How are consumers perceiving auto insurance during the COVID-19 crisis?

Since people are driving less in the midst of COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders, many auto insurers have responded with premium refunds totaling about $10 billion.

How are consumers reacting to these refunds? A May 5 webinar co-hosted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics’ (CMT) VP of Insurance & Government Affairs, Ryan McMahon, and J.D. Power’s VP of Insurance Intelligence, Kyle Schmitt, shed light on this question.

J.D. Power has been conducting consumer sentiment surveys since March 24. Schmitt said that one key takeaway is that in light of pandemic related layoffs, customers are thinking pragmatically about auto insurance, so the timing of the premium relief announcements was excellent. However, it’s important to note that auto insurance is not top of mind for many consumers struggling to keep the lights on or food on the table, and not everyone is aware of refunds.

Here are a few other key takeaways:

  • McMahon noted that while miles travelled are down, speeding and distraction both peaked in April based on CMT’s analysis, and fatalities are up.
  • Schmitt said that changes in price stability driven by broad market conditions (such as accident frequency) are not well received by consumers who will shop around in response; in contrast to price increases driven by a life event or an accident which consumers tend to take in stride.
  • When it comes to telematics, value is key. Consumers expect to continue to not drive as much in the foreseeable future and are thinking about the cost savings offered by telematics programs, therefore interest in telematics has spiked according J.D. Power surveys.
  • Of those that think their driving rates will remain low 40 percent are interested in telematics.

The panelists were also asked to speculate about possible increases in fraud, and McMahon said that fraud activity always comes with economic reductions, however it’s possible that fraudulent claims may be easier to spot because there are fewer claims.