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Early Cancellation of Your Auto Policy: Things to Consider Before You Cancel

March 6, 2012

Whether you are unhappy with your rates or with some other aspect of your car insurance, changing to a new company is always an option. Before you make the switch, however, you should be sure you know exactly how much it will save you as well as how much it might cost you. Insurance companies sometimes charge penalties for early cancellation, and you will have to consider any fees or down payments required by the other company as well. Consider all of the costs before you make the switch.

Cancellation Penalties: Short-rating and Pro-rating

Insurance companies handle cancellations based on terms laid out in the policy when you sign up. Early cancellation involves administrative costs as well as the loss of the premiums which are rated based on the full term of coverage, usually a year. Each insurance company has their own policy regarding cancellations, and the penalties often vary based on when and why you cancel.

There are two basic methods by which auto insurance companies process refunds on a cancelled policy: short-rating and pro-rating. A pro-rated cancellation gives you back the full amount of the unused premium, while a short-rated cancellation takes a certain amount out of the refund as a penalty for early cancellation. If you have a 12 month policy and cancel after 3 months, you will get back 9 months worth of premium on a pro-rated system. If the company is short-rating the cancellation, you will lose some of that remaining premium. The amount depends on the company’s policies. Short-rating may only occur early in the policy term or may apply at any time.

Before you cancel, ask the company which method they will use and find out how much money you stand to lose in a short-rating situation. You’ll need this information to determine whether the savings on your new policy makes up for that difference.

Starting a New Policy: Fees and Down Payments

When you start up a new policy, there are usually costs associated with it. Insurance companies charge administrative fees for starting up a new policy, and they often charge a down payment as well. This means that in addition to any money you might lose on the cancellation of the old policy, you will have to pay these costs up front. Be sure to find out what they are and how much money you will need to put down at the start of the new policy so you don’t have any surprises.

Of course, these costs are a normal part of starting up a new policy, and even with them taken into consideration, you might still be saving money by switching right away. If the new premium is significantly lower than the old one, then it is usually the right move.

When to Shop for Car Insurance

Shopping around for your car insurance when your renewal is approaching is usually the best time and will help you avoid cancellation penalties. Cancelling on renewal gives you a smooth transition into the new policy.

However, if you are really not happy with your current rate or policy, you should take the time to shop around for rate quotes right away. Comparing rates will tell you if you really are overpaying, and by how much. If you find a lower rate, it’s simply a matter of adding up the costs of cancelling early and the costs of the new policy, and weighing them against the savings on the premiums. Calculate how much you will save over the policy term on premiums alone, and subtract from that the costs of early cancellation. If you still come out ahead, then cancelling right away is the right choice.

There’s no obligation to shopping around for car insurance, so getting some quotes to compare to your current rate won’t cost you anything. It’s a good way to keep tabs on what other companies are charging and make sure you aren’t paying more than you should be.

Cancelling your policy mid-term may be the right choice for you, or it might make more sense to wait until renewal. Make sure you get all of the information you need before you make a decision, and look at all of the costs and the savings. Knowing how much you actually stand to save makes the decision an easy one.

  • Peter P

    I have used insurance hotline once before and saved a significant amount on my auto insurance. Last summer I brought a brand new minivan and my annual premium increased significantly. I thought it was okay with the vehicle being new. However, on renewal this year, there was a substantial hike. I got a quote from insurance hotline that was saving me a 1000 dollars to what I was currently paying. Thank God for Insurance Hotline!

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    That’s great Peter! We’re happy to help you save time and money!

  • Not impressed

    I won’t mention any names but I recently put a car in my daughter’s name and the insurance company I have been dealing with for years initially quoted me something like $1,580.00 and when the bill came in it was $1,830.00.

    I checked on line and another insurance company and they offered me the same coverage for $1,472.00 and then called me to tell me that they had made a mistake and since my daughter had only been driving for 5 and not 6 years that I would incur some additional costs. When asked how much, I was told in the vicinity of $160.00 which I accepted.

    I got the final bill, and you guessed it it was higher than I thought, much higher as a matter of fact… total due now almost $1900.00.

    Upset you say… considering that I had to pay over $330.00 to cancel my initial policy, and bearing in mind that the insurance company was provided complete and exact information, I am at a loss to explain why I have to bear the added costs… it was not me that made the mistake in either instances.

    I am already looking for a new insurance company.

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