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Progressive's Auto Insurance Game

Tired of playing Tetris or Freecell?

I'm not -- I have a serious game addiction and need an intervention. But if you're up for playing something that's not a complete waste of time, you can try Progressive's Name Your Price calculator for car insurance coverage which the company recently rolled out in 30 states. You simply feed in your data -- the number of drivers, their ages, the makes and models of your cars and their ages and any recent accidents. Then presto, Progressive's program poops out a list of all the coverages you need and the price of each. Then you can lower the price of your premium by cutting or reducing some kinds of coverage.

Time out. You may not have shopped for car insurance recently -- most Americans do only once every dozen years or so, probably because they were dissatisfied with the service they got when making a claim, which coincidentally occurs only once every dozen years or so. Anyway, you may have forgotten that a car policy is not one item but a bag of complicated coverages, like collision and comprehensive, bodily injury coverage, personal injury protection and the like.

So I took Progressive's Name Your Price for a test run. For two ancient cars driven by two ancient people and a 23-year-old student, Progressive gave me a quote of $128.20 a month, a few bucks less than the coverage I already have with Liberty Mutual. That pays for the basics--bodily injury for $250K per person/$500K per accident and $100K property damage and uninsured motorist coverage (which you gotta have) on both cars and collision and comprehensive (which covers all injuries to the car) only for the newer ride, a pathetic nine-year-old Honda CRV with 185,000 miles under its timing belt. Interestingly, raising my deductible from $500 to $1,000 saved me $7, not worth the bother. (Progressive's calculation excludes personal injury protection; you need it only if you have no health insurance.)

But now the fun begins. Using a slider, I can push that monthly premium down to, umm, $107.36. Paying $20 less a month, $240 less a year, sounds good to me. Only problem is that now my bodily injury coverage drops to $50K/$100K/$50K. That would be enough for someone who earns maybe $30,000 a year and rents an apartment, but, me, I have millions in assets, a house the size of the Pentagon, and a tiara made of stardust and would be dangerously uninsured. If I drop my premium to $98.19, however, for even greater savings, Progressive returns my bodily injury coverage to $250K/$500K/$100K but drops collision and comprehensive to zero for both my beaters. That makes more sense. If your insurance premium is over 10% of the Blue Book value of your car(s), you should forget about C & C because you own junkers. (Note to self: Drop C & C pronto.)

Name Your Price is the most recent addition to Progressive's push for transparency. (The company also provides prospective customers quotes on comparable car policies.) Only problem is: a customer's hunt for savings may leave him in the soup. Progressive could make its calculator better if it gave you a little more guidance about what happens when you lower your premium -- maybe a pop-up that says something like: "Oops, your bodily injury coverage may be too low if you own a house worth more than $150,000." But Progressive's calculator could be good place to start hunting for savings. Especially since the company gives you a $50 discount right off the bat for enrolling online.
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