Neither Flo Nor The Gecko Can Make You Switch Car Insurance

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Ducks, cavemen, geckoes, Flo, Juno's dad, Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock, Pedro Cerrano from Major League: Insurance companies have thrown all of them at you, and you still won't change your auto insurance provider.

The average U.S. driver has not changed auto insurance companies in 12 years, according to a report from insuranceQuotes.com. Almost 25% of drivers have been with the same auto insurance company for more than 16 years, and 7% have hung around for more than 30 years.

How comfortable are we with doing absolutely nothing about our car insurance. More than a third of U.S. drivers (36%) never shop around for auto insurance quotes, and only 30% only shop for quotes every few years.

"Americans may think loyalty pays off, but when it comes to insurance, that's not always the case," says Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com's senior analyst. "If you haven't shopped for auto insurance since the '90s, it's probably safe to say that you're not getting the best deal.”

That would be great, if U.S. drivers cared about getting the absolutely lowest price. Oddly, with car insurance, comfort seems to be key. If drivers don't have to think about it, they tend to like it. While 64% find shopping for auto insurance "worthwhile," 45% describe the process as "simple" and 29% even say it is "interesting.” Just as many find insurance shopping time-consuming (62%), frustrating (44%) and complicated (40%). As a result, 66% of policyholders never or rarely check to see if they could get their coverage more cheaply.

And, honestly, does it sound like all that great a time? Your parents and grandparents actively avoided door-to-door insurance salesmen as if they were carrying plague. Do you think young drivers are going to actively hang out in an insurance office on an annual basis. There's a reason why Millennials (ages 18 to 29) and seniors (65 and up) are the age groups least likely to shop around for car insurance, and it isn't because they're lazy.

"It's not very glamorous to shop for car insurance," Jeremy Bowler, a property and casualty insurance expert and senior vice president of research and consulting in the financial services division of market research company Market Strategies International, told InsuranceQuotes.

Well, there's that. But there's also the fact that switching insurance is tricky. Insurance folks regularly beat it into your head that any lapse in coverage is going to make your rates go up, yet 50% of those surveyed by InsuranceQuotes still didn't know that. You have to get new insurance before you cancel your old policy, which may have led 46% of Americans -- and six in ten Millennials -- to wrongly believe they have to wait until renewal time to switch insurers.

"Even if you paid for six months or a year of insurance upfront, the company will reimburse you if you choose to switch," said Adams.

The biggest surprise is that, as Adams found, most people only think to change auto insurance once they've moved or purchased a new car. As any insurance agent can tell you, that leaves out at least one big life event that could change your rates. Yes, marriage affects your car insurance.

“Auto insurance premiums are typically higher with a single vehicle on an insurance policy, so it is a good idea to consider merging auto insurance policies to receive possible multi-vehicle discounts,” says Richard W. Lavey, chief marketing officer at The Hanover. “An independent agent can review the coverages and recommend the best combination of price and service to help protect both newlyweds.”

Also, especially for younger drivers, rates can fluctuate regardless of a major event. Adams notes that it doesn't take an accident or a ticket to make a rate jump, and that all it takes is an hour every year to compare at least three companies' quotes and potentially save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. In fact, most insurance companies have made it incredibly easy to not only compare quotes online, but to do everything from quote shopping to accessing your insurance card through a mobile device. If you're sitting in a doctor's waiting room or at the DMV, stop playing sudoku for a moment and see if you can't save yourself some money. Insurers are making it too easy for you to shop around to ignore them for a decade or more.

“If you could use one device to do everything, you'd ditch your wallet,” Ellen Cannon, editorial director of CardRatings.com. “Most of the big car insurance companies already have mobile apps for insurance cards (although some states don't allow you to use a virtual card yet). One more thing you don't have to carry in your wallet.”

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.

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