By Mark Chalon Smith
Mark Iverson, a restaurant owner from Los Angeles, was looking to change his car insurance. He had noticed the TV commercials for Progressive's "Name Your Price" online tool and decided to give it a run.
"I wanted to save money, of course, so thought I'd start there because the come-on looks good," he says. "I never thought that I'd actually be able to get a really low (priced) policy, but figured I might find a bargain. plus, I was curious."
So Iverson visited the insurer's website, dutifully followed the steps and waited for the offer. The results?
"Not that bad a quote, but I ended up checking around and came up with even a better one" from a competitor, he says.
It happens, says Progressive. The "Name Your Price" tool doesn't always guarantee the best quote -- or that you can snag a ridiculously low-ball price -- but it does provide consumers with some control over the quote process and what they ultimately spend on car insurance, the insurer says. This helps motorists match their budgets to, hopefully, coverage that meets their needs, Progressive adds.
The company does acknowledge that any "Name Your Price" quote will be restricted by the minimum liability car insurance requirements set by a customer's home state. For instance, New York requires $25,000 per injured person for bodily injury/$50,000 per accident for bodily injury/$10,000 for property damage, and that usually sets the lowest quote for anyone from the Empire state seeking a policy through the tool.
Just tooling around
As you answer the "Name Your Price" tool's questionnaire, car insurance discounts are added to your policy, helping to trim the cost. But, as you'd expect, when you drop the price even more, your coverage drops with it. Down goes liability, collision and comprehensive protection and up goes deductibles. And that's where problems could arise -- by naming your price, you may just price yourself out of what might be best.
We took "Name Your Price" for a ride recently, using a 42-year-old man from southern California with a standard 2012 Toyota Camry as the example. He has a good driving record and drives about 12,000 miles a year. Sliding the quote tool as far as it would go down, we were able to come up with $53 a month. But that was for California's minimum in liability coverage and didn't include optional comprehensive or collision.
When we pushed the slider up, prodded by Progressives "suggested" policy, the number jumped to $117 a month. That did include collision and comprehensive (both with a $500 deductible) and other benefits like a rental car if you had an accident. A
few years ago, Consumer Reports also tried for the cheapest quote and came up with $61 a month for a 2006 Camry. In its article, the magazine warned against using price as the deciding factor when shopping for coverage.
Priced out of adequate car insurance protection?
The Insurance Information Institute (III) echoes that warning.
"I don't want to speak directly to Progressive, but, in general, when you're looking at a bare-bones policy and price is the first consideration -- with coverage issues second -- you should reconsider," says III spokesman Michael Barry.
For one thing, consider liability. Barry and the institute say the minimum could leave you and your assets woefully exposed in a crash. The III recommends $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.
Barry adds that leaving out collision and comprehensive protection could cause problems with repairs, replacement or other needs if you're in a crash or your auto is damaged in any other way.
Progressive counters that "Name Your Price" is helpful to those who may not be able to pay for those options. The company adds that its agents are available to discuss the tool's results with customers.
Ultimately, the III says that if you do use "Name Your Price," do it with your current policy in hand. Know what you're giving up and what your personal situation calls for.
Iverson's final assessment of "Name Your Price"? He grinned, saying it was inspirational. "It didn't give me the best offer, but it did inspire me to find a better deal" for his coverage, he says.
Saving through car insurance discounts
Whether you decide to get a quote through "Name Your Price" or any other car insurer, be sure to know which car insurance discounts could lower coverage costs. Here's a run-down of those offered by most companies:
- Safe driver: A clean driving record for a certain number of years -- typically three -- may snag a discount.
- Good student: Full-time students with at least a "B" average usually qualify.
- Driving courses: Young and more mature drivers who pass accredited classes can qualify. Many insurers accept online courses as well as those in the classroom.
- Low mileage: A reduced rate is offered for those who drive less than a specified number of miles a year, such as under 10,000.
- Anti-theft: You'll probably get a discount if your vehicle has anti-theft or vehicle recovery devices.
- Safety features: Safety features, such as air bags or antilock brakes, will probably get you a discount.
- Multi-car: If you have more than one vehicle on the policy, insurers will typically offer a discount.