A devastating winter storm and delayed tax returns hampered auto insurance growth rates in February, but a surge in March led to significant year-over-year increases for both shopping and new business for first-quarter 2021, according to LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ latest Insurance Demand Meter.

Winter storm Uri impacted much of the U.S. from Feb. 13-17, bringing snow and ice and causing widespread power outages. Texas, the hardest-hit state, saw a shopping volume decrease of 41 percent due to power outages and damaged infrastructure, but many surrounding states and much of the Eastern Seaboard were also impacted. Countrywide, LexisNexis said shopping growth was down 4.6 percent the week of the storm after growing 10.2 percent the week prior.

LexisNexis said delays in income tax processing also stalled shopping for the month and may have caused some policyholders to shop in March instead of February as usual.

Meanwhile, March saw a huge rebound, with new business growth surging 27.8 percent, while the shopping rate increased an impressive 17.0 percent for the month. Overall, this resulted in new business growth of 7.7 percent for Q1 2021, while the shopping rate for auto insurance grew 4.6 percent for the quarter.

“March marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of pandemic-related shutdowns, which brought much of our lives—including auto insurance shopping and switching—to a screeching halt. A year later, we are starting to hurdle that very deep trough from the first quarter of 2020, and this is reflected in this quarter’s Demand Meter,” said Tanner Sheehan, associate vice president, auto insurance, LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

“As people return to a normal way of living, we expect the industry and shopping activity to bounce back. Carriers will need to be prepared with their new business and renewal programs to take advantage of shopping growth and build on their brand promises,” Sheehan concluded.