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Insurance companies are quick to increase their premiums when facing higher claim costs, so it’s reasonable to expect the opposite when claims fall.

Physical distancing to combat the pandemic has meant people are doing a lot less driving. I had to pick up some audio equipment for our new Stress Test podcast the other day at what would have been rush hour in normal times. The roads weren’t exactly empty, but the volume of vehicles was far less than half the usual congestion.

Some vehicle insurers have lowered premiums or offered rebates to clients since the pandemic began, but it’s now clear that many did not. In a recent survey by InsuranceHotline.com, only 25 per cent of participants said they were offered rate relief. Sixty-four per cent said they were not offered any rate relief, and 12 per cent didn’t know. Those who did get some help with their car-insurance premiums were mostly unimpressed. One-third found the measures helpful, while 64 described them as insignificant.

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After more than three months of lockdown to fight the pandemic, we’re all hungry to get back to as much of our normal lives as we can. The companies that didn’t step up in the pandemic are hoping that we forget about them in the move back to normalcy. Is there really any point to comparing car-insurance rates when summer’s here, stores are reopening, restaurant patios are reappearing in some cities and travel within the country suddenly seems possible?

For two reasons, the answer is yes. One is to save money. Vehicle-insurance rates vary surprisingly between companies, and you may be able to reduce your annual costs. The second reason is to show companies that there is a cost attached to their unhelpful behaviour during a crisis. Why would you do business with an insurance company that didn’t offer any rate relief in the pandemic and has higher costs than competitors?

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

How good does your credit score need to be?

A look at your chances of qualifying for various types of credit cards based on your credit score.

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The investment firm that financial advisers almost universally hate

A financial planner takes a nuanced look at marketing by a firm called Questrade, which owns a robo-adviser and online brokerage. Questrade ads focus on how much cheaper its own services are compared to advisers.

Why stocks are so hot

An investing blogger looks at five signs that we might be in a new bull market. Lots of people are skeptical about the durability of the stock market’s rise in recent months, but the mood is extremely bullish right now.

Need to organize your finances? Try the 50/20/30 budget

An interesting idea for budgeting – 50 per cent to essentials, 20 per cent to savings, 30 per cent to fund stuff.

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Ask Rob

Q: Recently, you’ve been focusing on the possibility of inflation or deflation. I’ve been noticing price increases not only with food but with car repairs. Just wondering if we will see increased prices for services or products because businesses are serving fewer customers in the pandemic. I’ve definitely noticed it with car repairs and maintenance so far.

A: Very possible we will see pockets of inflation because of economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. Supply chains serving all kinds of business have been affected in ways that could be driving up prices. Individual business may also raise prices to, as you suggest, offset lower demand. The overall inflation numbers may be subdued for a while, but we aren’t going to avoid higher prices entirely.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

This insurance rebate calculator will help you find out what premium relief is available from your auto insurance company as a result of the pandemic.

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In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

  • Mixed signals? A bank offers a record-breaking low fixed mortgage rate just as CMHC tightens lending rules
  • Would-be passengers get around airline refund policies via credit-card chargebacks
  • Should Mark and Meredith invest their surplus or pay off their mortgages?

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