NEW YORK, October 25, 2010 — With nearly one in 10 Americans out of work, and others forced to make ends meet with less money, many people are looking for ways to cut costs. There are smart ways to save on home and auto insurance; however, there are also mistakes that can result in being dangerously underinsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
“When money is tight, it extremely important to be financially protected against a catastrophe with the right amount and type of insurance,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “By taking a few simple steps, it is possible to cut costs and still be protected should disaster strike.”
Following are five of the biggest insurance mistakes that consumers should look out for:
1. Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the home. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings. A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.
2. Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service. A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.
3. Dropping flood insurance. Damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas. A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to check whether it is in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a flood zone area, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance.
4. Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket—and those costs may be steep. A better way to save: Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars worth less than $1,000. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.
5. Neglecting to buy renters insurance. A renters policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to a disaster. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue. A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto and life will generally provide savings.