I can’t pay for home and auto insurance, what do I do?

29 Apr

If you have lost your job, seen your hours cut or are simply struggling to pay your bills during the pandemic you are not alone. Millions of people have had to skip payments on everything from mortgages and auto payments to their insurance bills. 

The insurance industry, as well as some state insurance departments are willing to work with many of their customers to help them stayed insured until the economy is back up and running. 

Here are just a few things that insurers and state insurance departments are doing to help their customers navigate this difficult period:

  • No longing charging late fees or other penalties
  • Creating flexible payment plans for consumers
  • Many states are not allowing cancellations or are requiring insurers to pause policy cancellations due to nonpayment
  • Extending grace periods, which are usually 30 days long to 60 days or longer. During the grace period you do not lose coverage if you have not made a payment

The best advice is to call your insurance company and see what type of relief they can provide you. There may be other options to help lower your premium to more affordable territory as well. Here is a quick look at a few things you can do if you are having trouble covering your insurance bill:

Car insurance

Even if you aren’t driving your vehicle much these days, you still need car insurance. In most states it is illegal to be out on the road without coverage so dropping your insurance to save money is not really an option. 

However, the majority of major car insurance companies have started refunding a portion of consumers premiums during the pandemic. The discount or refund will vary by insurer, but here are a few examples of what some insurers are offering:

State Farm: State Farm has offered to give current policyholders a 25% credit on premiums paid between March 20 and May 31st. This amounts to State Farm returning almost $2 billion to policy holders on roughly 40 million insured vehicles.

Chubb Auto Insurance: Chubb is offering a 35% premium reduction for April and May. 

Allstate: Allstate is giving policyholders a 15 percent refund on their premiums in April and May. This amounts to roughly $600 million in refunds. 

Liberty Mutual: This car insurer is also offering a 15 percent refund for April and May. 

Farmers Insurance and 21st Century Insurance: Farmers is refunding 25 percent of a driver’s premium for April. 

You can also consider lowering your coverage levels or dropping specific coverages if you are still struggling. It is important to remember that if you lower your coverage levels you could end up on the hook for damages if you cause a serious accident. Your insurance company will only cover damages up to your policy coverage levels so if you are carrying the state minimums, your coverage will quickly be eaten up by an accident. 

If you have an older car that you would replace instead of repair if it was in an accident you may want to consider dropping collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision insurance pays to repair your vehicle if it is damaged in an accident while comprehensive will pay for repairs caused by weather, fire, flooding, and even damage done by animals. 

Never drop liability coverage, this pays to repair damage and cover medical bills for people you have injured or property you have damaged in an accident. It is also required in almost all states. 

Homeowners insurance

Much like car insurance companies, most insurers writing homeowner policies are also extending grace periods and waiving late fees for customers who cannot make their payments due to the virus. As an example, Farmers, Liberty Mutual and Travelers, will not cancel a policy or charge late fees through May 1st

Many insurers are also working with policyholders on payment plans if you are unable to make your premium payment. Contact your insurer directly to see how they can help. 

While homeowners insurance is not required by law, if you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will require that you carry it to protect their investment. If you own your home outright you are in the clear to cancel coverage but remember, if your home is damaged or destroyed you will be paying to repair or rebuild it. 

Life insurance

Life insurance may seem more essential than ever, but the monthly premiums can be expensive. If you are having trouble covering your life insurance premium there are a couple of options available to you which vary depending on the type of policy you have. 

As with other types of insurance, most life insurers are extending grace periods and waiving late fees on their policies. In addition, life insurance is never a required coverage so if you absolutely cannot afford your policy anymore it is possible to just let it lapse. 

Here are a couple of policy types and the options available to you:

Term Life Insurance: Unfortunately, with this type of policy there are not a lot of options. If you fail to pay your premium after the grace period, the policy will likely be cancelled. It is possible to talk to your insurer to see if there is anything else they can do to help you through the pandemic. 

Permanent Life Insurance: Permanent life insurance typically has a death benefit combined with a cash value portion of the policy. The premium you pay covers both the death benefit costs as well as funding a cash value of the policy which can be used to borrow funds or, in some instances, withdraw cash which means you may be able to use this to cover the premium.

However, using the cash value will lower the death benefit of the policy so keep this in mind. A few other ways to lower your premium on a permanent life insurance policy:

  • Dividends: Certain life insurance companies offer permanent policies that pay out dividends to policyholders. If you have this type of policy, you may be able to use these dividends to cover your premium.
  • Reduce Death Benefit: Many policies allow you to change the death benefit over the course of the policy, if this is the case with your policy, lowering your death benefit will also lower your premium. 
  • Consider Term Life: It is possible that you may be able to cash out your permanent policy and purchase a term life insurance policy instead. Contact your insurer to see if this is a possibility. Term life insurance is cheaper but will not pay out if you die after the policy term. 

Health insurance

Health insurance is certainly a must have right now. Numerous states have banned insurers from canceling health insurance coverage due to non-payment. They have also stopped them from collecting late fees or charging reinstatement fees until at least the middle of May. 

If you currently have a Marketplace plan you should have a 90-day grace period to cover your monthly premium. 

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