What Drives Us to a New Insurer

Geico ads notwithstanding, when people switch car insurers, it’s seldom due to rude remarks about cavemen. In a Witeck-Combs Communications/Harris Interactive poll, drivers were asked to identify the main factors that would prompt them to switch carriers. The main one (cited by 49 percent) was dissatisfaction with the way a claim is handled, putting this slightly ahead of an offer of lower rates from a rival company (46 percent). Just 13 percent said a recommendation by a friend or relative would lead them to switch. Even fewer — 3 percent — said an ad would do the trick.

While people have begun buying car insurance online, the poll finds in-the-flesh agents still handle the majority of purchases. Asked how they bought their primary car insurance, 35 percent said “through a company agent” and 35 percent said “through an independent agent.” Just 8 percent reported buying it online.

Elsewhere on the automotive front, a report by R.L. Polk & Co. shows the population of motor vehicles aging along with its owners. The average age of cars on the American road was 9.2 last year, tying the record set the previous year. (The data is based on registrations as of last July.) The average age of light trucks was 7.1, up from 6.8 the previous year, as more consumers held onto their old pickups and SUVs. Most strikingly, 41 percent of the cars on the road were at least 11 years old, as were 30 percent of all light trucks.