Auto insurance costs can be affected more by outside factors than most other things we buy. Sure, we can shop companies, study various policies and provisions, but the real cost of the plan we select will have more to do with us—how we buy insurance, how we behave while driving, and even what type of vehicle we drive.
What can be done to cut the cost of auto insurance?
1. Bundle with other insurance policies
Many insurance companies will offer a discount on auto insurance if you bundle it with other coverage, especially homeowners insurance. The discounts vary from company to company and not all offer it, but it’s always worth looking into.
A complication of bundling is that you’re now put into a position of evaluating not one, but two policies—the auto policy and the homeowners. Be careful that the homeowner’s policy you take with your auto insurer doesn’t drop certain provisions in order to make the package more attractive—or worse, to give the impression of a discount where none exists.
2. Change policies periodically
None of us like shopping for insurance. It takes time to contact different carriers and to review and evaluate the different proposals, comparing them to one another to see which has the best price for the coverage offered. For that reason, most of us will avoid doing this for as long as we can.
The problem with this avoidance—however justified the reason—is that over time, small premium increases add up until we’re paying well above what the competition is offering. And we’ll never even know it! But with auto insurance, ignorance is not bliss!
From time to time, maybe every two to three years, we need to step into the auto insurance market to compare policies. That’s the only way to determine if what we’re paying is reasonable. If you find a comparable policy with a lower premium, there’s even a chance that you’re current carrier will cut your premium to keep you as a customer. But that will never happen if you don’t shop around from time to time.
3. Keep your driving record clean
This is a big one, and an easy one to underestimate. If you’ve come to view a traffic ticket “here and there” as part of the cost of being on the road, you’ll pay additional cost through your auto insurance. This is because a major component of how auto insurers set premium rates is by the risk you represent, which is at least partially determined by your driving record.
Wear your seatbelts, make a conscious effort to drive within speed limits (especially near schools), to slow down and come to a complete stop at intersections and to use your turn signals generously. And don’t even think about driving after you’ve had even one alcoholic drink. Permissible blood alcohol levels in many jurisdictions are coming very close to prohibiting as much as a single drink.
A clean driving record is typically considered to be three years with no moving violations. If you’ve had any within that time, work to avoid drawing any more from now on. It’ll pay off with lower insurance premiums.
4. Raise your deductible
According to the Insurance Information Institute, increasing your deductible from $200 to $1,000 could save you as much as 40 percent on your auto insurance premium. Just keep in mind that the higher the deductible, the greater the amount of money you’ll have to come up with in the event of a claim.
If you normally keep an amount at least equal to the deductible in a savings account, you’ll have that risk covered—in addition to the money you’ll save on the premium.
5. Make the next car you buy one that costs less to insure
Monthly payment tends to be the most important financial factor when people buy a new car, but auto insurance can be affected by the type and cost of the vehicle as well.
Generally, the more expensive a vehicle, the more it will cost to insure. High end luxury cars will cost more still because repair and replacement parts will be more expensive in the event of an accident.
If you want to make the insurance company really not like you, buy a sports car. The insurance industry charges more to cover sports cars precisely because they’re designed and built to go fast.
Certain safety features can lower insurance premiums. Airbags, anti-lock brakes and car alarms, for example, provide greater passenger protection and deter theft which lowers the likelihood of the insurance company paying a claim.
As you can see, auto insurance is about much more than different companies and their various policies. Figuring significantly into the cost are bigger picture factors that include the type of car you own and the way you drive it. Keep this in mind when buying a car, and each time you hop in to drive—how you handle those activities may have more impact on your auto insurance rates than anything else.