Gephardt: Car Dealers, Insurance Companies Helping Consumers During Pandemic

Apr 17, 2020, 6:44 PM | Updated: 7:47 pm

SANDY, UtahWith so many Americans suddenly unemployed or staying home, the economy has screeched to a halt. That could be an opportunity for some to find a deal, as the auto industry tries to jump-start their business.

If you’ve been on the roads lately, you’ve probably noticed that you’re largely all by yourself. The situation is so unique. Maybe you’ve also noticed an email in your inbox so bizarre, it made you do a spit-take.

Many insurance companies are literally giving money away. American Family, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, Progressive, Geico, Farmers, State Farm and others are refunding premiums, offering steep discounts to renew or deferring payments

Fewer cars on the road is adding up to fewer wrecks, and apparently the insurance giants have extra money burning a hole in their pockets.

Will Kaufman, content strategist for Edmunds.com, says the situation is truly unprecedented. The benefits to commuting consumers don’t necessarily end with insurance refunds either, especially for those whose jobs have been impacted by COVID-19

“None of these car companies want to be repossessing cars,” he said. “Automakers have set up resources for consumers and owners who might be having trouble making payments right now.”

It’s crucial, Kaufman says, that you communicate with your lender if you’re having any sort of financial hardship – even though getting through right now isn’t always easy. Not doing so could trigger the lender to report the delinquency and leave your credit score dinged. 

“Basically, every car maker has some sort of program going right now. Some of them are pretty explicit,” Kaufman says. “Hyundai, for example, has revived their program from the 2008 recession that allows up to six months of difference payments, if you’ve lost your job. A lot of other automakers are offering 90 days, 60 days, 120 days, and some are just saying, ‘Call us, and we’ll help you out as best we can.’”

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a good financial position, this may also be an opportunity. Interest rates are at record lows and many car dealers are hungrier than ever to move their inventory, Kaufman said.

“There’s a lot of cash on the hood. If you’re feeling really secure, you can get a deal.”

People who are leasing their cars have some options as well if their leases are ending during coronavirus.

A lot of companies are offering extensions on leases, Kaufman said, but he cautioned consumers should make sure they aren’t going to face other costs by extending, like paying for a full year’s registration if the lease is only extended a few months.

“If you don’t want to trade in your lease right now and go through that process, there are options available,” he said.

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Gephardt: Car Dealers, Insurance Companies Helping Consumers During Pandemic