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One of the goals of Governor Deval Patrick’s move to managed competition in auto insurance was to create a more competitive environment for companies to work to win new customers. Based on the number of auto insurance companies advertising in Massachusetts, this goal is being met.

We’ve seen the ads promoting savings, better benefits, and stronger customer service. Whether the spokesmen are reptiles, respected actors, or average customers, they all offer the hope of a better deal. And while there is growing opportunity for drivers to shop for an auto insurance policy that offers both protection and a good price, consumers need to be sure a company can deliver what it advertises.

The Division of Insurance has created a Consumer Alert that outlines some of the issues consumers should be aware of as they watch ads. Consumers need to understand that “average savings” touted in ads may or may not apply to an individual as their policy cost is determined by a complex process. Consumers also need to understand that lower prices may not include some benefits or protections they may want to have, and they need to know if some extra benefits may be included when comparing similarly-priced policies.

Now is a good time for consumers to shop for auto insurance. You don’t have to wait for your policy to expire to shop, but many drivers’ policies expire in the first three months of year, so it might be time to shop around now. We’ve heard from drivers who have saved hundreds by shopping for car insurance since the reform of our market began in 2008.

Shopping for auto insurance can take a few hours, whether you’re meeting with your insurance agent or doing some research on your own. But it might be time well-spent if you end up saving up to hundreds of dollars in the process.

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