of-experience
levelsinexperienced drivers licensed less than three years, inexperienced
drivers licensed three or more years but less than six, and experienced
drivers (licensed six or more years). Inexperienced drivers are further
classified according to whether they are the principal operator of a vehicle
or only an occasional operator.
A principal operator with four years driving experience can usually expect
to pay roughly double the rate of an experienced operator. A principal
operator with only one year of driving experience will usually be charged
more than three times the rate of an experienced driver. Having an inexperienced
driver on your policy as an occasional driver of a vehicle rather than
the principal driver of the vehicle will usually not cause such a large
differential, but still will dramatically increase the total cost of the
Message to parents: have your kids take driver training. Most companies
give discountstypically 10 percentfor inexperienced drivers who have
completed an approved driver training course. Message to not-so-considerate
kids: even if you dont have much interest in driving, think about getting
your license as soon as you can so that you put in some or all of your
time at the higher, inexperienced driver rates while your parents are picking
up the tab.
Insurance costs are unlikely to influence your choice of where to live.
But you may be interested in knowing the cost differences from area to
area. Premiums are affected greatly by where policyholders livefor one
profile we looked at, the policyholder would pay between $582 and $826,
depending on the insurance company chosen, if he or she lived in Lexington
and $912 to $1,413 if he or she lived in South Boston.
You probably wont want to choose the car you drive based on insurance
costs. But the differences among cars are often substantial, as Table 1
shows. The policyholder for whom we made comparisons on Table 1 would pay
almost $200 more in insurance costs each year to drive a BMW 530i than
to drive a Toyota Camry. Even among cars that are more nearly comparable,
there are substantial insurance cost differentialsfor example, an average
$92 annual premium differential between the Camry and the Nissan Maxima.
It is not unusual for car-to-car insurance cost differences to total more
than $2,000 over the time a policyholder will own a car.
|Ford Focus SE||1014|
|Honda Civic EX||1006|
|Toyota Corolla DX||967|
|VW Jetta GLS||997|
|Chevrolet Malibu LS||951|
|Honda Accord EX||1005|
|Nissan Maxima SE||1043|
|Toyota Camry SE||951|
|Cadillac Seville SLS||1003|
|Lincoln LS Premium||1049|
|Ford Explorer XLT||913|
|Honda Pilot EX||936|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo||875|
|Dodge Grand Caravan SE||855|
|Ford Freestar SE||884|
|Honda Odyssey EX||888|
|Toyota Sienna LE||905|
1 Rates shown are annual, average premiums quoted by a sample of insurers for 2005 model years for a driver licensed for 25 years, living in Boston.
Keeping an old car, or buying used, can also have a substantial effect
on your insurance costs. For example, having a 2002 Honda Accord will usually
result in insurance costs that are about 12 percent lower than with a 2005
Accord. As mentioned above, youll also save by driving an older vehicle
if you drop collision coverage for it, since the loss of an older car will
probably not be a financial catastrophe for you.
Your insurance premiums will also be slightly reduced if your car has safety
devices or anti-theft features. Companies must give a 25 percent discount
on PIP, Medical Payments, and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverages
for cars with passive restraint systems (air bags or automatic seatbelts).
If your vehicle has anti-theft devices, your company must give you a discount
off your comprehensive coverage, from five to 36 percent off, depending
on the type of device. Your insurance company or agent can provide you
with a list of the qualifying anti-theft devices and the corresponding
In short, you will want to consider insurance costs when deciding what
vehicle to drive (and to some extent, how to equip it). You can find information
on relative insurance costs in The Car Book, by Jack Gillis, which can
be ordered from the Center for Auto Safety at www.autosafety.org or
by calling 202-328-7700. For information on safety ratings, you can consult
Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).
You cant control your age, but you can at least be sure that your premium
reflects an important discount if you are age 65 or older. All insurers
must offer policyholders who are age 65 or older a 25 percent discount
off their total premium if there are no inexperienced drivers on the policy
and their cars are not customarily used for business purposes.
If you drive your car 5,000 miles or less each year, companies must give
you a 10 percent discount off your premium (except the portion of the premium
for comprehensive, substitute transportation, and labor and towing coverages).
Most companies also give a small discount if you drive your car between
5,001 and 7,500 miles.
If you are considering switching insurance companies, and have been loss
free with your current company for a while, you will want to consider
in the calculation any longevity discounts your company will be granting
you in the future. Many companies offer renewal discounts each year.
Some give discounts of five to 10 percent for three years of coverage without
an at-fault accident and may increase the discount at six years and nine
If you have more than one car, most companies will offer you multi-car
discounts for insuring both with them. The discounts offered vary by company,
but a discount of 30 percent for both cars is typical.
Many insurance companies also offer lower rates if you insure both your
car and your home with them. Some knock off five percent, 10 percent, or
even more from either the auto rate or the homeowners rate; some knock
off a percentage from both. From a consumers point of view, this dual-policy
pricing is an undesirable practice because it makes shopping more difficult;
to find out the exact savings you might realize by switching companies,
you have to shop for both types of coverage at once.
Several of the insurers offer five to 15 percent discounts to groupsemployees
of specific companies and members of employee associations, alumni associations,
and others. You will do well to check the Division of Insurance website
at www.state.ma.us/doi/ for the list of groups to see which ones you
can qualify for. Several groups whose members can get 10 percent discounts
are open to anyone. For example, at the time of this writing, it was possible
for anyone to join the Conservation Law Foundation for a $30 annual membership
fee and thus qualify for a 10 percent discount off the cost of insurance
with Plymouth Rock. When we checked rates for a sample profile of a driver
with 25 years of driving experience living in West Roxbury, Plymouth Rock
was $58 more expensive than AIG. For someone who joined the Conservation
Law Foundation, Plymouth Rock would be $42 less expensive than AIG.
When we checked, even with a 10 percent group discount, other companies
rarely beat the rates shown on the states premium comparison website for
Progressive, but among the remaining companies, the group discounts would
often cause another company to beat out, or come close to, what the states
website indicated was the best-priced company. So, checking on available
group discounts might lead you to insurance company choices that you would
prefer for service or other reasons, but that would be unacceptably expensive
without a group discount.
If you regularly use mass transit, some companies give a 10 percent discount
on property damage and collision coverages, so long as you provide evidence
of purchase of at least 11 months of commuter passes.
Some companies also give discounts for inexperienced drivers who are full-time
students and have good grades (typically, average grades of B or better).
If you have on your policy a student who lives at least 100 miles away
at school, without a car, some insurance companies will give you a considerable
You have two main considerations in choosing among auto insurance companies:
how much they charge and how good their service is. You may also want to
give some thought to a companys financial stability and a few other factors.
To start, visit the states premium comparison website at www.autoratecompare.doi.state.ma.us
and choose the profiles that are closest to your own. The website will
show you insurance rates from all the companies operating in Massachusetts.
The states Division of Insurance told us it plans to keep the site up-to-date
with companies current rates for the foreseeable future.
As you can see from the states site, the company-to-company rate differences
are substantialannual differences of hundreds of dollars in almost all
cases, and over $700 in some cases. The profiles the state uses will probably
not apply to you exactly, but the rates will give you a good starting point
for your own shopping. Companies with low rates on the states site will
likely be excellent prospects for you.
When you have identified a few possible companies, you can begin shopping.
A few companies enable you to get quotes directly from their company websites,
but most of the insurance companies dont yet have online quoting capabilities
for Massachusetts, so you have to call them directly or call their agents,
depending on how the companies write policies.
Before shopping, its a good idea to make a list of the coverages you plan
to purchase. Some independent agents sell policies offered by many companies,
so one of these agents can give you quotes from various companies. But
other companies are not available through independent brokers or agents;
to get these companies rates, which often are the lowest rates available,
you have to get a quote from their websites or contact their agents directly.
If you will be contacting agents, you may have to push hard to get reliable
information from them. We have found that most agents are able to quote
accurate insurance rates, but some agents quote wildly inaccurate rates,
while others try repeatedly to sell more insurance than asked for or fail
to mention the most attractive available plans. Always ask an agent whether
he or she has any other plans with better rates.
If you have so many accidents or violations that it is difficult for you
to find coverage, you have the right to get insurance through MAIP, the
states assigned risk plan. Rates in this plan are usually much more
expensive than what youd pay for a regular policy.
You will want to consider price in relation to the quality of service you
can expect the different companies to provide. Probably the most important
type of service is claims handling. We give you three types of information
to help you evaluate companies service: a survey of policyholders, a survey
of auto body shops, and an analysis of complaints.
Our Survey of Policyholders
We surveyed CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports magazine subscribers and collected
more than 1,300 ratings of individual insurance companies from policyholders
who said they had made an auto insurance claim within the preceding three
As you can see from our Ratings Tables, there are big differences in
how companies were rated by their customers. For example, USAA and Amica
Mutual were rated superior for simplicity of claim procedures by 89
percent and 84 percent of their respective surveyed customers. In contrast,
OneBeacon got superior ratings from only 34 percent of its surveyed customers,
Citizens from only 35 percent of its surveyed customers, Encompass from
only 36 percent, and Commerce from only 48 percent. (For a further description
of our policyholder survey and how its results and our other research results
should be interpreted, see our How We Rated the Insurers page.)
Asking the Experts: Auto Body Shops
As a second way to assess service quality, we surveyed area auto body shops,
asking them to name the two insurers they considered most desirable for
treating their customers (car owners) fairly and the two insurers they
consider least desirable.
Our Ratings Tables show the number of times each company was mentioned
(either favorably or unfavorably) and the percentage of the mentions that
were favorable. As you can see, Amica Mutual, Citizens, and USAA were
all highly recommended by surveyed body shops. Commerce, the states largest
auto insurer, received mixed ratings from surveyed shops. And Encompass,
OneBeacon, and Progressive received the highest percentage of least desirable
mentions. When we checked, Progressive had some of the lowest rates for
all of the profiles we looked at, so it is worth noting that in all of
the seven metropolitan areas where we publish CHECKBOOK, Progressive got
some of the lowest ratings from body shop owners (see Table 2)and also
got below-average ratings for adequacy of claims payment from consumers.
|Main Street America||1||7||14%|
Another way to assess quality is to count policyholder complaints. While
customers might have rated a company less than superior on our survey
of policyholders even if the companys deficiencies were minor, filing
a formal complaint with a government regulatory agency presumably reflects
On our Ratings Tables, we have reported the number of private passenger
auto insurance complaints filed in 2005, 2006, and 2007 with the Massachusetts
Division of Insurance. We have also reported a complaint rate for each
company. The complaint rate is intended to take into account the fact that
some companies do much more business than others and therefore are more
exposed to incurring complaints. It is calculated as a companys total
number of complaints during 2005, 2006, and 2007 per million dollars in
direct private passenger auto insurance premiums written.
The companies or groups listed on our Ratings Tables with the lowest
complaint rates are USAA and Norfolk & Dedham, while Citizens, OneBeacon,
and Metropolitan have the highest.
In shopping, you will want also to be alert to news of a companys financial
instability. You will not want to sign on with a company that may soon
have to raise prices sharply to stay alive. Nor do you want a company that
may go out of business soon, forcing you to begin your shopping again.
This is, of course, more of a concern now than a few years ago.
On the other hand, there is no reason for great anxiety about insurer instability.
If a company goes bankrupt, policyholders may have to wait to recover money
owed them but generally are protected from major losses. A special insolvency
guaranty fund exists in every state with the duty to assess all insurers
doing business in the state on a pro-rata basis to pay off all outstanding
claims of an insolvent company and reimburse each policyholders paid-in
You can check on a companys financial soundness using any of several sources:
Some individualsusually the young and those with records of accidents
or violationsfind it difficult to locate a company that will agree to
The only answer if you are one of these high-risk individuals is to shop.
Try several of the insurance companies to see if they will cover you. As
a last resort, you can sign up for insurance through MAIP, Massachusetts
assigned risk plan. MAIP is open to licensed drivers who cant get coverage
through the regular market, or who cant get such coverage at rates that
do not exceed those of MAIP. An agent contacts the plan on the drivers
behalf and drivers are then assigned to regular insurance companies. Each
company is assigned a pro-rata share of policyholders according to its
share of business in the state, and the policyholder pays the same premium
no matter what company he or she is assigned to.
Dont assume that because you have been turned down by one or two companies
that you must turn to the assigned risk plan. Companies standards for
accepting new policyholders vary and change from time to time. To enhance
your chances, remind an agent that you or members of your family have other
business with a companyfor instance, a homeowners policy or automobile
policies for other drivers. On the other hand, dont stop shopping even
if you are accepted by one company, since you may still be able to find
a better rate with another one. If you must join the assigned risk plan
at a very high price, try to get other coverage after a year.