Car insurance discounts guide
There are many types of car insurance discounts that will help you lock in the cheapest car insurance for your particular situation. Learn the benefits of each type of discount and how to make sure you get all the discounts you can.
How do car insurance discounts work?
- Your car insurance company first determines your base rate, using information such as your ZIP code, age, driving record and car model. Base rates differ greatly by company and state.
- The insurer then looks for information that suggests you pose less risk than is typical. You might get a discount off the base rate for those factors.
- The insurer also uses that personal information to find indicators that you pose a greater risk of a claim. If so, you may pay a surcharge on top of the base amount. (It is possible for your premium to reflect both insurance discounts and surcharges.)
Discounts depend on state laws and an insurer’s own internal rules and guidelines. Each company will have its own eligibility criteria, and the savings will vary as well. You should be able to see what discounts you’re currently receiving by reviewing the declarations page of your policy, though it may not list which vehicle is getting what discount and how much.
Many discounts apply only to a certain type of coverage, such as collision. Also, while most insurance companies will allow you to receive multiple discounts, insurers usually also have an established maximum total discount they’ll take off your full premium, such as 25 percent.
Keep in mind that discounts don’t remove the need to comparison-shop your coverage periodically. You may find that a car insurance company offering only a few discounts gives you an overall lower price for your policy.
How do you make sure you’re getting the right discounts?
When it comes to discounts, knowledge is power – you can’t get a discount you don’t know about. The best way to be certain you are getting all the discounts you are eligible for is to ask your insurer. Ask for a full list of all the discounts the insurance company offers. Then, assess which ones you qualify for and notify your insurance company.
If you’re shopping for a new policy, be sure to ask potential insurers which discounts they provide, and to which coverages they apply. That way you can choose the company that has the most discounts that match your particular situation.
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If you are taking a driver improvement course for a discount, check with your car insurance carrier or state department of motor vehicles (if the discount is state-mandated) for a list of approved course providers. Otherwise you may not get the discount you seek.
Mature (older) driver discount: 5 percent to 15 percent
Available to: Individuals 55 or older (sometimes the threshold is 60 or 65, depending on state laws or insurer guidelines) who have successfully completed an approved accident-prevention class, such as the AARP defensive driving course.
- In many states, it’s mandatory for companies to offer this discount.
- Some states require a written exam at the end of the course.
- Discount typically applies to bodily injury liability, property damage liability, collision and comprehensive coverages.
- Length: Typically this discount is good for three years, and it is commonly renewable if the course is taken again.
Driver training / Defensive driving / Accident prevention discount: 5 percent to 15 percent
Available to: Drivers who take an approved course or class to refresh and polish their skills.
- There may be age requirements, such as only those over 25.
- Sometimes all drivers of a vehicle must take the driving course in order for the discount to apply.
- Liability coverages of bodily injury and property damage are discounted normally along with collision coverage.
- If you take a defensive driving or driver improvement course to keep a ticket or points off your driving record, or to remove points from your driving record, then you may not be eligible to use the course for an auto insurance discount as well. Check with your auto insurance company on this matter.
Length: Typically this discount is good for three years. It may be renewable if the course is taken again.
Driver education courses discounts: 5 percent
Available to: Drivers who complete an approved driver education course that includes both classroom training and behind-the-wheel, on-the-road instruction.
- Generally this type of course is for new drivers.
- If the state requires this training as part of the driver’s licensing process, the discount may not be available.
- Discount usually applies to bodily injury liability, property damage liability and collision coverages.
Length: Typically this discount is good for three years.
Drug and alcohol driving awareness training discounts: 5 percent
Available to: Drivers who complete a special class on alcohol and drug awareness.
- Texas requires a 5 percent discount when the principal driver on a policy completes the course.
- Discount may apply to liability coverages and collision coverage.
Length: Typically this discount will last for three years after the completion of the course.
Good student discount: 5 percent to 15 percent
Available to: Full-time high school or college students (sometimes including recent graduates) who carry a 3.0 (B) grade point average or have achieved other certain academic criteria set by the auto insurance provider.
- Homeschooled teen drivers may also be eligible based on the results of standardized exams.
- The good student discount normally applies to bodily injury liability, property damage liability, PIP, medical payments, collision, and comprehensive coverages.
- Some insurers offer discounts up to 25 percent.
Length: Typically renewable up to age 25.
Parent-teen driving contract discount: Less than 5 percent.
Available to: Teenagers who have signed a contract to follow certain rules regarding their driving, such as not driving with passengers or after a certain time of night.
Conditions: Only certain insurers offer discount on liability coverages of the car the child is assigned to if this agreement is signed by both parent and teen.
Student away at school discount: Up to 10 percent
Available to: Parent or parents of a full-time student living 100 miles or more from home without a vehicle.
- Distance and discounts vary by insurer.
- Discount may apply to liability coverages along with PIP, medical payments, collision, and comprehensive coverage on the vehicle assigned to the child.
- Parent may be required to list child at higher rate during school breaks.
Length: Renewable while child is away at school and under the age of 25.
(Car insurance for college students isn’t just about discounts. Students and their families can also save money by knowing the best way to insure collegiate drivers, which depends on whether they own a car and how long they live at home, among other factors.)
Family / legacy discount: 5 percent to 10 percent
Available to: Child establishing a new policy with the parent or parent’s auto insurance provider.
Conditions: There can be restrictions and certain eligibility rules. For instance, USAA notes that the former dependent must have been insured on the parent’s policy for a minimum of three years, have a clean driving record and be less than 25 years of age.
Good driver discount: Between 10 to 25 percent, but it can be higher. Allstate says that its safe driver discount can save drivers up to 45 percent on car insurance.
Available to: Usually, an insurer will require you have a clean driving record for three years or five years. This means that for the review period of that time, your record shows:
- No DUI/DWI convictions
- No at-fault accidents
- No moving violation convictions (some insurers say no violations at all; some say no major violations)
Other eligibility rules may apply, such as you having:
A certain number of years of driving experience. Some car insurance companies may require just one year, others require three to five years.
- Continuous car insurance coverage.
- Successfully completed a defensive driving course.
- A record that is not only accident free but also claims free for the look-back period.
Conditions: Good driver discounts are sometimes split into two:
- Accident-free discount
- Claims-free discount
There will still be a look-back period of either three or five years (depending on the insurer’s eligibility rules) and the discount for each can vary. Accident-free discounts tend to range from 5 percent to 25 percent and claims-free from 10 to 20 percent.
Car insurance companies can also differ on what portions of a car insurance policy are discounted by a good driver discount. However, in general, it will apply to the following coverage premiums:
- Bodily injury liability
- Property damage liability
- Comprehensive coverage
- Collision coverage
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Medical payments (MedPay)
How the discount is given can also vary. Common ways of dishing out the discount include:
Flat discount. Your insurance company has a set good driver discount. The set discount reduces your premium cost on the coverages the discount applies to, if you qualify for it.
Tiered discount. The longer you are free of violations and accidents, the greater your good driver discounts. With these insurers, a driver with three years of safe driving gets one discount (such as 20 percent), and drivers whose record is clean for five years gets a higher discount (such as 35 percent).
Graduated discount. A discount is given for each year of accident-free driving or safe driving. For instance, the insurer gives a 2 percent discount for two years of safe driving and the discount goes up gradually, until after 10 years of clean driving, and then the driver gets 20 percent off.
Length: Continual, as long as you meet the qualifications.
Low mileage discount: 5 percent to 15 percent
Available to: Policyholders who drive less than a specified number of miles each year, usually 7,500 to 10,000 miles.
- Some low-mileage drivers may see savings reflected as a reduction in their base rate.
- Discount is typically applied to bodily injury liability, PIP, property damage liability and collision premiums.
- Some insurers require verification of odometer readings.
Length: Continual as long as mileage is kept low.
Usage-based insurance / Pay as you drive / Telematics discounts: Up to 45 percent
Available to: Drivers who install a monitoring device from their insurance companies that assesses driving habits.
Conditions: Some auto insurers measure only your true mileage, but others establish their discounts based on information that they receive about your driving style. The monitoring devices can transmit information such as:
- How many miles you drive
- What time of day you drive
- How much and how often you brake
- How smoothly you navigate turns
- How rapidly you accelerate
A small (5 to 10 percent) discount may apply for just enrolling in a monitoring program with a larger discount if based on your performance as a driver.
The discount is typically for the premium related to the three major coverages of bodily injury liability, property damage liability and collision and is usually applied per vehicle, not per driver. It is possible that your driving habits may result in no discount at all.
Length: After being monitored for a certain amount of time (typically 30 to 90 days) the discount should be applied and be ongoing.
Theft prevention / Anti-theft devices / Vehicle recovery devices discounts: 5 percent to 30 percent.
Available to: Drivers whose vehicles have anti-theft devices or a vehicle recovery system attached to it.
Conditions: Typically, the more anti-theft devices you have on your vehicle, the more you’ll save from your comprehensive coverage. Devices include typically:
- An alarm with blaring horn or siren.
- An active alarm that cuts off ignition, fuel or starting system
- A passive alarm that sets itself when the ignition is turned off
- A vehicle recovery system (e.g. Lojack)
- A vehicle tracking system (e.g. OnStar)
The highest discounts (30 percent or more) apply if you have a vehicle tracking system or vehicle recovery system.
Length: Renewable as long as you continue to have the device as part of your vehicle.
VIN etching discount: 5 percent to 15 percent
Available to: Car owners who have their vehicle identification number (VIN) permanently etched on the windshield and all other windows as a deterrent to thieves.
- Discount is not offered by all insurers or in all states, though some states, such as Florida and Kentucky, require insurers to give a discount.
- Discount is to the comprehensive portion of a car insurance policy.
Length: Renewable as long as you own the vehicle.
Safety feature discounts: From 5 percent to 40 percent depending on the type of safety feature. A discount is given on each safety device so the discounts can add up.
Available to: Drivers who insure a car with these safety features.
Conditions: Some states mandate a discount for specific safety features, while others leave it up to the insurers to determine what features get discounts. Also, the portion of the policy that receives the discount can vary, but in general it may apply to your liability, personal injury protection (PIP), medical payments and/or collision coverage. Discounted features can include:
- Anti-lock brakes: Discount of around 5 percent can be applied if your vehicle has a factory-installed anti-lock braking system. Florida and New York require this discount be given to eligible drivers. Coverages that may be discounted can include liability, PIP, medical payments and collision.
- Traction control system: Discount varies but typically around 5 percent on your collision coverage.
- Air bags or passive restraint system: Factory-installed, driver-side-only air bag may get you a discount of up to 25 percent, while having full-front seat air bags may increase your discount to 40 percent. In general, the more air bags your vehicle has the higher the discount to the PIP and medical payments portion of your policy. Some insurers also discount your liability coverages.
- Seat belts: A discount of up to 15 percent is given off medical payments or PIP coverage by some insurers for automatic seat belts or just the use of seat belts by driver and passengers. Also, some states mandate a seat belt discount be given if the state’s seat belt law has reduced losses or if the state’s seat belt usage exceeds the national average.
- Daytime running lights: If this feature is standard for your vehicle, you may receive a discount, usually of 5 percent or less. The discount may apply to your liability, PIP, medical payments and collision coverages.
- Crash-resistant doors: Some auto insurance providers will give you a small discount of around 5 percent under your collision coverage for this safety feature.
- Electronic stability system (EBS) or electronic stability control (EBC): A discount of 5 percent or more on your collision coverage may be given if your vehicle has a factory-installed four-wheel electronic stability control system.
Length: Continual discount as long as you own a vehicle that has safety features associated with the discount given.
Multi-car discount: 10 to 25 percent
Available to: Drivers who insure multiple cars on the same auto insurance policy.
- Some insurers have certain eligibility rules, such as the owners of the vehicles reside in the same household vehicles and the cars must be primarily driven by persons residing at the address listed on the policy.
- Discount is typically on your liability, collision and comprehensive coverages.
Length: Continual as long as you have two or more eligible vehicles insured.
Multi-policy / Multi-line discount: 10 percent to 20 percent
Available to: Drivers who hold multiple policies with the same insurance provider.
- Eligible varies by insurer but typically you must carry your car insurance and one other type of insurance coverage, such as motorcycle, mobile home, renters, condo, homeowners, health or life insurance with the same carrier to get the discount.
- With some insurers, the more insurance you bundle together the higher the saving will be, such as up to 20 percent if you insure both your car and home with them and up to 25 percent off if you insure your car, home and have a life insurance policy with them.
Length: Renewable as long as you continue to keep all insurance policies with the insurer active.
Loyalty discount: Discount typically 5 percent to 15 percent.
Available to: Drivers who stay with their current insurer year after year instead of seeking new coverage elsewhere.
Conditions: The discount amount tends to be around 5 percent if you’ve remained with your insurer for three years and up to 15 percent if you’ve remained loyal for five years or more.
Length: Continual if remain with current insurer.
Renewal discount: 5 percent or more
Available to: Drivers who renew their auto policy with their current insurance provider.
Conditions: May have conditions, such as renewing your policy a certain number of days before the policy effective date.
Length: Continual at each renewal period.
Transfer discount: Typical discount between 5 percent and 10 percent.
Available to: Drivers who start a policy with a new auto insurance provider and those switching car insurance companies.
- To obtain this discount, a driver must usually switch to a new auto carrier before the next premium is due with their current insurer.
- Generally, you will need to start shopping around two weeks or more in advance of the end of your current auto policy to purchase a new policy to take advantage of this “early shopper” discount.
Length: One-time-only discount usually; if you continue with new insurer, then you may be eligible at next policy period for renewal discount.
You have an opportunity to continue saving even after you’ve comparison-shopped for a new car insurance policy.
Paying in full, or early, or doing business online can result in additional discounts with many car insurance companies.
The flip side: If you decide to pay your car insurance premiums in installments, expect to pay for the privilege. Most insurance companies charge extra for monthly plans. Some of them charge a lot –$100 or more a year -- and that amount won’t be reflected in their rates when you are comparison-shopping.
Here are the payment discounts to look for.
Pay in full discount: 5 percent to 10 percent. The average for all states is about 4 percent.
Available to: Drivers who pay their car insurance policy premium up front and in full.
Conditions: Need to pay before the policy effective date to receive the premium reduction.
Length: Renewable at beginning of each new policy period if you pay in full.
Early renewal discount: Up to 5 percent discount. The national average is about 3 percent.
Available to: Drivers who renew their policies at least seven days in advance. Some insurers may require 10 days in advance.
Conditions: Not available in all states.
Length: Renewable at each policy extension.
Electronic funds transfer (EFT) discount: Up to 5 percent discount. The national average is about 2 percent.
Available to: Drivers who set up authorize automatic electronic funds transfers by their insurance carriers from their checking accounts.
- Not available in all states.
- Not for drivers without a financial cushion or overdraft protection.
- Insufficient funds could result in a lapsed policy unless dealt with quickly.
Length: Renewable at each policy extension.
Paperless discount: Up to 5 percent
Available to: Drivers who sign up to access their account online and receive documents online instead of paper documents can receive the discount.
Conditions: The driver may also be required to set up online billing and automatic payments to receive the discount. While you’re at it, you may as well arrange to receive your proof of insurance electronically, too, now that most states accept insurance cards presented on your smartphone.
Length: One-time discount with some insurers, ongoing with others.
Online discount: Around 5 percent
Available to: Drivers who start their quote online and/or buy auto policy online with their insurer.
Conditions: May also need to select online billing and set up automatic payment by electronic funds transfer to receive the discount with some insurers.
Length: Typically a one-time discount.
Education / Occupation / Professional discount: From 5 percent to 30 percent.
Available to: Drivers who have a certain type of college degree or who are in a certain type occupation.
Conditions: Risk studies have found people in certain professions or who hold certain types of college degrees are less likely to have claims so offer these individuals a discount. Professions who tend to get a discounted rate are:
Some car insurance providers, such as Farmers, also give discounts to certain occupational groups. This tends to include:
- Registered nurses
Length: Ongoing as long you remain in that profession or as a member of the occupational group.
Military discount: 15 percent or higher
Available to: Military members and their families
- Eligibility varies but typically a discount to the total car insurance premium can apply to active and retired military members as well as members of the National Guard or Reserves.
- USAA gives their discounts based in part the person’s military status and rank.
- Louisiana regulations say a premium discount of 25 percent should be offered to military members.
- A special storage discount (up to 90 percent) is also sometimes offered to service members who are deployed or otherwise away and have their vehicle stored in a secure location.
- Other special discounts are available with some insurers if a military member is deployed overseas, so be sure to ask.
Length: Continual as long as driver meets the eligibility requirements.
Federal employees discount: Up to 10 percent
Available to: Federal workers who meet an insurance company’s eligibility requirements.
Conditions: Eligibility requirements vary but typically you must be an active or retired federal government employee of a certain level (e.g. GS-7 or above) to receive the discount.
Length: Continual as long as you meet the company’s eligibility requirements.
Business relationships / Organization / Membership / Group savings discount: Up to 10 percent
Available to: Drivers who have a relationship with a company or organization associated with their insurance carrier can receive a discount.
Conditions: Some car insurance carriers have relationships with certain groups, companies or organizations that you may work for, or are associated with, allowing you to receive a “group savings” discount. Proof of an active relationship may be required.
For example, Geico is partnered with over 275 groups and associations. If you are a member of one of them, then you may be eligible for special discounts.
Length: Continual as long as your association with the group or organization continues.
New car discount: Up to 10 percent
Available to: Drivers insuring a vehicle that is three years old or newer.
Conditions: Discount is usually to the collision portion of your insurance policy.
Length: For the first three years of ownership of a new vehicle.
Alternative fuel / Hybrid car discount: 5 to 10 percent
Available to: Owners of hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles.
Conditions: The discount on major coverages (liability coverages, collision and comprehensive) on a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle is only available with certain auto insurers and even then it’s not necessarily available in all states.
Length: Continual as long as you own an eligible vehicle.
Two companies can offer you rates that differ by hundreds or even thousands of dollars, even though they are looking at the same information.
Just how are your car insurance rates established?
Insurance companies make educated guesses about how likely you are to file a claim by poring over data, then determining a base rate that applies to broad categories of drivers, such as men under the age of 25 living in Sacramento, California, for example. They then look at the individual factors that change the likelihood of a claim, assigning a risk factor to each.
The algorithm each company creates must be filed with and approved by your state’s insurance regulator.
While auto insurance companies tend to use the same basic criteria, they weigh the various risk factors differently. One insurance company might have had fewer claims for theft for your particular car, for example, or more fraudulent injury claims in your neighborhood. These risk factors can include:
- Vehicle type
- Vehicle use (personal or business use and how many miles driven per year)
- Geographical location (get average car insurance rates for your ZIP code)
- Marital status may earn you a "marriage discount"
- Driving record
- Claims history
- Years of driving experience
- Credit history (in states that allow it to be used)
- Previous insurance coverage
- Coverage types, for instance if you have collision coverage, comprehensive coverage in addition to liability insurance
- Limits and deductibles
Your premium may rise or fall with a change in any one of these rating factors.
Drivers are normally grouped according to their level of risk. For example, when you turn 25 it’s likely you will be placed in a different group with your auto insurer -- one with a lower base rate since those over age 25 tend to have fewer accidents.
A change in rating factors may lower your premium, but technically it is not a discount.