How often should you pay for your insurance?
In the good old days, the world was a simple place. You went into a store to buy goods, or to an agent or broker to buy services. The price was quoted and you paid it out of the cash in your bank account. If your account was poorly stocked with dollar notes, you had to wait until you had saved enough. In this primitive way, people lived within their means, only buying goods and services when they could afford them. Those who had regular income and some collateral, were graciously allowed to borrow money from their banks. But pity those who defaulted. Their collateral would rapidly disappear into the hands of their bankers. It was a tough world for borrowers. Then there was a revolution. Suddenly, there was cheap credit available and we could all have what we wanted right now. Just one down-payment and the rest in easy instalments. Then the revolution became a financial tsunami as the newly launched credit cards suddenly put real buying-power in our hands with generous credit limits. Add in the housing equity release plans and all the other wonderful financial gizmos dreamt up by the folk who live on Wall Street, and you have the modern age just before the worst recession in decades and the credit crunch that took everyone by surprise.
Buying insurance policies has always been potentially expensive. When you see the premium rate expressed as an annual sum, it can look a little daunting. Yet, when you are old enough to put wheels on the road, there’s mandatory liability cover in all but three US states. This is where dreams would fade were it not for the willingness of insurance companies to be flexible on the payments. First they dropped to 6 monthly payments. Some went for quarterly. And then the final act of liberation – the monthly instalment plan. Now you could buy your policy on the same basis as your home, the furniture and white goods in it, and the car you wanted to drive. Everything had come down to the total amount you could afford to pay every month and still have something left over to buy food. This has some major benefits. You can buy insurance with no down payment. Just use the internet search engines to find the auto insurance quotes offering the lowest premium rates, pay the first instalment in advance and you are legal on the road.
But there is more to it than that. Ignoring the supposed advantage of easier money management, it also frees you to change your auto insurance policy whenever you find a better deal. If you have paid six or twelve months in advance, this locks you into the policy. Yes, companies do allow you to change, but usually subject to cancellation charges – sometimes eye-poppingly high. The freedom to change insurers can be important if you change the make and model you drive. The existing insurer may be less competitive on the rates for the new vehicle, but the charges may take up the saving available by switching to a competitor. However, because insurers prefer stability, they offer discounts on 6 or 12 monthly payments to give them your cash in their hands. Paying on a monthly basis is always more expensive. As always, it’s your choice.