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Tips For Getting The Best Auto Insurance Rate Possible

By Franklin Wallace Published 12/12/2007 | Insurance

If you are like most automobile owners, you have probably shopped for auto insurance at least once in your lifetime. And like most of those people, you may have wondered whether there was really anything that you can do to lower the price of your insurance. Well, the good news for you is that there are certain steps you can take to lower your auto insurance premium. Some of the information provided in this article may seem obvious or be viewed as common knowledge by some people, but we hope that you are able to take away at least a couple pieces of information that will help you lower your annual auto insurance premium. If you can, then we have accomplished our goal!

Auto insurance companies generally take into account several factors when determining your rate, such as driving record, geographical location, vehicle model, coverage limits, vehicle safety features/anti-theft devices, operator discounts, prior insurance, and age. (And in some states and with some companies--sex, marital status, where the vehicle is kept at night, and credit score are also factors) While many of these factors are difficult, if not impossible, to change, there are still some relatively simply steps you can take to save money.

The 11 steps you can take to lower your auto insurance premium are:
(Note: we have tried to list the steps from the most obvious to the least obvious)

1.) Needless to say, try to avoid being involved in accidents or receiving moving violations by driving defensively and obeying all traffic laws--This is by far the most important way to reduce your auto insurance premium (plus it is safe and smart!).

2.) If you already own a registered vehicle, make sure to keep your insurance current, without a lapse in coverage, since many insurance companies provide much better rates to individuals who already have current insurance and have an established history of insurance coverage. Note: If you have had a lapse in insurance on a registered vehicle, we recommend getting insurance coverage as soon as possible and THEN do more shopping for better rates. Since you will have re-established your insurance, you will now be (PRESTO!) an insured motorist and most likely able to secure a better insurance rate immediately with another company.

3.) If you have an anti-theft device on your vehicle, make sure to let your insurance company know about it. If you do not have an anti-theft device already installed, consider adding one if you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle. Insurance companies generally offer discounts for anti-theft devices from 5% to 20%, or more, of your comprehensive coverage premium, depending on the type of anti-theft device. Vehicle recovery devices (e.g., Lo-Jack or On-Star) generally provide the biggest discount, with automatic anti-theft devices (i.e., those that arm themselves) probably being second on the list, and passive anti-theft devices (i.e., those that you must arm) and window glass etching or ignition shut-off mechanisms probably providing less of a discount. Of course, before installing an anti-theft device you will probably want to compare the savings you will receive by adding it to the total cost of installation. Depending on the cost of installation, it may not be cost-effective to install it.

4.) Check with your insurer to find out whether they offer discounts for attending a defensive driving course. These courses may normally be taken by drivers of all ages. Discounts vary by state and from company to company, but by paying a small fee and spending a few hours of your time for a defensive driving course, you may be able to save yourself approximately 5% to 10% or 15% of your TOTAL insurance premium. Note: If you are over age 55, ask about a special "Mature Driving Course" or "55-Alive Driving Course" discount. Also, if there are multiple drivers on your policy, ask whether you can receive a larger discount if all of you take the course--some companies will offer larger discounts, some won't, but if you ask, you can at least decide which driver/s on your policy should take the course to maximize your discount.

5.) For youthful operators (generally considered to be drivers under the age of 25), make sure you ask the insurer what discounts they may be eligible for. This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people miss out on significant savings because they forget to ask about specific discounts for younger drivers. Driver's Ed or Driver's Training and Good Student discounts are the most common types of discounts for youthful operators, but always ask if other discounts may apply.

6.) Always notify your insurance company when you have changes that may be beneficial to you. For instance, if you were single and are now married, make sure to let the insurer know. If you used to commute a far distance to work, but now have a shorter commute or work out of your home or are retired, you will most likely be eligible for a lower rate. If you used to park your car in your driveway or on the street and now park it in an enclosed or covered garage or shed, you may get a lower rate. As a basic rule of thumb, if it seems to you that you are less of a risk due to some change in your life, chances are your insurance company will think the same thing and give you a lower rate.

7.) Check rates for higher Bodily Injury (BI) limits. That's right, HIGHER limits! Believe it or not, it may be substantially cheaper for you to have limits for BI coverage of 50/100 or 100/300 than it is to have the state minimum coverage. One of the reasons for this odd phenomenon is that insurance companies consider you to be less of a risk if you are the type of individual who would be conscientious enough to have higher limits of BI coverage. Insurance companies have shown statistically that drivers who have higher BI limits are, overall, better risks and less likely to be involved in accidents or losses. Therefore, you can insert yourself into this group of drivers that is viewed more favorably by your company by carrying higher BI limits. Note: If you currently carry lower BI limits, your insurance company may not immediately rate for the change--you may have to wait until the next renewal to see a price change, or, in some cases, you may have to increase your BI limits and then shop for other insurance so that companies give you "credit" for your higher limits.

8.) Consider taking full coverage off of that older vehicle that is paid for. Many, many people carry full coverage on an older-model vehicle they own that may only be worth a couple thousand dollars. Even if they have a total loss of their vehicle, they may only receive a small amount of money for their vehicle after the deductible is taken into account. Yet, they may be paying several hundreds of dollars extra every year for full coverage. To save money, compare what you would receive for your vehicle if you had a total loss to what it costs to carry full coverage, and then make an educated decision. Note: Taking full coverage off of an older vehicle probably makes the most sense when the drivers of the vehicle have a good driving record, since they are even less likely than the average person to have an accident and file a claim.

9.) If your credit score has recently improved, contact your insurance company to find out whether they will re-run your credit score to possibly give you a lower rate. Most auto insurance companies now use credit in one form or another to accurately rate a policy. Whatever your personal opinion is of this practice, it is the standard method of operation for most auto insurance companies. (Note: There are states that have made laws against use of credit for auto insurance rating purposes. In these states, this step will not help you.) Because your credit score is a MAJOR factor with some companies, an improvement in your credit may save you a LOT of money, but only if you request that they re-check it).

10.) Check on how much it would cost to add comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, or both to your vehicle. Surprisingly, some companies actually offer lower rates if you have comprehensive, collision, or both, than they do for liability-only policies. This is definitely counter-intuitve, but it is based on the same principle mentioned above regarding higher BI limits--the insurance company may view you more favorably (as far as risk is concerned) if you are an individual who would at least carry more than the basic coverage on your automobile. So, when you shop for quotes on a vehicle, you may want to check what the difference in price would be between liaiblity coverage, liability plus comprehensive coverage, and liability plus comprehensive and collision coverage.

11.) Lastly, periodically contact your insurance company to see whether they may be able to place you with one of their underwriting companies that is designed for "better" drivers ("better" according to your insurer's rating factors--they are not judging your "goodness" or "character" for this!). Normally, insurance companies (particularly the larger companies) have multiple underwriting companies (subsidiary companies) that specialize in underwriting different categories of drivers based on the company's risk assessment of you. If you are not in the insurer's "best" underwriting company (reserved for their "best" risks), you always have room for improvement with that company, and by simply asking to be considered to be placed in one of the underwriting companies for "better" drivers, you may be able to save yourself a LOT of money over the years. Note: You may only have a real chance of being placed in a better underwriting company if your driving record has improved dramatically over the last couple or several years or if, in the states where credit may be used, your credit score has improved. Either or both of these improvements may give you leverage with the insurance company to request that their underwriters review your policy for placement with a better underwriting company.

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