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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of our frequently asked questions. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.

  1. How do I file a claim?
  2. What should I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?
  3. If I file a claim, will my premium go up?
  4. How are the value of my car and the cost of repair determined?
  5. What are my rights when filing a claim?
  6. Can my insurance company require me to use certain types of auto repair parts?
  7. How can I save money?
  8. How much coverage do I need?
  9. What determines the price of my policy?
  10. What does my credit rating have to do with purchasing insurance?
  11. What information do I need to give to my agent or company?
  12. What information do I need to give to my agent or company?
  13. What information do I need to give to my agent or company?
  14. What can I do if I can't find coverage?
  15. How do I insure my teenage driver?
  16. Should I purchase an umbrella liability policy?
  17. Will my insurance cover a rental car after an accident?
How do I file a claim?

To file a claim, follow these steps:

  1. Call your insurance agent as soon as possible, regardless of who is at fault. Find out whether you're covered for this loss. Even if the accident appears minor, it is important that you let your insurance company know about the incident.
  2. Ask your agent or company representative how to proceed and what forms or documents are needed to support your claim. Your insurance company will require a ?proof of claim? form and, if there is one, a copy of the police report. Increasingly, companies allow you to monitor the progress of your claim on their web site.
  3. Supply the information your insurer requests. Fill out the claim form carefully. Keep good records. Get the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with and copies of any bills related to the accident.
  4. Ask your insurance agent or company representative the following:
    • Does my policy contain a time limit for filing claims and submitting bills?
    • Is there a time limit for resolving claims disputes?
    • If I need to submit additional information, is there a time limit?
    • When can I expect the insurance company to contact me?
    • Do I need to get repair estimates for the damage to my car?
    • Will my policy pay for a rental car while my car is being repaired? If so, how much?
  5. Remember, each state has its own laws governing the claims process. If you have any questions, call your agent, company representative or your state insurance department.


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What should I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?

If you are not satisfied with how your claim is being handled, there are steps you can take.

  1. Let your agent or company representative know that you are unhappy.
    If the agant or representative is unable to solve your problem, get the name and phone number of the head of the insurer's claims department. Your insurance company may also have a consumer complaint department that can help.
  2. Be prepared to support your case.
    Send documents and a letter explaining why you are not satisfied and make sure you have the figures to back up your argument. Be certain to include your address, claim number, day and evening phone numbers and any other important identifying information.
  3. Review your auto insurance policy.
    Most companies offer either arbitration or appraisal services to help settle differences and disputes. Your insurance policy will explain these options.
  4. Contact your state insurance department.
    Explain the reasons for the disagreement to a consumer services representative at the department.
  5. Contact an arbitrator to hear your case.
    An independent arbitrator with experience in insurance matters can decide if the settlement you were offered is fair. Your insurance company may suggest an arbitrator or you can get your own from the American Arbitration Association at 212-484-4000 ( or http://www.adr.org ).
  6. Consult an attorney.
    As a last resort, consult an attorney who specializes in auto insurance. Each state?s bar association offers a free legal referral service, which will give you names of qualified candidates. Attorneys work either on an hourly rate or on a contingency basis, depending on the type of case. Get the attorney's fee structure in writing. You can remain current on the progress of your claim by requesting that you receive copies from your attorney of all correspondence. Your attorney must have your agreement before committing to any settlement.

After your claim has been settled, take time to re-evaluate your auto insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate protection to cover you against any future damage or liability claims.



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If I file a claim, will my premium go up?

You may be reluctant to file a claim because you fear that your premium will go up or your insurance will be canceled. Practices vary from company to company. In general, an insurer will increase your premium by specific percentages for each chargeable claim made against your policy above a specific dollar amount. A chargeable claim is one the insurer considers primarily your fault. The percentages and ceilings vary from company to company. These increases generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim.

Your company may also decide not to renew your policy if your driving record gets markedly worse or you have several accidents. Different insurers have different rules about what constitutes an unacceptably bad driving record. But some accidents, such as those caused by drunk driving, will probably trigger a nonrenewal from virtually every insurance company.

If you have an accident but don?t report it to your insurer, you are taking a risk, even if the damage seems minor. If the other driver sues you weeks or months later, your failure to report the accident might cause your insurer to refuse to honor the policy. And even if they do honor the policy, the delay will certainly make it harder for the insurer to gather evidence to represent you.



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How are the value of my car and the cost of repair determined?

There are several standard guidelines for determining the value of your car for insurance purposes. You and your insurer can refer to one of the books that list the depreciated value of all new and used cars. One of these books is published by the National Association of Automobile Dealers another is published by Kelley Blue Book.

When you file your claim, your insurance company will refer you to a claims adjuster. The adjuster will verify the loss and determine what it will cost to repair the car. The adjuster?s estimate can serve as a benchmark to which to compare your own mechanic?s estimate.

No good adjuster or insurance company will expect you to sign an agreement accepting the insurer?s estimate as the total claim payment until you?ve established, to your own satisfaction, that it will cover the cost of repair. The insurer will expect you to get your own estimate from your mechanic, garage or car dealer. Don?t allow yourself to feel pressured into accepting the insurer?s estimate of repair costs without getting at least one estimate of your own.

Your insurance company can?t require you to have repairs done at a particular shop. But they can insist that you get more than one estimate for the work to be done on your car. Just as you want to make sure that your car is adequately repaired, the insurer wants to make sure it doesn?t pay a grossly inflated repair bill.

Don?t be surprised if your insurance company opts to pay for the lowest bid. You don?t have to accept that bid if you believe the low bid won?t adequately repair your car. Don?t hesitate to argue with the adjuster if you really believe his repair estimate is too low based on what your mechanic has told you.

One factor that could reduce the amount of your claim for a repair job is what insurance companies call betterment. If your old car is repaired with brand-new parts, your insurer may argue that the repairs have actually enhanced the car?s value and therefore they can legitimately reduce your claim by the difference between a used part and a new one.

It is up to your insurer to decide whether to pay for repairing your car or to declare it a total loss and pay you its book value. Most standard auto policies will not pay to repair a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car. There won?t be any dispute about whether to repair the car if it was completely totaled. But you may argue about what the pieces of the car were worth when they were assembled as a car. For you to get a settlement higher than the book value of your car?s make and model, you will have to submit evidence such as mileage records, service history and affidavits from mechanics to show that your car was worth more. You?re entitled to the market price of the car you just lost. You shouldn?t get more or less than what you are due.



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What are my rights when filing a claim?

As a policyholder, you have certain rights. Every state has laws protecting consumers. Your policy is a legal contract between you and your insurer. It defines your rights and obligations as well as the rights and obligations of the insurance company.

If you have any questions regarding your rights under the policy, talk to your insurance agent or company representative. You may also contact your state insurance department, state attorney general's office, or your state's consumer affairs department.



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Can my insurance company require me to use certain types of auto repair parts?

Your insurance company can't require you to use only certain kinds of auto repair parts. However, if the insurance company's rates are based on a certain type of part and you want something different, it can ask you to pay the difference if the part you want is more expensive.

The parts most frequently damaged in auto accidents are "crash parts". These are the sheet metal pieces that cover the engine and frame of the car. There are two sources for crash parts: auto manufacturers, who sell them under their own names, also known as original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and generic or aftermarket crash parts suppliers. Studies have demonstrated that these crash parts do not affect the safety of the car. The development of a market in generic parts has brought prices for car replacement parts down and can help consumers save money.

In general, if generic parts have been ordered for the repair of your car, this information must be disclosed. The car repair order should state that the parts are not from the original manufacturer and the warranty may be different. Many generic parts are made at the same factories as OEM parts, and in fact very few OEM parts are actually made by car makers.

Insurance companies that use generic parts guarantee the parts they use. If the part doesn't fit properly, the insurance company will generally put on an OEM part at no extra cost.

Some auto insurance companies offer their policyholders a choice between OEM and generic repair parts as part of an endorsement (addition to the policy that changes its terms and conditions) that includes other choices as well. Some always specify OEM parts for repairs and some use OEM parts for repairing recent model cars. A few states require insurance companies to offer generic parts when they exist and some may require OEM parts to be used.

Ask your insurance agent about your state and your insurance company's claim settlement guidelines so that you'll know what to expect if your car has to be repaired after an accident.



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How can I save money?

Shop around
Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Other companies sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

But don't shop by price alone. You want a company that answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company.

You can also check the financial health of insurance companies through independent rating companies and by consulting consumer magazines.

Select an agent or company representative who takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you'll be dealing with this company if you have an accident or other emergency.

Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Your premium is based in part on the cars sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices. Some states require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with air bags or anti-lock brakes.

Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. Information that can help you decide what car to buy is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( http://www.iihs.org ).

Ask for higher deductibles
Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 percent to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more.

Reduce coverage on older cars
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of a car, or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book ( http://www.kbb.com ). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs havent changed.

Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer
Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. But shop around; you may save money buying from different insurance companies despite the multi-policy discount.

Take advantage of low-mileage discounts
Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.

Ask about group insurance
Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, or through professional, business and alumni groups and other associations. Ask your employer or any groups or clubs to which you belong.

Maintain good credit
Your credit rating may affect what you pay for insurance, so keep a close eye on it. Credit makes insurance rates more accurate, fair and objective. While the use of insurance scoring varies from state to state and company to company, it is a fact that drivers with long, stable credit records have fewer accidents than drivers who don't. There are various Internet services that allow you to check your credit rating and provide tips on how to improve your score.

Seek out safe driver discounts
Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course.

Inquire about other discounts
You may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or in some cases 55 and retired or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts* for:

  • $500 deductible
  • $1,000 deductible
  • More than 1 car
  • No accidents in 3 years
  • No moving violations in 3 years
  • Drivers over 50-55 years of age
  • Driver training course
  • Defensive driving course
  • Anti-theft device
  • Low annual mileage
  • Air bag
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Daytime running lights
  • Student drivers with good grades
  • Auto and homeowners coverage with the same company
  • College students away from home
  • Long-time customer
  • Other discounts

* The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

But dont forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.



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How much coverage do I need?

Almost every state requires you to buy a minimum amount of liability coverage. Chances are that you will need more liability insurance than the state requires because accidents cost more than the minimum limits. If you?re found legally responsible for bills that are more than your insurance covers, you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. These costs could wipe you out!

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends that you have $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident. If your net worth is more than $300,000, consider buying additional liability insurance. You may also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy. These policies pay when your underlying coverages are exhausted. Typically, these policies cost between $200 and $300 per year for a million dollars in coverage. If you have your homeowners and auto insurance with the same company, check out the cost of coverage with this company first. If you have coverage with different companies, it may be easier to buy it from your auto insurance company.

In addition to liability coverage, consider buying collision and comprehensive coverage. You don't decide how much to buy. Your coverage reflects the market value of your car and the cost of repairing it.

Decide on a deductible?the amount of money you pay on a claim before the insurance company reimburses you. Typically, deductibles are $500 or $1,000; the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.



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What determines the price of my policy?

There are many factors that influence the price you pay for auto insurance. The average American driver spends about $850 a year. Your premium may be higher or lower, depending on:

  1. Your driving record.
    The better your record, the lower your premium. If you've had accidents or serious traffic violations, you will pay more than if you have a clean driving record. You may also pay more if you haven't been insured for a number of years.
  2. The number of miles you drive each year.
    The more miles you drive, the more chance for accidents. If you drive a lower than average number of miles per year, less than 10,000, you will pay less. For instance, some companies will give discounts to policyholders who carpool.
  3. Where you live.
    Insurance companies look at local trends, such as the number of accidents, car thefts and lawsuits, as well as the cost of medical care and car repair.
  4. Your age.
    In general, mature drivers have fewer accidents than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. So insurers generally charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car.
  5. The car you drive.
    Some cars cost more to insure than others. Variables include the likelihood of theft, the cost of the car, the cost of repairs, and the overall safety record of the car.
  6. The amount of coverage.
    Of course, like anything else, the more coverage you have, the more you pay. However, you may qualify for discounts.


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What does my credit rating have to do with purchasing insurance?

Credit scores are based on an analysis of an individual?s credit history. These scores are used for many purposes such as securing a loan, finding a place to live, getting a telephone and buying insurance. Insurers often generate a numerical ranking based on a person?s credit history, known as an ?insurance score,? when underwriting and setting the rates for insurance policies. Actuarial studies show that how a person manages his or her financial affairs, which is what an insurance score indicates, is a good predictor of insurance claims. Insurance scores are used to help insurers differentiate between lower and higher insurance risks and thus charge a premium equal to the risk they are assuming. Statistically, people who have a poor insurance score are more likely to file a claim.

As a result, establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don?t obtain more credit than you need, and keep the balances on your credit cards as low as possible?ideally, try to pay off the bill in full each month. Also, check your credit record regularly, and request that any errors be corrected immediately so that your record remains accurate.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies?Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion?to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. For more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission?s Web site on credit.

Free annual credit reports can be ordered from AnnualCreditReport.com.

For more information on credit, go to our Credit section.



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What information do I need to give to my agent or company?

Your agent will ask you what make and model cars you own, roughly how many miles you drive each year, and what kind of liability coverage you will need. The agent will also want to know how many people drive the cars, how old the drivers are, where you live, and driving records of each household member.

The agent will then ask more detailed questions about your cars, such as their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), whether they have passive restraint systems or air bags, anti-lock brakes or anti-theft devices. If you already have another insurance policy with the company for home or life insurance, you might receive a discount on your auto policy. You should also mention if you or other drivers in your household have completed safe-driving courses and if student drivers in your home are getting good grades?both of these may qualify you for discounts on your auto policy.

Once the agent has assembled all of the information, he or she will quote you a premium. The premium will depend on all the factors above and on the deductibles you choose.



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What information do I need to give to my agent or company?

Your agent will ask you what make and model cars you own, roughly how many miles you drive each year, and what kind of liability coverage you will need. The agent will also want to know how many people drive the cars, how old the drivers are, where you live, and driving records of each household member.

The agent will then ask more detailed questions about your cars, such as their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), whether they have passive restraint systems or air bags, anti-lock brakes or anti-theft devices. If you already have another insurance policy with the company for home or life insurance, you might receive a discount on your auto policy. You should also mention if you or other drivers in your household have completed safe-driving courses and if student drivers in your home are getting good grades?both of these may qualify you for discounts on your auto policy.

Once the agent has assembled all of the information, he or she will quote you a premium. The premium will depend on all the factors above and on the deductibles you choose.



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What information do I need to give to my agent or company?

Your agent will ask you what make and model cars you own, roughly how many miles you drive each year, and what kind of liability coverage you will need. The agent will also want to know how many people drive the cars, how old the drivers are, where you live, and driving records of each household member.

The agent will then ask more detailed questions about your cars, such as their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), whether they have passive restraint systems or air bags, anti-lock brakes or anti-theft devices. If you already have another insurance policy with the company for home or life insurance, you might receive a discount on your auto policy. You should also mention if you or other drivers in your household have completed safe-driving courses and if student drivers in your home are getting good grades?both of these may qualify you for discounts on your auto policy.

Once the agent has assembled all of the information, he or she will quote you a premium. The premium will depend on all the factors above and on the deductibles you choose.



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What can I do if I can't find coverage?

There may be several reasons why you can?t get insurance through traditional private insurance companies:

  • You have a poor driving record
  • You own a special, high performance car
  • You have not driven long enough
  • You have not owned your car very long and therefore have no insurance record
  • You live in an area where theft and vandalism losses are high.

In this case, you have two options:

  1. Join a state assigned risk pool.
    State assigned risk pools operate under a system in which every auto insurer participates in proportion to the amount of business they do in that state on a voluntary basis. Each insurer must accept the motorists assigned to it, retaining the profit or absorbing the loss that comes with that customer. The premiums you will pay will be substantially higher under assigned risk pools than directly with a private insurance company, but at least you will be able to obtain coverage. To find the assigned risk pool or the equivalent in your state, ask your insurance agent or the state insurance department.
  2. Get a policy from a private insurance company that specializes in ?high-risk? drivers.
    You may find a better deal by checking with a private insurance company specializing in ?non-standard? auto policies. These companies write policies for people with bad accident records, high-performance cars, or who live in ?high-risk? neighborhoods. These companies also may be able to sell you more comprehensive coverage than is available through assigned risk pools. To get a list of companies selling non-standard insurance, contact your insurance agent, state insurance department or Roughnotes ( http://www.roughnotes.com ). They will refer you to insurance brokers selling this kind of insurance.


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How do I insure my teenage driver?

As soon as your teenager begins to drive, notify your insurance agent that there will be an additional driver in the house. Since teenagers are inexperienced drivers, they tend to get into a lot of accidents. This will, unfortunately, be reflected in higher insurance rates. If you have a daughter, you can expect your insurance to go up as much as 50 percent. A son will increase your car insurance by as much as 100 percent. Consider also raising liability limits or buying an umbrella liability policy for additional protection.

How to keep the increased cost to a minimum

  1. Insure your son or daughter on your own policy.
    It is generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your insurance policy than for them to purchase their own. If they are going to be driving their own car, insure it with your company so that you can get a multi-policy discount.
  2. Let your insurer know if your teenager is going away to school.
    If your your kids are living away at school?at least 100 miles from home?you will get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car. This, of course, assumes that they leave the car at home!
  3. Encourage your teen to get good grades and to take a driver training course.
    Most companies will give discounts for getting at least a ?B? average in school and for taking recognized driving courses.
  4. Shop around.
    Insurance companies differ dramatically in how they price policies for young drivers.
  5. Pick a safe car.
    The type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance. You and your teenager should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash. You should avoid small cars and those with high performance images that might encourage speed and recklessness. Trucks and SUVs should also be avoided, since they are more prone to rollovers.
  6. Talk to them about safe driving.
    Driving safely will not only keep your son or daughter alive and healthy, it will also save money. As your teenager gets older, insurance rates will drop?providing he or she has a good driving record.
  7. Talk to your teen about the dangers of combining driving with alcohol, lack of sleep and distractions.
    Accidents occur each year because a teen driver was using a cell phone, playing the radio or talking to friends in the backseat. Also, teens should be careful not to provide distractions and to exhibit safe behavior when they are passengers in their friends' cars.
  8. Be a good role model.
    New drivers learn by example, so if you drive recklessly, your teenage driver may copy you. Always wear your seatbelt and never drink and drive.
  9. Institute your own version of a graduated drivers licensing program.
    A number of states have reduced teen accidents by restricting the amount of time new drivers may be on the road without supervision. If your state doesn't have such a program, you may institute this same policy with your own children. Also, take an active role in helping your teenager learn to drive. Plan a series of practice drives in a wide variety of situations?nighttime, rain and snow. Give them time to work up to challenges such as driving in heavy traffic, on expansive bridges or on freeways.

For more information, on teen driving contact the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
( http://www.iihs.org ) and the Department of Transportation ( http://www.dot.gov ).



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Should I purchase an umbrella liability policy?

If you are ever sued, your standard homeowners or auto policy will provide you with some liability coverage, paying for judgements against you and your attorney's fees, up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have an extra layer of liability protection. That's what a personal umbrella liability policy provides.

An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

For about $150 to $300 per year you can buy a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy. The next million will cost about $75, and $50 for every million after that.

Because the personal umbrella policy goes into effect after the underlying coverage is exhausted, there are certain limits that usually must be met in order to purchase this coverage. Most insurers will want you to have about $250,000 of liability insurance on your auto policy and $300,000 of liability insurance on your homeowners policy before selling you an umbrella liability policy for $1 million of additional coverage.



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Will my insurance cover a rental car after an accident?

Many drivers don't think about their insurance coverage until after they have an accident and call their insurance company to file a claim to help pay for car repairs, a rental car and other expenses.

Unfortunately, many insured drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident. Since the average car is in the repair shop for two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a replacement car. But, some insured drivers pay little or nothing to rent a car because of an inexpensive but often overlooked option known as rental reimbursement.

Rental reimbursement coverage is available for only $1 or $2 a month with almost every auto insurance policy, but it is bypassed frequently by those who believe they will not have a car accident or those shopping only for the lowest cost premium. The cost of a rental replacement car adds up fast, so even if you don't have an accident for eight or nine years, the coverage pays for itself when you need it most.

Sometimes working out the details of a claim with the auto insurance company can take time. Even if the accident is the other driver's fault, you may have to wait several days or longer to get the other insurance company to agree to pay for a rental car. With your own coverage, there is no waiting.



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