Car insurance: You can’t live with it, you can’t drive without it.
It’s one of those necessary evils that’s always keeping our needs and our budgets at odds. Americans pay an average $907 per year on auto insurance, and it’s hard to pay less when there are minimum coverage requirements you need to meet that can hike up your rates.
When you shop for auto insurance, there’s always that search for the perfect policy that never seems to exist. Better coverage rarely coincides with finding lower premiums. Rather than skimping on your insurance, there are ways to cut costs, get discounts, and have an influence on your rates.
Try some of these clever tips to save money on your auto insurance:
Install car security equipment
A vehicle outfitted with safety and security features may get you a much-needed discount on your auto insurance. A car alarm system, anti-theft or tracking device lowers your car’s risk for being vandalized or stolen, and may translate into lower comprehensive coverage premiums.
Other safety measures like airbags or anti-lock brakes also increase driver and passenger safety, which can reflect better on your insurance policy than a car without them. Your car may already has some of these built in, saving you on installation costs and on your auto insurance.
Combine, consolidate, bundle
These days, combining and bundling as many policies as you can under the same insurance carrier may get you reduced rates and discounts on different your policies, not just auto. Insurers want as much of your business as they can get, so when you’re willing to buy several insurance policies through the same one, it incentivizes them to provide a discount. Have several drivers in your household, maybe even sharing the same vehicle?
Take a defensive driving class
Sometimes getting an auto insurance discount isn’t about making sure that your car is safe, but that you’re a safe driver. Taking a defensive driving or driver’s ed course through the DMV or an accredited driving school should firstly be about improving your skills as a motorist; learning how to be a safer driver in a world of unsafe drivers helps you avoid accidents, mishaps and other claim-worthy incidents that can raise your insurance rates. Plus, your insurer may grant you a rate reduction with proof that you’ve successfully passed the class.
Completing a defensive driving course may also serve to remove points you have on your driver’s license and help lower your rates.
Raise your deductibles
Once you’re confident those defensive driving classes have paid off and that you’ve become the world’s safest driver, you might consider asking your insurance company to raise your deductibles—the amount you pay out of pocket on a claim before your insurance kicks in to cover the rest. If you have a $1,200 body shop estimate and your deductible is $500, your policy will require you to front $500 while your insurer pays the remaining $700.
If you raised your deductible to, say, $1,000, it could lower your premiums because you’d be paying for lower coverage from your insurance company. Mind you, this is almost another way of driving somewhat underinsured, since you’d be responsible for footing a $1,000 bill the next time your car needs repairs -- so be confident that you can avoid future collisions and afford your new deductible.
Pay car insurance twice a year
After I switched to Geico (seriously, I did), I began paying my premiums every six months instead of monthly. Paying monthly means paying more in the long run, so opting to pay my premium up front each time it renewed every six months, instead of 12 times a year, shaved some dollars off my policy. Of course, to do this you’ll you’ll need the discipline to have six months’ worth of car insurance ready.
Setting up automatic bi-annual payments through your insurance provider can also help avoid service fees and other costs if you pay monthly.
Keep your credit in good shape
Your credit score may make or break what kind of a car loan and interest rate you qualify for, but it can also play a big part in determining your car insurance rates. Insurance companies may check your credit report and score, and by seeing how you manage your finances, predict how road ready or road risky you are. If you have a history of debt or financial trouble listed in your credit report, it’s presumed that you’re likelier to be careless in other ways, including when you’re behind the wheel—and that could mean being stuck with higher premiums.
Pay your bills on time and keep credit card spending to a minimum, and it’ll show not only in your credit score but in the amount you pay in car insurance. Get a copy of your credit report. Check it for any errors, and clarify them with your creditors. A single mistake -- like an inverted dollar amount or outdated credit account -- could compromise your finances and prevent you from getting rates and loans you’d normally obtain easily.
Park your car in the garage
If there’s no more room to park your car in your over-cluttered garage, cleaning it out might save you money on car insurance rates. Statistics show that vehicles parked in a garage are less vulnerable to being stolen, which means lower insurance risk and a better chance of cheaper rates. A garage-kept car is also less prone to hit and runs or other collisions.
Opt for alternative transportation
Drive less, walk, take the bus and train more, carpool, or call an Uber and let them deal with their car insurance coverage. Your insurance rates are partially influenced by the amount you drive, so the fewer miles you average, the better chance of tapping into lower rates.
When you shop for insurance, you’ll be asked how much you drive (either by your agent or on the policy questionnaire), and it’s all relative: the person who racks up 50,000 miles a year on the odometer is more susceptible to experiencing some vehicular mishap than the person who drives 5,000 miles a year.
Check first with your insurance company on the mileage/rate ranges they offer; if you drive just a bit more than the rate you’d like to qualify for, opting for another mode of transportation will keep you out of your car and your mileage down. (Some insurers will check your mileage in between policy renewals for proof.)
Use youth to your advantage
Millennial drivers, and generally anyone under 25 are viewed as a high risk by insurers, targeted for high insurance rates. It’s an unfortunate stereotype, no matter how skilled you are as a driver. Rather than aging yourself into lower rate territory, can you add another experienced driver, like a parent or older sibling, to your policy? In general, insurers may offer you a bulk rate if you insure multiple people at once instead of just yourself, but in this case, it’s to obtain lower rates on the reputation of another motorist when your age prevents you from getting a break on your own. Remember, unlike becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, here you’d be inviting someone to join your own car insurance policy.
Sometimes the best hack is the one that seems so obvious, we don’t try it. In this case, simply contact your insurance agent and ask for a discount, plain and simple. They may be willing to give you a rate break if you can emphasize your continued patronage, your clean driving record, good grades in school, or other factors they may have overlooked or be unaware of. Your insurance company may also be offering discounts that you’re unaware of, so check in with them to see if there are any you can utilize.
It always helps to ask your employer if they have any incentives for you to save on auto insurance; they may have a deal or partnership with a local agency or insurer that can save employees hundreds of dollars in annual premiums. You might even make the switch to a new insurance company.
Of course, shopping around for better car insurance is something to be vigilant about at all times, even if it’s checking your policy every renewal period to see where you can find ways to save money, both on and off the pages of your contract.
There are lots of factors that can determine your insurance rates, but that doesn’t mean they’re always set in stone. Put some of the above hacks into gear and you can drive your car insurance policy where you want it to go.