So you bought a new auto policy. Sweet! Maybe you just changed from one insurance company to another (or from one insurance agent to another). Maybe you recently moved out and this is your very first insurance you’ve bought yourself. Either way, to get the most of your new auto policy there are three things that you absolutely, positively should do right now before you do anything else.
It won’t take long to do these three things, but you’ll be glad you did because you’ll be much better prepared if you need to prove that you’re insured or make a claim. And that’s why you bought your insurance in the first place, right?
1. Put Your Insurance Card in Your Car
There are lots of things Hollywood always gets wrong—like sounds and explosions in the vacuum of space. Another thing that rarely goes down the right way on TV and in the movies is the police traffic stop. Your friendly neighborhood police officer doesn’t typically say, “License and registration, please.” Nope—if you actually get pulled over, you’ll likely hear, “License, registration, and proof of insurance, please.”
It’s pretty hard to provide proof of insurance when your insurance card is sitting at home on your coffee table.
Some insurance companies send you a PDF file and expect you to print your own insurance card. Others send you a card in the mail. (A few do both.) Whatever happens, make sure you get or print a copy and put it in your car along with a copy of your registration paperwork.
Many states will actually accept an electronic copy of your insurance (one you carry on your phone) as proof of insurance during a traffic stop. But what if you lose your phone or leave it at home? What if your battery is dead?
It’s safer to get a paper card and put it in your glove compartment. Do it now.
2. File Your New Auto Policy Documents Somewhere Safe
When you buy a new auto policy, your insurance company will send you documents that explain what’s covered under your policy. You’ll want to have these documents on hand if you ever have a claim, or if your needs change and you need to do an apples-to-apples comparison of your existing policy versus another policy you’re considering buying.
Whether the policy documents are paper or electronic, make sure you file them somewhere safe. Have a place in your home where you keep all your important papers? Put them there. Maybe you have a flash drive where you keep all your critical electronic documents. Scan them and put them there, too. You might consider a fireproof safe for both your papers and your flash drive, just to be sure.
And just a reminder—if and when you eventually change insurance companies, don’t simply dump your old policy in the trash. Those documents contain sensitive personal information. To help prevent identity theft, be sure to shred old policy docs when you no longer need them.
3. Put Agent and Insurer Contact Info in Your Phone
When you buy insurance, there are generally two companies involved: the insurance agency and the insurance company. The agency helps you shop for and select the right insurance company for your needs. The insurance company (or carrier) actually provides the coverage.
Whether you went to a bricks-and-mortar agency or worked with an agent over the phone, you probably have a specific person you worked with who would be happy to answer questions, help you with billing, assist with claims, and get your policy renewed when the time comes. Recording your agent’s contact information on your phone will make it that much easier to make contact again when you need help.
Your insurance company (the one that’s providing coverage) also sent you a phone number to call if you need to contact them directly about your new auto policy. It’s probably on your insurance card, so look there first if you’re not sure where to start. Many insurance companies have an app for customers as well. Search the iTunes Store or Google Play Store for your insurance company’s name. Installing and configuring the app now will save you the headache of having to do it after an accident or other covered incident.