Car insurance is necessary to protect you financially when behind the wheel. Whether you just have basic liability insurance or you have full auto coverage, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible. Wondering how to lower car insurance? Here are 15 strategies for saving on car insurance costs.
How Much Does Car Insurance Cost?
Car insurance costs are different for every driver, depending on the state they live in, their choice of insurance company and the type of coverage they have. But when trying to save money on car insurance, it helps to know what the typical driver pays.
On average, the typical person spent $1,190 on car insurance in 2018, based on the latest figures available from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)1. According to the NAIC data, car insurance premiums rose 30% between 2014 and 2018, despite the number of insured vehicles only rising by 7%1.
Data from AAA put the average cost of car insurance for new vehicles in 2020 slightly higher, at $1,202 annually2. The numbers are fairly close together, suggesting that as you budget for a new car purchase you may need to include $100 or so per month for auto insurance.
While some things that affect car insurance rates–such as your driving history–are within your control others, costs may also be affected by things like state regulations and state accident rates.
How to Save on Car Insurance Costs
There are a number of strategies you may use to save on car insurance. Once you know how much is car insurance for you, you can put some or all of these tactics t work.
1. Take Advantage of Multi-Car Discounts
If you obtain a quote from an auto insurance company to insure a single vehicle, you might end up with a higher quote per vehicle than if you inquired about insuring several drivers or vehicles with that company. Insurance companies will offer what amounts to a bulk rate because they want your business. Under some circumstances they are willing to give you a deal if it means you’ll bring in more of it.
Ask your insurance agent to see if you qualify. Generally speaking, multiple drivers must live at the same residence and be related by blood or by marriage. Two unrelated people may also be able to obtain a discount; however, they usually must jointly own the vehicle.
If one of your drivers is a teen, you can expect to pay more to insure them. However, if your child’s grades are a B average or above or if they rank in the top 20% of the class, you may be able to get a good student discount on the coverage, which generally lasts until your child turns 25. These discounts can range from as little as 1% to as much as 39%, so be sure to show proof to your insurance agent that your teen is a good student.
Incidentally, some companies may also provide an auto insurance discount if you maintain other policies with the firm, such as homeowners insurance. Allstate, for example, offers a 10% car insurance discount and a 25% homeowners insurance discount when you bundle them together, so check to see if such discounts are available and applicable.3
2. Pay Attention on the Road
In other words, be a safe driver. This should go without saying, but in today’s age of increasing in-car distractions, this bears mentioning as much as possible. The more mindful you are, the more accidents or moving violations you’ll be able to avoid—events that raise your insurance rates. Travelers offers safe driver discounts of between 10% and 23%, depending on your driving record.4
For those unaware, points are typically assessed to a driver for moving violations, and more points can lead to higher insurance premiums (all else being equal).
3. Take a Defensive Driving Course
Sometimes insurance companies will provide a discount for those who complete an approved defensive driving course. Drivers may also be able to reduce the number of points they have on their licenses by taking a defensive driving, accident prevention, or other course.
Make sure to ask your agent/insurance company about this discount before you sign up for a class. After all, it’s important that the effort being expended and the cost of the course translate into a big enough insurance savings. It’s also important that the driver sign up for an accredited course. Every state has its own rules about accredited defensive driving courses, and GEICO allows you to check what they are by state on its website.5
4. Shop Around for Better Car Insurance Rates
If your policy is about to renew and the annual premium has gone up markedly, consider shopping around and obtaining quotes from competing companies. Also, every year or two it probably makes sense to obtain quotes from other companies, just in case there is a lower rate out there.
Remember, cheap doesn’t always mean good, and going with the lower-priced company isn’t always the wisest decision. That’s because the insurer’s creditworthiness should also be considered. After all, what good is a policy if the company doesn’t have the wherewithal to pay an insurance claim?
To run a check on a particular insurer, consider checking out a site that rates the financial strength of insurance companies. The financial strength of your insurance company is important, but what your contract covers is also important, so make sure you understand it. Insure.com’s site bases its insurance company ratings on data assembled by Standard and Poor’s.6
In general, the fewer miles you drive your car per year, the lower your insurance rate is likely to be, so always ask about a company’s mileage thresholds.
5. Use Mass Transit
When you sign up for insurance, the company will generally start with a questionnaire. Among the questions it asks might be the number of miles you drive the insured automobile per year.
If you use your vehicle to commute three hours to work every day, you will generally pay more in insurance premiums than someone who only drives one mile a day. If possible, try to use mass transit to rack up fewer miles, keeping in mind that you will usually have to decrease your mileage significantly before incurring a discount. Ask your insurance company about the company’s different mileage thresholds, so your efforts won’t be wasted.
Also, check with your provider to see how many miles they have you currently driving, as most can give you an improved insurance quote.
6. Downsize Your Vehicle
Buying a huge SUV may sound exciting, but insuring a 5,000-pound, top-of-the-line vehicle can be more expensive than insuring a small (but safe) lower-cost commuter car. Some insurers will offer a discount if you buy a hybrid or an alternative fuel vehicle. Farmers, for example, offers a 5% discount.7
You can feel good about protecting the environment and save money on insurance at the same time. Find out the exact rates to insure the different vehicles you’re considering before making a purchase.
7. Increase Your Deductibles
When selecting car insurance, you can typically choose a deductible, which is the amount of money you would have to pay before insurance picks up the tab in the event of an accident, theft, or other types of damage to the vehicle. Depending on the policy, deductibles typically range from $250 to $1,000. The catch is that, generally speaking, the lower the deductible, the higher the annual premium.
Conversely, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Ask your agent how your premium might be affected if you raised your deductible. It may make the annual premium better by several percentage points and put some money back in your pocket, or the savings may be minimal. If you are reluctant to file smaller claims to avoid the risk of pushing up your premium, raising the deductible may be a particularly sensible move.
8. Improve Your Credit Rating
A driver’s record is obviously a big factor in determining auto insurance costs. After all, it makes sense that a driver who has been in a lot of accidents could cost the insurance company a lot of money. However, folks are sometimes surprised to find that insurance companies may also consider credit ratings when determining insurance premiums.
Why is your credit rating considered? Michael Barry, senior vice president and head of media relations of the Insurance Information Institute, puts it this way:
“Many insurers use credit-based insurance scores. It’s a contentious issue in certain statehouses…[but] insurers will say their studies show that if you’re responsible in your personal life, you’re less likely to file claims.”
Regardless of whether that’s true, be aware that your credit rating can be a factor in figuring insurance premiums, and do your utmost to keep it high.
Your credit card company or bank may offer free credit score access. You can check credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com
9. Consider Location When Estimating Car Insurance Rates
It’s unlikely that you will move to a different state simply because it has lower car insurance rates. However, when planning a move, the potential change in your car insurance rate is something you will want to factor into your budget.
10. Review Your Coverage
Dropping certain types of coverage can be a slippery slope. After all, nobody can predict if or when an accident will occur. However, if you are driving an extremely old automobile that’s on its last legs, it may make sense (depending on the cost, your driving record, and other factors) to drop collision or comprehensive coverage.
The reason for this is that were the vehicle to be involved in an accident, the insurance company would likely total the car. If the value of the car is only $1,000 and the collision coverage costs $500 per year, it may not make sense to buy it.
11. Get Discounts for Installing Anti-Theft Devices
Individuals have the potential to lower their annual premiums if they install anti-theft devices. GEICO, for example, offers a “potential savings” of 25% if you have an anti-theft system in your car.8
Your insurance company should be able to tell you specifically which devices, when installed, can lower premiums. Car alarms and LoJacks are two types of devices you might want to inquire about.
If your primary motivation for installing an anti-theft device is to lower your insurance premium, consider whether the cost of adding the device will result in a significant enough savings to be worth the trouble and expense.
12. Speak to Your Agent
It’s important to note that there may be other cost savings to be had in addition to the ones described in this article. In fact, that’s why it often makes sense to ask if there are any special discounts the company offers, such as for military personnel or employees of a certain company. You never know what sort of discount pricing might be available for your circumstances.
13. Switch to Pay-as-You-Go Insurance
If you’re a safe, low-mileage driver, a usage-based insurance program (also known as black box insurance) may be available to you, such as Allstate’s Drivewise,9 Progressive’s Snapshot,10 or State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save.11 By signing up for these programs, you let your insurer track your driving through a telemetric device installed in your car in exchange for possible discounts based on how much you drive, when you drive, and how well you drive. If you drive fewer than 10,000 miles a year, you might be able to save money with this type of program.
14. Research Additional Discounts
Insurers provide a variety of discounts. Check for discounts such as these:
Offers to let you pay the entire annual or six-month premium at once
Agreements to receive e-bills and documentation
Memberships in particular organizations or groups that offer discounts
Don’t be swayed by a long list of possible discounts. Compare both discount and regular prices from multiple insurers.
15. Ditch Coverage You May Not Need
You may not need all the bells and whistles in a policy, such as roadside assistance and car rental coverage. Go over your insurance policy line by line and ask about removing anything you don’t need.
Check with your credit card company to see if they offer roadside assistance benefits to cardholders, which might allow you to drop this feature from your auto insurance policy.
The Bottom Line
The price of auto insurance is likely to continue to rise in the future. However, there are many things you can do to reduce the sting. These 15 tips should get you driving in the right direction. Remember also to compare the best car insurance companies to find the one that fits your coverage needs and budget.
Compete Risk Free with $100,000 in Virtual Cash
Put your trading skills to the test with our FREE Stock Simulator. Compete with thousands of Investopedia traders and trade your way to the top! Submit trades in a virtual environment before you start risking your own money. Practice trading strategies so that when you’re ready to enter the real market, you’ve had the practice you need. Try our Stock Simulator today >>