Shopping for car insurance can be one of life’s more frustrating experiences. Let us help you find the best policy and price by avoiding common online mistakes.
Different car insurance companies often produce very different quotes for the same person, even if the policies being compared are identical. This makes comparison shopping a crucial part of buying auto insurance; wise shoppers will compare at least four or five different insurance providers to make sure they are getting a good deal.
Auto insurance comparison websites, which let you instantly compare quotes from multiple insurance providers, can be a huge help in your quest for affordable car insurance. They provide accurate, personalized rates, discounts, and coverage options all on one site—much like your favorite travel comparison site that gives you airline ticket or hotel room options all on a single page.
In order to provide an accurate list of options, comparison sites ask you for basic information such as your zip code, occupation, vehicle make and model, and driving history. These details allow the site to provide an accurate list of different insurance policies, options and rates.
However, not all sites that claim to provide insurance quotes are the real thing
How Auto Quote Comparison Sites Work
There are two types of insurance comparison websites: quote comparison sites and lead generation sites. Auto quote comparison websites present users with rates based on information submitted during the shopping experience. You can then decide which quote to pursue, and the data you entered is transferred to the agent or company website, greatly shortening the purchasing process. These sites do not sell your information to insurance carriers or agencies.
Unlike quote comparison sites, lead generation sites simply sell your information to their advertising partners—typically insurance companies. These sites are not built to provide you with personalized quotes and are not much help when trying to compare car insurance rates. Avoid these sites unless you’re eager to receive tons of cold calls from insurance phone banks and desperate agents.
Insurance comparison websites can be further broken down into sites that provide real-time insurance quotes versus those that provide estimated ones. Estimated quotes are derived from historic data and are often out of date; to get the most accurate information you should use a site that provides real-time quotes generated by the insurance companies.
Car Insurance Comparison Sites with Real Quotes
The following comparison sites offer real-time, accurate insurance quotes.
Insurify is a free insurance comparison website that provides real-time, accurate quotes from top insurance companies in the U.S. It is rated 4.8 out of 5 on ShopperApproved, where it has 735 user reviews.
The site offers a wide variety of carriers to choose from, an easy-to-use interface, and can effectively service drivers in all segments of the market. To-date it has delivered over 4 million insurance quotes from top providers such as The General, MetLife, and Liberty Mutual.
Insurify has been featured on Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and CNET and is considered one of the top auto insurance comparison sites.
How it works: Insurify asks shoppers to answer a series of questions that it uses to produce real-time, accurate quotes. In addition to its mobile and desktop sites, the site also offers the ability to receive quotes and buy insurance via Facebook Messenger.
The questions were easy to answer and the process was straightforward—I was able to submit my information and get personalized quotes in under five minutes.
Results: Insurify produced nine quotes, starting at $78/month, each with the option to contact the insurance company immediately or schedule a phone call for a later time. Some of the quotes included helpful information about the policy or the insurance company offering it. The site allowed me to change the coverage from the left hand sidebar, and it was easy to click on the different coverages and see the prices change in real time.
Clicking on the button to the right of each quote brought up a pop-up window with more details about the policy, payment information, and options to buy a policy via phone or Internet.
The site also included ads for certain insurance companies, and clicking the “check rate” button for the ad connected me directly to the insurance provider’s website. It’s easy to tell the ads from the quotes; the ads all say “ad” next to the company name and the button says “check rates” rather than “view deal.”
Insurify’s quote comparison tool was a great help in shopping for car insurance. I particularly liked how easy it was to compare rates based on a custom coverage level; with a few clicks, I could alter the parameters (say, by changing the liability coverage maximum or adding roadside assistance) and get a whole new basket of quotes instantly. Every year, Insurify also publishes a Best Car Insurance Companies list.
Compare.com is another online car insurance comparison tool that generates real-time quotes from multiple insurance providers. In addition to car insurance, Compare provides quotes for home, health, and small business insurance, as well as tools to help you choose car loans and mobile phone plans. The site is rated 4.5 out of 5 on eKomi, based 640 user reviews.
How it works: Compare’s shopping process asked me to enter the same general information that other auto comparison websites did. Entering the information was fairly straightforward. Most of the fields were drop-down menus or pre-filled based on information I had submitted on previous pages. The questions were detailed, including some about my current policy limits that required retrieving my insurance documents to answer. I did like that Compare asked if I was willing to accept paperless documents and/or e-signing
Results: Compare produced seven quotes ranging from $148 per month to $329 per month. The quotes were all from fairly obscure companies; I didn’t see any of the big-name providers. The site allowed me to customize coverage, but only by going back to the coverage selection part of the process—meaning that I had to wait for the quotes to re-load each time. It also didn’t allow as many customization options as Insurify. Only one of the quotes permitted online checkout; all the others required speaking on the phone with an agent. I did like that the quotes all let you choose between a pay-as-you-go policy (with a down payment) or a pay upfront policy (at a slight discount).
Car Insurance Comparison Sites with Estimated Quotes
Unlike Insurify and Compare, some comparison sites only provide estimated quotes, based on aggregate information from your local division of insurance. Rates from these websites are based on what other drivers in your zip code with similar histories are paying for insurance, rather than real-time quotes from insurance companies.
The following sites fall into the estimated quotes category.
Nerdwallet.com is a well-known personal finance website that offers free comparison tools for car, health, and life insurance quotes. The site also has reviews of different insurance providers and numerous tips for picking the best policy. It is rated 4.5 out of 5, with 1,601 user reviews on ShopperApproved.
How it works: To get quotes, you’re required to sign up for a free Nerdwallet account. This includes signing a disclaimer giving Nerdwallet permission to pull reports from the credit reporting agencies and share your credit score and other information with its partner companies.
During the quoting process, Nerdwallet asked questions about my vehicle, driving, and insurance history. One question that stood out was the one asking how much I currently paid for auto insurance; I couldn’t see how that helped Nerdwallet come up with rates (although it no doubt helped the company with its future marketing efforts).
Results: Nerdwallet returned three quotes ranging from $154 per month to $315 per month and six “estimated rates” ranging from $153 per month to $330 per month, from mostly name-brand insurance carriers. Each quote/rate included a little information about the company, a company rating, and a summary of Nerdwallet’s review (accessed by clicking on the “view details” link). The quotes had a button to click in order to buy the policy over the phone, but only one quote offering the option to purchase online. The estimated rates included a button to click to access the company’s website and get an actual quote from them.
Nowhere in the process did Nerdwallet allow me to customize coverage options—I could only choose one of four pre-assembled packages. The selection process also made no mention of discounts—either how to qualify for them or which companies offered them.
The Zebra is another free auto insurance comparison website. The site’s name refers to its founders’ goal of presenting “insurance in black and white.” The Zebra has a few articles about choosing car insurance, a car insurance calculator, and some basic information about other types of insurance in addition to its quoting tool. It is rated 4.7 out of 5, and has 565 user reviews on ShopperApproved.
How it works: The quoting process was similar to that of other comparison websites, although it offered me the option of connecting my Google or Facebook account to speed up the process. After I entered the requested information, the Zebra announced that it had matched me up with nine possible discounts, although it warned that not every insurance company offered all of these discounts.
Results: The final page offered five quotes ranging from $141 per month to $215 per month, and three links to other websites that I could use to get additional quotes. Unlike the other comparison websites, the quotes weren’t in any order (the others sorted their results from smallest to largest). Each quote included a company rating, policy features and a button that would either take you to the company’s website or allow you to compare it with another company. A list of options on the left side of the page allowed me to check off the features that I wanted to include, and eliminated companies not offering those features.
The Zebra didn’t allow me to customize coverage preferences, forcing me to choose one of four pre-assembled packages. It also didn’t list which companies allowed which discounts, making their earlier list of pre-qualified discounts less useful. On the right side of the page, the site provided an “Insurability Score” listing the factors that insurance companies use to set rates and grading the information I’d provided during the quoting process, which could help drivers looking to improve their rates in the future.
Lead Generation Sites
Unlike quote comparison sites, lead generation sites are paid when they send customers’ personal information to external agencies.
These sites often attract your interest with competitive rates, but then transfer you to a different site to continue shopping and complete your transaction, often at a far less attractive rate. This is because lead generations sites are paid to sell your information to an agency or insurance company, not to present you with the rates on car insurance.
flow chart of how lead generation sites sell your information in exchange for fake quotes
You can sometimes get auto insurance quotes on lead generation sites, but expect them to be far less reliable than quotes from comparison sites. Using lead generation sites most likely means that you’ll end up wandering from one auto insurance website to another in pursuit of the best rate, which rather defeats the purpose of using a quote-generating site at all.
DMV.org is a privately-owned site that helps drivers interact with their local Department of Motor Vehicles. This site is not an official government agency, but acts as a middleman between you and your local DMV; for example, a visitor may renew their vehicle registration or driver’s license on the site for an additional fee. The website is rated 4 out of 5, and has 5,830 user reviews on Trustpilot.
How it works: Each state page on the site offers information on required coverage, optional coverage, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, insurance plans, rates, and discounts. They also have an insurance quoting engine that works similarly to those on other lead generation sites.
Results: After working my way through the DMV.org quoting process, I discovered that they don’t actually provide car insurance quotes. Instead, they just provide you with links to other websites where you can get a quote. In my case, it gave me exactly two links: to Esurance and Allstate. Clicking a link to go to one of these websites required me to start all over with the quoting process, leaving me wondering why I’d bothered with DMV.org in the first place.
InsuranceQuotes is a free, online comparison tool that offers quoting processes for auto, life, health, homeowners, and other types of insurance. The site also has articles on insurance-related subjects and provides information on auto insurance by state, including average rates. It is is rated 1 out of 10, and has 9 user reviews on Resellerratings.
How it works: The quoting process asked me for the usual information, however. clicking the “get quotes” button required me to consent to a somewhat unnerving declaration that I would be called by up to eight insurance or partner companies, potentially including robocalls.
Results: I was led to a “quotes page” informing me that I had been matched with three insurance agents who would be contacting me shortly. The page listed the three companies (Nationwide, Allstate and Apliant) but provided no information about them, not even contact information.
NetQuote is a free, online insurance comparison tool that provides leads to insurance agents.
In addition to auto insurance, Netquote also offers quotes for health, home, renters, business, and life insurance. The site is rated 1 out of 5, and has 38 user reviews on ConsumerAffairs.
How it works: Once I entered my zip code the site launched its quoting process, which was completely identical to InsuranceQuote’s – leading me to suspect that the two sites belong to the same company.
NetQuote even asked me to agree to the same fine print agreement as InsuranceQuotes, which allowed eight or more insurance companies to contact me with offers and information.
Results: I was delivered to a results page that also looked identical to InsuranceQuote’s, although the agents who would be calling this time were from Nationwide, Allstate and Esurance.
QuoteWizard is another insurance lead generation site that sells leads to insurance agents and carriers. In addition to auto insurance, they also offer quotes for home, renters, health, and life insurance. The site also has a blog with articles about various insurance-related topics. QuoteWizard is rated 3.68 out of 5, and has 36 user reviews on BBB.org.
How it works: The auto insurance quote process opened by advertising “Cheapest rates from only $19/mo!” After answering the usual questions, I clicked the “Get My Quotes” button, thereby consenting to telemarketing calls, emails and other sales contacts, both human and robot.
Results: QuoteWizard dropped me on a page with a link to Geico’s website, announcing that it was my best match for an online quote. The link led to the start of Geico’s own quote generation tool. Needless to say, using QuoteWizard is a waste of time.
SmartFinancial’s home page boasts that it can get you rates from top-rated carriers in less than 3 minutes. The quote processing tool provides quotes for auto, home, health, and life insurance, among others. The site is rated 5 out of 5, with 1 user review on BBB.org
How it works: The quoting process did indeed move very quickly with the help of drop-down menus. After asking the usual questions, the tool asked for my email address while claiming, “no spam, ever.”
But before I clicked to view my quotes I noticed the fine print asking me to agree to allow, “marketing partners to contact you for marketing/telemarketing purposes at the number and address provided above…” So much for no spam.
Results: After a short wait, the quoting tool produced two quotes, for $299 per month and $971 per month, plus links to two other insurance sites. SmartFinancial allows you to narrow down the results further by selecting desired features such as local agents and low down payment, but given how limited the results were in the first place, that particular option isn’t much help.
Like Nerdwallet, ValuePenguin is a personal finance site dedicated to helping consumers make informed decisions about their credit cards, banking, investments, and insurance. The site offers quoting tools, in-depth financial product reviews, and analyses of industry trends.
How it works: ValuePenguin’s quoting tool is essentially nonexistent. The only thing it asked me for was my zip code.
Results: Once I typed in the requested zip code I was immediately taken to a page with links to four actual insurance quote comparison websites. Rather than create a quoting tool of its own, ValuePenguin has apparently chosen to guide visitors to other comparison websites. All in all, you’d be better off just skipping ValuePenguin and going straight to a site that will produce quotes for you.
Everquote actually has two websites. One is a typical lead generation insurance site with quoting tools for auto, home and life insurance. The other, Everquote Pro, is for insurance agents—it provides a way for agents to sign up to receive information about visitors to the site who use the quoting tools. Everquote is rated 1.5 out of 5, and has 80 user reviews on BBB.org.
How it works: Once I launched the quoting tool for auto insurance, I was greeted by a large-print brag that “Drivers Pay As Low As $29.32/Month for Car Insurance.” When I began filling in my vehicle information, the site offered to save me time by looking up the information for me—a frightening reminder of how much of our personal information is available online. The contact information fields were accompanied by text stating that “we respect your privacy” and “NO SPAM, privacy guaranteed.”
Everquote also provided checkboxes to opt out of receiving calls and emails from agents. However, under the “Show My Quotes” button, the usual legal boilerplate informed me that by clicking the above button I was providing express written consent to be contacted by Everquote and a whole laundry list of insurance companies and partners, whether or not my phone number was on the Do Not Call list.
Results: Once I submitted my information, the site produced one quote, along with six links to other insurance companies. “View my quote” buttons next to each quote took me to the beginning of the insurance website’s own quoting tool, making it clear that these were strictly hypothetical rates. Everquote provided a blurb of marketing text about two of the companies and no helpful information whatsoever to guide my decision.
Insurance experts suggest that you compare car insurance policies every time your current policy is up for renewal (typically every six months to a year). Before you launch your quote hunt, review your existing policy and see if your needs have changed. For example, many auto lenders will require you to have no more than a $500 deductible in comprehensive/collision coverage—but once you pay off your car loan, you can increase this deductible and save a considerable amount on your insurance premiums.
When you’ve worked out just what coverage you need, an auto insurance comparison site can be helpful in finding the best price for your desired policy. However, you’d be advised to stick to reputable comparison sites that give you real quotes rather than lead generation sites that will throw you on the mercy of cold-calling insurance agents.
The Best Business Employee Benefits & Insurance Plans For 2018
Employee benefits – chief among them healthcare benefits like medical, dental and vision – are often required by federal or state law and can make up a large chunk of an employee’s total compensation package. Given the importance of these benefits to an employee’s livelihood and the necessity of regulatory compliance, it’s important for every employer to understand their obligations when it comes to offering benefits packages.
Benefits packages are diverse and widespread, and can include health insurance, life insurance, paid vacation leave, personal leave, sick leave, child care, fitness, retirement plans and more. Understanding how to build a compelling benefits package for your employees while complying with applicable laws and keeping costs under control is a delicate balancing act. Educating yourself is the first step in successfully putting together a package that achieves each of these objectives.
State of the Industry
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), retirement and medical care benefits were available to 70 percent of the civilian workforce as of March 2017. Unionized workers were more likely to receive benefits, with 94 percent accessing employer-sponsored retirement and medical care benefits. Non-unionized workers were less fortunate: 67 percent had access to medical care benefits, while 66 percent enjoyed retirement benefits.
However, access and utilization are two different things. While 70 percent of the civilian workforce had access, only 52 percent actually took advantage of those benefits, meaning the «take-up rate,» as the BLS calls it, was 74 percent.
Most benefits plans are employer-sponsored, but cost-shared with employees. On average, employers paid 80 percent of coverage for single employees and 68 percent of coverage for families in 2016. Regardless of the situation, the average employer picks up the vast majority of the premium costs. Again, unionized employees received a greater share of employer contributions than non-union workers.
Healthcare premiums are projected to rise by 5.5 percent in 2018, which will impact the total cost of benefits plans. Healthcare benefits packages tend to make up a large portion of payroll budgets as it is, and employers are commonly shifting more of the contribution burden to employees, even as the employer continues to pick up the majority of the tab. Doing so hasn’t alleviated the pressure. With premium increases year over year, employers’ cost burden has still grown by 24 percent since 2001.
«Cost management of health benefit programs remains the top priority for employers in 2017 and 2018,» said Julie Stone, a national healthcare practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, in an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management. «While employers made significant progress over the last few years refining their subsidy and vendor/carrier strategies, many are now looking to other aspects of their health benefit programs in order to improve health and dampen future cost increases.»
Medical costs have increased steadily, and the largest employers are poised to cross $14,000 in costs per employee next year. Large employers, on average, cover 70 percent of employee health benefits costs.
Best Health Insurance Providers
Health insurance is now available to more Americans than ever before. Subsidized options are easily available to low-income individuals and families. In the past, many people took the risk of not being insured, but with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you can be fined if you don’t have qualified health care insurance. Instead of paying a fine, people who have not been able to afford insurance before are looking for affordable medical insurance options.
While some may be asking themselves if it would it be cheaper to just pay the fine, statistics show that more Americans have health insurance now than before the ACA was enacted. There are several reasons why more people have insurance now, but one is certainly the increase in affordable health plan options, including subsidized, or tax credits, health insurance purchased through one of the state exchanges. Compliant insurance can also be purchased privately. The options available to you depend primarily on your income level.
Low Income: If your income is 100 to 400 percent of the national poverty rate ($11,490 — $45,960) for a single person, you may qualify for subsidized health insurance. In many cases this is not free health insurance but subsidized. This means you can get bronze-level health insurance for about $2570 per year through one of the state exchanges. Extremely low-income individuals and elderly persons often qualify for Medicare. If you paid the fine for 2014 you may still qualify for insurance via an exchange, even if it is not during the open-enrollment period, to avoid the fee in 2015.
How Do I Obtain a Health Insurance Quote?
If your employer does not offer an affordable health insurance option and you do not qualify for subsidized insurance or Medicare, you can shop the open market for medical insurance. The health insurance companies we reviewed will allow you to request a quote online rather easily. Premium rates vary significantly by multiple factors. You’ll learn that the monthly rates increase quite a bit as you age. Smoking also increases the premium rate. In most cases you can select non-smoking if you have not smoked in over six months.
Services such as eHealthInsurance are simple to use and provide a variety of quotes but may not always show every option available. You may find more plan options by requesting plan information directly from the insurance company’s website. Before purchasing new insurance it is always a good idea to ensure that your preferred doctor accepts the insurance you are looking to purchase. While your doctor may be listed on the insurance company’s website, it is smart to call your doctor’s office directly to verify.
Even if the open-enrollment period has passed for signing up for insurance via one of the exchanges, you might still be able to purchase subsidized insurance if you’ve had a qualifying life event. Qualifying events include moving to a new state, change in income, change in family, loss of coverage and others. You may even be able to apply simply because you did not understand that open-enrollment ended or you did not understand the health care law. If your income qualifies you for subsidized health care, you’ll want to purchase through your state exchange.
Considerations for Comparing Health Insurance Plans
Plans vary greatly. But the general rule of thumb is that the less you pay per month, the higher your deductible is. Higher premiums are usually associated with lower deductibles. Generally it is beneficial for those with existing health issues to opt to pay more per month and less out-of-pocket for services. Those in good health often opt for a high deductible option in hopes that they never have to actually pay the deductible but would mostly be covered if something major happened. A prescription plan is another important consideration. If you need to take medications regularly you’ll want to choose a plan with a good prescription plan. If you need to insure your entire family, you’ll want to look at family deductibles and maximums. Only full-coverage options will satisfy the minimal essential health care insurance required to get around paying the fine.
Major Points to Compare:
This is your monthly payment for health insurance. It may be worth asking if you can get discounts for paying in advance or if you set up direct payments from your bank account.
The amount you are required to pay, not counting preventive care, before the insurance company starts paying out. Low-deductible plans offer deductibles of about $500, whereas high-deductible plans might be as much as $6600.
This is the maximum you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket. Sometimes this is more than the deductible. It is not uncommon to have a deductible of $1200 and a maximum out-of-pocket limit of $1500. This of course does not count your premiums.
Preventive Care Covered
Most insurance policies now cover preventive-care visits 100 percent. However, some may limit the number of checkups or how often certain procedures such as mammograms are covered.
If you need to take maintenance medications you’ll want to find an insurance plan with an above-average prescription plan. You should check to see if it covers the medications you are currently taking satisfactorily or if it covers suitable generics.
In-Network vs. Out-of-Network Coverage
While in-network providers are discounted, you usually pay significantly more for out-of-network health care. This is a good reason to contact your primary doctors to ensure they are preferred providers.
Medical insurance does not cover regular dental or optical needs. For these type of insurance plans see our Dental Insurance reviews and Vision Care reviews.
Types of Plans Available
While looking for insurance you many notice a wide variety of plans. Some may provide coverage for a large selection of doctors whereas others may provide increased coverage to preferred providers.
Here are the most common insurance types explained:
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
This type of insurance provides better coverage to providers within their network. Usually the insurance company and the provider have agreed in advance to the billing costs for common procedures. Out-of-network providers, or those without an agreement, might not be covered or will cost the patient more out-of-pocket.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
With an HMO plan, you have to work with one primary doctor and all additional procedures or testing is routed through them. You have to have a referral from your primary doctor before seeing a specialist unless it is an emergency situation.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
This type of plan limits the network of doctors and hospitals covered in order to help control costs. Out-of-network doctors and hospitals are not covered at all.
Point of Service (POS)
These types of plans are a mixture of HMO and PPO. You would need to use a primary doctor to coordinate your care, but there is more freedom to visit the health care provider of your choosing. If you visit a provider outside of the network, you have to pay the bill and then submit a claim to the insurance company for partial reimbursement.
High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
These types of plans usually have lower monthly premiums but higher deductibles. In many cases the deductible is $6,600.
Flexible Spending & Health Savings Accounts
These are not insurance plans, but ways of assisting with medical costs with pre-tax money. Often these accompany a high-deductible plan in order to help cover the high deductible easier. Flexible spending accounts are often use-it-or-lose-it, but health savings accounts typically can roll over to the next year.
Short-term medical plans are designed to fill the gap between insurance coverage. So if you are going to be changing jobs, for example, and might have a gap before your new insurance takes over, short-term might help you.
Best Vision Care Providers
Vision Care: What to Look For
Any type of health insurance can be confusing, especially with constantly changing regulations and fees. Knowing what to look for is crucial when deciding to purchase eye care insurance for your family. When you begin to search, you should have a basic idea of your eye care needs. Upfront, know whether you need to find a benefit plan that will cover the cost of exams, certain types of eyewear or contacts, or even LASIK surgery. When we evaluated the top vision insurance providers, we were looking for these criteria.
The value of any eye care plan is made up of costs for enrollment and basic services, as well as what coverage the company provides toward eyewear and expenses like LASIK surgery. When reviewing the best vision insurance plans, we looked at basic fees and enrollment costs. The average cost of enrollment was around $20, while the best vision insurance providers charge no enrollment fees beyond the monthly or yearly premium.
Another area to look closely at is the allowances an insurance provider offers for frames and contact lenses. Some vision insurance providers help pay for a percentage of your eyewear, while the best providers give you a flat rate to apply toward any pair.
Taking care of your eyewear is an important part of a vision plan, which is why the top vision insurance providers help you pay for extra lens options such as UV coating, scratch resistant surfaces and tinted lenses.
Another important part of choosing between vision insurance providers is the frequency with which you can use your benefits. Some providers allow you to get new lenses or eye exams once a year. Some of the best insurance providers even allow you to use your benefits as you see fit with no yearly limit on the number of times you can use your benefits.
Knowing what resources are available to you as a member is an important aspect of choosing a vision insurance provider. Pay attention to the estimated number of eye exam locations; the higher the number, the more likely you will be able to easily reach an eye care provider. The best eye care insurance providers allow you thousands of options around the country and do not limit you to one major chain. Another thing to look for is help and support options. All insurance providers should give you a way to contact them over the phone or through email. The best providers will quickly respond to your telephone messages and emails with friendly customer service.
The top vision insurance providers should offer you and your family coverage that meets your eye care needs. Look for coverage that provides coverage when purchasing eyewear and contacts and assistance with the cost of surgery like LASIK. The best providers have quick, friendly customer service to answer all of your insurance questions.
Best Dental Insurance
What Kind of Dental Plans Are Available?
Most dental insurance companies will offer a variety of plans in your area. You can find plans ranging from affordable discount plans to what might be considered «gold-level» plans. Here are a few types of plans you may choose from:
Dental Discount Plans
These are not full-coverage plans but do provide discounts to most common procedures. Discount plans usually only cost about $10 per month per person, and benefits can be used immediately.
These low-premium plans may be suitable for those who do not usually need dental work done. These plans will help you cover preventive exams and cleanings. To learn more about why preventive care is important, see What Is Plaque?
Standard Individual Plans
This is likely the most popular plan type for individuals since it will cover most of the costs of preventive exams. Most will cover two exams, cleanings and X-rays per year and will partially cover additional work. There may or may not be a small exam copay.
These plans are similar to standard individual plans. However, many insurance companies will offer the benefit of a family deductible. While most dental plans require a $50 deductible per person, many will have a maximum family deductible of $150, which could be beneficial to those who need to insure more than three persons.
«Gold» or «Premium» Plans
Premiums for these plans will cost more but often may include a higher yearly payout rate, such as $1500 rather than $1200. The plans may also allow more cleanings per year, such as one every four months rather than one per six months.
Other options to ask about include add-on plans for things like assisting with children orthodontics or adult implants. We’ve put together more information about finding the best dental insurance and how to obtain a quote in the article Tips for Finding Affordable Dental Insurance.
No matter which type of plan you choose, we recommend that you carefully review your contract so you know exactly what your insurance will cover. Additionally, in most cases your dentist’s office will be familiar with what your insurance may or may not cover. Since many dental offices will require you to pay the estimated uncovered balance upfront, you will need to make sure you know what that is in advance so you can plan your budget. If you cannot cover the remaining balance you may want to ask if your dentist provides financing.
If you are changing insurance and want to continue with your current dentist, you can visit the websites of insurance companies you are thinking about signing up with and search to see if your dentist accepts the new type of insurance. However, sometimes these search results aren’t updated or only show offices seeking new patients, so you’ll want to verify by calling your dental office.
How to Estimate Dental Expenses
Estimating your possible dental costs may help you decide whether dental insurance would be financially beneficial. Dental insurance companies will show you a quote online so you can easily see what your premiums might be. You may want to compare your estimated yearly premiums to the cost of a year of procedures you want to have done. You can estimate how much your dental expenses might be either by talking with your dentist, or by researching costs online. You can use the estimates to help you decide whether you should pay out of pocket or plan your dental expenses based on your insurance coverage. Two resources for looking up procedure costs are The Fair Health Consumer Organization and the Guardian Insurance website. Estimated costs are sorted by zip code and will show a low and high rate so you can see a range of what a procedure may cost in your area.
Other factors can affect your yearly dental expenses as well. Unfortunately, senior premiums are usually more and youth orthodontics may also cost more. Smokers are usually quoted higher premiums as well. Monthly premium rates vary greatly by region and area. We found that within the same insurance company rates may vary by as much as 30 percent depending on the zip code.
While some financial planners suggest dental insurance may not be worth paying for, we did the math to discover that it is usually worth it, provided you attend all of your allowable preventive exams and cleanings. We also learned that if you need any type of work such as a root canal or filling, you will definitely notice a cost savings. However, premiums vary greatly, not only by the type of plan, but by location and age. So you’ll want to obtain a few quotes for insurance companies that provide coverage in your area. You’ll also want to verify that your dentist accepts your chosen insurance before you sign up with a new provider.
What Does Dental Insurance Cover?
Most full coverage dental insurance plans will cover two preventive maintenance visits per year without requiring a deductible payment. Most require a $50 deductible per person, per year to help cover costs beyond your preventive exams. If you need work done, most plans will cover a part of the costs. We looked at root canals specifically and found that the majority of dental plans will cover about half the cost, which may not seem like a lot, but paying half is better than paying upfront for an $800 root canal. However, keep in mind that most insurance policies, depending on your plan, top out at about $1000 to $1500 per year. Using conservative estimates that might be one or two root canals. If you need extensive work done you might have to pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
There are few procedures that most insurance companies will not cover or only provide a discount for. Most individual dental insurance plans do not cover what might be considered cosmetic procedures such as tooth-colored fillings on molar or bicuspid teeth, dental implants or adult cosmetic orthodontics. The majority of dental companies will also limit how often certain appliances can be replaced and, in most cases, will not replace lost items. The limitations are published in the disclosures and contracts for the plan, many of which you can peruse online. Keep in mind that a new dental insurance plan is not going to cover an emergency you are experiencing right now; most have a waiting period of six to 12 months for major work. (However, some will waive the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.) Dental groups that offer dental discount plans will let you use your benefits right away, but they only provide a discount and not full coverage. Full coverage plans will however cover your initial evaluation so you can start planning your dental procedures.
Pricing for any kind of health benefits package is largely dependent on how many employees you’re looking to cover, the level of coverage and reimbursement in a plan, the demographics of your group, and where you are located geographically. Because of these factors, prices can vary greatly from company to company, and obtaining a quote based on your specific situation is the only surefire way to get an accurate assessment.
Some benefits come with either tax deductions or exemptions, so the initial price tag isn’t always what you’ll be on the hook for. As an employer offering a benefit, you are entitled to assistance from the government (in some cases) that an employee wouldn’t receive if they signed up for the same benefit on their own. As a result, offering a tax-deductible benefit might be a thriftier way to boost employee compensation than just offering workers salary or wage raises.
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