Seven Auto Insurance Buying Tips

With the help of lawyer Guy Kornblum, Dreyer’s parents got their own insurer, State Farm, to pay out both the full $100,000 of uninsured motorist coverage on their auto and their $1 million in umbrella coverage. But given Bradley’s continuing needs, they now wish they’d carried even more coverage. “We have to face difficult decisions,” says Bradley’s mom, Mary Kate Dreyer. “We don’t want to rob him of treatment now, but we need to preserve his estate for the future, what could be lifetime care.”


Pull out your policy now. There may be smart ways you can cut your premiums, such as raising your deductibles, dropping collision on an older car, demanding special discounts or consolidating your policies with one insurer. But you might also need to pay for more protection from uninsured drivers and catastrophic injuries, warns Kornblum, who’s dealt with the fallout from severe auto accidents for 44 years.

The easiest way to save is by increasing both the collision and comprehensive (damage due to vandalism, fire, flood) deductibles for damage to your auto. As a practical matter, if you have a $500 deductible and $700 of damage to your car, would you even put in a claim? Many folks wouldn’t for fear it would raise their rates. That’s one reason it makes more sense to have a $1,000 deductible, says Mark McConnell, a claims officer in Roanoke, Va. with ACE Private Risk Services. Consider “full glass” coverage if you’re worried about a ding to your windshield; it’s cheaper than a lower comprehensive deductible.

This protects you and family members living with you should you be hit by a negligent driver who is uninsured or “underinsured,” even if you’re walking, bicycling or skateboarding at the time. According to the Insurance Research Council, at least 16% of drivers, and about a quarter of those in New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida, are uninsured. Underinsured? In California an “insured” motorist in the assigned risk pool can carry as little as $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $30,000 per accident.

Last year, ten days before his 21st birthday, Bradley Dreyer was skateboarding against traffic alongside a row of parked cars in Sonoma, Calif. when a drunk, uninsured motorcyclist crossed the double yellow line and hit him from behind. Dreyer, who had been studying to be an ER nurse, sustained a severe brain injury.