9 Smart Ways to Save on Car Insurance

Understanding Auto Insurance Basics Liability Collision Comprehensive

Much like having to pay for utilities or car repairs, paying for car insurance is one of those annoying expenses that we all have bear, even if we don’t really want to. But while purchasing auto insurance may be unavoidable, paying too much to insure our vehicles are something to watch out for.

Although most of the time we simply just pay the bill without really thinking about it, there are actually some clever ways most of us can decrease our car insurance rates, at least a little.

Don’t believe me? Here are nine smart ways to save on car insurance that are well worth reviewing. Even if you’ve heard some of them before, taking the time to make sure you are following them could save you hundreds with just a phone call or two:

1. Review Your Policy Annually

Like with home insurance, it is important to be vigilant about reviewing your auto insurance policy on an annual basis to make ensure you are getting the best rate and to find out if there are any new or additional discounts available. Your insurance agent will not do this for you, at least not without you asking him to. Instead, you must be your own best advocate when it comes to paying less for insurance.

2. Shop Around

While it is easy to get attached to a particular agent or agency, particularly one who has served your family for years, it always pays to shop around.  Even if you decide to stick with your current provider, comparing prices and getting multiple quotes will give you a much clearer idea of what you could or should be paying, and will also give you more leverage for negotiating rates.

Interestingly, according to the Allstate policy specialist I spoke with, choosing the cheaper premium may not always be the best route to take. He suggested determining what coverage you need or expect to require as well as researching claims procedures (such as time to respond, special benefits, etc.), and then determining what type of relationship you want (face-to-face, web only, etc.) Once you’ve researched all these factors, and created a list of companies that offer what you are looking for you will have a much better way of comparing cost to value.

3. Combine Insurance Policies

While shopping around is important, it can also payoff big time to carry all your various insurance policies with the same carrier to take advantage of a multiple-policy discount.  Furthermore, bundling policies can not only cost you less money, it can also make life easier by giving you one reliable contact (your agent) for your insurance needs and questions.

4. Be a Safe Driver

One of the most effective ways to pay less for insurance is to be a safe and conscientious driver, as the best premiums and rates are offered to those without speeding tickets or accidents tarnishing their records. On top of that, many insurance companies give bonuses and credits for every additional year of safe driving.

But what if your record is already tarnished? Is there any way to redeem yourself once you’ve made a mistake?

Surprisingly, yes. While you can’t magically erase a bad driving record, you can vow to become a better driver from now on, and the longer you can go without any driving infractions, the more likely you will be to get a discount. Turn off your cell phone before getting in the car, eliminate other distractions as much as possible, and obey the speed limit and other traffic signs. Furthermore, it is sometimes possible to go to traffic or driving school to keep tickets from appearing on your driving record. Be sure to inquire if this is a possibility in your area!

5. Increase Your Deductible

Increasing your deductible is a quick and easy way to get a lower rate. Yes, your deductible will cost more if you ever need to file a claim, but as a good driver you may never need to. Even increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can save you thousands over the long run. Of course, as our Allstate policy expert reminds us, just make sure it’s still an amount you can afford in case there comes a time that you do have to make a claim. Remember too that changes you make don’t have to be permanent—if the deductible feels too high you can always lower it again later on.

6. Drive an Older or Safer Vehicle

Insurance is often the last thing we think about when shopping for a new vehicle. We become distracted by all the beautiful colors and the shiny bells and whistles, and it isn’t until we actually have to write that first insurance check that we consider how much our pretty new car is really going to cost us.

Thus, before purchasing a new or used vehicle it is important to do a little research in order to factor in the cost of insurance. Older vehicles are generally much cheaper to insure than new vehicles because their value is greatly reduced. But, according to our Allstate analyst, age and value are not the only factors that come into play: The type of car could impact your insurance rates. For example, safety aspects of certain vehicles may end up costing less, while an expensive car could cost more to insure because it can cost more to replace. You also may be eligible for discounts if your vehicle includes certain safety features or is deemed an economical car.

7. Drive Less

Most auto insurance companies will offer discounts for vehicles that incur low annual mileage, which means that if you own a car that doesn’t get driven much or if you can find a way to drive less, you can save a bundle. There are many ways to do this, including carpooling to work (which can also provide additional carpool discounts), moving closer to work, walking, bicycling, or taking public transit when possible, or becoming more efficient with your errands by bundling them as much as possible. The added benefits of driving less include less wear and tear on your vehicle, significant gas savings, and less risk of accidents. 

8. Install Safety Features

While most newer vehicles come pre-equipped with standard safety features, installing additional safety features to older cars can help greatly decrease your insurance premium. Vehicles equipped with safety features such as automatic seat belts, running lights, an alarm system or anti-lock braking system can all save you money on your policy.

If your car doesn’t already have ABS installed in it, check to see if it would be worth the cost of installation. Insurers love the anti-lock braking system because its been tested thoroughly as a safety device and has a track record for effectiveness. Anti-lock brakes are highly effective in driving conditions where you may need to brake hard. You can keep control of the vehicle better especially when it comes to stopping on ice in a pinch.

Likewise, installing an anti-theft device may also help reduce your premium. Check with your insurance agent to be sure.

9. Take Advantage of Special Discounts

In addition to safe driver discounts, most insurance companies offer a variety of other discounts on auto insurance. While these do vary by state and company, just a few of the discounts that you may be able to take advantage of include Good Student Discounts, Senior Discounts, Retired Discounts, and Resident Student Discounts. At Allstate, Teen drivers can even take a TeenSmart driving class to lower their premiums.   There can also be significant discounts available for paying early, paying in full, or paying through automatic withdrawal.

Furthermore, while some occupations are not at all favored by insurance companies, others may qualify for discounts. You can end up with a higher rate of insurance for jobs in such fields as journalism, real estate agents, sales representatives and even entertainers, but giving your insurer information that is as specific as possible can help lower your rate. A journalist for example may get a high premium but if she is listed as an editor then she can get a lower premium. In any case do NOT be dishonest about your occupation or you may hurt your chances of qualifying for future claims. The occupation you state has to be reasonably close to what you do for a living.

While taking the time to review your auto insurance policy may not be the most enjoyable hour of your life, the thrill of saving a couple of hundred dollars should more than make up for a few minutes of tedium. These nine smart discounts are certainly a great place to start, but always remember be your own advocate and to seek out the best possible rate no matter what.

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12 Smart Ways to Save on Home Insurance

Key chain: Home shape and car keys

Few of us would consider the possibility of not having homeowner’s insurance.  Like paying for health insurance or utilities, it is just one of those annoying-but-necessary expenses we simply have to put up with, whether we want to or not, or whether we ever actually use it or not.

But have you ever stopped to consider whether you might be paying too much to insure your home?

The problem with expenses like insurance is that because we accept them as a fact of life, we don’t always think about making sure we are getting the best possible rate.  The truth is that homeowner insurance policies can vary a lot, and even if you shopped around when you first purchased your policy, new options or reductions may have become available in the meantime.  The most important thing to remember is that it is not your insurance provider’s job to make sure you are getting the best rate.  YOU must be your own best advocate when it comes to paying less for insurance.   As such, it is best to be vigilant about re-checking your policy once a year to make sure you are always paying as little as possible.

Still not sure where to start?  Here are 12 very smart ways to save on homeowner’s insurance that you may not have considered:

Shop Around

While it is easy to get attached to a particular agent or agency, particularly one who has served your family for years, it always pays to shop around.  Even if you decide to stick with your current provider, comparing prices and getting multiple quotes will give you a much clearer idea of what you could or should be paying, and will also give you more leverage for negotiating rates.

Take Advantage of Special Discounts

Many insurance companies provide special discounts for a variety of factors, including age, driving record, student report cards, and more.  They will not automatically apply these savings—you have to ask for them!  Be sure to review an updated discount list each year to see if your family has qualified for any new discounts.

Raise Your Deductible

One of the quickest ways to lower your insurance payment is to raise your deductible—the amount you would have to cover before your insurance kicks in.  This works because the more you have to pay out of pocket in case of emergency, the less risk the insurance company has to assume.  Of course the flip side is that in the event of an emergency, you would need to cover a much larger deductible, which means that this is only a good option if you are willing and able to keep an emergency fund in place. (In a sense, your emergency fund is like your own mini insurance policy.)

Only Insure the Cost to Rebuild

Most home insurance policies will automatically cover the total value of the home, rather than the cost to rebuild.  If you live in an area where the property values are higher, this means that you may be paying a premium to insure your land, when all you really should be insuring is the cost to rebuild in the event of emergency or disaster.  It is important to note that changing the amount you have insured may or may not be an option depending on your mortgage company.

Combine Policies

While shopping around is important, it can also payoff big time to carry all your various insurance policies with the same carrier to take advantage of a multiple-policy discount.  Furthermore, bundling policies can not only cost you less money, it can also make life easier by giving you one reliable contact (your agent) for your insurance needs and questions.

Make Your Home More Disaster Resistant

While prepping for a disaster won’t necessarily lower your insurance rates (though it might), it could save you from having to make an expensive claim.  In other areas, smart ways to prepare might include cutting down tall trees close to the house

The best way to prepare for a disaster is before it happens. In addition to taking precautions for protecting your house, it is a smart idea to create a disaster preparedness kit and household emergency plan just in case.

Improve Home Security

Installing a home security system is not as difficult or expensive as it might sound, and many insurance companies will offer a significant discount for homes with a home security system.  Adding additional locks, motion sensor lights, and other home security features can help as well.  Check with your provider for specific details.

Maintain A Good Credit Score

While this is not always the case, your credit score can have a big impact on your insurance rates.  Some insurance companies will consider anyone with poor credit “high risk,” which will ultimately result in a higher rate.  While not all insurance companies use credit as a gauge, it is definitely a smart practice to use credit wisely in any case in order to avoid potential red flags.

Ask for a Long Term Discount

While it is not necessarily a good idea to stick with the same old insurance carrier you’ve always had, there might be a way to make that loyalty work in your favor.  If you have been with the same insurance company for more than five years, be sure to ask about long-term discounts, which are rate reductions based on the number of years you have been insured through a particular company.  Again, these discounts won’t happen automatically, so you do still have to be vigilant, but it never hurts to ask!

Switch to Private Insurance

If you live in a high-risk areas that has been susceptible to flooding, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, you may have been told that your government insurance is your only option.  However, this may not be the case!  Be sure to check with a local insurance provider to see if there is a private insurance option available at a less expensive rate.  You may be surprised at what you find.

Buy a Cheaper House

While it might not be practical to move just to save on home insurance, the house you live in does have a huge impact on your insurance rates.  It goes without saying that the more expensive your home, the more expensive your insurance will be.  If you are in the market for a new house, consider downsizing to a smaller house or cheaper location.  Also look for features to your new house that will help keep rates down, such as added security or features that make it more disaster-resistant.

Compare Insurance Rates by Neighborhood

All neighborhoods were not created equal when it comes to homeowner’s insurance.  Proximity to the ocean, elevation, flood risk, and any other claims common to your neighborhood all play a factor, and, according to the Allstate policy expert that we spoke with, things like how close you are to a fire hydrant and fire station, environmental issues, theft and more are also considered.

This means that even just a few blocks can make a huge difference in what you will pay for your policy.  If you are shopping for a new home, be sure to consider location in your decision, and to find out what your insurance rate would likely be before you make an offer.  (Allstate has a tool you can use called Calm and Costly Claims  that helps identify the most common and costly claims in your zip code.)  The “perfect” house might not be as good a deal as you think!

The common theme running through all these ideas is that YOU as a homeowner must be vigilant about making sure you are always getting the best insurance rates.  Your insurance agent will not do this for you!  Set a date on your calendar to review your policy using the ideas on this list, then make sure to repeat the process annually.  You just be pleasantly surprised at how much you are able to save!