Ever since we moved to the DC area in February, we have gotten by without a personal vehicle. We are lucky to live near a Metro station, and I am also lucky to work near a Metro station. We live within walking distance of three supermarkets. We have used Zipcar when it has made sense to do so, but for the most part, we have walked or taken Metro to get around. As someone who has never been comfortable driving, I have found living a mostly car-free existence to be tremendously satisfying. I felt like I was sticking it to the man when I reflected on how much additional exercise I was getting walking everywhere and how much money I wasn't spending on parking, insurance, and gas.
However, thanks to Scott getting a new job (yay!) in a location not Metro-accessible (shouldn't everything be clustered around Metro stations??), we are now getting a car. We picked one out on Saturday and plan to bring it home on Thursday.
A vehicle necessitates auto insurance, of course. We thought it would be a fairly straightforward process. We last had auto insurance through Allstate before we moved to Kazakhstan, and we currently have renter's insurance through them, so we figured we would just go back to them.
It was not to be.
Scott first tried getting a quote just by filling out one of their forms online. The system was unable to give him a quote, so he emailed the local agent. The local agent said he couldn't give us a quote either, and that Allstate couldn't insure us until we had a year of insurance coverage elsewhere. The reason? Because we had a gap in auto insurance coverage. Why would we be so irresponsible as to have a gap in our auto insurance coverage, you may ask? Because we sold our car before we moved to Kazakhstan. Even if we had wanted to throw our money away on coverage we couldn't possibly use, we actually had nothing to insure, since we no longer had a car.
Clearly, having Allstate insurance had become an oddly exclusive club, so Scott consulted Consumer Reports and decided to call Amica, which was highly rated. Amica at least was willing to provide us a quote....to the tune of $4,000 a year. Um, no. I will say that trying to gouge us at least seems like a plausible business strategy, as opposed to Allstate's deciding not to cover us at any price. The reason was the same, however: our gap in coverage due to our period of time not owning a car.
In the end, we went with Esurance. We're still paying more than we ever have for auto insurance, but at least it's less than $4,000. I guess this is another one of those hidden costs of working abroad, or at least returning to the US after working abroad. Come to think of it, this could also be a hidden cost to anyone who sells their car and uses mass transit in order to save money, and then decides to have a car again at some point. I will be very happy if the US can ever move past the narrative of continuous car ownership being an integral part of adult life, but we are obviously not there yet.