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Things never stay the same in the insurance industry. Everything is static and ever-changing which creates headaches, problems, bad feelings, and, at least to me, interest. Let me tell you the tale of two companies.

As many of you have noticed or will notice when you receive your renewal offer, the Mercury Insurance Company has completed a makeover of their personal auto insurance program. Some of you will be thrilled with the changes while some of you won’t be happy. You see, Mercury compiled information from the past five years of claims activity and made adjustments to their auto program based on these numbers. There was no emotion involved in making these changes; everything is based on metrics (that’s numbers to us commoners). Some zip codes saw rate decreases because the numbers show that historically, there have not been a lot of claims coming from these areas while other zip codes have seen rate increases due to a lot of claims coming from these areas.

Oceanside has two zip codes that have been hit particularly hard due to a lot of claims activity from these areas. So, if you think that a lot of your neighbors filing many small nuisance claims or embellishing the facts while trying to “hit the jackpot” when filing a claim doesn’t affect you, think again. And all of those payouts by your company because the other guy didn’t follow the law and have the necessary, mandated insurance coverage? You end up paying more.

Mercury also created their own vehicle rating symbols based on how much certain vehicles cost to fix or replace. You would be shocked to see how much money is paid out on Honda Civics vs. a Toyota Prius. So, Prius drivers are getting a break while Civic drivers are seeing an increase.

Other underwriting factors such as driver classes (a person’s age and marital status) come into play as well. The whole idea is to charge more where the numbers show the risk to be higher and to charge less where the numbers show the risk to be lower. But, I really understand the pain somebody feels when he or she has done nothing wrong, have been safe drivers, have not filed claims, yet see an increase simply because others in their area have done just the opposite.

So what are we doing about it? We are re-shopping every renewal that comes across our desks. If we have another option for you to consider, we will let you know about it. We ask that you look at both options and decide which way you want to go. And if you have questions, we ask that you contact us. As an independent agent, we have many companies in which to place you, not just Mercury. I promise that we will try our hardest to continue to serve your needs and craft a solution that best fits you.

One of these other programs that we offer is through MetLife who has been around since 1863. You may have seen their commercials that feature Peanuts characters, particularly Snoopy. MetLife is an ultra-preferred program where we place our safest drivers so if we send you an offer to move to MetLife, you know that your good driving habits have paid off and you can rest assured that you are with a solid company.

But what about this Pebble Beach stuff I alluded to? I have been invited to be on the MetLife Producer Council which means that I will have input into their insurance programs. Using the experience gained in the agency as well as your experiences, I will be able to suggest changes to make the program better for you and me.

Recently, MetLife invited me and other council members to come to Monterey and the Pebble Beach golf tournament. I was able to have a wonderful dinner with senior management of MetLife and then the next day, join other MetLife producers and staff in the MetLife tent that overlooked the 17th green on the Pebble Beach course (golfers rotate on three different golf courses during the tournament). The view next to the ocean was spectacular, the golf was amazing, and the hosts could not be more hospitable. This was a huge thank you by MetLife for volunteering my time to give input into changes that will make their program even better for you.

MetLife has a goal of creating a partnership with their agents to help us grow and offer great products and services to our communities. In the upcoming months, you may see us at community events and I am considering partnering with MetLife on a blood drive at the agency. And of course, Snoopy will be there too.

And Mercury? Though my life and the life of my staff have become more difficult while we navigate through the program changes to the Mercury auto program, I still support Mercury 100% and understand why these changes are being made. Mercury did not become the third largest carrier in California by being stupid or lucky.

I am proud to be a Mercury agent, a MetLife agent, and an agent of the other programs we have to offer to you. Please, always feel free to stop in or give us a call if you have any questions or concerns. We work for you, not the insurance companies.


Ken May has been serving North County since 1982 offering quality insurance products with strong carriers. He is currently the president of the American Agents Alliance of California, the local chairperson of the North San Diego County Chapter of the Alliance, and a member of the MetLife producer council. He can be contacted at for all of your Carlsbad insurance needs.

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