Island Resilience, March 2024

Looking for a Good Neighbaaa

By Marc J. Elzenbeck

Call me stupid. My auto and home insurance stayed nearly unchanged for the most part of a decade, with only minor upticks reflecting an occasional policy adjustment. Towing coverage was added on a couple vehicles, plus a separate umbrella covering teenager mishap, malfeasance, or vandalism. 

Starting in January 2022, both basics started to edge up a bit, nothing too major, 7% here and 10% there. I wrote it off as the inevitable, chiseling march of inflation, and put it on the mental “I should look into this sometime” list. 

Then, in October of last year, the car insurance took a sudden jump, as in almost doubled. Hmm-kay. As tactfully as possible, I asked my wife if she had run over anyone while in town and neglected to mention it. 

While still recuperating from this, in December of 2023, our nearest neighbor sent out a group email warning that their homeowner’s policy had just gone up 28%, with no prior claims and a $2,500 deductible. Within days, our property insurance for 2024 took on a much bigger increase, so both the home and auto policies moved onto the “Need to deal with very soon” list. 

In my case, this meant not before the Super Bowl, but the total for home and auto had rocketed to $725 per month. That’s $451 for home, $274 for auto, 69.4% and 62.9% increases. No claims, with standard deductibles. No earthquakes had hit, no asteroids had struck, and World War 3 had not yet been officially declared. But some major catastrophe had clearly occurred.

If more evidence of my procrastination is needed, it should be noted that I have stayed with Allstate insurance for 32 years, even after they started plugging know-it-all telemetry monitors into vehicles and calling it a “Safe Driver Discount,” which claims to reduce rates by up to 40%, but does not. 

When Allstate offered it a few years back, I asked, “So if I install this and happen to hit 110 mph on the way to Pullman, will my rates go up?” It seemed like a good question, but the representative wasn’t prepared to answer, and was reduced to silence, so I declined.

While munching on some paprika-salted popcorn during the Super Bowl half-time, State Farm introduced a new commercial. It is quite possibly the most obnoxious ad ever made – a true achievement given an industry segment so full of psychotic nonsense; jailers could harness it to obtain full confessions from the most hardened Guantanamo Bay prisoners. 

Is this intentional? Are they trying to drive us insane? Of course they are, that’s the whole point. I’ll prove it now. 

There are lizards criticizing porcupines, drug-addled party rappers musing on responsible driving, large flightless birds looking extinct, people jumping into polluted rivers, a sadistic actor damaging cars, and compulsive dorks wearing butcher’s aprons (let that one sink in). And now, at long last, we have Arnold Schwarzenegger in a burning house and parachuting onto a herd of SHEEP while bellowing “Neighbaaaa!”

According to the latest issue of the National Law Review (a great bedtime read), total annual insurance premiums paid in the United States just topped $1 trillion dollars. This seems a bit excessive, but right now a lot of things do. Curiously, the largest insurer in the U.S. is State Farm, and it’s losing money hand over fist. It lost $14.7 billion last year, eclipsing record losses from the year before. 

To close out their awkward psy-op, Danny DeVito trotted out to join the Terminator. Even though I only find Allstate’s commercials mildly annoying by contrast, and have been happy with their services, a line had been crossed and I decided the madness had to end, starting the next workday.

As it turns out, State Farm blames its price increases on “catastrophic losses” from all manner of sources, particularly vehicle repair cost inflation, while simultaneously touting higher revenues from the auto division. In reality, they do the corporate equivalent of mumbling and provide zero transparency into what’s really driving their losses. When companies knowingly charge loyal and passive customers more money, the marketing term for it is “discrimination pricing.”

I’d like to say I went to the library, dug out “Consumer Reports,” and performed exhaustive research to shop for a better deal. AlI I did was go to Costco’s website, look up insurance, and plug in the details to obtain apples-to-apples coverage. I got a quote of $149 a month for home and property insurance, and $89 for auto insurance. I poked around for reviews of the “Costco Connect” insurance program, found it to be highly rated, then called to ask some finer points about falling trees, wind peril events, and deductibles. 

Satisfied with all the answers, and not accosted with any apps or “Safe Driving Surveillance,” the insurance policies switch on March 15th. Bottom line, it took about two hours of shopping around to reduce our insurance costs from $725 to $238 a month, or by about 67%. Time to tell the neighbors. 

March 9, 2024

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