You can start by shopping around and keeping your credit in good shape.

4 minute read

If you think you’re paying too much for car insurance, you’re probably right.

There are several programs and discounts out there that you may not be taking advantage of, like good student discounts and pay-as-you-drive rates. Car insurance is a necessity in the face of accidents — so if you have to pay for it anyway, you might as well save as much as you can.

Here’s how to save money on car insurance with six often overlooked tips…

1. Ask your insurance provider about its discounts

When you’re signing up for auto insurance — whether it’s on a lease, new car, or used car — it never hurts to ask if you qualify for a discount.

Sometimes companies will check your driving record to see how good of a driver you are. The more accidents you’ve been in leads insurance companies to believe you’ll be more accident-prone in the future, which means you’re more expensive to cover. But if you’ve got a relatively clean driving history, or an accident has crossed whatever age threshold your insurer cares about, your rate can drop.

Sometimes insurance companies offer package deals, like grouping your car and renters insurance together, to save. Progressive, Allstate, and Geico all offer multiple types of insurance.

For younger drivers, ask about good student discounts and driver education courses that will lower your rates.

2. Check in as you age, and if and when you get married

Single drivers under the age of 25 face higher premiums on average. Car insurance companies believe younger, less experienced adults are more accident-prone than their older counterparts. Once you hit 25, your insurance will likely drop. Nearly a decade of driving does have its advantages!

There’s also a discount if you’re married. To insurance companies, stability is everything. If you’ve got a legal partner, that shows you’re responsible — at least on paper.

And responsible driving doesn’t just come with age and marriage, it also comes with your car.

Some cars cost more to insure than others. If you’re in the market for a new car, talk to your agent about which cars offer less expensive auto insurance. If you’re buying a used car, see the history of the vehicle before buying.

3. Try a pay-as-you-drive program

PAYD programs can only lower your rate, not increase it. Discounts are usually 15-30 percent. But they can be higher if you drive rarely, and negligible if you’re a bad driver.

When you sign up, you get a tracking device that plugs into your car’s diagnostic port.[1] Different companies track different things, but you can bet they want to know…

  • The distance you drive (lots of miles?)
  • How fast you drive (above 80 mph?)
  • How safely you drive (braking hard frequently?)

Some may also want to know if you drive late at night.

This kind of data gives them a better sense of how risky a driver you are, and probably how risky drivers in general are. (It also likely helps insurers settle disputes about fault.) If you’re safer than they assumed, you’ll save money.

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4. Consider a different car make and model

Aside from paying for the car itself, some vehicles cost much more to insure than others. A 2017 Mercury Insurance study says the Honda Fit is the cheapest car to insure — and Hondas make up three out of the top four least expensive[2]

But is it really the best car for the money? U.S. News & World Report measured quality and value to make that determination, and the Honda Fit took the top spot for Best Subcompact car.[3] For quality, value, and insurance, it could be the right fit for you and your family.

“Car shoppers are extremely savvy today and are looking at the total cost of ownership and car insurance is one way to help lower this cost,” says Tom Coyne, auto line lead for Mercury Insurance. “Mercury compiles these top-10 lists to help our customers save money, and [these] vehicles are more than 10 percent cheaper to insure than the average of all cars and trucks Mercury insures.”

In the top cheapest cars to insure:

  1. Honda Fit
  2. Ford Fiesta
  3. Honda CR-V
  4. Honda Pilot
  5. MINI Countryman
  6. Ford Edge
  7. Mazda3
  8. Hyundai Elantra
  9. Toyota Sienna
  10. Nissan Versa

5. Stay in contact with your agent

You’d think that doing nothing wouldn’t raise your auto insurance rate but, if you did, you’d be wrong.

Even if you haven’t been in an accident, haven’t added a teen driver, haven’t racked up traffic tickets and didn’t see your credit score plummet or experience a change in any of the factors that influence your riskiness to your insurer, you still could see your insurance bill hiked.

The reason is that many insurance companies are using sophisticated data mining software to enact something called “Price Optimization.” These insurers analyze reams of data to figure out which customers will shop around after a price hike, and which ones won’t. If a computer algorithm predicts that you aren’t likely to be a savvy shopper, your premiums could go up.

According to J. Robert Hunter of the Consumer Federation, with just a couple of phone calls or visits to a few websites, one hour of insurance shopping can cut as much as $125 per car off your bill. An even easier approach might be to make just one phone call — to your agent. Ask why your rate has gone up and what you can do to lower it. Also, review your coverage to make sure you’re not paying for unwanted extras. And check that you’re taking advantage of discounts, such as good driver and good student deductions, or savings from bundling home and auto policies into one package.

6. Just stop driving

OK this one’s extreme, but if car insurance is really killing your budget – it may not be worth keeping the car for now.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) says driving is down for young millennials and Generation Zers. In 2014, 69 percent of 19-year-olds had a driver’s license. In 1983, that number was 90 percent.[4]

To really save money in an urban environment, ditch the car altogether. That will save you a car insurance payment, maintenance, and gas. Bus, train, or carpooling with a friend are all much more cost-effective ways to get around. In a pinch, you can also try ride-sharing. Uber and Lyft account for 68 percent of all ground transportation during business trips — a sector traditionally held by taxis and car rentals, according to Forbes.[5]

Kristen Grau contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger

Having more than $10,000 in student loan debt has a way of piquing your interest in personal finance. And because my degree was in English and public communication, I get to share that interest with you. My wide-ranging stories on money and business have run on Business Insider, the Christian Science Monitor, Reader's Digest, the front pages of and Yahoo! Finance, Money Talks News, and the South Florida Business Journal. In my free time, I like to jump off skyscrapers and play video games.

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