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Big Government vs. Small Government in Auto Insurance

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The spring edition of USAA Magazine arrived in the mail yesterday. Most of the information is extremely basic fundamentals such as "make your coffee at home to save money." I seriously doubted I'd find anything worthwhile, but on magic page #33, there was a great article that caught my attention.

The focus on the article was the cost of regulating auto insurance. In New York, one of the highest regulated states, the insurance department budget was $179 million. In Illinois, one of the least regulated, it was $18 million. Despite having the same big city (New York vs. Chicago) and rural areas, that difference is huge. This leads to each NY driver paying about $444 more for the same coverage.

Lastly the article brings up Massachusetts. I had been paying for Massachusetts auto insurance for years. The Massachusetts regulators make it so difficult for insurers to make a profit that many don't even try. Sometimes when I'm really bored, I call up Geico to ask if they can save me money in 15 minutes. Of course they can't because the insurance is standardized across the state, yet it doesn't stop them from making the claim four times a day when I'm watching TV.

Posted on March 6, 2007.

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11 Responses to “Big Government vs. Small Government in Auto Insurance”

  1. I also pay MA insurance. I have to say though it’s way cheaper than CA. Mainly because if you’re a bad driver it evens out the costs to everyone. In CA, the cost lies solely on you. Such that the insurance company will drop you if you have a ticket or claim to keep costs low. It’s very free market.

    Which is much better if you are a “good” driver.

  2. JohnR says:

    I guess it really does matter where you live I pay Ohio insurance and I can’t imagine it being lower. I pay $500 a year for me and my wife and we both drive in heavy traffic every day. That includes collision coverage on 1 car.

  3. Tim says:

    I take anything insurance companies publish with a grain of salt, because they will always argue in support of insurance companies. I’m not convinced that people would be paying less if NY reduced regulations. More than likely, insurance companies would charge more without the regulations; otherwise, why would insurance companies be complaining about it? although NY crime rate has decreased significantly in 2005-2006, insurance companies don’t take one year average to determine insurance costs. i’m sure USAA didn’t mention anything about how they would assess insurance rates in NY without or with reduced regulation. Considering USAA has seriously tightened its insurance policies ever since they expanded their coverage population, they are not the benign company that they once were.

    you mentioned profit, and that is exactly what insurance companies are after. You talk about insurance companies not being able to make a profit in MA, well poor insurance company.

  4. Lazy Man says:

    Solid points. USAA made the point that things could be done more efficiently at the federal level with standardization. I can’t argue that red tape adds costs. Whether they get to back to the customer is a different story. I still think that USAA is a solid company. I could be wrong (my fiancée is the one with the USAA accounts), but I thought they were non-profit. Towards that point they refunded 6.2B to members this year. I have yet to find another insurance company that does that.

  5. Tim says:

    it’s a quasi profit sharing thing with USAA. in the end it’s like a tax refund, if you are getting money back then you were being charged too much to begin with. I have several USAA accounts, and I can tell you that they have changed immensely within the past 5 years.

    USAA is not a non-profit.

  6. Shadox says:

    The role of government should be to ensure that the market functions correctly. However, many law makers take it upon themselves to act “in the public’s interest” and interfere with the proper functioning of the market because this would place certain of their constituents at a disadvantage. For example, preventing insurance companies from charging more to insure bad drivers may be good for those bad drivers, but in essence the rest of us end up subsidizing that discount. Another current example from California where some law makers are attemtping to prevent insurance companies from charging higher insurance rates for vehicles and houses located in high crime areas. Such populism not only subsidizes high risk individuals, but also masks the true cost of societal problems such as crime.

    The government should (i) prevent companies from colluding to increase prices; (ii) ensure that fair competition exists; (iii) ensure that all information is freely and easily available and then leave the markets to do their own work.

  7. plonkee says:

    Shadox: I don’t know for sure that this is true, but it wouldn’t suprise me if one of the reasons for preventing insurers from charging more to insure bad drivers could be to reduce the proportion of people driving without insurance because they can’t afford it. That seems to me like a legitimate goal for a government if the people that elect the government want it.

  8. March 9th Friday Five - Profit Sharing Bonus Edition : Generation X Finance says:

    […] Big Government vs. Small Government in Auto Insurance – Lazy Man brings up an issue regarding auto insurance and different regulations from state to state. […]

  9. Car Insurance Advice says:

    Just an update, MA has finally allowed companies to compete in the state for car insurance. Progressive and GEICO have made large inroads and the state is allowing a competitive market driven insurance industry.

  10. Dorsey says:

    I had USAA when I was rear ended by a ( .292 blood alcohol level ) 21 year old drunk driver traveling at 80 to 90 mph. I spent a month in the hospital. USAA paid the 400K claim. It took time due to the
    amount but they did not hassle me about the settlement as I had a 250K plus medical bill.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Want advice from professional in auto insurane. It seems that a number of individuals who have transmitted their specific data in to one of the many “online car insurance quotes” and today they have solicitors all over them, emails, on their phone, junk postal mail and not to mention one case of Social Security Identity theft. Therefore my real question is: Are these web based car insurance quotes honestly risk-free? Doesn’t it make sense to keep with a local automobile insurance agent that you can do business with either on the telephone or even in person.

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