More drivers are getting car insurance ‘stimulus checks’ — time for your next refund?
While most people have given up on the prospect of more stimulus checks from Washington, some drivers are still finding money in the mail.
Insurance companies are being squeezed for more cash after offering drivers modest discounts and rebates last year.
And now another wave of refunds is coming to drivers in one state after the governer accused insurance companies there of hoarding billions in extra cash.
If you feel like you've been overpaying for your coverage, here's how you might get a check — or at least get a break from your insurer.
Insurers on blast for billions in the bankddisq / Shutterstock
In the latest assault on the deep pockets of car insurers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has called for refunds of up to $675 per vehicle to be "promptly returned" to policyholders in her state.
“Billions in surplus funds should not be held by insurers to invest for their own profit or be conditioned on renewal of a policy,” Whitmer wrote in a letter earlier this month.
The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is accused of holding $5 billion more than necessary in a fund that reimburses insurers for expensive medical claims.
The insurance companies that make up the association have quickly agreed to offer a refund — as the law requires — though they're hesitant to do as the governor asks and distribute the entire surplus.
The law might only require them to offer $100 refunds, forcing drivers to look elsewhere for significant savings.
Siege continues across the countryPascal Vosicki/Shutterstock
Though it's not the case in Michigan, most complaints in other states are related to overcharging during the pandemic.
When the streets were empty and accidents few, Progressive reported an 82% increase in net income. Geico’s pretax earnings tripled during the second and third quarters of 2020.
Insurance providers voluntarily gave out more than $14 billion in refunds last year, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association says, but many critics aren't satisfied.
“On behalf of consumers, I am out of patience,” California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara wrote last month, giving three of the stingier companies 30 days to "tell us once and for all how they are going to make it right.”
A state analysis found that insurers returned an average of 9% of auto premiums from March to September 2020, but the Insurance Department estimates they should have refunded nearly double that amount.
Washington and New Mexico are also assessing whether drivers got enough money back, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sent several pointed letters to the state's insurance regulator. The conflict has even ended up in the courts, with class-action lawsuits filed this year in Nevada and Illinois.
So can I get free money from my insurance company?Amy K. Mitchell / Shutterstock
Unless more regulators step in or the class-action suits succeed, insurers won’t be forced by law to hand out more money than they already have.
Most rebates provided last year were minimal; it was rare to get back more than half a month’s premium. On average, advocacy groups say, insurers shortchanged policyholders $125 per vehicle.
But some companies didn’t issue refunds or cut rates at all unless customers called and asked.
If you haven’t contacted your insurer yet, you might have free cash waiting for you. And with pressure mounting, your provider might be open to reviewing your premium, especially if you’re still driving less than before.
But if your insurance company refuses to give you a pandemic discount, you can try a couple other ways to cut your insurance bill:
Drop optional coverage
Some auto insurance policies include extras that you may be able to do without for a while. For example, can you cut out the option that pays for a rental car while yours is at the repair shop?
Removing these extras can save you a few bucks. Just make sure you’re still meeting your state’s minimum liability coverage and are protected in case of an accident during those trips to the grocery store.
Switch insurance providers
If your insurer won’t give you a break, maybe you can find a new one that will.
If you haven’t done any comparison shopping over the last six months, you could be overpaying by more than $1,000 per year.
With a free quote-comparing service, you could find a better price in just a few minutes.
What if I need even more savings?Prostock-studio / Shutterstock
If saving on car insurance isn’t enough, here are a few more ways to give your bank account a boost until the economy bounces all the way back.
Slash your other insurance bills. By doing some simple comparison shopping using online tools, you can save hundreds on your homeowners insurance and get an instant life insurance quote.
Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve relied on credit cards throughout the pandemic, expensive interest is bound to catch up with you. A lower-interest debt consolidation loan can fold your balances into a single, lower-interest payment — and help you find freedom from your debt sooner.
Invest your spare change. Using a popular investing app, you can automatically invest the “change” left over from everyday purchases. You won't even notice the deposits as you build or round out your investing plan.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.