Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Shopping Car Insurance - Liberty Mutual? (NO).

It is a good idea to shop your auto policies every now and then.

When I started this blog, I was looking for ways to save money in every aspect of my life.  And I did - a few dollars here, a few hundred dollars there.  Things like homeowners insurance - you might not even think of it, as it may be paid by "escrow" in your mortgage payment.  But you can save hundreds a year on insurance by shopping around - I did.  Particularly in areas where rates are high because of flood, hurricane, etc.  And hundreds a year is a lot of money - think of how many beers that would buy, to put it in perspective.

With car insurance, the biggest way to "save" is to slow the fuck down, stop at all stop signs and stop lights, and drive courteously.  We like to watch these dash cam "crash videos" on YouTube, usually from Russia, but increasingly from the USA.  In most cases, the guy with the dash cam is at least partly at fault for the accident or near-miss.  Some idiot is in the wrong lane, or tries to pass in a no-passing zone or on the shoulder or tries to cut across three lanes to make an exit.  Yea, those are "wrong" things to do, but in some cases, people just make mistakes or don't pay attention.  In others, of course, they are being first-class assholes.

But in about half or more of these videos, the guy with the dash cam will speed up to cut off the offending driver to "teach them a lesson!" and he gets quickly schooled as the offending driver then plows into his car, which was in his blind spot.  And I don't care who is "at fault" in an accident, you never come out ahead in these deals, ever.  If nothing else, it ruins your day.

But if you have a clean driving record, like I do (no accidents, tickets, etc. in several years) your rates will be low.  It helps, of course, to be older, too.   And if you dump "junk coverage" like towing or car rental (which rents you a car while yours is in the shop) and raise your deductible to $1000 or so, you can cut your rates even further.  Coverage like uninsured motorists and medical are often superfluous as well.  If you have health insurance, what is $10,000 medical coverage going to do, other than pay your deductible?  I have bigger fish to fry.

What about those ads on the Internet, telling you there is "one tiny secret trick" to cheaper car insurance in [Your State Here]?  Well, the "secret" is to drive an older (but still reliable) car worth only a few thousand dollars and then drop collision and comp.  But even if you want to have collision, the less expensive your car is, the lower the cost.  Bear in mind that if you wreck your car, the most the insurance company will pay out is the book value of the car, not what you think it is worth.  So a car worth $3000 book value, you would get maybe $2000 to $2500, max, depending on the deductible.  No one is going to pay $10,000 to fix a $3000 car, not you, nor the insurance company.

Speaking of which, it pays to get out of the mentality that somehow you can make money on insurance. The only way you can "come out ahead" with an insurance company is if you commit insurance fraud, and that could land you in jail.  And guess what?  You are dealing with very astute people who have seen everything, so you likely will get caught.  A car accident isn't a spa vacation - you don't end up better off than before, no matter what.  Those "personal injury" attorneys only line their own pockets, not yours.  The road to poverty is paved with the something-for-nothing mentality.

It also pays to check out rates on a type of vehicle before you buy it.  Sports cars and muscle cars are obviously going to cost more to insure as they are driven more recklessly and by younger drivers.  Cars with expensive parts - like a BMW or Mercedes - are going to be more expensive to insure not just because they cost a lot, but because they cost a lot to repair.  More common cars (e.g., Camry) where third-party parts (and junkyard body parts) are available, are going to be a lot cheaper to insure.

Speaking of which, the media loves to run articles "warning" consumers of inferior third-party body parts or used parts.  Suzie Q gets her 10-year-old Camry repaired with a used fender!  It could blow off going down the road and kill her, without warning! Such is hardly the case, and I suspect the car makers "plant" these stories to scare consumers into insisting on "OEM Parts only!"  But a used fender is just as good as a new one (assuming it is not dented and rusted) and many third-party parts, if properly prepared and painted, are also just as good.

The Ford seems to be expensive to insure, and I am told this is because of the aluminum body. Replacement parts are expensive,and fewer body shops are skilled in repairing aluminum bodies and preparing and painting aluminum panels.  Something to think about before buying a fancy car.  It kind of shocked me how much insurance was on that truck.

Owning fewer vehicles is also a way to save on car insurance. The truck and camper are luxuries (and our vacation home, nearly half the year).  The day we stop RVing is the day they get sold.   We can live with one car at this time in our lives, and come to think of it, pretty much for most of our lives.  People think they "need" his-and-hers cars, but if you can make do with one, you can save thousands of dollars a year - about $7000 by my estimate.

I haven't shopped my Auto policy in some time now, and the price at GEICO has been ratcheting up as of late.  I have been inundated with offers for Liberty Mutual insurance, from Credit Karma, to KIA motors, to wherever.  So I thought, "hey, this is prime blog meat, let's check it out!"  And maybe I have been complacent with GEICO for too long now.

I logged onto the GEICO site and downloaded my current policy for our 2015 KIA Soul, which now has a whopping 24,000 miles on it (another hint: The less you drive, the lower your insurance cost is, so stop driving all over hell's half acre!).
GEICO (Current Policy) (Six Month Premium): 
Comprehensive (Excluding Collision): $22.80

Collision: $69.20

Liability:  $164.20

Vehicle total 6 month premium: $256.10 or $42.68 a month.
The Liberty Mutual site is a little harder to use, and to get one of their largest "discounts" you have to agree to download an "app" to your phone to monitor your driving skills.  Since GEICO doesn't offer this feature, I decided to get the quote without it (a 30% discount!).  It sounds like a good deal, but suppose after you download this app for a month, they decide you drive too fast or whatever and cancel the discount?  You are kind of stuck with whatever price they quote you.
The "Right Track" discount was described as follows:

How RightTrack® works

With RightTrack, you save money for being a good driver. It’s simple:
Sign up and save 10% instantly.
Download the RightTrack app. All participating drivers will also need to download the app and register.
Drive as normal for 90 days. Follow your discount progress in the app.
Get a final discount between 5% and 30% based on these driving behaviors:
Miles driven
Nighttime driving
The final discount is an average of each individual drivers’ discounts. The more drivers that participate, the better the discount will be.

The RightTrack® discount applies only to the base coverages on participating vehicles, which may include Bodily Injury, Property Damage, Comprehensive, Collision, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorist, and Underinsured Motorist (subject to state availability). The initial discount may vary by state and is replaced with a final discount after the 90-day review period. The RightTrack discount is not available in all states. Learn more about our privacy policy at libertymutual.com/privacy.
The price quote is based, apparently, on you qualifying for this 30% discount, which you may or may not get - or may not even be legal in your State!  A friend of mine tried this after getting a number of tickets - they wanted to plug-in a module into his OBD-II diagnostic connector.  I am not sure how it worked out, but I think he ended up not getting much of a discount out of the deal.

What was kind of creepy was that when I clicked on a referral link from KIA, they seemed to know a lot about me - that I also had a Ford F150 and that I was married to Mark See. Computers - gotta love 'em.  Well, I have nothing to be ashamed of and I'm not one of these "privacy rights" freaks, so it didn't offend me much - plus it saved a lot of time filling out the quote form.

The site is SLOW as all get out.  Every time you change a coverage term, it takes almost 60 seconds to update. Ugh.

The Liberty Mutual site allows you to check off what coverage you wanted, and it defaulted to a $1000 medical (worthless) and $100,000 uninsured motorists, which I also declined to make the coverage the same as with GEICO.  Oddly enough, collision and comp were not automatically added, which made the quote initially seem favorable. Tricky.  Liberty Mutual doesn't itemize the quote, but since you can add and subtract coverage items, you can infer what each item cost.
Liberty Mutual (Quote):

Overall cost:  $46.83 a month or $280.90 for six months (higher than GEICO)

Basic Liability:  $154.50 ($25.75 a month)

Collision & Comprehensive : 126.40 ($21.06 a month)
I could not break out the Collision and Comp separately as their quote site automatically adds one to the other.  Note how their liability is less, but collision and comp is more.  The site is a little clunky, as it doesn't allow you to go back and add vehicles, but rather you have to start all over again.

Note that the Liberty Mutual site automatically adds $1000 in medical and $100,000 in uninsured motorists, but didn't add collision and comp!  How weird.  Also, when I tried to add the truck to the quote, it bombed out and said to call their office - apparently that was too complex for them!  Not for GEICO, apparently, though.

Also, I have a $1M umbrella policy with GEICO, and I am not sure that Liberty Mutual offers something like this.  If I decide to try this "30% off" deal by downloading an app on my phone to monitor my driving, would I be really saving money if I had to shop elsewhere for umbrella coverage?  GEICO claims they will not write umbrella coverage unless you also buy your car policy from them.  

Not checked out:  Bundling homeowners insurance.  With GEICO, this was merely a marketing lead, directing you to an outside vendor.  Since we need fire, wind, and flood policies, a regular fire policy really isn't helpful. Many of these offers for cheap insurance in the past have been little more than referral sites, which, after 20 minutes of entering data, tell me, "Sorry, we don't write policies on barrier islands!"  Yea, fuck you, State Farm!  We have a policy through Georgia Farm Bureau that covers both fire and wind.  Flood is covered through FEMA.  Farm Bureau is cheaper than the next lowest quote by $1000.  Somehow, I don't think Liberty Mutual will beat that, if they even offer to write a policy.

An odd note:  Liberty Mutual offers "ridesharing insurance" so if you want to drive for Lyft or Uber, you can get coverage. GEICO offers this in some jurisdictions, but not all, last time I checked. I added this to my quote - for 5000 miles a year, and it added $7 a month to the cost.  Cheap, right?  Well, if you do ride-sharing regularly, you probably are going to drive far more than 5,000 miles a year as I do. So expect cost to be much higher.  Still, this is a thing to consider.

The other issue is the trailer. Since it is nearly new and cost $30,000, we decided to put collision coverage on it.  For a few dollars GEICO also provides "liability" coverage so if someone slips and falls in the camper, we are covered.  I saw no way of selecting coverage for a trailer on their site.

My conclusions?  Well, once again, the banks and insurance companies are not handing out free money samples this month - or ever.  These come-ons that I am going to save "$500 on my car insurance" are a little overstated, as that is already close to my six-month premium.  Maybe that amount is over a decade.  They were not specific about the time period in that ad.

Liberty Mutual probably isn't going to get my business for the following reasons:
  • Site is slow as fuck
  • Site is clunky
  • Site bombs out for complex quote - "call office"
  • Rates are higher
  • 30% discount is a come-on
  • No umbrella liability, no trailer insurance
  • Come-on promotion based on potential 30% savings which might not materialize.
  • Not enough of a potential "savings" to make me want to switch.
Score:  GEICO 1, Libery Mutual, 0.

By the way, this is not to be unexpected.  Car insurance is like the price of gas.  Sure, maybe one station sells it for a few pennies less, but no one is offering 50% discounts.  I learned long ago as a youth, that after calling dozens of insurance agents, the price of insurance was about the same across the board, maybe varying by a few dollars from one company or agency to another - that's about it.  There is no magick insurance company who somehow can beat the laws of probability and offer obscenely low coverage.  It is a competitive business.

I am taking a pass on Liberty Mutual.  If you have less complex insurance needs (you have one car, live in an apartment, have few attachable assets) it might be worthwhile if you are Uber or Lyft driving.  And maybe this 30% discount thing would work, if you are driving that way, and can use your cell phone to track your driving style.  The discount is predicated in part on nighttime driving, so if you Uber drive a lot, I suspect you'll be driving a lot at night - late at night to get the big-tipping bar crowd that throws up in your back seat.

But for my circumstance, I don't see huge savings here - if any.  I am sure since they have my contact information, they will contact me.  I will update this post if that happens.

UPDATE:  Within minutes, I get an automated e-mail with the quote, inviting me back, and what appears to be an automated e-mail from an agent, asking me to call.   I replied by e-mail with some questions, but so far, no answers....

UPDATE 01/21/2021:  I got an e-mail and phone call form a Liberty Mutual agent, and he said he would give me a tailored quote for both vehicles and the umbrella policy.  Several days later, I get a quote via e-mail for just the KIA, this time for $298 for six months (higher than online!) and this with the "Righttrack Discount" which may or may not apply, depending on whether their monitoring my driving via app shows that I am a good driver (I'd like to think I am, and we don't drive very much).  So right off the bat, the cost is nearly $100 a year more, just for one car.

No quote was provided for the Truck, the RV, or the umbrella policy.  I am guessing he didn't bother doing quotes on those, as the KIA quote showed a much higher cost.   So annual cost would easily be $200 or more higher than GEICO, based on the KIA quote alone.

Liberty Mutual is trying hard, but I guess all that saturation advertising has to be paid for somehow.  I'll stick with GEICO for now.