Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

You’ve seen it everywhere: “click or call to save on your insurance.”

Should you click or call?

How do you compare car insurance rates without going bananas?

The problem

1. Jungle of carriers.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are more than 2,500 auto insurance companies in the United States.

Hundreds of these companies are licensed to sell you a policy in California. How can you possibly compare them all? There is always “one more quote” that you can get. Who’s got the time?

2. Apples and oranges.

Anyone can quote you a cheap price and “compare” that to your current policy.

They can even say that it’s an “apples to apples” comparison.

But what if it’s “apples to oranges?” There are so many ways that a car insurance quote can be “tweaked” to make it look better than what you have now.

At the end of the day, you must trust someone to know that it’s truly “apples to apples.”

3. Fine print nightmare.

We all know the adage: watch out for the fine print.

So where is the fine print in a car insurance quote in Napa, California? Usually (not always) it’s in the “exclusions” part of your policy. That’s where the “gotchas” often live.

You need someone you can trust to explain the “insurance-y” language.

The risk

1. Company stability.

Big doesn’t always mean better or safer. We learned just a decade ago that no one is too big to fail.

So, if bigness alone doesn’t guarantee stability, how can you determine by yourself if a company is stable?

When you choose an insurance company, you are betting on them to pay claims later.

2. Inadequate protection.

Here’s the biggest risk you face when comparing car insurance premiums. You may be tempted to lower your coverage to get a cheaper rate.

That’s not always a bad idea if you are aware of the risk. For instance, raising your deductibles may be a good idea for some people. That can help lower rates.

But many people I talk to don’t have enough liability protection. They haven’t looked at their assets and future earnings potential to see if they have enough protection in case of an at-fault accident.

In addition, some coverage just makes great sense but is not required, such as uninsured motorist coverage.

Numbers can be tweaked to create a great quote, but the quote may expose you to great risk.

The solution

Trust is the solution.

You must trust someone. You’ll either trust yourself, an online computer program, a person in a cubicle hundreds of miles away, or a local and experienced agent. Your assets and future earnings are at stake, so your choice matters. Choose wisely.

Call a local agent who lives in your community.

They have “skin in the game” at claim time. Your safety, and their reputation hang on helping you make the best choice.

They will put your interests first.

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Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He is at 707-931-0186 or bruces@sackifs.com.