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It is imperative that you obtain the very latest ratings for financial stability, as corporate takeovers and mergers, along with the effects of the present financial situation, can cause changes in the financial situation of an insurance firm.
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These changes are not necessarily negative. A solid regional firm could be acquired by one of the major national auto insurance companies, with the result being a more stable financial base and an expanded consumer service department.
An online quote for a company that undergoes changes of this type may still show the original name of the regional company, as the acquiring firm may decide to keep the trademark for marketing purposes.
However, a quick check with A.M. Best, the benchmark provider of financial and reliability ratings for insurance companies, would reveal that the firm is now part of a very large national firm that has earned the very highest ratings from A.M. Best.
The AM Best auto insurance ratings work well to give an accurate picture of a company.
However, A.M. Best rates car and other consumer insurance companies for financial stability and payout of premiums only.
Consumers are advised to obtain as many free online quotes as possible and then to check them not only with A.M. Best but also with a consumer rating firm J.D. Power.
These insurance company ratings are available free of charge online from the ratings firm itself. They use customer input to rate insurance firms on the quality of their customer service.
The J.D. Power ratings profile includes an overall rating for satisfaction as well as four category ratings consisting of:
Ratings for contacting the insurer as well as billing and payment are the most important for consumers who avail themselves of the convenience of sites that enable them to obtain quotes from multiple providers.
The sites themselves will reveal whether the company offers the policy any particular consumer needs, as well as whether the price for that particular policy is competitive.
The price of a policy may change upon renewal, and the pricing rating may indeed give some insight into possible changes in the near future.
However, consumers are best served by obtaining new quotes from multiple companies when a policy comes up for renewal, so the pricing rating may not be of much concern for most customers who obtain multiple online quotes.
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On the other hand, knowing whether a car insurance company makes it easy for customers to pay via online transfer, credit card, or even cash at a convenient payment location, is important.
A customer who prefers to mail in a monthly check will probably find that any insurance company will be accommodating.
However, not all companies offer online payment, phone payment or automatic deductions from checking accounts or credit cards. In addition, these possibilities, like general customer service ratings, may change as firms grow and respond to their consumers’ needs.
Therefore, customers should check to make sure an insurance company has at least a three-star J.D. Power rating for billing and payment.
As this rating is particularly subject to change, it should be checked again immediately before choosing and paying for a policy from a new insurer.
In addition to the billing rating, consumers should check to make sure specific billing arrangements are available if they indeed desire these arrangements.
Being able to contact an auto insurer is crucial in the event of a claim, as well as in the event of a change in information such as a billing address or payment method change.
Consumers are advised to consider only firms with a four- or five-star J.D. Power rating in this aspect of customer satisfaction.
Firms with such ratings will offer either well-run 24/7 hotlines or fully featured Internet sites that allow for all means of contact with the firm at any time of day or night.
Again, these ratings may change, and decisions regarding choices between online insurance quotes from multiple providers should be made based upon the very latest J.D. Power ratings.
The first step in shopping for car insurance should always be obtaining free quotes online from multiple insurance providers.
Consumers should then choose three or four quotes based on price alone, with at least one quote coming from a nationally known insurer.
Researching the A.M. Best ratings and determining which two of the quotes are from the most financially secure companies should be the next step.
A final decision can be made based upon consumer satisfaction ratings from J.D. Power, with the focus being on the ability to contact the insurer and availability of convenient payment and billing options.
If the ratings for both top choices are very similar, consumer review sites can be consulted for recent reviews from present customers of the insurers being considered.
Regardless of what rating sites are used to obtain information, a final check should be made of all chosen sites before actually agreeing to a new policy.
Ratings may indeed change, and even dramatically so, in the event of a change in ownership or a change in the financial situation due to economic conditions.
Firms also add and discontinue services suddenly due to changes in customer demand.
Finally, the entire process, including obtaining new quotes, should be repeated at least a month before renewal and a new decision made based on an up-to-date ratings check, as well as a price comparison as close to the actual renewal date as possible.
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