RICHMOND — Everywhere they turn, consumers see advertisements
for websites offering to help them save money on auto insurance. The State Corporation
Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to check their auto
insurance policies annually to make sure they have the coverage they need at the
While comparison shopping for the most competitive premium is important, price should
not be the sole deciding factor. Knowing what coverage you need and the type of
services the company offers are equally important. If you purchase coverage online,
be sure you understand how premiums will be billed, how you will receive policy
information, and how claims are handled.
Before shopping online, the Bureau suggests brushing up on the types of coverage
found in auto insurance policies. A good place to start is the declarations page
of your existing policy. “Research the insurance company, and get to know the product
you are buying before you start to shop,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline
K. Cunningham. “Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when examining coverage
and rates. The lowest price policy may not always be the one that best suits your
Whenever you shop for coverage, be prepared to provide information such as the car
make and model, annual miles driven, and the driving records of you and family members
in your household. When completing online quote requests, be prepared to share information
from your current auto insurance policy, driver’s licenses of all drivers in your
household, and the driving history for all operators. Generally, insurance companies
ask for three years of driving history and will verify the motor vehicle report
to check the driving records of all named drivers. They may also check claims histories
for at-fault and not at-fault accidents and convictions. In addition to your driving
record, many insurers use credit information to determine how much premium they
will charge you.
When you compare quotes, be sure all quotes are based on the same coverage and limits.
Keep in mind that not all insurers make coverage available immediately, even if
you have made a premium payment. Always allow sufficient time to shop for coverage
so you will not be without valuable insurance protection.
Once you have made a payment for the policy, make sure you have documentation confirming
the coverage you purchased and the effective date of your coverage. If coverage
is purchased online and you communicate with your insurer electronically, be sure
you advise your insurer whenever your email address is changed. If you set up automatic
direct bill payments where your insurer bills your credit card automatically or
drafts your checking account, be sure you advise your insurer immediately when there
has been a change to these accounts.
The Bureau of Insurance website at www.scc.virginia/gov/division/boi and the consumer
section of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website at insureUonline.org
contain additional information on auto insurance. The Bureau’s “Auto Insurance Consumer’s
Guide” and corresponding premium comparison pamphlet in English and Spanish are
available on the Bureau’s website. This guide is designed to help consumers understand
their insurance coverage, how to shop for it, and what to do if a problem arises.
You can also check the Bureau’s website to see if an insurance company is licensed
to do business.
The Property & Casualty Consumer Services Section staff can provide you with copies
of guides, assist you with any questions you have on auto insurance, and provide
guidance on how to shop for auto insurance. The Bureau’s Consumer Services Section
can be contacted at (804) 371-9185 or toll-free at (877) 310-6560. Consumers who
are hearing or speech impaired may call through the SCC’s Telecommunications Device
for the Deaf and hard of hearing (TDD) at (804) 371-9206 or by writing to the State
Corporation Commission, Bureau of Insurance, P. O. Box 1157, Richmond, Virginia