Ways to save on auto insurance


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With the right knowledge, you can save anywhere from $400 to over $1,000 on your auto insurance. In fact, you don't even have to wait for your policy to expire to get the savings.

A recent survey found big price differences among the major auto insurers in California. The survey by Bay Area Consumers' Checkbook found some insurers were consistently low in price.

"That was true this time around for GEICO, was true for Allstate, was true for Amica Mutual. There are some companies that may have low rates for some policy holders and not for others," said Consumers' Checkbook President Robert Krughoff.

That's why it's important to shop around and compare rates every few years and use price comparison websites like www.insweb.com, www.insurance.com, and www02.answerfinancial.com.

It's also a good idea to double check to ensure you're getting every discount available.

"Checkbook found quite a few cases where the insurance agents, where we talked to actual insurance agents, didn't recognize certain discounts that were available and didn't offer the best option," said Krughoff.

Those discounts include:

  • Having multiple types of insurance like homeowners and car as well as multiple cars insured with the same company.
  • Having a good driving record with no serious accidents or violations within the last three to five years.
  • Parking your car in the garage.
  • Leaving your car at home when working.
The best thing, you won't have to wait for your policy to expire if you decide to switch insurers.

"You can change right now and then the unused portion of your premium will simply be returned to you," said Krughoff.

One discount you might want to look for in the future is pay as you drive. Beginning as early as December, driving fewer miles could mean bigger savings.

"In this economy, where people are struggling to make ends meet and to lower their household expenses, pay as you drive is a way to lower transportation expenses in California, while also rewarding people who drive less," said Justin Horner from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Insurance commissioner Steve Poizner this month released new regulations giving insurance companies the option of verifying the miles you drive, and giving you discounts based on driving fewer miles.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says it's disappointed Poizner decided against making pay as you drive mandatory.

"The regulations that he released merely permit insurance customers to offer their customers a policy in which they will verify their mileage," said Horner.

But Poizner is confident insurance companies will be on board.

"I've already gotten a lot of positive strong feedback from insurance companies in California, over 200 of them that offer auto insurance in California and I expect many insurance companies will be issuing new products in this category late this year, early next year," he said.

Here are other ways you can save on auto insurance:

  • Raise your deductible to $1,000. You may not want to collect on damages less than $500 because the company may not renew your policy or raise your rates.

  • Eliminate your collision and comprehensive coverage when you're cars value drops to such a level its' not worth repairing or replacing.

  • Consumers' Checkbook says even if you have a poor driving record, you cab get coverage from California's "assigned risk" plan.

  • This should be your last resort. Shop several regular companies first. Once you get into the program, check with regular companies again after a year of good driving. For more information: http://www.aipso.com/ca/

  • If you switch insurers, don't terminate your former coverage until you have the new coverage in place.

  • Look into California's low cost Auto Insurance Program. This program for low income residents is not well publicized, but its definitely worth looking into.
Related links:

Under the program, liability coverage can be as low as $25 a month in San Francisco and $22 a month in Contra Costa County. Check for the rates in your county at: www.insurance.ca.gov

Find out if you're eligible at: www.insurance.ca.gov/information-guides

General information including how to apply: www.insurance.ca.gov/consumers

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