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How To Navigate Taxes as a Freelance Worker

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Over the past decade, I have done a ton of freelancing work on a lot of different projects, and that means taxes are sometimes incredibly difficult and confusing. This time of the year, I’m waiting for a variety of 1099s to arrive in my mailbox before I can even think about filing taxes and it will be a long process even when I have everything ready.

I’ve come to realize that the key to making this all work out without pulling your hair out and panicking a few times a year is to have a smart system in place at the start of each year. You have to be organized. You have to have a plan.

Here’s the truth: the system of personal income taxes in the United States is not friendly for freelance workers. There are many aspects of the whole tax system that put an unnecessary burden on people who aren’t hourly or salaried employees. There are rewards for freelance work, don’t get me wrong. The flexibility and variety of challenges can be amazing. However, those rewards come with extra challenges, and taxes definitely fall into that camp.

If you are new to freelancing work, or even if you’ve done it for a few years and are struggling with handling taxes, here are some key tips that turn taxes into something manageable for me.

Have a robust system for organizing everything.

I’m not going to specifically tell you how to organize everything (though I will describe my own system in a bit). Rather, I’m going to say this: you need to have some sort of organizing system for your tax-related documents. If you don’t, you are going to have an extremely confusing and potentially panic-inducing mess when you actually have to file your taxes.

Here’s what I do. I have a series of manila envelopes into which I put hard copies of every document that could potentially be related to my income taxes each year. I keep an envelope for receipts of work-related expenses. I keep an envelope of all invoices. I keep an envelope of stubs for all payments received, no matter the source.

Along with that, I keep a very detailed log of every dollar that comes into my pocket or goes out of my pocket as a result of my work. Specifically, I keep a spreadsheet document for each year, in which I have a tab that lists income and another tab that lists expenses.

Whenever I receive any kind of income, I record the date, the amount, and the person or group that paid me. Whenever I have any kind of expense related to my work in any way, I record the date, the amount, who I paid, and what that payment was for.

Every single entry in this spreadsheet is backed up with a paper document of some kind in one of those envelopes as well as digital documents stored in an encrypted computer folder (the spreadsheet is kept in that folder, too).

At the start of each year, I start a new set of envelopes and computer folders and a new spreadsheet for all of this stuff and set aside the old stuff for taxes that spring.

You don’t have to duplicate this system, but I strongly encourage you to have a similar system for yourself. You absolutely need to document every freelance dollar you bring in and every expense you have. The better organized you are, the easier it will be to file your taxes each spring. The less organized you are, the more likely it is that taxes will be extremely stressful and potentially come with expenses that are far beyond what you can handle.

Let’s talk specifically about expenses.

You can deduct a lot of things as a freelancer, but you need to keep careful track of them.

The one thing that the IRS does nicely for freelancers is that they’re pretty flexible when it comes to deductions for work-related expenses, provided you’re not trying to abuse and scam the system with personal expenses under that umbrella. If there’s something you legitimately need purely for professional reasons, you can almost always deduct it from your taxes.

Having said that, don’t try to cheat this system. Don’t try to squeeze in personal expenses as deductions, because if you’re hit with an audit and you can’t validate everything, you’re going to get hit hard with tax penalties. The little bit you’ll save from sliding in something that isn’t strictly professional isn’t worth the expense and headaches from getting audited with fishy stuff on your taxes.

That being said, it is really worth your while to keep track of all of your professional expenses from freelance work. Keep every receipt and keep a running list of your expenses throughout the year, as described above. Everything you list will cut your tax bill at the end of the year and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. This doesn’t mean you should spend freely, but that if you do decide an expense is worthwhile, there is strong financial motivation to keep track of it so you can easily incorporate it into your taxes. It will pay off.

Put aside at least 30% of your income (after work expenses) for taxes.

Yes, 30%. If you live in a state with state income taxes, I’d put aside even more. I’m not remotely exaggerating here.

Your freelance income is going to be hit with federal, state, and local income tax, which will be painful enough, but what will really hit home is the self-employment tax.

What is that, you might ask? Self-employment tax is how you pay for your share of Medicare and Social Security, benefits you won’t enjoy until retirement. When you’re traditionally employed, your employer pays for half of that, you pay for the other half, and it’s quietly taken out of your paycheck (usually labeled as FICA on your paycheck stub).

If you’re self employed, you’re responsible for all of it. That adds up to 15.3% of the first $132,900 of net income (this year; the income level goes up slowly over time) plus 2.9% on the net income in excess of $132,900.

So, that 30% I quoted you? That covers your self-employment tax along with about 15% of your income for income tax. You may want to consider putting aside even more than 30%.

Personally, I use a separate savings account for this. I move 30% of my income out of each freelancing payment I receive right into that account and I transfer it back into checking shortly before I file my taxes quarterly.

Yes, quarterly. The fun isn’t done yet.

Pay quarterly estimated income taxes if at all possible.

Most traditional employees file taxes once a year, and as a freelancer, you’ll do the same. However, the IRS actually wants their money every three months rather than once a year, and it’s well worth your time to actually pay them quarterly rather than waiting until your annual window for filing taxes.

Roughly once every three months, you should complete Form 1040-ES and submit it to the federal government, along with payment. This is supposed to be a quarter of your estimated total tax bill for the year.

To make matters more frustrating, the IRS expects you to be able to accurately estimate this well in advance. Often, freelancers have little idea of their exact October income in February, so it tends to be fairly inaccurate. What I usually do is make my absolute best guess as to what I’m going to make this year and calculate my estimated taxes based on that.

What if you get it wrong? The IRS gives you some breathing room on this. As long as you’re reasonably close to paying a quarter of your actual tax bill every three months, you’ll be fine. I usually base mine on my earnings for the previous year and estimate just a bit high, because the loss of paying a bit extra on my quarterly payments is worth avoiding penalties. Yes, penalties — you will be hit with an additional tax penalty if you’re too far off.

So, what happens if you just don’t do this? Well, when you file your taxes in the spring, you’ll not only owe your full tax bill, you’ll also owe a penalty for underpayment (this also happens if you didn’t pay 90% of your total tax bill across your quarterly payments in the previous year). It’s not overwhelming, but it is stiff enough that you’re better off paying quarterly estimated taxes if at all possible.

Use tax software you trust or have a trusted tax filer handle your preparations for you.

Does this all sound complicated? If you simply keep good records of every dollar that comes in and track all of your expenses and make sure to pay your quarterly taxes, it’s not too bad. However, that still leaves you with a lot of information to include when you file your taxes in March or April.

My honest suggestion is that if you’re doing much freelancing work at all, use tax software for filing your taxes or hand your documents over to a tax preparer. If you attempt to do this by hand yourself, with all of the extra forms and entries you’ll have to make, the likelihood of a mistake is high and being audited as a freelancer can be a real mess.

I have used Turbo Tax for many years and stick with it despite some quibbles and despite trying other tax packages (for researching articles for The Simple Dollar). It handles everything I do quite well, including producing 1040-ES forms for my estimated taxes at both the federal and state level so that it’s very easy to file them over the course of the next year.

Even though this is challenging, the rewards are still worth it.

Freelancing work offers a degree of freedom that’s very hard to find in other professional situations, even if it does make tax filing more difficult and taxes more costly. However, if you’re able to keep track of basic financial records and are somewhat organized, these steps aren’t too difficult to navigate.

In an ideal world, the federal government would make income taxes much easier for freelancers. Until then, the best thing you can do is keep careful records, make sure you pay your taxes each quarter, and use robust software or a tax preparer when filing taxes in the spring.

Good luck!

The post How To Navigate Taxes as a Freelance Worker appeared first on The Simple Dollar.



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Coronavirus Stimulus Check 2020 [how much you’ll get & who qualifies]

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(The following is a transcription from a video I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)

Quick little update for you.

The Senate and the White House reached an agreement on this big stimulus bill, the Trump coronavirus stimulus check for 2020.

Let me share with you who will be eligible, how much you will get, what the qualifications are, and when you can expect to receive the stimulus check from the U.S. government.

And so if you haven’t heard about this, it’s pretty cool because you’re probably going to be getting a nice fat check from the government.

Here are the details that you need to know.

It is expected to be up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, which is pretty fun.

These amounts are based off of your 2018 tax returns if you haven’t filed 2019 tax returns yet.

Taking Your Income Level Into Consideration

And according to this article from the Los Angeles Times, the amount received will decline gradually beginning with individuals who make $75,000 a year or married couples who make $150,000 total each year.

Individuals making $99,000, or above or couples making $198,000, or above would receive no check.

Which looks like this:

And here is another helpful breakdown of how big your stimulus check will likely be:

When will you get your check?

Stimulus Check Timeframe

The fun thing about is they’re expected to be shipping within the next few weeks.

So that’s really cool. And you don’t normally see the government move this fast on things, but the stock market’s been doing fantastic the last two days as a result of the expectation of this thing coming through.

While I’m not really excited about the long term effects of the government giving away all this money, I know a lot of people who will be excited to get a little bit of cash in their pocket.

So that’s the latest update for the Trump coronavirus stimulus check for 2020!

Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do with this Trump stimulus check that you will hopefully be receiving soon!



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The Best Interest Rates for April 2020

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Finding the best interest rates is a lot easier today than it was even a few years ago. Here at Dough Roller, we track rates on everything from checking and savings accounts to mortgages to CDs. It occurred to me, however, that there was no one single page on the site where you could find the top rate for each type of account. So we created this page, updated monthly, to track the highest (or lowest) rates available.


Deal of the Day: CIT Bank has a 1.80% APY on their Money Market Account. $100 minimum deposit required and all deposits are FDIC insured up to the $250,000 per depositor maximum.

Best Interest Rates for November 2019, bank rates

We focus on those financial institutions that have low fees, great rates, and are typically available anywhere in the U.S. You can find local banks and credit unions that offer comparable rates, but their availability is limited geographically.

Best Interest Rates for November 2019

November 2019 Interest Rates Update: There were a few rate changes over the past month:

  • Betterment Everyday™ Cash Reserve account is at 2.04% APY.
  • Wealthfront Brokerage Cash Account Rate is at 2.07% APY.
  • First Security Bank’s Kasasa Cash account is at 2.51% APY on balances up to $50k; their Kasasa Saver account is at 1.31% APY on balances up to $50k.
  • First Foundation Bank’s Online Savings Account offers 2.40% APY with $1k minimum deposit of new money.
  • BrioDirect is offering a High-Yield Savings account at 2.30% APY with $25 minimum deposit.
  • Vio Bank’s High Yield Online Savings account is at 2.27% APY with $100 minimum opening deposit.
  • Fitness Bank is offering a 2.75% APY savings account rate for balances over $100 when step requirements are met.
  • Prime Alliance Bank is offering a 60-month CD at 2.48% APY and a 48-month CD at 2.38% APY, both with $500 minimum deposit.
  • First National Bank of America is offering a 12-month CD at 2.35% APY and a 60-month CD at 2.55% APY, both with $1k minimum deposit.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate comes in at 3.78%.

With that said, here are some of the best interest rates we’ve found for November 2019:

Best Bank Account Rates

Best Interest Rates Pin 2Savings Accounts: The top savings account rate goes to Vio Bank at 2.27% APY ($100 minimum deposit) (see table below). Several banks come in a close second, including UFB Direct at 2.15% APY , Popular Direct at 2.15% APY ($5k minimum), CIT Savings Account at 2.10% APY ($100 monthly deposit or $25k minimum balance) and BMO Harris Bank Money Market Account at 2.05% APY ($5k minimum). These represent some of the highest rates on a nationally available savings account.

Here’s a comparison table we update daily with current competitive rates:

Best CD Rates: The rates on certificates of deposit vary based on the term. The longer the term, the higher the rate. Keep in mind that penalties may apply if you close the CD before the end of the term. For a 1-year CD, the best rate we could find is from First National Bank of America at 2.35% APY ($1k minimum).

Checking Accounts: Most checking accounts do not pay interest. For online banks, however, you’ll find plenty of options where you can earn some interest on your funds. There are two things to keep in mind. First, many banks offer higher interest rates only if you keep a lot of money in your checking account. Second, the rates are lower than a savings account or CD.

Some top paying checking accounts that we like include FNBO Direct, which currently pays 0.65% APY. For those with at least $15,000 in checking, you can earn 0.60% APY from Ally Bank. I list Ally second because most people don’t keep that much cash in checking, but it’s an option for those who do. These rates are unchanged from previous months.

Bonus: I also keep a running list of popular checking account promotions you can check out.

Mortgage Rates

Mortgages: Listing the “best” mortgage rate is really impossible. Rates change throughout the day, vary by state, and are highly dependent on a number of factors including your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and down payment. That being said, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is up this month to 3.78% according to Freddie Mac (from 3.64% last month). The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage is up to 3.19% (from 3.16% a month ago).

You can find competitive mortgage and refinance rates at LendingTree or on the table below:

Related: Compare mortgage rates online

Best Credit Card Interest Rates

Credit Cards: The longest 0% introductory period stands at 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers. You can find a current list of the best 0% credit card offers here.

If you find better rates on any of the above financial products, please let us know in the comments below.

Note that the above rates were as of October 31, 2019. Rates are subject to change, so please confirm the rates directly with the financial institution.Find the best interest rates on bank accounts, mortgages, and credit cards as of %%currentdate%%. Includes rates on savings and checking accounts, and CDs.

The post The Best Interest Rates for April 2020 appeared first on The Dough Roller.



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Choose From the Best Car Insurance Providers in Pennsylvania

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The average car insurance premium in Pennsylvania is $1,522 per year, which is roughly in the middle of the U.S. average. Many people believe the best car insurance in Pennsylvania will be the cheapest, but you’ll probably realize how true that isn’t after reading this guide. It’s more about getting the best car insurance at the best price, which may not be the cheapest.

Which company offers the best car insurance in Pennsylvania? Premiums certainly figure into the mix. But equally important are policy options, discounts and the willingness of an insurance company to pay claims. We reflect that in analyzing what we believe to be the best car insurance in Pennsylvania.

As a matter of full disclosure, I’m with Progressive, which I’ve had an excellent experience with. But Progressive is only #5 on our list, and they may or may not be the right choice for you. The only way to find the best car insurance for you is by getting quotes from several of the best providers. Use the quote tool below from our car insurance partner:

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Compare Top 10 Car Insurance

The Most Important Factors When Comparing Car Insurance in Pennsylvania

Start with the state’s minimum car insurance requirements. From there, customize your policy to include any options necessary for your situation. And you’ll have to do it all in a way that will make it the most affordable.

Here are some criteria to consider that will help you in an effort:

  • Shop between carriers. Even if a company appears at or near the top of a dozen “best for” lists, it may not be the right one for you. Shop until you find the right one for you.
  • Match available policy options with your personal needs. Every company offers multiple options. The one with the options that best match your needs is likely to be the carrier for you.
  • Discounts = lower premiums. Like options, every company offers discounts. The company with the most discounts that fit your driving profile, the lower the premium is likely to be.

The 7 Best Car Insurance Companies in Pennsylvania

As much as we’d like to categorically state there’s one best car insurance company for most drivers, what it really comes down to is the niche each specializes in. Based on our analysis, the following companies are the best in one or more categories:

Author’s Pick: I’ve got my coverage with Progressive and while I don’t live in Pennsylvania, I’ve had them for several years. I’ve found them to be consistently lower than the competition on premiums, and first-rate on customer service.

Below is our list of what we believe to be the seven best car insurance providers in Pennsylvania. Our ranking is based on objective factors, and not on personal opinion. We’ve also indicated why each company made our list and included a section under What Holds It Back to list any apparent weaknesses in their product offering.

Special Mention: USAA – Best for Members of the Military

With an average premium of $801, USAA has one of the lowest in Pennsylvania. The company gets an A++ rating on financial strength from A.M. Best, and they had the highest J.D. Power Customer Service rating of all carriers in the state, at 898 out of 1,000 points.

But USAA makes car insurance available only to active members and veterans of the US military and their families. Since their coverage isn’t available to the general public, we’ve excluded it from the list below. But if you’re a current or former member of the US military and you’re looking for car insurance, USAA should be your first choice.

1. Erie Insurance

The Basics:

Policy Options Pet coverage
Personal items coverage – up to $350
Auto glass repair
Roadside and rental bundle
Locksmith services
ERIE Auto Plus – comes with a diminishing deductible, a $10,000 death benefit, additional days of transportation expense coverage, waiver of deductible in certain situations, and increased limits for specific coverages
ERIE Rate Lock – your rates will only change if you add or remove a vehicle or driver, or change the address where you keep your car parked
Discounts Safe driving
Car safety equipment
Multi-car
Multi-policy (bundling)
Reduced usage
Young drivers
Annual payment plan

Premiums: $808 (2nd lowest average premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 852 (#1 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A+

Why it Made the List

Erie Insurance tops our list with the second lowest average premiums in Pennsylvania, though they are only slightly higher than Travelers, the lowest-cost provider on our list. The company also rates #1 in customer satisfaction, which includes the all-important category of paying claims.

We also like the ERIE Auto Plus plan, that’s a package of options, including a diminishing deductible, a death benefit, a deductible waiver in certain situations, and increased coverage limits, all at only a small increase in your premium.

What Holds it Back

Erie has an interesting rate lock option (the Erie Rate Lock) that may sound attractive to many consumers. They’ll honor the rate lock – unless you have a significant policy change. If you do, the rate will be recalculated and may go higher. It doesn’t look quite like the guarantee it promises to be.

2. Travelers

The Basics:

Policy Options Gap coverage
Rental coverage
Roadside assistance
Medical payments
Ridesharing
New car replacement
Accident forgiveness (one accident and one minor violation every 36 months)
Decreasing deductible ($50 every six months up to $500 you’re accident- or violation-free),
New car replacement (replace your new vehicle with a brand-new vehicle of the same make and model if yours is totaled within the first five years of ownership)
Discounts Multi-policy (bundling)
Multi-car
Homeownership
Safe driver (10% for no accidents in three years, 23% for five years)
Continuous insurance (up to 15%)
Hybrid/electric vehicle
New car
Pay in full
Good payer discounts
Early quote
Good student
Student away at school
Driver training
IntelliDrive Program (uses a smart app to capture and score driver behavior, and could result in a 20% premium reduction).

Premiums: $795 (THE lowest average premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 821 (#9 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A++ (highest)

Why it Made the List

Travelers took the #2 position on the strength of having the lowest average premiums in Pennsylvania. The company also has the highest financial strength rating issued by A.M. Best, at A++. But we also like that the company has plenty of valuable policy options, like ridesharing coverage and decreasing deductible, as well as accident forgiveness. They also have plenty of unique discounts, including one for hybrid and electric vehicles.

What Holds it Back

Travelers would have finished at the top of our list were it not for the fact that it ranks only #9 in customer satisfaction. That low rating may indicate issues with paying claims.

3. GEICO

The Basics:

Policy Options Emergency roadside assistance
Rental reimbursement
Mechanical breakdown
Motorcycles, ATVs and recreational vehicles
Collector autos
Ridesharing
Umbrella coverage for higher policy limits
Mexico Auto Insurance
Discounts Safety equipment
New vehicle
Good driver (five years accident-free)
Drivers over 50
Seatbelt use
Defensive driving
Driver’s education
Good student
Federal employees
Membership & Employee (in up to 500 groups)
Emergency deployment
Military
Multi-vehicle
Multi-policy

Premiums: $1,134 (3rd lowest average premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 845 (#5 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A+

Why it Made the List

GEICO made #3 on our list on the combination of having the third-lowest average premiums in Pennsylvania and placing a respectable #5 in customer satisfaction. But the company also rates the top of our list for coverage for drivers over 50 and provides discounts for federal employees, members of the military, and certain memberships and employee affinity groups.

We also like that GEICO provides very specific details of their many discounts, giving the percentage range you can expect to save on your premium.

What Holds it Back

GEICO doesn’t offer gap coverage, which will be a problem for anyone who owes more on their loan or lease than their vehicle is worth. It can result in a big out-of-pocket hit if your vehicle is totaled.

4. State Farm

The Basics:

Policy Options Car rental
Travel expenses for an accident more than 50 miles from home
Medical payments
Emergency roadside assistance
Rideshare
Sports cars
Antique classic cars
Small business vehicle
Discounts Anti-theft equipment
Defensive driving course
Drive Safe & Save – driving monitoring app
Good driving
Good student
Multi-car
Multi-policy
Vehicle safety equipment
Student away at school
Steer Clear Safe Driver (complete education requirements and no at-fault accidents or moving violations in the previous three years – both met before turning 25)
Accident-Free (after three years of continuous coverage without a chargeable accident)

Premiums: $1,186 (4th lowest premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 834 (#4 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A+

Why it Made the List

State Farm ranks #4 on both average premiums in Pennsylvania and customer satisfaction, which has helped to secure it a #4 position on our list overall. But State Farm also tops our list for good drivers and offers valuable policy options, like ridesharing coverage and small business vehicle insurance.

We like the many discounts State Farm offers, but especially their Accident-Free discount. It’s available after just three years without a chargeable accident, which is a lot less than the normal five years required by other companies. But the discount can even increase if you go beyond three years without an at-fault accident.

What Holds it Back

There’s no indication State Farm provides gap coverage. This is a critical missing part, since many drivers owe more on their vehicles than those vehicles are worth.

5. Progressive

The Basics:

Policy Options Gap coverage
Medical payments
Rental car reimbursement
Roadside assistance
Custom parts and equipment value
Rideshare coverage
Mexico auto
Discounts Snapshot app ($145 average discount)
Bundle auto and property
Name Your Price Tool (enter your desired premium, and Progressive will design a policy)
Multi-policy (5% average discount)
Multi-car (12% average discount)
Continuous coverage
Good student
Distant students (more than 100 miles from home)
Homeowner (average discount nearly 10%)
Online quote (4% average discount)
Sign online (8.5% average discount)
Paperless
Pay in full
Automatic payment
Deductible savings bank (the deductible on your collision and comprehensive is reduced by $50 for every claim-free policy period, which is six months)
Small accident forgiveness – premium won’t be increased for a claim of less than $500
Large accident forgiveness – no rate increase in an accident if you have been a customer for a least 5 years, and no accidents for the past 3 years

Premiums: $1,443 (5th lowest average premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 828 (#5 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A+

Why it Made the List

Progressive probably has more discounts available than any other car insurance company in America. The most interesting is the Name Your Price Tool, which enables you to build a policy around the amount you’re willing to pay for your premium. That gives you greater control over your premium than what you’ll get with most competitors.

What Holds it Back

Progressive advertises you can save $796 per year. But that’s a bit difficult to swallow considering they rank only fifth in statewide car insurance premiums in Pennsylvania. With a discount that deep, you’d expect them to have the lowest premiums of all.

6. Nationwide

The Basics:nationwide logo

Policy Options Medical payments
Towing and labor
Rental car expense (loss of use)
Personal injury protection (PIP)
Gap coverage
Roadside assistance
Vanishing Deductible (earn $100 off your deductible for each year of safe driving, up to $500)
Total loss deductible waiver (deductible is waived in the event of a total loss)
Discounts Multi-policy
Multi-vehicle
SmartRide monitoring app
Accident free
Automatic payment
Paperless documents
Good student
Defensive driving (complete a state approved course for drivers 55 and over)
Anti-theft
Safe Driver (free of major violations or at-fault accidents for at least five years)
Affinity member (extends to hundreds of alumni associations, professional groups, sports groups, and special interest groups)
Accident Forgiveness – your rate won’t increase due to a first at-fault accident or minor violation

Premiums: $1,446 (6th lowest average premium on our list)

Customer satisfaction rating: 822 (#8 on the J.D. Power Survey)

Financial strength rating: A+

Why it Made the List

We like Nationwide because of its Accident Forgiveness provision, which will not increase your premium due to a first at fault accident or minor violation. But we also like the Vanishing Deductible, that reduces your deductible for collision and comprehensive by $100 per year for each year of safe driving. If you start with a $500 deductible, you’ll have no deductible at all after five years.

What Holds it Back

Nationwide ranks #8 in the J.D. Power Survey for customer satisfaction in Pennsylvania, which could indicate problems on the claim side, with both customer service and payments.

7. Liberty Mutual

The Basics:

Policy Options Lower or eliminate your collision deductible
Lifetime repair guarantee
New car replacement
Better car replacement
Rental car reimbursement
Roadside assistance
Gap coverage
Original replacement parts for your car
Coverage for teachers (protection for your car on school grounds)
Driving in Mexico
Discounts Accident forgiveness
Multi-policy
Multi-car
Online purchase
Automatic payment
Pay in full
Paperless policy
RightTrack (save up to 30% for good driving behavior)
Homeowner
Active, reserve or retired military
Early shopper
Good student
Student away at school
Alternative energy vehicle
Safety equipment
Accident- and violation-free

Premiums: $2,432 (#7)

Customer satisfaction rating: 817 (#11)

Financial strength rating: A

Why it Made the List

Liberty Mutual has some of the more interesting policy options, particularly when it comes to the maintenance of your vehicle. Of special interest are the lifetime repair guarantee (you must use an approved facility), new car replacement assistance, and the option to replace your car with a better car that’s one model year newer and has 15,000 fewer miles. We also like that it offers the ability to lower or eliminate your deductible, accident forgiveness, and accident- and violation-free discounts.

What Holds it Back

Liberty Mutual has the highest average auto insurance premiums of the seven companies on our list. In fact, it’s the only company on our list that has an average premium higher than the Pennsylvania statewide average. It also ranks a disappointing #11 in customer satisfaction, and is on the low end of the financial strength rating, gathering only an “A” rating from A.M. Best.

How We Found the Best Car Insurance in Pennsylvania

To come up with our list of the best car insurance in Pennsylvania, we’ve used five independent criteria to make that determination.

Policy Options

Policy options are what an insurance company provides over and above the minimum requirements in a state. But other coverages commonly available – and strongly recommended – include collision, comprehensive, medical payments, gap coverage, and personal injury protection.

Over and above these, however, you may be particularly interested in a company that provides more specialized options, like ridesharing protection or auto insurance while driving in Mexico.

Discounts

Despite the average premiums charged by each company, we also gave considerable weight to discounts. Though not all discounts will apply to all drivers, there may be one or more offered by a company that provides a significant premium reduction in your situation. Companies with a better discount menu have been given stronger consideration.

Premiums

It’s often tempting to come up with a list of the best car insurance companies based mainly on premium levels. That’s certainly the primary consideration for most consumers. But while we did give heavy consideration to each company’s average premium, we didn’t want to rely too heavily on premium averages.

The problem with premium averages is that they’re just that, averages. The exact premium you will pay will depend on your own driver profile. That will include your specific geographic location (living in a big city will come with higher premiums than a rural area), the type of vehicle you drive, your driving history, your credit score, and many other criteria.

We used average premiums only as a starting point. These were derived from The Zebra, which is determined to be a reliable source of pricing information.

Customer Satisfaction Rating

Customer satisfaction includes the all-important category of driver experience with filing claims. After all, paying claims for auto accidents is the whole reason for having car insurance in the first place. If an insurance company is slow or uncooperative – or it has a history of declining too many claims – it won’t be worth having a policy through them, no matter how low their premium is.

To make a reasonable assessment of this all-important category, we’ve used the J.D. Power U.S. Auto Insurance Study, released in June, 2019. More specifically, we’ve relied on the Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking – Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania.

Insurance Company Financial Strength

Financial strength indicates an insurance company’s ability to meet its financial obligations, which includes its ability to pay claims. Cheap car insurance will do little more than satisfy the minimum legal requirements in Pennsylvania, but could leave you with unpaid claims.

For that reason, we’ve included only companies rated either “Superior” or “Excellent” for financial strength by the insurance industry rating service, A.M. Best.

Their ratings for companies with financial strength of “Good” or better are as follows:

  • Superior: A+, A++
  • Excellent: A, A-
  • Good: B, B+

We have not included any companies rated lower than “A”.

What You Need to Know About Car Insurance Laws in Pennsylvania

Car insurance laws and requirements vary from one state to another. Regulations in Pennsylvania are as follows:

State Minimum Insurance Requirements

The minimum Pennsylvania car insurance requirement is “15/30/5”, broken down as follows:

  • Bodily Injury: $15,000 for injury or death to one person as a result of an auto accident.
  • Bodily Injury: $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person as a result of an auto accident.
  • Property Damage: $5,000 per accident.
  • Medical Benefits: This provision is optional in most states but required in Pennsylvania. It pays medical bills for you and others who are covered by your policy, regardless of fault. The minimum coverage is $5,000, but higher limits are available at your option.

Some insurance companies in Pennsylvania offer a single limit of $35,000, meaning both the bodily injury liability and property damage liability minimum requirements.

Pennsylvania also offers “Limited or Full Tort” coverage. Limited tort coverage lowers your premium, and you are still able to recover out-of-pocket medical and other expenses. But you are not able to recover for pain and suffering unless the injuries meet one of the exceptions to limited for as described under Pennsylvania law. But if you go with full tort coverage, you’ll have unrestricted rights to bring a suit against a negligent party.

Penalties for Not Having Car Insurance in Pennsylvania

If you are found to be driving without at least minimum car insurance coverage, you’ll be subject to the following penalties:

  • Minimum fine of $300
  • Three-month suspension of your vehicle registration
  • Three-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Restoration fees to restore your vehicle registration
  • Restoration fees to restore your driver’s license
  • Vehicle impoundment

Pennsylvania State Car Insurance FAQs

Is Pennsylvania a “no-fault” state?
Pennsylvania is considered neither an at-fault or no-fault state. It’s up to the driver to decide whether to purchase at-fault or no-fault coverage.

In an-fault insurance environment, you can seek damages from the at-fault party’s insurance company. Under a no-fault system, you must file claims against your own insurance carrier, and your rights to sue for damages are limited

In Pennsylvania you can choose no-fault coverage and collect benefits from your own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault. But you also can also opt out of no-fault, and preserve the right to pursue remuneration from the at-fault party’s insurance company. This is determined at the time you purchase your policy, and cannot be changed as a result of an accident.

The requirement of full tort insurance means you are choosing at-fault coverage, preserving the right to pursue the insurance company of the at-fault driver. If you choose limited tort, you’re opting for no-fault coverage. You will then have limited ability to file a lawsuit for most accidents, except under those situations permitted by state law.

What do I do if I can’t get car insurance through traditional insurance companies?
If you’re unable to obtain proper car insurance through traditional insurance carriers, you can obtain coverage through the Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan. The program offers coverage to those who are unable to get it elsewhere. All insurance companies offering auto coverage in the state are required to participate in the plan. However, you will be assigned to a participating company, which will be determined by the proportion of the amount of business each company does in Pennsylvania. For more information you can call (800)477–6146.

Summary: Best Car Insurance in Pennsylvania

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The post Choose From the Best Car Insurance Providers in Pennsylvania appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.



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