Stubbornly high gasoline prices, expensive maintenance costs and stinging state fees all can make owning a car a very pricey proposition. Your car insurance may represent one of the few areas for possible savings. If you haven't reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on a broad array of valuable discounts.
Competition among insurers is so fierce that new car insurance discounts are popping up all the time, says Michael Barry, a spokesman for the industry group the Insurance Information Institute.
"They're trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace," he says.
Bankrate has updated its table of popular discounts found on the websites of the 10 largest auto insurers to help you snag every available price break.
|State Farm||Geico||Allstate||Progressive||Farmers||USAA||Liberty Mutual||Nationwide||American Family||Travelers|
For bundling car insurance with other policies, such as home insurance.
For insuring more than one vehicle.
For anti-theft device, such as alarm system.
For safety features such as air bags and motorized seat belts.
|Daytime running lights||✔||✔||✔||✔|
For vehicles that are a certain number of years old.
For a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle.
For a clean driving record.
For taking a defensive driving course. May be limited to senior drivers.
For keeping mileage down. Electronic monitoring of mileage may be required.
For members of the armed forces.
For belonging to a certain group or working for a certain company or in a certain field.
For paying premium all at once.
|Paperless billing/automatic payment:|
For billing or payment done electronically.
For having stayed with the insurer for a length of time.
For switching to a new carrier if shopping process started at least a certain number of days before old policy expired.
For a younger driver earning good grades.
For a young driver on a policy attending school far from home.
Note: Some discounts not available in all states.
Results found during a June 9-12, 2014, survey of discount information available on the websites of the 10 largest car insurance companies. List of top 10 car insurers is by market share in 2013, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
We unscientifically, but methodically, dug deep through sites' crannies and corners and sifted through sometimes intricate wording about discounts -- to save you from doing all that legwork.
New for 2014, we have included the increasingly popular discounts for daytime running lights and for owners of newer vehicles.
Many well-known car insurance discounts are spelled out prominently on companies' websites. Geico's site, for example, clearly states that five years without an accident could get you up to 26 percent off, and that good grades could mean up to 15 percent off some coverage for full-time students.
Farmers Insurance Group, like all the insurers, touts a main list of discounts on its website. But if you search further for discounts by state, you'll find various additional reductions, including lower prices for active military members and young drivers attending school at least 100 miles from home.
On some sites, details about certain discounts can be found only in QandA sections or in blog posts.
Your insurer might urge you to request a car insurance quote to get the complete picture on discounts available to you.
Some discounts are fairly common ...
Each of the top 10 insurers offers a discount if you buy insurance for your car and home through the same company, and most also give a discount for insuring more than one vehicle.
The most popular discounts we found
- Multiple policies (bundling).
- Good student.
- Passive restraint.
- Safe driver/accident-free record.
Other favorite price breaks are for air bags, anti-lock brakes and anti-theft features such as car alarms.
Keeping mileage low will often score you a reduction. Some companies give better deals on mileage if you install a small monitoring gadget in your car.
Drivers must weigh whether they are willing to trade some privacy for a lower rate with these "pay-as-you-drive" programs.
State Farm's program, called Drive Safe and Save, provides the company's largest car insurance discounts, as high as 50 percent, spokeswoman Holly Anderson says. People who drive the fewest miles will reap the biggest discount.
... while others are fairly unusual
All the companies offer other, sometimes more obscure, discounts not tracked in the table. Did you recently get married? Will you attest that you and your passengers always wear seat belts? You might be able to pick up a less common discount.
Why doesn't your insurance company offer the same discounts as competitors?
Discounts vary because state regulators control which reductions are allowed, and companies' market research might show that a discount would be bad for business in some areas, industry experts say.
Barry acknowledges that finding every available discount "might take some digging."
Anderson says State Farm encourages policyholders to review their coverage with an agent once a year and after any major life event.
"That's a great time to sit down with an agent and find out how those situations may equal discounts," she says.
Go beyond the websites
Insurers' websites should be considered just a starting point for buyers' research, consumer advocates say. They suggest that you also check out buying guides from state insurance departments, media reviews of companies' offerings and research by industry groups.
J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, says one issue can affect your premiums more than discounts: It's what's called your "insurance score." Most companies look at parts of your credit history to give you a score to help determine what to charge you.
"That can be bigger than all the other factors," he says.
Hunter advises shoppers to keep asking whether they qualify for any other discounts -- in case an agent forgets something.
Finally, he points out that companies offering a lot of car insurance discounts might not ultimately provide the lowest premiums.
"You really have to be careful," he says.
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