Monday, October 10, 2005

Tales of the Marketplace, Vol. 2

I wrote a column this morning about a Philadelphia resident who keeps on getting outsize auto-insurance prices from AARP – triple or even quadruple what he’s currently paying, and twice as high as any quote he’s gotten in the same period from any other insurer.

So far, readers’ response seems to be split. Some think I was unfairly trashing the Hartford subsidiary that offered coverage for prices ranging from about $6,000 to $7,500 a year. Usually their reason was that Hartford had been good for them.

Others think I was unfairly trashing AARP, which essentially licenses its name to Hartford, as it does to other companies for other kinds of insurance. Usually their reason was that AARP insurance had been good for them.

And some said right on, often because they, too, had gotten expensive quotes or coverage through AARP or directly from Hartford.

I’ll post some of their stories later, but many of the responses missed a key point: that with auto-insurance prices based on complicated formulas and personal data – including credit information and territories that companies are free to draw however they wish – it’s impossible to say that one company or another in general offers the best prices. That's why it's absolutely essential to shop around.

I’ve seen this over and over again, and I see it in the calls and e-mails from readers today: The same company can offer the best deal to one customer and the worst deal to another – and that second person can living across the region or across the street.

The point is to check as many prices as possible. And that' no slap at Hartford or AARP.


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