Unrelenting snowstorms and icy roads wreaked havoc in Massachusetts last winter and were the culprits in many car accidents, from fender benders to major wrecks. For some Bay State drivers, winter is still causing damage, this time to the wallet in the form of more expensive Massachusetts car insurance quotes.
Why? Weather-related auto accidents led to an increased number of insurance claims for injuries and damage to vehicles, insurance experts say. When insurers face increased costs for claims, they can seek to recoup their losses by raising insurance rates. This is resulting in higher premiums for many Massachusetts drivers, explains Aimee Goddard, vice president of the agency Eastern Insurance Group based in Natick, Massachusetts.
“This year carriers are hurting. It was the worst winter in history and there were a lot of accidents due to the ice, snow and skidding,” Goddard says.
Rates on the rise
Insurance companies can file to increase rates at any time with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance. The division monitors these requests and approves them if they are warranted to help cover an insurer’s rising costs, says Donna McKenna, a spokeswoman at the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA).
“It was a horrendous winter,” McKenna says, adding that it was no surprise that rate hikes have been approved for several insurance carriers in the state.
The following insurers are among those raising rates for Massachusetts drivers:
- Encompass Insurance Co. is raising average rates by 9.9% in August, the biggest rate hike approved so far.
- Harleysville Insurance, part of Nationwide Insurance, got the green light to raise average rates by 6% in July for new customers and in August for renewing customers.
- Liberty Mutual Insurance was approved for a 4.9% average increase in April, following a 6.9% average rate hike in 2014, says Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for the carrier.
- Safety Insurance raised its rates by 3.8% in June.
- Plymouth Rock raised rates by 3.1% in July.
At the same time, some companies lowered rates, including Vermont Mutual, which dropped rates by an average 3.2% in May, and Quincy Mutual, which is lowering its rates by 1.5% in August.
(Rate data, other than Liberty Mutual, comes from the MAIA’s member website, based on filings with the Division of Insurance.)
Although it’s never easy to see rising car insurance rates, keep in mind that the posted rate increases are averages. Your rates may not be affected, McKenna says.
Car insurance quotes depend on many factors including your age, where you live and your personal driving record. These factors may have far more impact than recent weather-related rate increases. For example, if you cause an accident and submit an insurance claim in Massachusetts, your premiums likely will rise when renewal time comes around, McKenna says.
How to get lower rates
If you want to get cheaper car insurance, it’s important to shop around by comparing insurance company quotes.
“There is no substitute for getting multiple quotes for auto insurance. Drivers may also want to consider the size of their deductible, the amount of optional coverage they carry and the cost of additional products like towing, rental car coverage or new-car replacement,” Division of Insurance spokesman Pete Fullerton says.
McKenna suggests starting by digging out your insurance policy to see your current coverages and costs. With this information in front of you, you can compare apples to apples for similar policies at competing insurance companies. You can get quotes online or call your carrier or agent to review options.
You also may be able to lower your premium with your current insurer by adding in discounts that you may have overlooked or may not have been eligible for in the previous year. Bundling homeowners and auto insurance policies also can save you money, as can good-driver discounts.
If you have been in an accident, you may find that some companies are more lenient than others. Liberty Mutual, for example, offers an accident forgiveness program that means it doesn’t raise rates after your first accident, Greenberg says.
If you find a lower quote, however, make sure you are getting all the coverage you want. The price may be lower because you are not properly comparing rates with what you currently have, McKenna says. “If you get a lowball quote, it’s probably lowball insurance,” she says.
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