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The biggest ways to save

Des Toups



piggybankSure, there are car insurance discounts out there.

But would you rather pay 5 percent less because of your spotless record or 50 percent less because you chose a different insurance company?

You won’t find the cheapest car insurance simply by demanding it. There are only three ways to save substantial amounts of money quickly: Find the same coverage elsewhere for less, change the car you drive, or change your coverage in a meaningful way.

You’ll have to make a few phone calls or spend some time on the Internet. Either way, it’s probably the easiest money you’ll make this year. Here’s how.

Save money by changing your car insurance policy

Car insurance pays for your next accident before you have it.  If you drive a $50,000 Mercedes-Benz and carry $300,000 worth of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, your insurance company tries to calculate the odds it will have to pay out $350,000.

To save the big money, you have to let insurers see for themselves how carefully you drive. This involves installation of some kind of black box that measures your driving habits: when you drive, how far, and how fast you accelerate, turn and stop. Based on the information it gathers, your insurer can offer you substantial discounts, sometimes as much as 50 percent. (Allstate, Travelers, Progressive and State Farm are among the companies offering such plans.)

The catch? The big discounts go to drivers you might expect to see get them: Careful folks who drive little and at the safest times. Users who have seen their own data say the systems tend to ding hard braking “events” most.

Still, you’re unlikely to see discounts as large for any other car insurance decision you make.  If Big Brother car insurance isn’t for you, though, there are less dramatic ways to put a dent in your insurance bill.

  • Raise your deductibles. The potential savings aren’t as big, because the premiums you pay for collision and comprehensive insurance are usually much smaller than those for liability coverage. But if you have enough in savings to cover the difference, it could mean $50 to $100 a year in reduced rates.
  • Change your commute. The less time you spend on the road, the lower the odds of a crash. The threshold for reduced rates is usually about 7,500 miles a year.
  • Exclude a problem driver. In most states, a car owner can exclude a driver from coverage, which means that person's record isn't considered in calculating rates. But that driver in your car isn't covered under any circumstance.

You could also save money by lowering liability limits. But we don't recommend it if you have a house or savings or anything else you’d like to keep away from the lawyers. (What if you sideswipe a Ferrari?)

Save money by changing your car

Buying a new car is a very expensive way to save money on car insurance.  

If your current car is old, a much newer one will always cost more to replace, thus the risk for an insurer is more. You’ll owe taxes and fees, and the whole point is to save money anyway, right?

But if you’re already in the market for a car, one that’s cheaper to insure can save you thousands of dollars over its long and happy lifetime with you. Even a switch from four-door to two-door, or to a different trim level, can change your premium substantially.

For example, according to data gathered for us by Quadrant Information Services, a 2013 Volkswagen Touareg sport-utility would cost a typical driver $1,453 a year to insure. Its hybrid counterpart would cost $1,743.

Over a five-year car loan, that’s $1,450.

Save money by changing your car insurance company

Your insurance premium isn’t a moral judgment, it’s algebra.

But each insurance company does its own math. Its calculations assign a different weight to rating factors such as your driving record, ZIP code and credit score. The goal is to balance the likelihood of claims payouts against the maximum amount of incoming premium dollars.

Insurance companies rarely agree on how just much risk a particular rating factor poses; otherwise, they would all charge the same rates. Throw a DUI or a teenager into the rating mix and the differences -- and potential savings -- grow huge.

We’ve found that the youngest drivers, under age 25, typically are offered rates on identical coverage that vary by more than $1,100 a year from cheapest to most expensive -- and that’s with no accidents or violations. (See “Save $1,102 just by shopping around.”)

How much can you save? There’s only one way to find out.

  • Step 1 is to find your car insurance policy. You need to be able to compare apples to apples. You also should have a rough idea of the dates of any traffic violations or accidents and how good your credit is. There is zero benefit to omitting facts. If you buy, the insurer will confirm your motor vehicle record and credit and claims histories rather than rely on the information you typed in.
  • Step 2 is to call at least two different companies. (It‘s not comparison shopping if you call just one.) Or, if you live in fear of actual human contact, there are hundreds of sites to gather car insurance quotes, including CarInsurance.com, which displays rates right on your screen.
  • Step 3 is to make sure the product you’re buying matches the coverage you currently have. Double-check the deductibles on the collision and comprehensive coverages, for example, and make sure your liability limits are the same.
  • Step 4 is to properly switch insurance companies if you buy elsewhere. You can’t just let your old policy lapse; you’ll to need to cancel it, but only after you have new coverage in place.

    If you shopped and saved, tell us in the comments section below.  Your stories may persuade others to give it a try.

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          7 Responses to "The biggest ways to save"
          1. Karen

            Who are you buying insurance through? I can't get rates like that to save my soul.

          2. Dan

            Get tips. Thanks!

          3. Ron

            Really awesome information on savings on car insurance. Very much helpful.

          4. Darryl

            I just added my 16-year-old daughter to my policy and the premium doubled from $785 to $1,550 for six months. I just got a quote from a different insurer for $1,128 for six months.

          5. Steve Marley

            At my age, 77, it seems important to have an automobile insurance policy that cannot be cancelled or non-renewed due to advanced age. In that respect, my present policy can only be cancelled for non-payment of premium. Older insureds should check out this feature with their present insurer.

          6. roy mora

            I was looking for insurance quotes and decided to get a quote from the same insurance company. Got about a new policy for $200 less a year for the same coverage, the rest is history.

          7. E. Funk

            I just did that last week and the savings was unreal. I had been with one company for over 15 years not one wreck and only two claims (one for hail and one for a tree limb that fell on a car). For three cars ('03 Ford diesel 4x4 truck, '08 Grand Prix GXP and 2010 SS Camaro) I was paying $1,040 every six months full coverage. Went with another company because could pay only $540 bucks -- with increased coverage. I just bought a 2012 Chevy Cruze LT2 and added to my policy. and now only play $754 for all four autos and still cheaper than before.