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What is insurance and how does insurance work?
Matt Hands, VP, Insurance and MoneySense
Insurance comes in many forms, but they all essentially boil down to the same thing. You make regular ongoing payments to protect you against any risks you may encounter in the world.
Your payments go to an underwriter, generally any financial institution - be it a bank, an insurance provider, or an investment house who guarantees a payout to you, or your beneficiary, in case of financial or personal loss. You pay the underwriters to accept the risk; they payout if a risk becomes a reality.
While safety may be the best insurance plan, there are some things beyond your control. Imagine if there is a burglary attempt on your home, a stolen laptop, you get sick while travelling, or you suddenly contract a terminal illness. For those instances, you'll want insurance policies in place to help you through the financial burden. There are also cases where insurance is mandatory. For example, if you're going to drive a car in Canada, you need at least a basic car insurance policy - third-party liability, accident benefits, direct compensation for property damage and uninsured automobile. Most people also opt-in for collision insurance and comprehensive insurance, plus additional endorsements.
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How to buy insurance in Canada
There are many ways to buy insurance in Canada and each comes with its own pros and cons. We break them down, so you can pick the one that matches your style best.
That's right. You can buy insurance online in Canada. And wouldn't you know it, we at Ratehub.ca offer it as a service! It's easy. From the comfort of your home, you can review insurance quotes from multiple suppliers within minutes, saving you time and money.
You'll need to answer some questions in an easy-to-use web form, review your coverage options, then look at your quotes. A simple click on a provider will connect you with a broker. The broker then calls you to review the quote and put the finishing touches on your policy. It's that simple.
The benefit to you is personally reviewing what providers offer you the best coverage for the lowest price. But, with insurance, it's not always about the best price. Some insurers may provide products that you need like extensive water protection (i.e. flood insurance) if you're in a high-risk area. Others may give specific alumni or professional discounts, not available from a different insurance company.
How to save money on your insurance policy
Shop around and compare
Insurance providers and brokerages offer different products and coverages to suit your budget, values, and lifestyle. Some companies have been around for years, but because you've never heard of them, it deters you from buying with them. It may seem daunting to call all the different providers, but buying insurance online will help you quickly narrow your field.
Only buy what you need
Think about your basic requirements and go from there. You have a car; you need car insurance. But, getting collision or comprehensive coverage is optional if your vehicle is older and doesn't carry much value. You can always modify your coverage, should you change your mind. For now, minimize the risk, maximize your savings, and buy the insurance that suits your unique needs.
Perform an annual review
Did you renovate your home? Buy a new car? Life moves pretty fast, and your insurance will need to evolve with it. If you had a child, you might want to buy life insurance now that you have dependents. Your policies should adapt to new risks. If you get a renewal slip in the mail, you can quickly check online to ensure you're still getting the best rate. If your rates increase, go shop around or ask for a loyalty discount from your provider.
Bundle and save
If you need both auto and home insurance - getting them from the same provider could save you up to 25%. Of course, pick your provider first, ensure your risks are covered and then see if it's worth adding more products with the same insurer. If you have car insurance with one provider, and home insurance with another, and neither can offer you a bundled discount, it may not be worth the switch - even if it means less paperwork.
Find out what isn't covered
If you read the insurance fine print, you'll see some exclusions. Every insurance policy has gaps in coverage. If you're unsure, ask your provider what they are. For instance, coverage for a burst pipe is available in most policies, but if a sewer backs up or melting snow ends up in your house, that's a different water risk.
Manage your payments
If you miss a payment, you could be seen as a higher risk resulting in higher premiums. If you can afford it, there may be a discount for paying your premiums annually instead of monthly. If you want to change companies, the best time to do it is when you're up for renewal. Mid policy cancellations could result in penalties and fees, but sometimes worth the savings.
If you can mitigate risk, it's in your best interest to do so. If you own a home, seasonal maintenance will reduce the chances of a threat becoming a reality. Regular maintenance can prevent small problems from becoming major ones. With cars, practice safe and defensive driving and get winter tires to help reduce sliding in winter. Proper planning can help you stay ahead of risk in your day-to-day operations.
Honesty is the best policy
When buying insurance make sure you have your facts straight. Remember you're entering an agreement with an insurer to protect your most valued items like your car, home, and even your life. You want to be honest, so you get the coverage you desire should the need arise. Lying or not disclosing information, will have consequences should you need to file a claim. Insurers need to know accurate information about you to properly assess risk.
Make sure it's from a licensed insurer
Regardless of how you buy insurance, make sure it's from a trusted provider. There are cases of fraud, so it's essential to only deal with a licensed insurance provider. If you have any doubts, request the broker's license number, and verify this with the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada.
How insurance claims work
While life is full of challenges, no one purposefully wants to make an insurance claim. Yes, a valid claim may result in a financial windfall. But, it comes at the expense of your time - hours spent speaking with claims adjusters, possibly lawyers - and repeating the same story to family and friends.
An insurance claim is a request from the policyholder, or their beneficiary, for financial compensation in the event a covered risk becomes a reality. Let's say a pipe bursts in your basement, and you have homeowner insurance. As a result, you file a claim to your insurance provider, and they send out a claims adjuster to review the incident. So long as no foul play is suspected, you'll likely receive a payout based on the assessed value.
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