Sometimes, you'll get the best deal with your current car insurance company. But in many other cases, the road to the cheapest car insurance policy will take you elsewhere.
In general, the more you pay for car insurance, the bigger the difference between insurance companies' rates. Every company calculates its own price, and they often differ by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Comparison shopping can help you uncover cheap car insurance companies and auto insurance discounts. How often should you compare car insurance quotes to find the lowest premiums? Experts generally suggest looking around at least once a year -- but certainly at these times, when your rates are most likely to change dramatically:
- Purchasing a new or different car
- Combining cars on a multi-car policy
- Adding or removing a driver
- Adding a teen driver
- Home purchase
- DUI or major violation
- Change in credit score
For more information, see "7 reasons your car insurance rates drop."
Your insurance company may offer more affordable car insurance rates if you purchase both your home insurance and auto insurance policies from the same provider.
According to data gathered for Insurance.com by Quadrant Information Services, the nationwide average multi-policy discount given for bundling home and auto insurance is 8 percent. By bundling renters and car insurance a discount also applies, with the nationwide average being around 5 percent.
If you're shopping for new wheels, your choice of automobile can play a big role in getting lower insurance rates. Cars that cost less to repair or replace generally receive lower premiums.
You'll also get better rates if your car has certain safety features. Insurance companies often give discounts for features such as anti-lock brakes, side airbags and automatic safety belts. Anti-collision technology is becoming popular in new vehicles; if your car is equipped with the new tech ask your agent if any discounts are available.
A poor driving history can easily disqualify you from getting the cheapest car insurance. Insurers will check your record to see if you present a high level of risk. Speeding tickets, accidents, drunk driving citations – all can drive your insurance rates higher.
Drive sensibly and cautiously and you'll be on the way to cheap car insurance by avoiding surcharges and receiving a good driver discount. (See "How much will a ticket affect my insurance rates?")
If you have an old beater, reduce your car insurance costs by dropping comprehensive and collision coverage. When should you make this move toward cheaper auto insurance? Many experts say it's time to drop these coverages when the actual cash value you’d receive for your vehicle doesn’t justify the insurance expense. (See "When to drop collision and risk it all.")
Have an extra car in the household you can use if yours is in the shop due to an auto accident? If so, skip rental reimbursement coverage.
Also, don't pay extra for personal injury protection or medical payment insurance (if they aren’t required by your state) if your family already has a good health insurance plan.
Experts generally recommend you sit down with your agent annually to discuss any changes in your life that might impact your auto rates or give you reason to adjust your coverages or limits. For example, your insurer may offer cheaper car insurance if you've dropped your daily commute in favor of working from home. Or, if you recently bought a home you may be eligible for a homeowner discount, but also may want to discuss raising your liability limits to protect this new asset.
Has your teen recently flown the nest and landed car-free at a university or college? If so, let your agent know that the teen does not drive your car for the majority of the year.
Being proactive can help you nab these and other auto insurance discounts -- and keep your car insurance rates cheap.