My thanks to Alvin Benas of San Francisco for all sorts of good tips. Mr. Benas is not yet connected to the Internet — he hand-writes his letters, in fact — but at 83 has learned a thing or two:

For auto insurance, try GEICO. Not only are the rates often low (call their 800-number to see, then shop around), the claims service, he’s found, is good. It sounds to me as if he should have been taking a higher deductible and not bothering with these claims at all, but he describes two incidents — one where a rock cracked his antenna-imbedded windshield, the other where some kids scratched up his old car (parked half a block from a police station — and how GEICO responded. He never saw a human or had to fill out any paperwork, it was all done over the phone. The windshield was fixed at his choice of three places GEICO recommended. Three hours later it was done. As for the vandalism, “GEICO referred me to their representative at a Cadillac agency. (I had a Chevy.) The representative took photos and said we could have it painted or they would give me $500. We took the money and I touched it up myself. No paperwork and he gave me the check on the spot.”

Maybe this is why Warren Buffett owns so much GEICO, and not some other outfit. (Progressive Insurance is also terrific at handling claims, by and large, although in some states they still only offer insurance to substandard risks.)

E-mail me any auto insurance experiences you may want to share. Anybody have a GEICO or Progressive nightmare?

And stay tuned for more from Alvin, the voice of experience.

Tomorrow: Alvin on Not-So-Stale Bread


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