Sunday, February 15, 2009

AIG quote is cheaper: Should he switch?

Jim asks:
I received an insurance quote from AIG for both my homeowners and my auto insurance policies. The savings over my current policy is substantial; 30% for auto and 50% for homeowners. Is there a risk to switching to AIG? How can their rates be so low? What is the catch?

First, it is important to insure with a company that is financially solvent.
There are three companies that perform in depth investigations to determine an insurance company's financial strength—A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The most reliable, financially-stable insurance companies are rated AAA or triple-A. Most of the major insurance companies are A-rated. It is recommended that you go with an insurer that has at least a B rating.

To check AIG’s rating I went to the A.M. Best Website. AIG was rated A. This means only 1 in 500 companies in this category can be expected to go out of business and these companies are 3.3 times more likely to fail than those in the most secure ratings.

What are the consequences if AIG were to fail?
The chances of this happening are pretty slim, since AIG just received an influx of cash from the government. But if they were to fail, not only would you lose any premiums you had paid in, but you could liable for claims incurred if AIG was deemed insolvent. This could be substantial in the event of a liability claim. You would also need to shop for a new insurance policy; most likely one that will cost you more in premiums.

The greater problem may be slow processing of claims.
The InsuranceUSA Website is a marketplace where visitors can learn about insurance products and services and compare competitive offerings. AIG received 29 reviews; scoring 2/5 on customer service and 2.12/5 on claims. Saving money on insurance is great, but if customer service is poor and your claims are not processed on a timely basis you could be setting yourself up for frustrations down the road.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Really delve into both policies to make sure your AIG quote is not providing less coverage. Compare:
Policy Limits
Perils Covered
Valuation Clause: Actual cash (depreciated) value or replacement cost.

What is the Catch?
AIG lost a lot of business when it almost collapsed and is most likely aggressively trying to win back market share. If this is true and they are low-balling you this year, be prepared for a substantial increase in premiums next year.

Get multiple quotes.
The only way to know for sure if AIG is giving you a good deal it to get multiple quotes; maybe your current insurance company has been overcharging you.

Strategy Recommendation
Before switching, I’m recommending a strategy I’ve learned from the insurance agent I use at work: Go back to your current carrier, inform them you received a lower quote from another carrier (or several if you have multiple competitive quotes) and will switch carriers unless they can lower or better yet match your quoted premiums. If they want to keep your business, they may offer to revise your current policy's premiums. If they refuse, you will have to decide, based on your comfort level with the above information, if you want to make the switch.

The Decision
Jim switched to AIG. In performing his due diligence, he found his current carrier, Allstate, scored just as bad if not worse in financial stability, customer service and claims processing. He was comfortable that he received an apples to apples quote. Based on this information, he did not take my advice and go back to Allstate and ask if they would match his quote.

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