We all love the convenience of having a car. But you can’t have a car without car insurance, and the price of good coverage can really be a drag. Luckily, there are ways to save money on your premiums while staying well protected.
Don’t spend a penny more on insurance than you need to. Here are some tips to help you get the best price.
#1: Bundle your insurance
Just like you would love to save time searching for insurance companies with the lowest rates, insurance companies want to spend less seeking out and processing new customers. Which means they are willing to give discounts to secure more of your business.
Insuring only one car and one driver is almost always more expensive, per person/per car, than insuring multiple cars and drivers. And your insurance will be cheaper still if you can bundle homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or other policies with your auto coverage. In fact, according to InsuranceQuotes.com, the national average savings is 16 percent for bundling your home and auto insurance needs.
If you’re single, ask your employer about group auto insurance discounts. Some companies partner with insurance companies to offer cheaper bundled coverage to employees. Or, check with alumni associations or other groups you’re a member of.
#2: Always drive safely
Put down the cell phone, mind the speed limit, and don’t drive after a long night when you can barely keep your eyes open.
One ticket or accident on your record can be factored into your car insurance rates for up to three years. Major moving violations can last even longer, with excessive speeding and DUIs staying on your record for up to 10 years. And these black marks on your driving history can significantly increase your insurance premiums.
Moving violations can affect your life insurance premiums, too.
By always driving safely, you can lower your premiums over time. Also, ask about safe driver discounts based on your driving history.
If you have past violations on your record, ask your insurance company if taking a defensive driving or drivers ed refresh course could help lower your premiums. One weekend class might mean some big savings.
#3: Ditch unnecessary coverage
Add-ons to your car insurance policy can quickly increase your premium, even if each item sounds small on its own. Whenever you’re shopping for auto insurance policies or looking to lower your rate, ask the agent to walk through each line item of your policy.
Drop roadside assistance if you have coverage from elsewhere, like AAA. If you don’t travel often, or have coverage from a travel credit card, you can also take rental car insurance off your policy.
Many auto insurance companies also offer an add-on for rental car replacement, to pay for a rental car if your vehicle is in an accident and needs service. But I always drop that coverage, as my family rarely uses our second car and we could get by without either of our vehicles.
One big savings opportunity is removing collision or comprehensive coverage on an older vehicle. If you wouldn’t repair your car in a major accident, collision and comprehensive coverage probably aren’t worth it, since the company will only pay out fair market value minus your deductible. Instead, you can pocket those savings now to prepare for a replacement purchase.
#4: Clean up your credit report
In most states, your credit standing can impact how much you pay for auto insurance.
While car insurance companies don’t use your credit score directly, most do use a credit-based insurance score to determine your insurability and rates (unless you live in a state where the practice is banned). Insurance companies use the data in your credit report to determine the likelihood of your making a claim, while also factoring in your zip code, driving record, and claims history. And this can significantly impact your rates.
Because insurance companies are using information from your credit report, credit scores tend to be correlated with insurance premiums. For example, consumers with fair credit scores, ranging from 580 to 669, pay $543 more on average for annual auto insurance than those with excellent credit scores.
Before shopping for auto insurance, check your credit report for any negative items that should be removed. And always maintain responsible financial behavior, like making all payments on time and keeping debt loads low.
#5: Consider raising your deductible
Most of us like the idea of a low deductible. Having to write a big check after an accident seems like a strain we won’t want to deal with. But choosing to plan ahead and increase your auto insurance deductible can save you a lot on premiums.
Research from the Insurance Information Institute (the III) found that increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your auto insurance coverage costs by 15% to 30%, depending on where you live. Increasing your deductible up to $1,000 can help you save even more.
Put those cost savings in an emergency fund until you’ve built up at least your deductible. You’ll have peace of mind since the money is there if you do have an accident, and you’ll be able to save cash on future premiums for your other goals in all the years you don’t have an accident.
#6: Find teen driver discounts
Adding a young driver to your insurance policy can cause major sticker price shock. Since teens are some of the highest risk drivers on the road, adding a teen to your policy can almost double your family’s premiums. But there are ways to lessen the blow.
Most insurance companies offer a discount for good grades, usually in the A or B average range. Your teen can also get discounts for completing drivers ed and additional driver safety courses. Ask your insurance provider about which courses they offer discounts for, such as your state’s standard drivers ed course or defensive driving courses that can teach your teen how to drive safely in the rain or other dangerous conditions.
And when your teen heads off to college, don’t forget to let your insurance company know. If your child isn’t bringing a car to school, most companies will offer a “college students away from home” discount to account for your teen’s fewer miles behind the wheel.
Always encourage your teen to drive safely and make sure they know that even one violation will come with major financial consequences.
#7: Choose the right vehicle
You can save money on car insurance before you even have the keys. Especially if you plan to have collision and comprehensive coverage, the car you drive significantly impacts your premiums.
Before buying a new car, compare insurance rates for the models you’re considering. In general, safer cars like small sedans, minivans, and small SUVs are cheaper to insure than large or flashy cars. And buying used could save you even more since the value the insurance company may need to replace is also lower.
Most insurance companies can easily give you sample quotes for different car models.
#8: Shop around at least once a year
Even if you’re practicing good driving and asking for relevant discounts, industry recommendations are to shop for auto insurance every six months. Car insurance companies change rates all the time, driven by changes in their claims, weather patterns, and more. Shop around on sites like Clearcover, The Zebra and new entrant Credit Karma to get quotes from several insurers.
If your insurance provider wants to increase your rate at the end of a contract term, or you just feel like you’re paying too much for insurance, it never hurts to shop around. Especially if you’ve had a major life event, like getting married or buying a home, that could lower your premiums.
When comparing policies, always make sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples. A bare-bones insurance policy from a new provider might be cheaper, but you could be losing add-ons you value from your existing company. And never forget to factor in customer service quality and insurance company ratings. The point of paying for insurance is that it’s there when you need it. Avoid jumping to low-quality companies that may not have your back when the time comes.
You may need a car to get from point A to point B. But that doesn’t mean you need to pay a fortune in insurance premiums to do it safely. A little research, safe driving, and asking the right questions, like what discounts you might be eligible for, can save you a bundle.
Chelsea Brennan is the founder of Smart Money Mamas, a personal finance blog that focuses on family finance, investing, and reducing money stress. Chelsea is an ex-hedge fund investor whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, including Forbes, Business Insider, and more.