American Car Insurance is Bonkers

Almost three years into my “American Adventure” and I still don’t own a car. Quite frankly it didn’t make sense to get one – my girlfriend had one and it was barely used, as we lived in Queens and spent most of our time in the local neighborhood or else in Manhattan.
That decision has proven even more prescient as we now find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, where going out and about is really not well advised.

We do still have one, however, and so there are some procedural things that need to be taken care of. I discovered – to my surprise and honestly slight consternation – that the vehicle was still owned by my partner’s father and insured by him too. This was alien to me, having been the registered owner of my own vehicles from my early 20s, and also kind of a problem – I had no frame of reference of how things worked in this country compared to mine and, as it turned out, neither did she!

The issue was ignored until recently, when we discovered that in order to have the car inspected in Massachusetts, it needed to be registered here. Registering it here required insurance in the state, which had to include the vehicle’s owner … and so a game of pass-the-paperwork was begun to get my partner registered as the owner, in order to get her insured, and then to get the car inspected, as it’s due this month (August).

I ended up shopping for insurance because, despite having no idea how it worked here, I had at least done it for myself before in another country, so technically that made me the more experienced one.

What I discovered was yet more of America’s baffling attempts to appear helpful whilst actually trying to screw over the consumer, and make as much money as possible in the process.

Back in the UK, which I now consider to be an absolute champion of consumer rights, there are a number of price comparison websites which allow you to put your details in and let them scan the market to get you the most competitive offer. Whichever one you choose is then a simple click-through to purchase and register, and you’re done.

My first experience with that attempt here was to find insurify.com, which gave me the impressive total of one website to “compare” my options.
Suffice it to say I gave up pretty quickly, and went to Progressive.com, with whom we have Renters Insurance.

Their process was pretty quick and easy, though the price they spit out was a little steep – in my naïve view – at roughly $390 for six months.
Why six months? No idea. They all did this, despite MA law stating that they have to offer a 12 month coverage, and who the hell insures a vehicle they own for just six months anyway?!

It was then I discovered something which made me laugh and cry inside all at the same time. All of that cost wasn’t even covering the vehicle! All of this cost was wrapping up the ‘what if you kill or maim someone’ costs, the inclusion of which does make sense because this country is nothing if not:
a. Litigious as hell,
b. Designed to squeeze money out of anybody sick, injured, or dying.

But … it’s car insurance! Sorry, “auto insurance”, and it doesn’t even cover the vehicle!

Anyway, after adding in the relevant options for the thing we’re actually trying to protect, the cost vaulted to an eye-watering $550+ for just six months. This is for someone who’s had a license for 9 years, on an 8 year old vehicle. Madness.

At this point I decided we had to find something cheaper elsewhere. At the end of the quote, Progressive offered to compare their cost against some other insurers (conspicuously missing from the price comparison website) which I jumped on, only to discover yet more ‘throw sand in the consumer’s eyes’ tactics when the links all brought me to other insurance pages with no quote, just a nice blank slate inviting me to input all the information again.

Perhaps Progressive decided people would be too weary and just go with their quote?

I filled in the information on one of the sites that popped up, matching Progressive’s details, and found an almost $1000 quote for half a year. The second site took all of the details, only to then offer me even more links to other insurance sites, also not pre-populated with the info I’d filled in.

By this point I was getting angry, and wondering why Americans are apparently so happy to put up with such piss poor customer service at literally every turn of trying to get something done, when my girlfriend suggested Geico, with the caveat that they might be really expensive too.

I’d like to pause and just say, I’ve heard of Geico for years, mostly thanks to a Kanye West track, and I do enjoy their advertisements, but also concurred that they were likely to be really expensive.

It’s wonderful to be wrong!

Geico are showing the rest of the insurance companies how it should be done. Not only was the process easy, they actually had a proper explanation for what the various options were, with real-world examples of how the various coverages and deductibles would work in practice.
To cap it all off, they were much cheaper!! For $340 we got better coverage than Progressive, and a much better experience overall!

Of course it’s actually $680 for the year which I still think is too expensive, but it wouldn’t be America without things being aggressively overpriced. It also probably doesn’t help that we live in Massachusetts, home of some impressively reckless drivers (there’s a reason Mass. drivers are referred to as ‘Massholes’ and it’s a well-earned moniker).

So at the end of it all, the car is correctly insured as of tomorrow at 12:01AM, and my girlfriend will be heading to the RMV to get the car transferred to her name, and I’m $340 poorer 🙂

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