Car insurance premiums are determined by a range of factors, including your age, ZIP code, driving history, credit score, and the type of car you drive. Most insurance companies offer lower rates to cars that have safety features, like anti-theft devices or blind-spot detection.
These safety features may already be installed in many newer cars, and if you have an older car or a model that doesn't come with the upgrades, you may be able to install certain upgrades or add-ons yourself. But the car insurance discounts you get from safety features may not be worth the cost of outfitting your car with extra technology.
Do safety features lower car insurance?
It's common for insurance companies to offer discounts and lower premiums to cars with certain safety features that can help you avoid accidents. Most companies allow you to save money for features like:
GPS tracking devices
Daytime running lights
Electronic stability control and anti-skid technology
Motion-sensing mirrors or bumpers
Of these, insurance companies most frequently offer discounts for anti-theft technology and anti-lock brakes (which are standard in all newer cars). Based on a comparison of the discounts offered by the largest insurance companies in the country, five offer discounts for cars that have anti-theft systems and four for anti-lock brakes.
How much can safety devices save you on car insurance?
The amount that you can save with safety features depends on your insurance company. For example, while half of the largest insurance companies offer discounts for anti-theft systems, GEICO offers to lower your insurance premiums by up to 23% if your car has anti-theft technology — which is high compared to other companies.
However, while companies offer discounts for certain safety features, these add-ons don't always lower what you pay for car insurance. In fact, depending on how advanced the technology in your car is, your policy may actually get more expensive.
This is because your car will cost more to repair or replace if it's fully equipped with expensive safety features. Compared to low-tech headlights and cars that don't have motion-sensing abilities, newer models with high-tech headlights, bumpers and mirrors will cost more to fix or replace if they’re damaged in a crash.
Because of the price increase for insuring high-tech cars, loading up on certain new safety features may actually cost you more over time than the amount it would save you. For some drivers however, the promise of a safer car is worth it, even if it comes at an added cost.
Other ways to lower your auto insurance premium
While adding anti-theft or safety features to your car isn't the best or most efficient way to lower your insurance costs, there are lots of other ways to save on costs.
You should still make sure you're aware of any discounts for your car's existing safety features your insurance provider offers, then consider:
Signing up for a telematics program: A telematics program, also called usage-based insurance, tracks your driving and awards savings based on good habits. Most major insurance companies offer these programs, that track your driving through a smartphone app or a plug-in device in your car — and savings can be significant.
Increasing your deductible: When you increase your car insurance deductibles — the amount that's taken out from a comprehensive or collision damage claim — you can lower what you pay for insurance. Higher deductibles show companies that you're unlikely to make a claim, except for after serious, expensive accidents.
Bundling your coverage: One of the most valuable discounts that nearly every company offers is the ability to save when you bundle your home and auto policies together. If you have homeowners (or renters) insurance, think about getting an auto policy from that same company.
If you still feel that you’re paying too much for car insurance, the best way to make sure you get the cheapest quotes in your area is by shopping around for coverage from companies near you. It's common for companies to offer discounts for switching from another insurer, too.