Finding Extra Savings on Auto Insurance/ January 7th, 2008
As gasoline prices crimp your budget, you need to do everything you can to cut another major automotive expense: your insurance. The best way to keep premiums low—if your luck and driving skills hold up—is to avoid all accidents and tickets. But shopping around can bring you further premium cuts by taking advantage of who you are—being a teacher or a good student, for instance—or by taking special classes. In setting prices, insurance companies constantly seek statistical patterns for groups of people who file more or fewer claims on their auto policies. For instance, 16-year-olds get into accidents nearly six times more often than do drivers between the ages of 30 and 59, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Thus—as anyone who has a teenager knows—adding a teen driver to the family policy can double auto premiums. But on the plus side, when the statistics show the opportunity, insurers do offer discounts—even ones for young drivers. "Except for a few cases mandated by state governments, we only give specific discounts where the statistics justify it," says Dick Luedke, Bloomington, Ill., spokesman for State Farm—the largest insurer of autos.
Some companies give discounts of up to 15% for anyone on active military duty, retired from the military, or who is a member of the National Guard or Reserves.Let's take a look at some auto insurance discounts for which you already may qualify—or could qualify for by taking action if you or your family members fit into that category:
TeachersIf you're a teacher belonging to the National Education Association or a state education association, Horace Mann Insurance, headquartered in Springfield, Ill., offers discounts on auto insurance that can range from 10% to 20% depending on the state where you live. Horace Mann—a company founded specifically to sell to educators—sells insurance in all states except Hawaii and New Jersey and gives teacher discounts everywhere it sells except Washington, D.C., according to spokesman Paul Wappel.
Insurers use variations on credit scores to set premiums for all kinds of insurance.
Young driversTo help ease the pain of high premiums for drivers younger than age 25, any beginning driver who takes a driver training course qualifies for a discount of up to 15%. Check also to see if the so-called good student discount may apply. If a high-school or college student meets certain standards—usually a B average or better—the discount can range up to 25% for single male drivers and 15% for single females. (Young men are considered higher-risk drivers and thus are charged more in the first place). As with all their actuarial statistics, insurance companies just go with what the numbers show without necessarily knowing why something is true. It may simply be, however, that good students spend more time studying and less time driving around than their lower-grade-point classmates.
You usually can cut your auto insurance costs by carrying other insurance policies with the same company.
Older driversAnyone 55 or older who voluntarily takes a defensive driving course qualifies for an auto insurance discount. Mandated by 37 states, these discounts often are about 5%. The courses sometimes are sponsored by state governments and sometimes by organizations like AARP. Barring accidents or tickets, insurance rates for seniors normally would not rise until they reach age 75.
Military familiesGEICO and other companies give discounts of up to 15% for anyone on active military duty, retired from the military, or who is a member of the National Guard or Reserves. In addition, if you receive orders for deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan, or a number of other countries, GEICO will suspend or reduce your coverage if you put your vehicle in storage while you're away—then resume coverage when you return.
Adding a teen driver to the family policy can double auto premiums.
Discounts for everyoneWhatever your age, you usually can cut your auto insurance costs by carrying other insurance policies with the same company. For instance, at State Farm having a homeowners or condo policy with the company cuts your bill by 17%. Add on a personal liability umbrella policy and that goes up to 22%. This is not only good business, but is backed by the facts, insurers say. "Homeowners and people with more than one car tend to have better driving records," says State Farm's Luedke. And if you're buying a new car, take the insurance cost into account. Many insurers rate each make and model and give you a lower rate if that car gets in accidents less often or costs less to repair at body shops. As you start car shopping, check with your insurance agent or credit union loan officer to see what your rates would be for various models. Or visit MSNMoney.com, which shows you how each model ranks on criteria used to set insurance premiums.
Check the rates from your company against rate quotes online.Perhaps the best thing you can do to cut your auto insurance rates is to improve your credit rating by doing things such as limiting the number of credit cards you hold and making sure you have no late payments. Insurers use variations on credit scores to set premiums for all kinds of insurance. But a better credit rating also will enable you to get lower interest rates—and therefore lower monthly payments—on mortgages and auto loans. To get a free look at your credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com. Finally, whatever discounts you may qualify for, check the rates from your company against rate quotes online. For instance, a site like Insweb Quicken will compare rates from major companies and give you the lowest rate quotations. If you take advantage of all available discounts and shop around for your auto insurance, you may have something left over for shopping that is a lot more fun. Jerry Edgerton is an automotive writer whose work has appeared in Money and other national magazines. He also is the author of "Car Shopping Made Easy."