Car insurance in the Bay Area?
June 30, 2005 8:02 PM   Subscribe

BayAreaInsuranceFilter: What's the best and most reasonably-priced Bay Area insurer?

I am moving to the San Francisco Bay Area (specifically the Silicon Valley) permanently next month and will need to get new car insurance as I migrate off my parents'. I got quotes from a couple of the big dogs (Progressive and Geico, the latter being cheaper), but would like to know people's experiences in the Bay Area with both of those companies as well as any others -- as well as the kind of insurance coverage you find necessary out there. I'm aware California probably has many more uninsured motorists than other places (a fair if un-PC assumption), but probably has less in the way of the acts-of-God kind of damage (hail, rock chips) that I'm used to here in the mountains.

I am 24, have only one accident (not my fault) on my record, and none in the last five years. I did recently get cited for running a red light, though. Also, my new job has pretty significant medical coverage, is it worth buying more along with my car insurance?

Any assistance/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by symphonik to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Agents there will sell you cheaper insurance from off-shore companies. BUT when you have a claim, and they refuse to pay, the state can't/won't help you! Happened to me. Technically you can sue the agent in this case, but that's a whole hassle (I learned this years latter, when dating an insurance expert).

(in my sad case, I was rear-ended, hit-and-run, 4 days after getting my first nearly new car)
posted by Goofyy at 9:42 PM on June 30, 2005

I shopped insurance around quite a bit just a few years ago and the rate offered by Progressive for full boat coverage was less than half of what everyone else seemed to be offering. The GEICO quote I got was pretty expensive (as were the bigger, more expensive insurers like State Farm and Allstate, obviously).

I've made 3 claims with Progressive since purchasing a policy with them. I've had zero trouble getting everything taken care of with them. The most recent claim has been kind of a pain because the at-fault vehicle -- a Pepsico delivery truck -- was self-insured and isn't responding usefully to Progressive, but it's hardly Progressive's fault.

Uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory in California, so it really doesn't matter how many uninsured motorists there are on the roads from your perspective. Basically your policy choices are going to be a barebones Liability and Uninsured Motorist package, or a full ride policy.
posted by majick at 10:04 PM on June 30, 2005

Try Amica. Friendly underwriters, and unfortunately I can attest they do pay accident claims (my fault). My yearly premium didn't skyrocket. Great prices too.
posted by vaportrail at 10:30 PM on June 30, 2005

Have you been convicted for the red light violation yet? If there's any way to get it dismissed (traffic school, fighting it), absolutely pursue it. For the best rates (20% less than otherwise available from the same company), you have to qualify as a state-defined "Good Driver", which means no traffic convictions or at-fault accidents in the last 3 years.

> Uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory in California

This is not true. Your insurer must offer it, but you may decline it (and save money). I declined it because I have comprehensive/collision coverage on my expensive car, and separate medical insurance. True, I'm not 100% covered in the event of an uncollectable uninsured person being at fault, but much of the risk is removed. Keep in mind that state minimums are only $15k per person for bodily injury and $5k for property damage, so it's not like you shouldn't have your own coverage even if everyone was insured with the state minimums.

This relates to the "medical coverage" that auto insurers sell. If you have health insurance, the only thing you'll ever have to pay is what you spend out-of-pocket for medical expenses. If your health insurance is very good, this can be as low as $10 or $20 for an office visit, everything covered. So look at what your medical coverage is like, and realize that if someone else caused an accident, they're legally liable for your medical bills. Even if they can't pay, your normal health insurance still applies.

General stuff: Don't overestimate your annual mileage, this can have a substantial effect on premiums, and go with as large of a deductible as you can tolerate. ($1k seems to be the sweet spot. In addition to lower premiums, having a higher deductible also means you'll be less likely to make claims against your insurance and raise future rates.) Of course, if you suspect you'll be making lots of claims, a smaller deductible might work for you, but in general, I try to stay out of accidents.

I really don't want to sound like an insurance agent, but make sure you get sufficient liability coverage. The legal minimums (above) are very easily exceeded. Anything other than a minor fender-bender with one of the expensive cars around here, and you're totally looking at more than $5k in damage. Remember, you're personally liable for any damage you cause in excess of your coverage.

I have Progressive, have made one decent-sized claim, and it was handled quickly and totally to my satisfaction. That's my data point.

There are insurance "brokers" that have rates from about a bajillion companies, and can calculate all of them and give you the best rate for your situation. You'll probably have sketchy service from someone you've never heard of, and it might not be worth the hassle if you end up having to file a claim, but that's the way to get the cheapest "legal" rate.
posted by trevyn at 11:15 PM on June 30, 2005

For national insurers, I don't think that you'll find that much difference in quality from area to area. In other words, you don't need to restrict your question to "Bay Area insurers".

And, quite frankly, I wouldn't ever get my insurance from anything other than a national company, for all the reasons listed above - when you have a claim, you don't want to find out that your insurer is in bankruptcy.
posted by WestCoaster at 7:44 AM on July 1, 2005

We use 21st Century - even though I think it's expensive, whenever I get around to asking for a quote from another company, 21st Century seems to always be cheaper, what with all the discounts we get (good driver, sane professions, etc.). And they've always been really responsive when we've had a claim.
posted by jasper411 at 11:01 AM on July 1, 2005

Oh, also, since I'm talking to a net-savvy audience, Progressive makes detailed claim information available on the web. I'm talking line-by-line repair details, etc. It was very nice for keeping me up to date on what was going on during the repair. Of course, their site is also great for regular account maintenance stuff, getting quotes for adjusted coverage, etc.
posted by trevyn at 2:46 PM on July 1, 2005

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