What Ads Don’t Tell You About Car Insurance Shopping

So I’ve been looking for insurance for the first time in my life.  Car insurance, to be exact.  And I thought it would be cake.  I truly did.  After all, the commercials make it look so simple! They all say the same thing.

“Go online for a quote!”

So I did.  And this is what I found out.

Sometimes, going online doesn’t do jack squat for you.

Out of the ten insurance places I checked out, nearly a third of them couldn’t provide me with an online quote.   Even after filling out all their online forms. I’m not sure why my quote was unavailable either, as the site didn’t tell me what the issue was.  For all I know, I misspelled the name of the car or something.  If it was fixable, insurance sites, you should have said so.

But the sites didn’t completely fail me. They did provide me with their phone numbers, so that I might call and speak to a representative.

Speaking of which…

When you call insurance companies, you must first fight through the phone trees of death and frustration.

This one is probably a no-brainer.  Most big companies love phone trees these days.  Some nonsense about being able to put yourself in the correct department for your specific issue.  That’s never quite worked out for me.

When I call a phone tree, I either get lost in the bottomless menu pit, manage to find everyone’s voicemail boxes, or wind up calling the wrong department–who then send me right back into the phone tree of death.

But I have gotten smarter about the phone trees lately.  Here’s two ways to trick them:

1) If it’s a button-masher phone tree, press zero.  Chances are, that’s the operator number and will connect you to a live person who can then connect you to other live people.  If that doesn’t work, disregard the menu options and press random buttons (that aren’t a menu option, otherwise you’ll be in phone tree land forever) until it connects you to a live person.

2) If it’s a voice-recognition phone tree, scream into it and make animal noises until it connects you to a real person. You must not make any sound that sounds anything like language for this to work properly.  Coughing like you’re dying of tuberculosis also works well here.

Here’s the thing.  Companies actually want your calls.  Your calls grow their businesses and put more money in their wallets.  If you’re struggling in their systems, after a few errors the phone tree will usually send you off to an operator or a customer service agent who will be more than happy to take your money–I mean, help you out.

That money thing? It goes double for car insurance companies.

Insurance company rates will skyrocket for the slightest little thing.

Got a ticket?  I hope you’re prepared to shell out a ridiculous amount of money for insurance.  Accidents are even worse.  I was quoted up to $245 a month for car insurance when I added an accident to the mix.

Oh, and also:

There is a dramatic difference in the prices offered by different companies.

My rates fluctuated by over a hundred dollars a month, depending on the company I was dealing with.  So do your research.  Shop around.  And don’t just go to Progressive either.  Do you really trust them to give you the best rates their competitors offer? Do you?  I don’t. Besides, they won’t factor in the little local companies, and they might just have your best deal.

But the crazy price differences weren’t even the strangest thing that happened.

Insurance companies feel the need to spam you endlessly with phone calls and emails.

I wasn’t expecting this one, though maybe I should have known better.  I know I just told you to shop around, and I stand by that.  But you must also be prepared to face the barrage of emails and phone calls you will receive fromevery insurance company you talk to.  Whether you go online for a quote, or face the phone trees of death, they will spam you.

I’m getting about fifteen emails a day from these companies.  My phone is always ringing with phone calls from the insurance agents.  It’s my fault really, and it’s a small price to pay for the cheapest insurance package.

I’m not sure which company I’ll go with just yet.  I’m fluctuating between a few still, since this is sort of a big deal for me–this is my first insurance company and all and I really want it to turn out well.

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