More Consumers Shop for Auto Insurance, but Not Many Switch

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  • Over the past few years, there has been a greater effort on the part of many auto insurers to get people to switch providers. However, it seems that while the former efforts have clearly been effective, the latter have largely not been quite so good as insurers might have liked. And if insurance agents want to make sure the situation stays that way, it may be wise to ensure that they’re effectively communicating with their clients on an ongoing basis so that those people better understand why they pay what they do for coverage, and are less likely to be enticed to shop around.

    Over the course of last year, the average auto insurance rate went up about 2.1 percent, following 2013’s increase of 2.5 percent, according to the latest U.S. Insurance Shopping Study by J.D. Power. Consequently, about 39 percent of auto insurance policyholders shopped for new providers in 2014, up from 32 percent the year before. However, fewer are actually switching.

    Tracking the change
    In fact, the number of those potentially discontented shoppers who actually switched slid to just 29 percent, which was down from last year’s 37 percent, the report said. Put another way, in 2014, only about 11.3 percent of all policyholders made a switch, down very slightly from 11.8 on an annual basis.

    “Customers are being pushed into the market due to rate increases, but unless they can find a policy that will save them money, they’re not switching providers,” said Valerie Monet, director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power. “In fact, many of those customers can’t find a better deal and ultimately don’t switch insurers. Customers who shop and do find a better deal will likely switch insurers, and increasing satisfaction scores among customers who recently switched suggests that those customers are pleased with the price they receive.”

    Meanwhile, the average person who switched was able to reduce his or her premiums by $388 for this year, up from $340 the year before, and $351 in 2013, the report said. And in general, there was a slight uptick in satisfaction with new coverage providers for every $25 a person was able to cut from his or her annual costs.

    Rising costs seem to be a primary driver of auto insurance shopping.Rising costs seem to be a primary driver of auto insurance shopping.

    Characteristics of loyal customers
    Meanwhile, it should be noted that those numbers show that nearly 9 out of every 10 customers have not switched coverage providers in the last two years, the report said. In 2014, 53 percent stuck with their current insurers because they found that company provided the lowest price, up from 43 percent.

    Analysis shows that people actually tend to be happiest with their coverage not when they pay the least, but when they have the best relationships with their insurers or agents. As a consequence, the greater the efforts on the part of insurers to deal with clients on a regular basis, and have open lines of communication with them, the better off both are likely to be. Insurers won’t suffer as many losses to marketing efforts from their competitors, and people may not only be happier with their coverage, but also understand it better.