Using insurance for small repairs, like a cracked windshield, often a bad financial move

Using insurance for small repairs, like a cracked windshield, often a bad financial move (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) When Cade Christensen needed a new windshield he turned to a company with which he’d worked before: Safelite Auto Glass.

Christensen was quoted $218, but when he learned he could go through his auto insurance rather than paying cash, he jumped at the opportunity assuming it would save him money.

It didn’t.

When he got the final bill, Safelite had bumped the price from $218 to $447. Worse for Christensen, his out-of-pocket responsibility was $274.

Christensen emailed Safelite wanting to know how the price ended up doubing from the quote and was told that the price shot up because he chose to go through insurance. Safelite also told Christensen that his auto-insurance company was responsible for setting the price.

Safelite told Get Gephardt that it is not uncommon to see varying prices on glass and that prices are negotiated with insurance companies each year.

Safelite also said that the higher rate is due to extra work that it takes to file insurance claims on their customers’ behalf.

"Filing an insurance claim requires more touch points,” a spokesman said.

Safelite said it may or may not be better to file with insurance. It varies based on the carrier, the policy, and the market, so it’s best to ask.

Todd Kiser, Utah’s insurance commissioner, said he's not surprised by the price jump and there is nothing illegal or even questionable about it in his opinion.

Besides the price jump on the glass, Kiser said there's another reason why consumers might not want to use auto-insurance for small claims, like replacing a windshield. It could lead to higher premiums.

"Frequency will drive rates up faster than a large claim,” Kiser said. “A $40,000 fire may not drive your rate as high as four $250 glass claims"

Furthermore, unlike health insurance, auto insurance companies can opt to fire their customers if they feel like a customer is costing them money. Kiser says some auto-insurance companies won't renew polies of customer who frequently make claims, regardless of how large the claims may be.

It's a lesson Christensen said he's learned - albeit the hard way.

"I'm definitely going to compare the two and probably just pay out of pocket," he said.

At the end of all this, Safelite offered Christensen a refund of $30, which basically makes him even. He ended up paying what he would have paid had he just paid out-of-pocket all along.

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