A former Progressive car insurance customer service rep has stepped forward into the light to give us the low-down on how his ex-employer works:

I worked at a call center for Progressive Insurance up until about a month ago. I hated my job so much, but I really can’t gripe about the company. It is a great company to work for and they are very good to their customers. So I’d like to share with you some inside knowledge about the company; like how to grossly extend your payment, get fees waived, and the logical behind rating factors.

1. Progressive uses a point system to determine your rate

Comprehensive Claims (0 points)…usually don’t effect the rate. In fact, I’ve never seen one effect someone’s rate. Comprehensive claims is fancy insurance talk for claims that are not accidents; like fires, thefts, vandalisms. Don’t be afraid to report these kinds of claims. I can virtually guarantee they have no effect on your rate at Progressive.

Not at Fault Accidents…(0 – 1 points)it is rare for a NAF to effect your rate, but it can. They may have a slight effect on your rate, depending on the state. I think this is unfair to hold against someone, but many companies are starting to do this.

DUI, DWI (0 to 2 points). Huh? Most companies won’t even insure a DUI. But they are barely a rating factor at Progressive. The logic is that most DUIs don’t result in terrible crashes, and most individuals are non-repeat offenders. And typically, repeat and malicious offenders don’t have respect for the law, including the law that you are required to carry insurance. If you have a DUI on your record, I can pretty much say you will never find a lower rate than Progressive.

Tickets (1 to 2 points). Usually all speeding, stop sign, defective equipment, traffic light, yield tickets go here. Usually 2 points a piece.

Worse Offenses, At Fault Accidents (3 to 4 points).

Jailable driving offenses (8 points). Drag racing, vehicular homicide, etc.

2. The biggest factors affecting your rate

AGE: Young drivers are much, much more expensive due to their inexperience and sometimes immaturity. As you get older, each year, this factor will help bring your ‘risk’ down.

GENDER: According to studies, males are higher ‘risk’ than females. However, new research indicates that females are catching up, so this isn’t as huge of a factor anymore.

Urban areas pay more; with dense traffic, you are much more likely to get in an accident. Poor neighborhoods pay more due to the risk of crime; vandalism, break-ins, and thefts. Even very nice neighborhoods pay slightly more, since if you do get into an accident, you have much better odds of hitting an expensive E-class than an economic Escort. The best areas are middle to lower-middle class suburbs and rural areas.

Unfortunately for some, this plays a very big role in your rate. The only state exempt from credit checks is California. I had to explain to some customers that their new rates went up because of their credit score. Not fun.

There’s a ton of factors that go into this; typically, the lowest risk is 4-door sedans, 2-door coupes, convertibles, minivans, trucks, SUVs. The bigger your vehicle, the more damage it has the potential to cause, which makes it a higher risk. If you hit a car in an intersection with an Cavalier at 25mph, it isn’t going to cause nearly same kind of damage as a diesel F-350. Foreign cars are slightly more to insure since replacement parts cost slightly more.

COLOR of your car does NOT effect your rate. This myth was created after a study you’ve probably read, that red cars are the ‘riskiest’. The logic from the study was bright colors, like red, make cars appear that they are going faster than dull or dark colors. As a result, an officer in a speed trap is more likely going to pull over a red car since it looks like it is going faster. And speeding tickets ARE an insurance factor.

Driving histories go back 36 months, except in New York (which is 40 months). Your history is composed from three reports; your MVR or Motor Vehicle Report, the state database of your ticketed driving history; your CLUE report, a collection of previous insurance companies reports stating the numbers of claims you’ve had, and YOU. If you say you got in an accident, were never sited for it and never claimed it on your insurance, but you still tell us, it’ll be put on your record with an approximate date.

There is no way to get something off of your insurance driving history, other than time. Let’s say you had a speeding ticket on 04/23/04. And let’s say your renewal date for the next term is on 5/1/07. This speeding ticket will fall off the account and help lower your rate.

However, let’s say the speeding ticket was on 5/15/07 when you renew on 5/1/07. That means, for the next six months, this ticket will effect your rate! So if you notice a violation that is a month or closer past the renewal date, tell them you are thinking about leaving because the rate is too high and ask to see if you can get the violation off the account a little early. As long as it’s close, they’ll try.

3. If you are 21 to 30 years old, unless you are on a parent’s plan, Progressive is one of the best rates around.
They provide very good 24/7 customer service and, in my opinion, one of the best claims services ever. Progressive reps do NOT make any sort of commission, so if they try to upsell you, it’s for your own protection. One bad crash with only state minimums can ruin you financially for the rest of your life. It happens. No one gets into accidents on purpose, that’s why they’re called accidents. 🙂

4. How to pay late without penalty
Extend your due date. Progressive will allow customers to extend their due date up to 10 days later. The only time this doesn’t apply is on the first payment of a renewal term. So if your bill is due on April 1, you can extend it until April 11 without a late fee. Just call and ask.

5. How to get a late fee waived
Late Fees are only $5 and you won’t be penalized more than once per bill. As long as you are not consistently late with payments, you can usually get this waived if you call with some excuse. Just pretend to be concerned about the late fee on your account ruining your credit or good standing with the company (even though it won’t). Technically, Progressive reps aren’t allowed to waive any fees without talking to their supervisor first. And if for strange some reason the rep says no, ask for a manager.

6. If you can’t pay on time, we’re not going to cut you off immediately
Let’s assume you have a good payment history. The bill is due April 1. On April 2, you’ll get a second notice, giving you about another 7 days. After that, you’ll get a Final notice, which can be anywhere from 7 to 23 days. Since all insurance companies must be compliant with each state’s department of insurance, each state makes up their own “legal notice”, or the amount of a grace period you can pay your bill late.

7. Progressive honors the postmark date of a mailed payment
If you payment is due on April 1 and the envelope is postmarked on that day…even though by the time Progressive receives and processes it on April 7, it is still considered on time without a penalty. And there is no charge to pay over the phone with check or credit.

8. Mail your renewal payment on time
When you sign up, you essentially agree to six month terms, let’s say from Jan 1 to Jul 1. You can be late every month; Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun…but if you are late in July, which would be the start of your new term, your first payment is the one that binds coverage. It’s the only way to legally show that you agree to the terms of your new insurance contract. Without money, Progressive has no way of knowing you’re intentions to renew.

9. How to get a non-sufficient fund fee waived
Aka returned payment, usually $15 to $20. As long as you have a good payment history, just call and say your checkbook was stolen. Every once in a while, a supervisor will ask for proof from the bank. Although it probably won’t happen, just call after normal business hours when banks are closed, or anytime Sunday. Call centers are open 24/7. If they still press for proof (again, which they probably won’t), just keep pressing the fact that you shouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow to prove it and want to get this bill taken care of.

10. How to get an early cancellation fee waived
If you ever want to cancel midterm, you can. Many states have done away with cancel fees, typically about $50. However, if yours still does, when they ask you the reason for canceling, just say you moved out of the state or the country. They may ask you if you tried a rate in your new state, say you did but you found a much better one. No cancel fee will be assessed.


Former Progressive Licensed CSR,


(Photo: simondhweller)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.