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by Steve Gillman
Want to learn something new about auto insurance? Something that can save you a lot of money or get a claim paid? Forget the usual tips. Check out these secrets.
- Demand the legal policy minimums if you have no assets. Do you really need a lot of liability coverage if you have no money in the bank? Insurance companies will tell you that you do because you can be sued regardless. It's possible. I can't promise you that you won't be sued and end up paying a chunk of your paycheck to someone for life.
However, honest insurance salesmen admit that people without assets are rarely sued. Lawyers work on a commission in these cases, and won't take a case where there is no money to be collected. In fact, having a bigger liability policy can be an invitation to sue, and it won't protect you from personal liability, because they always sue for more than the policy limit anyhow.
If you have no assets to protect, why buy auto insurance? Because it is a legal requirement. In that case why not just buy the minimum coverage required? But be careful. My own insurance guy lied for years, claiming I had just that, when in fact I was paying for "company-recommended minimums." You might have to push the point, and may even have to sign something saying you understand how risky it is to be "under-insured."
- Claim diminished value. If you have a collision policy, your insurance company will pay for the repairs after an accident. However, is the financial damage really fixed? Not necessarily. A car that has been in an accident and had the body fixed may look the same, but it won't sell for the same price. Would you pay the same for a car that has been in an accident?
A car that has been in an accident might be worth $2,000 less than a similar un-damaged car. This is called "diminished value," and may be covered by your policy. However, diminished value is often not paid unless you push the point. Get a car dealer to do an estimate of the diminished value if necessary, and present this to the insurance company. You pay for insurance to have your losses covered, and they aren't covered if you aren't paid for this.
- Lower your premiums by removing kids from the policy. You may have already discovered that you pay a lot for insurance as long as you have driving-age children at home. Even if they are off at school, if their legal residence is your house, you pay more.
However, there is a little-known exception to this rule. If your children are at a college that's more than 100 miles away, you can have them taken off the insurance policy. This can dramatically reduce your premiums. The catch? They are excluded drivers, so you can't let them drive the car when they come home to visit.
These are just a few examples of the auto insurance secrets that insurance companies probably don't want you to know.