published Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Biz Bulletin: Tips for purchasing auto insurance

Jim Winsett

Q. I am planning to get a new automobile. There are so many auto insurance options available; does BBB have tips for purchasing automobile insurance?

A. Great question, and yes, there are limitless automobile options and insurance coverage's available in the marketplace. You are well advised to educate yourself on these options as you prepare to make this investment. BBB provides the following suggestions and consumer tips:

• Get the most from your auto insurance. Motor vehicle collisions and other auto-related mishaps result in billions of dollars in property damage, medical and legal bills and lost income every year. Car owners need to protect their vehicle and themselves with auto insurance, but how do you know if you are properly covered? It is not enough to simply have car insurance. Car owners should be aware of what their insurance covers, and what it does not cover.

• Understand the insurance coverage you are buying. Compare the different types of insurance and choose the coverage that best suits the vehicle you own and your financial situation. Most jurisdictions require you to carry liability insurance in case you are at fault in an accident. But if your car is relatively new or if you still owe money on it, you will want to consider collision insurance as well. Shop around; it is advisable to solicit three price proposals for auto insurance, each based on the same coverage options and deductibles.

• Know and monitor the condition of your vehicle. When considering a new car purchase, think about maintenance costs. Cars that are expensive to service and repair are often targets for theft. If you are buying a used car, ask to see the title, check all the gauges, and consider getting a vehicle history report, which will tell you if the vehicle has ever been in an accident or flood.

• Report damage to your insurance company as soon as possible. If you are in an accident, or if your vehicle suffers damage from severe weather, contact your insurance agent or claims center right away. They may be able to save you money and may also arrange to have your car towed if it is not drivable.

• Get to know your mechanic. Establish a business relationship with a reputable, BBB accredited auto repair shop. During each visit, have them explain the repair process to you and get estimates in writing for large service jobs.

BBB rates tens of thousands of insurers, car dealers and auto repair facilities. Be sure to check out bbb.org before buying, insuring or repairing your vehicle. Visit http://video.bbb.org/auto-insurance/ to see a video on auto insurance consumer tips.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

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