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Do Car Insurance Companies Check Credit?

Car insurance is a necessity for vehicle owners, providing financial protection in the event of accidents, theft, or damage to their vehicles. When determining insurance premiums, car insurance companies take various factors into account, such as driving history, age, and the type of vehicle.

However, there is another factor that may surprise many: credit checks. The practice of car insurance companies checking credit has become increasingly common, and it has sparked discussions and debates among consumers.

In this blog, we will delve into the question: Do car insurance companies check credit? We will explore the purpose of credit checks in car insurance, the pros and cons associated with this practice, and the regulations surrounding it. By understanding the role of credit checks in the insurance industry, readers will gain insight into how their credit history can impact their insurance premiums and make informed decisions about their coverage.

Do Car Insurance Companies Check Credit?

When it comes to securing car insurance, you may be familiar with the usual factors that insurance companies consider, such as your driving history, age, and the type of vehicle you own. However, there is another factor that may catch you off guard: your credit history. Yes, it’s true – car insurance companies have been known to check credit as part of their assessment process. But why do they do this, and what does it mean for you as a policyholder?

Credit checks have become increasingly common in the insurance industry, including car insurance. The primary reason behind this practice is to evaluate the financial stability and responsibility of the individual seeking coverage. Insurance companies argue that there is a correlation between credit scores and the likelihood of filing claims. They believe that individuals with poor credit histories may be more likely to file claims and, as a result, pose a higher risk to insure.

To understand how credit checks in car insurance work, it’s important to know how credit scores are calculated. Credit scores are determined based on several factors, such as payment history, outstanding debts, length of credit history, types of credit used, and new credit applications. Insurance companies typically request a soft inquiry on an applicant’s credit report, which does not impact the credit score. They use this information to assess the overall financial picture of the applicant and determine their insurance premium.

The practice of car insurance companies checking credit has its share of pros and cons. On the positive side, credit checks can provide insurers with a clearer understanding of an individual’s financial responsibility. Those with good credit scores may be rewarded with lower premiums, as insurance companies perceive them as less likely to file claims. This approach encourages responsible financial behavior and can potentially save policyholders money.

However, there are also disadvantages to consider. Critics argue that credit checks disproportionately affect low-income individuals and communities, who may already face financial challenges. Additionally, some question the relevance of credit history in assessing one’s driving behavior and risk as a policyholder. After all, a person’s credit history does not necessarily reflect their ability to drive safely or responsibly.

Understanding Credit Checks In Car Insurance

Credit Checks And Their Purpose

Credit checks are a common practice across various industries, including insurance. They involve an assessment of an individual’s credit history and credit score to determine their financial stability and responsibility. While credit checks may seem unrelated to insurance, they serve a specific purpose for insurance companies.

The primary purpose of credit checks in the insurance industry is to assess risk. Insurance companies rely on data and statistical models to evaluate the likelihood of an individual filing claims and the potential costs associated with insuring them. Credit history is considered as one of the indicators of risk.

Insurance companies argue that there is a correlation between credit scores and insurance claims. They contend that individuals with poor credit histories may be more likely to file claims or engage in risky behavior that could lead to accidents or loss. On the other hand, those with good credit scores are seen as more financially stable and responsible, thus posing a lower risk from an insurance perspective.

Credit checks provide insurers with additional information beyond traditional factors such as driving records or age. By examining an individual’s credit history, insurers gain insights into their payment patterns, outstanding debts, and overall financial behavior. This information helps them make a more comprehensive assessment of an applicant’s risk profile and determine appropriate insurance premiums.

It’s worth noting that credit checks in insurance typically involve soft inquiries, which do not impact an individual’s credit score. Soft inquiries are different from hard inquiries, which occur when a person applies for credit, such as a loan or credit card. Insurance companies generally have access to credit information through third-party agencies specializing in credit reporting.

While credit checks serve a purpose for insurance companies, it’s important to recognize that not all insurers utilize this practice. Regulations and policies regarding credit checks in insurance can vary across jurisdictions and even among different insurance providers. Some states have restrictions on the use of credit information for insurance purposes, while others allow it with certain limitations.

Ultimately, credit checks are conducted with the aim of assessing risk and determining insurance premiums. By considering an individual’s credit history, insurers believe they can better evaluate an applicant’s financial responsibility and likelihood of filing claims. Whether credit checks accurately reflect an individual’s insurance risk or unfairly impact certain groups remains a subject of ongoing debate and discussion.

How Credit Scores Are Calculated

Credit scores play a significant role in various aspects of our financial lives, including obtaining loans, credit cards, and even insurance. These scores are numerical representations of an individual’s creditworthiness and are calculated using specific algorithms. While the exact formulas used by credit scoring models are proprietary, understanding the key factors that influence credit scores can help shed light on how they are calculated.

  1. Payment History: One of the most crucial components of credit scores is an individual’s payment history. It considers whether payments on credit accounts, such as credit cards, loans, or mortgages, were made on time. Late payments, defaults, or delinquencies can negatively impact credit scores. Consistently paying bills on time helps establish a positive payment history, which is vital for maintaining a good credit score.
  2. Credit Utilization: Credit utilization refers to the amount of credit an individual uses compared to their total available credit. It is expressed as a percentage. High credit utilization, where a significant portion of available credit is being used, can negatively impact credit scores. Maintaining a lower credit utilization ratio demonstrates responsible credit management and can positively influence credit scores.
  3. Length of Credit History: The length of credit history is another factor considered when calculating credit scores. It takes into account the age of the oldest account, the average age of all accounts, and the age of recently opened accounts. A longer credit history provides more data points for credit scoring models to assess an individual’s creditworthiness. Generally, a longer credit history is associated with higher credit scores, assuming a positive payment history.
  4. Credit Mix: Credit mix refers to the types of credit an individual utilizes, such as credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, or student loans. Having a diverse credit mix can positively impact credit scores, as it demonstrates an ability to manage different types of credit responsibly. However, it’s important to note that credit mix is a relatively minor factor compared to payment history and credit utilization.
  5. New Credit: Opening multiple new credit accounts within a short period can potentially lower credit scores. Credit scoring models consider the number of recently opened accounts, the number of credit inquiries made by lenders, and the time since the most recent account opening. This factor aims to assess the potential risk associated with taking on new credit obligations.

It’s important to remember that different credit scoring models, such as FICO Score and VantageScore, may use slightly different algorithms to calculate credit scores. Additionally, each credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) may have its own data and scoring methodologies. However, the key factors mentioned above generally play a significant role in determining credit scores across scoring models.

By understanding how credit scores are calculated and the factors that influence them, individuals can make informed decisions to improve and maintain good credit scores over time. Responsible credit management, timely payments, and maintaining a healthy credit utilization ratio are essential for achieving and maintaining a favorable credit score.

Correlation Between Credit Scores And Insurance Risk Assessment

One aspect that may surprise many consumers is the correlation between credit scores and insurance risk assessment. Insurance companies have found a connection between an individual’s credit history and their likelihood of filing insurance claims. As a result, credit scores have become a significant factor in determining insurance premiums and risk assessment. Let’s explore this correlation in more detail.

Insurance companies argue that credit scores provide valuable insights into an individual’s financial responsibility and stability. They believe that those with good credit scores are more likely to exhibit responsible behavior, which extends to their approach to driving and risk management. On the other hand, individuals with poor credit scores may be seen as more financially stressed and therefore pose a higher risk from an insurance perspective.

Studies have shown a statistical correlation between credit scores and insurance risk. Research conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States found that individuals with lower credit scores tend to file more insurance claims and have higher claim costs compared to those with higher credit scores. These findings have led insurers to incorporate credit checks into their risk assessment models.

One possible explanation for this correlation is that individuals with poor credit may face financial challenges that could lead to a higher likelihood of filing insurance claims. Financial stressors, such as mounting debts or difficulty making timely payments, may increase the probability of accidents or incidents that necessitate insurance claims. Insurance companies view this as an indicator of higher risk and adjust premiums accordingly.

It’s worth noting that the correlation between credit scores and insurance risk assessment is not without controversy. Critics argue that using credit history as a basis for insurance premiums may disproportionately impact certain groups, particularly those who have faced financial hardships or come from low-income communities. They argue that credit history does not necessarily reflect an individual’s driving behavior or ability to manage risk on the road.

In response to these concerns, some states have implemented regulations to limit or prohibit the use of credit information in insurance underwriting and pricing. These regulations aim to ensure fairness and prevent discrimination against individuals with poor credit.

How Credit History Can Affect Insurance Premiums

It may come as a surprise to many that credit history can have an impact on insurance premiums. Insurance companies often consider an individual’s credit history as part of their overall risk assessment process. Let’s explore how credit history can affect insurance premiums and why insurance companies take it into consideration.

Insurance companies view credit history as an indicator of an individual’s financial responsibility and stability. They believe that individuals with good credit histories are more likely to exhibit responsible behavior in other areas of their lives, including their approach to driving and risk management. On the other hand, individuals with poor credit histories may be perceived as financially stressed and potentially more likely to file insurance claims.

As a result, insurance companies may adjust insurance premiums based on an individual’s credit history. If an individual has a good credit history, indicating a track record of timely payments, low outstanding debts, and a stable financial situation, they may be rewarded with lower insurance premiums. Insurance companies see these individuals as lower risk and are more confident that they will have a lower likelihood of filing claims.

Conversely, individuals with poor credit histories may experience higher insurance premiums. Insurance companies view them as higher risk due to the perceived correlation between financial stress and the likelihood of filing claims. These higher premiums aim to offset the potential costs associated with insuring individuals with poor credit histories.

It’s important to note that credit history is just one of the factors considered in determining insurance premiums. Insurance companies also consider other factors such as driving record, age, type of vehicle, and geographical location. These factors collectively help insurers assess the overall risk associated with insuring an individual and set appropriate premiums.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the use of credit history in insurance premium calculations is not without controversy. Critics argue that it can disproportionately impact individuals who have faced financial hardships or come from low-income communities. They question the fairness of penalizing individuals for their credit history, which may be influenced by factors beyond their control.

In response to these concerns, some states have implemented regulations limiting or prohibiting the use of credit information in insurance underwriting and pricing. These regulations aim to ensure fairness and prevent potential discrimination based on credit history.

It’s important for individuals to be aware of how their credit history can impact their insurance premiums. Monitoring and maintaining a good credit history, including making timely payments and keeping outstanding debts low, can potentially lead to lower insurance premiums. Understanding the factors that insurers consider and exploring alternative insurance options if credit history poses a challenge can help individuals make informed decisions about their coverage and manage their insurance costs effectively.

Pros And Cons Of Credit Checks In Car Insurance

Advantages Of Credit Checks In Car Insurance

Credit checks have become a common practice in the car insurance industry, and they serve several purposes that insurance companies find advantageous. While credit checks may raise concerns for some consumers, there are perceived benefits associated with this practice. Let’s explore the advantages of credit checks in car insurance.

  1. Identifying Financial Stability and Responsibility: Credit checks provide insurance companies with insights into an individual’s financial stability and responsibility. By examining an applicant’s credit history, insurers can assess their payment patterns, outstanding debts, and overall financial behavior. This information helps insurers determine the level of financial responsibility an individual demonstrates. Those with good credit scores may be perceived as more likely to manage their insurance policies responsibly, which can result in lower insurance premiums.
  2. Lower Premiums for Customers with Good Credit: One of the primary advantages of credit checks in car insurance is the potential for lower premiums for customers with good credit. Insurance companies view individuals with good credit histories as lower risk, believing that they are more likely to exhibit responsible behavior and have a lower likelihood of filing insurance claims. As a result, these individuals may qualify for lower insurance premiums compared to those with poor credit histories. This incentive encourages individuals to maintain good credit and rewards them with potentially more affordable insurance rates.
  3. More Accurate Risk Assessment: Insurance companies use various factors to assess the risk associated with insuring an individual. Credit checks provide additional data points to make a more comprehensive risk assessment. By considering credit history, insurers gain insights into an applicant’s financial responsibility beyond traditional factors such as driving records or age. This holistic approach allows insurers to better understand an individual’s overall risk profile, potentially leading to more accurate pricing and coverage decisions.
  4. Fraud Detection and Prevention: Credit checks can help insurance companies identify potential fraud or misrepresentation during the underwriting process. If an applicant has a history of financial troubles or bankruptcy, insurers may scrutinize the application more closely to ensure the applicant’s credibility. Credit checks provide insurers with additional information that can help verify an applicant’s financial standing and assess the risk accurately. This aids in detecting and preventing fraudulent activities, which benefits both insurers and honest policyholders.

It’s important to note that while credit checks offer advantages, they are not the sole factor determining insurance premiums. Other factors, such as driving history, age, type of vehicle, and geographical location, also play significant roles. Furthermore, regulations in some states restrict or prohibit the use of credit information in insurance underwriting and pricing to ensure fairness and prevent potential discrimination.

Understanding the advantages of credit checks in car insurance allows individuals to recognize the potential benefits they may receive based on their credit history. Maintaining a good credit score, practicing responsible financial habits, and exploring insurance options that consider alternative factors can help individuals make informed decisions about their coverage and potentially save on insurance premiums.

Disadvantages Of Credit Checks In Car Insurance 

While credit checks in car insurance have their perceived advantages, there are also notable disadvantages associated with this practice. Some individuals may find themselves at a disadvantage due to their credit history. Let’s explore the disadvantages of credit checks in car insurance.

  1. Potential for Unfair Discrimination: One of the primary concerns regarding credit checks in car insurance is the potential for unfair discrimination. Credit history does not directly reflect an individual’s driving behavior or ability to manage risk on the road. Critics argue that using credit history as a basis for insurance premiums may disproportionately impact certain groups, such as those who have experienced financial hardships or come from low-income communities. This can create inequalities in insurance pricing and accessibility.
  2. Limited Insight into Driving Behavior: Credit history provides insights into an individual’s financial responsibility, but it offers limited information about their driving behavior. Insurance premiums should ideally be based on factors directly related to driving risk, such as driving records, past claims history, and vehicle characteristics. Relying heavily on credit checks may overlook crucial factors that directly impact an individual’s likelihood of filing claims or getting involved in accidents.
  3. Lack of Consistency: Credit scoring models and algorithms used by different insurers can vary, leading to inconsistencies in how credit checks affect insurance premiums. Each insurance company may have its own criteria for evaluating credit history, which can result in differing outcomes. This lack of consistency can be frustrating for individuals seeking car insurance, as they may receive different premium quotes from various insurers based on the same credit information.
  4. Limited Control for Consumers: Unlike factors such as driving behavior or vehicle choices, an individual has limited control over their credit history in the short term. Financial setbacks, unforeseen circumstances, or errors on credit reports can negatively impact credit scores, which may result in higher insurance premiums. This lack of control over credit history can be frustrating for individuals seeking affordable insurance options, especially if they have taken steps to improve other risk-related factors.
  5. Impact of Hard Inquiries: When insurance companies check an individual’s credit history, it typically results in a hard inquiry on their credit report. Hard inquiries can have a temporary negative impact on credit scores. Although the impact is usually small and short-lived, it can still be a concern for individuals who are actively managing and maintaining good credit.

It’s important to note that regulations governing the use of credit checks in insurance vary across jurisdictions. Some states have implemented restrictions or prohibitions on the use of credit information in insurance underwriting and pricing to address concerns about fairness and discrimination.

Understanding the disadvantages of credit checks in car insurance allows individuals to be aware of potential challenges they may face based on their credit history. Exploring insurance options that consider alternative factors or seeking out insurance providers that prioritize factors directly related to driving behavior can help individuals find coverage that better aligns with their needs and circumstances.

Regulations And Alternatives

State Regulations Regarding Credit Checks In Car Insurance

The use of credit checks in car insurance is subject to regulations that vary from state to state. Some jurisdictions have implemented restrictions or prohibitions on the use of credit information in insurance underwriting and pricing, while others allow insurers to consider credit history as a factor in determining insurance premiums. Let’s explore the state regulations regarding credit checks in car insurance.

  1. Prohibition of Credit Checks: Several states have enacted laws that prohibit or severely restrict the use of credit checks in car insurance. These states include California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Michigan. In these jurisdictions, insurance companies are not allowed to consider an individual’s credit history when setting insurance rates or making underwriting decisions. The rationale behind these prohibitions is to prevent potential discrimination and ensure that insurance premiums are based solely on factors directly related to driving risk.
  2. Limited Use of Credit Checks: Some states have implemented regulations that place limitations on the use of credit checks in car insurance. For example, in states like New York and New Jersey, insurance companies are allowed to consider credit information but with specific restrictions. These restrictions often include requiring insurers to provide clear and transparent disclosure to consumers regarding the use of credit information and its impact on insurance premiums. Additionally, these states may require insurers to consider other factors, such as driving records, when determining insurance rates.
  3. Permitted Use of Credit Checks: The majority of states in the United States permit insurance companies to consider an individual’s credit history in car insurance underwriting and pricing. However, even in these states, there may be regulations in place to ensure fairness and prevent discrimination. For example, insurers may be required to provide notice to policyholders if adverse action is taken based on their credit history, allowing individuals to review their credit reports for accuracy and address any errors.

It’s important to note that state regulations can change over time, and the specific requirements may differ within each jurisdiction. It’s advisable for consumers to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations in their respective states to understand how credit checks may impact their car insurance premiums.

Understanding the state regulations regarding credit checks in car insurance allows consumers to know their rights and protections. Individuals concerned about the use of credit checks can explore insurance providers that prioritize factors directly related to driving behavior or seek out insurers in states where the use of credit information is restricted or prohibited.

Alternative Options For Car Insurance Applicants With Poor Credit

Individuals with poor credit may face challenges when it comes to obtaining affordable car insurance. However, there are alternative options available that can help these individuals secure coverage and manage their insurance costs effectively. Let’s explore some of the alternatives for car insurance applicants with poor credit.

  1. Non-Standard Insurance Companies: Non-standard insurance companies specialize in providing coverage to individuals who may have difficulty obtaining insurance through traditional channels, such as those with poor credit histories. These companies typically offer insurance options tailored to high-risk drivers and individuals with challenging credit situations. While premiums may be higher compared to standard insurance providers, non-standard companies can provide an avenue for car insurance coverage when traditional options may not be readily available.
  2. State Insurance Pools: Some states have insurance pools or plans designed to assist individuals who have been denied coverage by private insurers, including those with poor credit. These plans, often referred to as assigned risk plans or state high-risk pools, are typically administered by the state’s insurance department. They ensure that individuals can still obtain the required auto insurance coverage, albeit at potentially higher rates. State insurance pools can be a valuable option for car insurance applicants who are unable to secure coverage through other means.
  3. Usage-Based Insurance: Usage-based insurance, also known as telematics or pay-as-you-go insurance, is an alternative option that may be beneficial for individuals with poor credit. This type of insurance involves using technology devices, such as a telematics device or a smartphone app, to monitor driving behavior and determine insurance premiums based on actual driving habits. By focusing on driving behavior rather than credit history, usage-based insurance can provide a more personalized and potentially more affordable insurance option for individuals with poor credit.
  4. Seek Insurance Quotes from Multiple Providers: It’s important for individuals with poor credit to shop around and obtain insurance quotes from multiple providers. Insurance companies have different underwriting criteria and pricing models, which means that premiums can vary significantly. By comparing quotes from various insurers, individuals can increase their chances of finding more affordable coverage. Additionally, some insurers may place less emphasis on credit history or have specific programs in place to assist individuals with poor credit.
  5. Improve Credit Over Time: While not an immediate solution, working to improve credit over time can lead to better insurance options in the future. Taking steps to manage debts, make timely payments, and demonstrate responsible financial behavior can help improve credit scores. As credit improves, individuals may be able to secure more competitive insurance rates.

It’s important for individuals with poor credit to be proactive in exploring their options and finding the best coverage available to them. Seeking assistance from insurance professionals or independent agents can also provide valuable guidance in navigating the insurance market and identifying suitable alternatives.

Potential Future Changes

The landscape of car insurance is constantly evolving, and there are several potential future changes that could impact the industry. While the exact nature and timing of these changes remain uncertain, they have the potential to shape how car insurance is obtained, priced, and utilized. Let’s explore some of the potential future changes in the car insurance industry.

  1. Advancements in Technology: Rapid advancements in technology are likely to have a significant impact on car insurance. The rise of autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) may lead to changes in how insurance premiums are calculated. Insurance companies might shift their focus from individual driving records to the safety features and performance capabilities of vehicles. Additionally, telematics and usage-based insurance programs may become more prevalent as technology allows for more accurate monitoring of driving behavior.
  2. Usage-Based Insurance Expansion: Usage-based insurance, which assesses premiums based on actual driving behavior, has gained popularity in recent years. This trend is likely to continue, with usage-based insurance expanding to include a wider range of factors beyond just driving behavior. Insurers may consider additional data sources, such as vehicle maintenance records or lifestyle habits, to tailor premiums more accurately. This personalized approach could result in fairer pricing for individuals based on their specific risk profiles.
  3. Shift towards On-DemandInsurance: The emergence of the sharing economy and transportation alternatives, such as ride-sharing and car-sharing services, has sparked interest in on-demand insurance. Traditional annual policies may give way to more flexible insurance options that can be activated or deactivated as needed. This shift could allow individuals to pay for coverage only during the times they are actively using a vehicle, potentially reducing costs for occasional drivers or those who rely on alternative transportation methods.
  4. Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Concerns: As cars become increasingly connected and reliant on data, concerns around cybersecurity and data privacy are likely to become more prominent. Insurance companies will need to prioritize protecting customer data from cyber threats and ensure compliance with evolving data privacy regulations. The ability to securely collect and analyze data will remain crucial for insurers to provide personalized pricing and coverage options while maintaining customer trust.
  5. Regulatory Changes: Regulatory changes can significantly impact the car insurance industry. Governments may introduce new laws and regulations to address concerns such as fairness, discrimination, and accessibility. This could include further restrictions or prohibitions on the use of certain factors, such as credit history or gender, in insurance underwriting and pricing. Additionally, regulations might aim to promote transparency in pricing models and improve consumer understanding of insurance policies and coverage options.

It’s important to note that these potential future changes are speculative and subject to various factors, including technological advancements, market dynamics, and regulatory landscapes. Insurance companies and policymakers will continue to adapt to emerging trends and challenges to meet the evolving needs of consumers and ensure a fair and sustainable car insurance industry.

Conclusion

Overall, the practice of car insurance companies checking credit has become increasingly common in the industry. While it may raise concerns for some individuals, it serves various purposes that insurance companies find advantageous. Credit checks provide insurers with insights into an individual’s financial stability, responsibility, and overall risk profile. They help in assessing the likelihood of a policyholder filing claims, managing their policies responsibly, and detecting potential fraud.

There are perceived advantages associated with credit checks in car insurance. Insurers may offer lower premiums to individuals with good credit scores, as they are seen as lower risk and more likely to exhibit responsible behavior. Credit checks also contribute to a more accurate risk assessment, considering an applicant’s financial responsibility alongside traditional factors. This holistic approach enables insurers to make more informed pricing and coverage decisions.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the disadvantages of credit checks as well. Critics argue that credit history does not directly reflect an individual’s driving behavior or ability to manage risk on the road. There is a concern that relying heavily on credit checks may result in unfair discrimination, disproportionately affecting certain groups. Additionally, the lack of consistency in credit scoring models and the limited control individuals have over their credit history can be challenging.

State regulations regarding credit checks in car insurance vary across jurisdictions. Some states prohibit or restrict the use of credit information, aiming to prevent discrimination and ensure fairness. Others allow insurers to consider credit history but with specific regulations in place to protect consumers’ rights and provide transparency.

For individuals with poor credit, alternative options are available. Non-standard insurance companies specialize in providing coverage to high-risk individuals, while state insurance pools can help those who have been denied coverage by private insurers. Usage-based insurance and seeking quotes from multiple providers are other alternatives worth exploring. Additionally, working towards improving credit over time can lead to better insurance options in the future.

The car insurance landscape is continuously evolving, and potential future changes can further shape the industry. Advancements in technology, the expansion of usage-based insurance, the shift towards on-demand coverage, and concerns regarding cybersecurity and data privacy are factors that may influence the way car insurance is obtained and priced. Regulatory changes will also play a role in addressing fairness, discrimination, and transparency.

Ultimately, the decision to check credit in car insurance varies among insurance companies and jurisdictions. It is important for individuals to be aware of their rights, explore alternative options, and understand the factors that influence their insurance premiums. By staying informed and proactive, individuals can make informed decisions about their car insurance coverage and seek out the most suitable options for their needs and circumstances.