Question: Do car insurance companies give you discounts based on the features of your vehicle?  Is that why it’s important to get your model right when getting car insurance quotes?

Answer: Car insurance companies normally do offer discounts on car insurance rates if the vehicle you’re insuring has certain safety features.  And, yes, this is why it’s important to make sure you know the exact model vehicle you have when obtaining a car insurance quote online or over the phone.

In addition, what qualifies for a discount varies from one insurance company to the next and even from state to state. Some states require car insurance companies to give out discounts for certain features.

Why the model is important to insurers

The varying trims of the same vehicle can come with different safety and anti-theft features, as well as horsepower and interior creature comforts. 

Car insurance providers calculate rates based on the risk you and your vehicle pose.  Thus, car insurance companies want to take into account all of the specs of a vehicle when calculating the premium associated with it. 

Some features can lower your rates, like extra airbags. Other features, such as a bigger engine, may boost your rates. 

If you get a car insurance rate quote based on the wrong version of your vehicle, then your premium amount may change when the insurance company confirms all the information when it underwrites your policy.

Many car insurance quoting systems will allow you to input your vehicle identification number (VIN) and automatically pull up the exact model vehicle you have.  So, if you’re getting a rate quote for a car you already own, you can take the guess work out of picking the right model by writing down your VIN and inputting it when comparison shopping for cheap car insurance rates. 

If you’re shopping for car insurance rates before buying a car, which is a must to budget properly for your new car costs, make sure you pick the model that matches to one you may purchase.

What safety features receive discounts?

Not all safety features will be listed as discounts on your declarations page. That doesn’t mean they don’t save you money. Car models with fewer injury and accident claims tend to get the lowest insurance rates, so any system that contributes to a safer car helps.

The most common safety features that will get you a car insurance discount include:

  • Air bags – In general, the more air bags you have, the higher your discount will be. Thus, if you have both dual front air bags and side air bags the discount will be more than a vehicle with just front air bags.  The reduction is usually seen under the medical payments and personal injury protection (PIP) portions of your policy.  Some car insurance carriers will also discount your liability coverages. The average savings for air bags is $21 or 1.1 percent discount. 
  • Anti-lock brakes – A few states, such as Florida, New Jersey and New York, require car insurers to give you a discount for this safety features.  In other states, car insurance providers may elect to do it on their own.  The average discount for anti-lock brakes is $27, which is a discount of about 1.4 percent. The discount may be applied to your liability, PIP, medical payments and collision coverages. 
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) – A few insurers have added a discount of around 5 percent off of a vehicle’s collision premium vehicle if the model has a factory-installed ESC system.
  • Seat belts – Some car insurance providers offer a discount of up to 15 percent off of PIP and medical payments coverage just for the use of seat belts by occupants, or if a vehicle is equipped with automatic seat belts.
  • Daytime running lights – If your vehicle comes with this feature, you may receive a discount off of your liability, PIP, medical payments and collision coverage of around 5 percent. However, this isn’t common. 
  • Crash-resistant doors – There are car insurance companies that offer a discount of 5 percent or less off of the collision premium of vehicles that have this safety feature since it can help cut down on claims.

Other vehicle features that can also get you a discount are anti-theft devices.  An ant-theft discount reduces your comprehensive coverage premium since this portion of your policy pays out for stolen vehicles. Discounts for anti-theft include:

  • Anti-theft system – The more devices you have, the bigger the discount.  Also, the better the device is at stopping a theft or recovering a stolen car, the better the discount.  For instance, an audible alarm theft deterrent will get you a discount, but having a Lojack installed that can help recover the vehicle will get you a better discount. If you have both, then the discount should grow and incorporate both items. Discounts on your comprehensive coverage are typically between 5 and 30 percent.
  • VIN etching – Etching your vehicle identification number of the windshield and all other windows can get you a discount of 5 to 15 percent.

Other high-tech safety features that are either now available in cars or coming soon — such as lane-departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, back up sensors, lane departure warnings and collision prevention assistance — don’t yet come with a discount with most car insurance companies. Why?  The insurance industry likes to see proof that a feature lowers crashes and claims before offering up a discount for the item. 

In time, it’s likely that the cutting-edge technology we see coming out today will be commonplace, as antilock brakes are now, and receive a car insurance discount.

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Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst/Insurance Expert

Penny has been working in the car insurance business for more than 10 years and has become an expert on procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has seen it all, and working with from its inception, she researches the routine and the bizarre with equal enthusiasm. She has three very active children and a husband with a zeal for quirky cars.