There are about 1.5 million individuals currently serving the United States Armed Forces via the Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy, National Guard, and Coast Guard.
Each day, they put their lives on the line to protect our nation. Yet most people do not know how tough and unstable the life is for these brave individuals and their family members. One of the biggest challenge for military personnel is to purchase an affordable car insurance that fits their budget and flexible enough to compensate for the constant moving and deployment issue. Understanding your frustration, this article will help you find the most affordable military car insurance and offer you many tips on finding an affordable car policy to suit your needs.
What You Should Know Before Searching
Acknowledging the sacrifice made by all personnel, all active and retired members in the United States are entitled to several car insurance discounts. As set by federal law, every insurance provider is required to provide several important price reductions to all personnel and members affiliated with the military. As well, they should also be available to close family members and even widows of the service members.
Most Common Essential Military Discounts
Here are the essential discounts for service members:
Emergency Deployment Discount – This discount is available to all personnel that are deployed in danger zone areas which are designated by the Department of Defense (DOD) and approved by the Congress, and choose to store their vehicles in the provider's approved storage facility.
Military Installation Discount – 15% discount is given on all comprehensive auto insurance for any vehicles parked in bases.
Family Discount – Close family members of personnel can enjoy a 10% discount on their policies.
Affiliation Discount – All individuals who are affiliated with the army whether they are currently active or retired will be guaranteed a 15% discount on their coverage.
Depending on the insurance provider policies, some insurers offer extra discounts to individuals who are members of various professional affiliated association such as AUSA and AFSA. To learn more information about these discounts, please check with the provider for exact details.
Exception to the Rule Insurance Providers
Please note that certain insurance providers that work only with services personnel do not offer discounts or reward programs to members. This is because these companies are members-owned, non-profit organizations catered to help service members and their families without making a profit. As a result, they already offer a rate lower than most car insurer competitors. Other providers may only offer discounts and coverage to members who are residing around bases and certain states. For members who are residing outside of the coverage, they will not be able to enjoy the same benefits from these companies.
Factors to Consider Before Deciding on an Insurer
Cancel or Keep Insurance During Deployment
This is a very important factor to consider. You may think that cancelling your policy when you are deployed can save you a lot of money. This may not be the case. If you decide that you will never purchase a plan from any other insurance companies other than members-only insurers, this can save you several hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on your current premium. These companies are also known to be much more understanding with the gap in your coverage due to deployment. On the bad side, if anything happens to your vehicle while in storage, you will not receive any compensation the damage and loss. If your vehicle is leased or put on payment, you will be fully responsible for paying the rest of the amount even though you can no longer use your vehicle.
In the second scenario, if you currently hold a policy or wish to purchase a policy in the future from one of the well-known commercial providers such as Allstate, State Farm, Progressive, and even AAA, cancelling your policy is a bad move. Whenever an individual has a gap in between their vehicle coverage, many insurance companies will regard the individual as a high-risk, undependable customer. Consequently, they will either deny your coverage or penalize your lapse in coverage with a very high premium fee. You may be even surprised to discover the cost to be more than what you saved for cancelling your previous policy.
If you have family members who also need a policy, keeping your plan with the discounted price can save your family spending in the long run. By enjoying the lowered price along with a bundled discount, the family vehicle policy may come out to be both affordable and suitable for your needs.
If no one will be driving your vehicle during your deployment, there is a 3rd option to consider. Instead of a car insurance, you may inquire about a storage policy. These plans are lower price but they would require you to fulfill their requirement of making sure the vehicle is maintained at storage condition as long as the policy is active. This may include elevating the vehicle above ground or putting a locking mechanism on your wheels.
Military-Only vs. Commercial Providers
Although many companies claim that they are military-friendly, they are often somewhat clueless to the needs of services families and lack experience dealing with the abrupt changes to the policies due to deployment or duty extension situations. As a result, you may often end up with a bigger mess than you start with.
When it comes to picking an insurer, you have to make sure that they are familiar with the rights of personnel concerning policy change and cancellation. They should also have special flexibility for service individuals so that they do not get penalized for switching or downgrading their policies due to work-related requirements. For individuals who wish to cancel their policies during deployment, the company should allow you to put your plan on hold until you return to reinstate your policy.
Members-Owned Insurers vs. Privately-Owned Insurers
Privately-owned insurers see you simply as a policyholder or customer. They take your monthly premium fee and offer you coverage when you get into an accident. But if you are accident-free or do not file a claim, that premium fee is lost to the company as a profit. On the other hand, members-owned insurers that serve only service members and their families see you as a member of the association. You and all the other members get to decide how the total sum of all the premium fee are going to be allocated. In many cases, individuals who have no or few claim histories get to receive a rebate for being safe drivers. Just in 2016, $450 million dollars was refunded back to the USAA customers.
Deployment to Danger Pay Area vs. Non-Danger Zones
This can make your decision rather quickly when it comes to picking a provider. For certain insurers, you must be deployed to a danger pay area in order receive the extra rate or savings. So if you are ordered to station in areas that are not listed as a danger area such as Japan or Taiwan, you will not be able to enjoy the savings.
Price vs. Coverage
Many people use price as the primary factor for choosing a car insurance policy. This is completely fine if you are currently single and you have your vehicle stored at the base facility. However, if you have family members, you may want to consider more about the coverage should an accident occur. Although you may save on a low premium plan, there are several problems with a low-cost policy.
First, these plans are always very inflexible to your needs and cannot be changed without paying a hefty penalty.
Second, you may be surprised that it is very limiting when it comes to how much your will be compensated for your vehicle and bodily damage. It can be a bigger issue if your vehicle is currently on lease or on payment because. At the same time, you should consider the amount will cover for the other party's loss and damage should the accident is caused by your family member. If the plan cannot cover the costs, your members may be sued by the other party and be forced into bankruptcy. Instead of looking at just the premium cost, you should first decide on how much coverage your family members would need, and then search for the best price policy that fits your coverage needs.
Working with a Direct Writer vs. an Agent
Agents can make your purchasing experience much more personable and enjoyable. However, being a member of the army, you and your family members are required to move frequently according to your orders. If you choose to purchase a plan through an agent, you will need to sever the relationship and establish a new business relationship with another agent in your new location. This process can quickly become tiresome. This process may result either loss in money by switching between agents or a gap in your coverage. Additionally, if you decide to work with an agent, you should know that part of your premium cost will be pocketed by your agent as their commission. This cost is usually average between 10 to 15% of the premium, but it can be steeper depending on your agent's decision.
If you decide to go with a direct writer, there are several advantages. When you move, you only need to connect the writer to make the changes to your coverage. You do not need to wait till you arrive at your new location to deal with this issue. Most of the time, all you need to do is update your new address in their system. They will do the rest to match you with the best plan that fits your needs in the new location. Moreover, you will receive a lower premium because you do not need to fork out a commission. And these days with the advancing technology, you can receive the new information through email and on the company's website. Even when you are away in your deployment location, you can still access this information and make changes if necessary.
Check the Providers' Dependability Ratings
Finding out the financial ratings of the companies is very important. You can look up this information from the Standard & Poors, AM, and Moody's unbiased ratings of your provider. This score means how solid are they on their finance and how likely they will be able to pay for your claims in a natural catastrophe event.
For example, if an earthquake strikes in California, will this company be able to pay for claims of all its customers within a timely manner? Or will they go belly up and file for bankruptcy if large volume of claims is filed all at once? Also, you should consider whether this company can handle such a situation? For certain insurance providers, they have a catastrophe team ready 24/7 for such an occasion. When you are talking with an agent or a direct writer on the phone, be sure to ask about such feature.
Reputable Military-Friendly Auto Insurance Providers to Consider
Instead of letting you do all the research yourself, here are several companies that specialize in military discounts and are very familiar with issues all services members face due to their line of work.
USAA (United Services Automobile Association)
USAA is the leading auto insurance provider that specialize in providing insurance and financial assistance to all active and veterans and their family members in the United States. According to a recent consumer report survey, members of the USAA save $409 on average by switching to an USAA policy. Individuals who are currently active on duty can even save up to 90% on their premium while their vehicles are stored in a secure location approved by the company. If you decide to park your vehicle at a base facility, USAA can provide you with an additional deduction as well. For deployed and active members, this company is on average 59% cheaper than many other providers such as Allstate, MetLife, and State Farm. The only company that presents as a great competitor is GEICO (more information below).
Although USAA may not necessary have the lowest premium cost, they do offer a refund at the end of the year depending on the company's annual spending. At the same time, their biggest selling point is that they truly understand your family needs as a services family. As a result, they are understanding and flexible to any abrupt changes in your needs because of unanticipated situations such as deployment to danger zone locations.
In addition, they understand the financial challenges you face as a service personnel, and they are willing to work with your pay schedule so that you do not fall behind in your premium payments. In addition, they will not slap you with an interest fee or convenience charge if you opt to pay for your policy in installments. If you are constantly offended by these hidden charges from other companies, you can be assured that this insurer is not here to maximize their profits but to help you and your family make life easier. USAA ranked as the top military car insurance provider with the highest customer claims satisfaction and settlement satisfaction of 5/5 stars.
Armed Forces Insurance
Armed Forces Insurance is unique from other companies because it is a non-profit member-owned organization that strives to cater to the needs of officers. It started off as a property insurance provider to military families, and now it offers vehicle policies to 10 states in the United States. To compensate for this problem, they have teamed up with Progressive to provide affordable premium car insurance to personnel in other 28 states.
Another interesting fact about AFI is that it is a reciprocal exchange insurance company. This means that each insured member is also a shareholder of the company. Instead of paying the premium as a sold product, you are investing in the company so that the company can pool together the "investment" to protect every shareholder.
As mentioned earlier in the article, members may receive a year-end "bonus" depending on how much money is actually spent on paying the claims and how much money is left over afterwards. Another advantage to this type of insurance is that they tend to be much lower priced and more flexible to policy changes due to deployment or duty extension. However, being a stakeholder also make you responsible for any lawsuits that may come.
Although AFI can be much lowered price, there are some limitations to this business. Unlike other companies where anyone can become an agent and sign you up for a policy, Armed Forces Insurance require that only their own licensed representatives have the right to register you to a policy. The problem is that these agents are only available in certain states.
However, this option is only available to California and New York residents. Therefore, if you reside in those states where their agents are not available, they will send you to a Progressive Insurance representative instead. Many customers have complained that this can produce a lot of problems during the claiming process as both companies lack communication. Due to this issue, AFI only scores 3/5 stars in customer satisfaction ratings.
Although GEICO is not a military-only insurer, they do treat army members exceptionally well. The extent of the company's pledge to serve the army is very apparent because they have devoted a specialize Military Assistance Team department for all army members needs. All the members on the team are former personnel. So not only do GEICO support the troop members, they actually help create jobs for veterans.
When it comes to premium rates, is often the cheapest choice amongst all the insurance providers on the auto insurance market. In 2016, it has been named as the most affordable provider in 10,000 cities across the United States. To pay their respect to the bravery of all those individuals who defend our country, they are offering a 15% rebate to all service individuals no matter which branch you are/were in, even the National Guard.
Also, everyone who is related to the military member (including widows and ex-spouses, and children) are all eligible for such discount. In addition, if you are a member of AUSA (Association of the U.S. Army), NIA (National Infantry Association), or FRA (Fleet Reserve Association), GEICO will offer you extra rebate on top of that 15% discount. These added savings can really stack up to save you about $300 per year on average. Another advantage of GEICO is that for those personnel who are active on duty, the company try their best to offer you the lowest price coverage plan when you are sent to danger pay areas for duty. These special markdown rates continue as long as your vehicle is stowed in one of the company-approved storage places (all on base storage facilities are company approved).
Even though GEICO have the lowest rates and tend to have a lot of great savings for on duty individuals, it may not be your first choice depending on where you are stationed. Unlike USAA, they only allow extra low rates to members who are deployed to danger pay areas. If you are on duty in non-danger zones, you may want to choose another provider that will give you the same special rate instead.
Another factor you may want to also consider is that GEICO scores only 3/5 in both customer satisfaction and claims handling according to the unbiased customer surveys. This can be due to their way of compensating for the lower policy price by making customers use online self-serve functions. If you are not computer savvy, you may want to go with a provider with more physical customer help presence.
Other Factors that Affect Your Premium Cost
Even though military discounts can help you lower the policy cost, you should know that there are other factors that can affect how much you have to pay for your premium. Obviously, there are factors that are out of your control such as your age, gender, and your marital status. If you are single, male, and under the age of 25, you can expect your premium to be much higher. However, you should also be aware that there are other controllable factors that can affect how much your policy costs:
- Having good credit: Believe it or not, insurance companies uses credit history as a factor to decide whether an individual is dependable or not. If you are responsible with your spending, pay bill on time, and has no unpaid debt, they will regard you as a low-risk customer who will likely to pay the premium on time and offer you a much lower rate than if you have fair or bad credit history.
- Where you live: Living in higher crime, busier cities will cost you more than you were to live in more rural areas of the country.
- The year, make and model of your car: Depending on the brand of car you drive, you may have to pay more for your premium as the cost of repair is higher. Depending on different providers, some regard new cars to be lower risk and deserves a lower premium (some companies may even give you a new car discount); whereas others regard older cars to be cheaper to repair and thus deserves a lower premium.
- Your driving record: If you have several accidents and traffic violations under your belt, you can expect your policy to be more expensive. In extreme cases, insurers may deny your coverage if you have incurred many accidents and violations record. If they do accept you, they may demand a hefty safety deposit to accept your coverage.
- Whether you smoke or not: Non-smokers have lower cost policies. Companies see individuals who do not smoke as people who are more responsible and no risk of causing an accident because of smoking while driving.
Steps to Make the Search Quick and Simple
Here are some tips to make your search more straightforward and less time-consuming:
Collect all relevant information on hand before your search. These are you and your family members' driver's licenses, vehicle identification numbers, and vehicle registration numbers (VIN). If you currently have a policy, it can be useful to have the policy number and the policy name as well. The competing providers can use your current policy information to quickly match a plan that suit your needs.
Consider your budget and your needs. List all the must-have features that should be included in your policy. In your search, all the options may cloud your mind and make you forget about your priorities.
Use your resources. All military branches have a dedicated website to help you with your financial and insurance needs. You can find out more by visiting the main source page at www.militaryonesource.mil. You can also reach their toll-free hotline at 800-342-9647 or use the live chat function on the website. Another option is to use the USInsuranceonline.com to quickly search and compare for the best options.
Ask your colleagues which provider they have chosen and which companies to stay away from. Reading reviews online is one thing, but actually hearing personal experiences from people you know can really allow you to decide if certain company actually lives up to the ratings.
Check online bad reviews on the companies and see if you can detect a trend of flaws for various companies. For example, Allstate is known as one of the most financially stable providers in the United States. You would assume that they will be quick with processing and paying for the claims. In reality, many customers have complained that their adjusters like to lowball the damage compensation and make them fight every step of the way to get a reimbursement for their claims. If you and your family are on a tight budget and cannot afford to wait a month for the reimbursement check to come through the mail, learning this information about a provider can really be a deal breaker.
Contact the companies for any questions you cannot find online. They are here to help you. Instead of getting frustrated, simply give their hotline a call and allow a representative to help you. Dealing with so many cases on a daily basis, they can quickly give you the answer you need and even offer alternative tips and solutions that may further lower your premium or provide you with better coverage. Besides the common discounts, there are other factors that can qualify you as a low-risk, responsible driver and further savings. Here are some of the common factors:
Non-frequent driver: If you drive less than a certain miles per year, you are very likely to have a lower premium cost
Long driving record with minimal accident and violation history: Many insurers will give you a reward for being a safe driver with no accidents and violation history over a 5 year duration. Others will even overlook your first accident or violation and not raise your premium.
Installation of anti-theft devices: If you install alarm systems, wheel locks, and ignition protection devices to your vehicle, the company will give you a better deal because your vehicle is less prone to be stolen.
Bundling your insurance policies: Almost all insurance companies will offer you a lower bundled price if you purchase your car and home policy with them.
Senior discount: If you are over the age of 55, you can qualify for the senior discount offered by almost all insurance companies.
Ask for all qualifying discounts: It never hurts to ask, all auto insurance companies have a number of discounts and reward programs for different customer markets. Just by taking a defensive driver refresher course can already qualify you for a discount. Other common discounts are safe driver rewards, new car discounts, good student rewards, and multiple vehicle policy discount.
Take advantage of living on base: As bases are regarded as one of the safest places in the United States, the insurers will give you a much lower rate than if you live in a neighborhood that are more prone to car theft and accidents. Even if you choose not to live on the base, try to move in a neighborhood with lesser crime by googling the crime statistics and enjoy a lower premium rate.
Select Auto Payment Method: Companies always encourage customers to set up an auto payment plan so that they do not need to keep reminding you to pay your premium or even go through the process of canceling your policy due to missed payment. They will go as far as giving you a 10 to 15% discount for opting autopay.
Narrow down your choices and sign up via internet, phone call, or in person depending on the options offered by the provider.
We hope that we have answered your concerns regarding military car insurance and discounts. If you have any tips to share, please leave your stories and experiences in the comments area for others to read.