If you're looking to get some extra wiggle room in your budget, try shopping for a new car insurance policy.
Auto insurance premiums vary widely from one company to another and depend on numerous aspects about you, your car and your driving habits. Once you understand the factors that can impact your premiums, you're better prepared to compare auto insurance quotes to find the best car insurance rates.
The number of tickets and accidents you've had will have a big impact on how much you pay for car insurance, says Ron Moore, senior product manager for MetLife Auto & Home in Minneapolis.
"State laws regulate how far back insurance companies can go to review your driving history, but most companies look at the previous three years for tickets," says Moore.
The amount of additional premium you'll pay depends on the severity of your violations and how many citations you have. A reckless driving infraction will likely raise your rates more than a ticket for going 10 miles over the speed limit. Moore says that a serious offense such as a DUI during which you injured someone will impact your car insurance rates for at least five years.
Some states reduce or erase points from your driving record and require auto insurance companies to give you a mandatory reduction in your car insurance premium if you complete a driver safety class.
You can save money on your insurance premiums by reducing your liability and bodily injury coverage to the lowest limits mandated by your state, but be aware that if the bills of someone you crash into exceed your insurance coverage, you're still responsible, says Moore.
"Sometimes people think they don't have cash in the bank so it doesn't matter, but a court can decide that you have to liquidate your assets or can garnish your wages to pay for the consequences of an accident," he says. "A hospital or doctor can send unpaid bills to collection, too, which would have an impact on your credit report."
If you want to eliminate some insurance coverage such as roadside assistance or rental car reimbursement you can save $20 to $30 per year, says Moore.
You can save more if you drop your coverage for collision and comprehensive coverage, which some drivers choose if they have an older car, but realize this means you'll have to pay for a replacement car on your own if your car is totaled and it’s your fault.
Changing your deductible from $250 to $500 will save about 10 to 20 percent on your car insurance premiums, says Moore, but you need to make sure you have the cash on hand in case you get in accident and need to make a claim.
Car insurance companies such as State Farm, Allstate, Travelers and MetLife, among others, offer discounts or benefits to drivers who don't make claims. At MetLife, you can accumulate a savings benefit of $50 each year without a claim (up to a maximum amount of $250) that you can use to offset your deductible if you eventually have a claim.
The amount you pay for car insurance depends in part on the value of your car, how hard it is to repair and how much damage your car is likely to receive in an accident.
"For example, a large SUV may be more costly to buy but cheaper to insure than a comparably priced [sedan] because it sustains less damage in an accident than a small sedan," says Moore.
Also, cars with high-tech electronics and safety features can be more costly to insure because they will add to your repair costs.
"If you carpool or take public transportation to work or if you've switched jobs and have a shorter commute, your car insurance premiums should be lower," says Moore. (Find out more about low-mileage discounts.)
Most car insurance companies offer a discount for customers who purchase both home and auto insurance policies, says Moore. MetLife offers a discount of 5 to 10 percent for having two policies with the company and up to 10 to 15 percent for having three policies, such as home, auto and life insurance. Other discounts are offered for good students, homeowners and students who are away at college.
"Most people can find a discounted car insurance policy through membership in an association such as an alumni group, a credit union, AAA, a union or from their employer," says Moore. "It's important to shop around, though, because that relationship may not necessarily offer you the lowest price or the insurance policy that meets your needs."
Car insurance quotes are calculations, based off specific information you provide. When one of those bits of information changes, so do the rates you might find. Where you live, who you marry, even your credit can change which car insurance company offers you the best deal. (See "When does car insurance go down?")
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