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 One of the most important factors to consider in selecting a car insurance policy is the reliability of the insurer.  Is the insurer known to pay out promptly, and in fair amounts?  Or does the insurer have a reputation for having lazy underwriters and muddling things up in court?  Obviously these are not the sorts of things that one is likely to see advertised on an insurer’s website or TV ad, so to know what you’re getting into, you’ll have to do a bit more digging.

Browse consumer opinions and online forums.  Generally people don’t stay silent about bad insurance practices when they get a bum deal, even a simple Google search can often give an indication as to which companies inspire diatribes.  A particularly good resource to consider for online car insurance is JD Power and Associates.  JD Power is a a global marketing information services firm that takes surveys on customer satisfaction.  It is very reliable and a must-see for discriminating customers.

Visit your state’s Department Of Insurance website.  You may not yet be aware of this, but every state has a department of insurance, and many of these publish guides to help consumers familiarize themselves with the online car insurance market.  The guides are complete with useful statistics including consumer complaint ratios, and state-specific policies that one would not otherwise find out from a broader source, in order to help the public make educated decisions. 

You may also want a first-hand opinion.  You may want to consider talking to body shop workers, who deal with insurance payments directly.  They will be very aware of with insurance companies are reliable and which ones cause headaches.  If you know any lawyers, you may also want to talk to them as well.  Depending on their practice, they may have dealt with long litigation battles with disreputable insurance companies, or are privy to horror stories from other lawyers.  In general, it is unwise to talk to the average consumer about insurer liability.  Because insurance is coverage against an unlikely occurrence, most people are inexperienced with the workings of more than one insurance company (and if they are lucky, they are not ever familiar with that).  This leads most consumers to have a very small sample size of personal experience to draw conclusions from, and may lead their analysis in wild directions.  If you view a consumer complaint forum, you will see this; wild opinions, pro and con, surround nearly every online car insurance company.  Individually they are not very helpful, only the average of these opinions is a very useful tool.

This Financial Services article was written by Mark Karavan on 10/14/2009

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