For most people, car insurance is a necessary expense — but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. If you know what goes into your auto insurance, you know what discounts to look out or ask for when you compare car insurance quotes. Follow these tips to make sure your policy stays within your budget.
Car Insurance Features
Every state has minimum coverage requirements for car insurance policies. Depending on where you live and your policy, you may have some or all of the following features:
- Bodily Injury (BI) Liability: Covers medical costs of injuries to another party.
- Property Damage (PD) Liability: Covers the cost to repair property of another party, e.g. someone else’s car.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial damages.
- Collision Coverage: Covers damage to your vehicle in the event of a collision with another vehicle, building, etc.
- Comprehensive Coverage: Covers damage to your vehicle in the event of non-collision damage, like fire, vandalism, or theft.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Protects you if you are not at fault for an accident, but the other party does not have enough/any car insurance of their own.
Most states require minimum levels of BI and PD and some require other coverage types. While it’s a good idea to have, say, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, your state might not require that and you can save money by not having it. You can check out how much auto insurance is required in each state here.
Car Insurance Discounts
No matter what type of auto insurance you have, you can cut your rates with discounts from car insurance companies. Not everyone will qualify for every type of discount (non-students can’t get a student discount) but everyone should check to see which discounts they’re eligible for.
Some popular discounts include:
- Affiliation Discounts: Active military and government employees can often get car insurance discounts. Groups like AAA, and some employers, also offer discounts to members and employees.
- Student Discounts: Insurance companies will sometimes offer “good grade” discounts, along with alumni discounts for certain schools.
- Good Driver Discounts: If you go long enough without getting into an accident or getting a ticket, you may be rewarded with a rate decrease.
- Educated Driver Discounts: Some insurance companies offer discounts for drivers who take driver’s ed or defensive driving courses, especially for new drivers.
- Low-Mileage Discounts: Drivers who drive more have a higher risk of getting into an accident. If you drive below a certain number of miles a year, you may be eligible for a discount.
- Safe Car Discounts: Newer cars, or cars with certain safety features (see below) may qualify drivers for discounts. When buying a new car, check its safety rates for the highest chance of paying less for your car insurance.
- Bundling/Multi-Policy Discounts: If you’re buying multiple car insurance policies or different types of insurance policies from the same insurer, they will often offer a discount for your business. For example, GEICO discounts exist for policyholders who buy both their car insurance and renters insurance through them.
- Payment Discounts: Paperless billing or paying annually can save you money.
- Transfer Discounts: Every insurance company wants your business, and some may cut you a deal if you switch from a competitor.
Many times, insurers will list discounts they offer on a quote you've requested. You can learn more about doing an auto insurance quote comparision here.
Car insurance Riders
Some car insurance companies offer riders that allow you to customize your policy. Note that some riders come at an additional cost, and others may be built into your policy by default.
- Rental Car Substitute: Your car insurance company may provide a rental car while your car is being repaired. Note: This is different than rental car insurance. See below.
- First Accident Forgiveness: Premiums often go up after an accident, but this rider prevents your premium from increasing after your first incident.
- Waiver of Depreciation: When determining the value of your car, the insurance company will not take depreciation into account for a certain amount of time.
- Rental Car Insurance: Your policy will offer additional protection when you rent a car.
Car safety Features
As mentioned above, cars with certain safety features may warrant a discount from your auto insurance company. Consider these popular safety features to reduce your risk of accidents and increase your chance at car insurance discounts.
- Collision Avoidance System: Cars with collision avoidance are able to stop or swerve when the driver is likely to hit an obstacle.
- Adaptive Cruise Control: Regulates cruise control speed based on the cars around you.
- Lane Departure Warning: Will alert the driver if they begin to drift from their lane.
- Emergency Brake Assistance: Helps drivers apply maximum braking power when necessary.
- Semi-autonomous vehicles: We’re still a ways away from fully self-driving cars, but cars like the Tesla 3 that have limited self-driving capabilities are eligible for discounts from certain insurers.
Knowing how to build your auto insurance policy is the key to making it affordable. Getting the right policy — at the right price — can mean the difference between being protected and having to break the bank if you find yourself in an accident. Got more questions? Check out our auto insurance FAQ.