Geico is giving car insurance customers a break on premiums because of the drop in claims associated the the coronavirus outbreak.
With most of America under stay-at-home orders, driving is significantly down -- and so are accidents. Geico said its policy will give customers a 15% credit on six-month policies when they are renewed or if they were started between now and Oct. 8.
Geico's break on premiums follows similar moves by Allstate and a smaller insurer. Geico is the second largest auto insurer in the country, behind State Farm, and insures 28 million vehicles. It estimates the credits will be worth $2.5 billion.
"This ongoing crisis has widespread effects that will linger. That is why we wanted to give this credit for at least six months," said Todd Combs, CEO of Geico, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. "Our customers have been loyal, and we are committed to doing all we can to help them."
Last month, Geico said it was pausing cancellations of coverage due to non-payment and policy expiration through at least April 30. Beyond that, the company said it will offer maximum flexibility in payments to customers.
Allstate said it would give cash payments equal to 15% of premium costs over a two-month period for April and May. It estimated that would total $600 million. American Family Insurance, a regional insurer serving 19 states, said it will give customers payments equal to $50 per car they insure with the company, which it said should total $200 million.
Geico can easily afford to return even more to customers said Dan Karr, the CEO of ValChoice, a data analytics company that acts as a watchdog on the insurance industry.
Geico's own estimate shows it would takes in about $17 billion in car insurance premiums over a six month period. And figures reported to insurance regulators show that the company likely paid out about $12 billion of that in claims, Karr said. He estimates claim payments are likely to fall about 85% due to the drop in traffic during the crisis, meaning a savings to the industry of about $10 billion.
Karr also said a credit to customers who stay with or start coverage with Geico is less valuable to drivers than the cash payments from Allstate, although the Geico savings are based on six months of premiums rather than just two.
"These companies can afford to give real relief. That's not what is being offered," said Karr. "This is a customer loyalty program, not a relief program."
Karr said he believes much of the industry will follow Allstate and Geico in offering some kind of break on car insurance during the crisis. He said people who are staying home, either because they're working there or have lost their jobs, can probably get about a 10% reduction to their insurance bill by calling their insurance company to change the use of their vehicle from commuting to personal use only. But they must change that coverage back before they return to using the car to commute again.
State Farm, which is a mutual insurance company owned by customers, said on Monday that it is "closely monitoring our automobile insurance losses and are considering how best to take this into account and return value to our auto insurance policyholders." It said it expects a decision by the end of the week.