The efforts to minimize the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, throughout the U.S. are having a huge impact on the economy. Many businesses are closing their doors or significantly reducing their hours, and people are now dealing with reduced income or job loss. As a result, some will find it difficult, if not impossible, to pay their auto insurance bill. 

Several major auto insurance companies have announced plans to give customers refunds on their premiums. But a 15% discount may not be enough to ease your financial situation. 

Going without auto insurance is definitely something you want to avoid. Not only is auto insurance required by state law (except in New Hampshire), it’s also very costly if you have a lapse in coverage. Even just a one day lapse in coverage could cause your rates to go up by as much as 6%. 

And if you’re caught driving without auto insurance, it can result in steep fines and driver’s license suspension. For instance, driving in Florida without insurance means your license and registration can be suspended for up to three years. In addition, you may have to pay a reinstatement fee of up to $500.

Changing your coverage as a result of the coronavirus

If your situation has changed in any way as a result of the coronavirus, let your insurer know. Driving less or not at all could mean you’re now eligible for certain driving discounts. You may even consider dropping some coverages completely. If you have comprehensive or collision, be sure your savings will keep you covered in the event of an accident before you drop this coverage. 

Even though you may be on the road less, you still want to remain insured. Theft and accidents don’t stop in a pandemic. 

What if I can’t pay my car insurance bill?

A recent poll from NPR and PBS found that 25% of households with an income less than $50,000 have experienced a job loss or reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a sudden reduction in income - for any reason - and are struggling to pay your next car insurance bill, here are some ways to save.

Change your deductible. Check your car insurance policy to see the types of coverage you have that include a deductible. A deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket if you have to make a claim. Increasing your deductible amounts will lower your overall premium. Before you change your deductible, be sure you have enough funds in your savings to cover any expenses if you were in a car accident. 

Compare insurance quotes. When your policy is up for renewal, it’s an opportunity for your current insurer to re-rate you. Similarly, if you have any life changes such as a job loss, it’s also a good time to re-shop your insurance.

Once you receive a few quotes to compare, use them as leverage with your current auto insurance company to negotiate. If another insurance company offers you a much lower rate, your current insurer may very well match or even beat it. 

Review your coverage. Take a close look at your policy to see what coverage you have. Are you paying for options you don’t really need? For instance, if you have roadside assistance but have never used it, consider removing it. Same goes for rental car reimbursement. 

Ask about discounts. If you have lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic or have gone remote for work, tell your insurer about your change in commute. You may be able to save money by switching to a usage-based program or be eligible for a low-mileage driver discount. 

There are several types of discounts available, so be sure to ask your insurer about any you may be eligible for.  Some insurance companies offer discounts if you’re a member of particular organizations or businesses. Many insurers partner with banks, fraternities and sororities, and various professional organizations and will offer member discounts. 

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Auto insurance companies respond to coronavirus

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, many auto insurance companies have also turned to a remote staff. During these times, they are making a point to let their customers know they are available for support. Whether you need to make changes to your policy or have a claim to report, insurers remain available by phone, email, social media and app.  

From Liberty Mutual:

At Liberty Mutual the well-being of our customers and employees is always our top priority.

Regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), we wanted to provide you with an update and helpful tools. We are actively monitoring the situation and are taking steps to help keep our employees healthy and ready to serve you. We’ve enabled 100% of our employees to work remotely to minimize any impacts to servicing our customers. Currently there is no impact to normal customer service operations. 

From GEICO:

GEICO understands the concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19) may be causing anxiety and fear. Our priority is the health and safety of our customers, our employees, and the community. While we continue to monitor this situation closely, we're actively taking steps to make sure we're able to provide you with the service you need.

Bottom line

If you find yourself in a bind and unable to pay your car insurance bill this month, contact your insurer immediately. Work with them to adjust your coverage in ways that keep you protected but at the same time lower your premium.