I know there are literally hundreds of blogs about this subject, so I’m hoping this isn’t just another non-useful blog listing the obvious ways to lower auto insurance. To make this complete as I can; we will go over some of the easy ways that everyone knows about and try to go deeper into other ways.
I have been active in insurance for over 15 years in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we write auto insurance all over the state. So, based on my experience I will attempt to give my best explanation. I’m sure not everyone will agree.
Let’s dive in with the essentials (things almost everyone knows about).
Coverages: (impact medium - high)
o Liability Limits - This is not an area to try and save a few dollars. To protect your income and assets, the higher the limits the better. Personally, I don’t like state minimums. (A side note – I have seen premiums for the same driver, car, and all, the same or very close with higher limits. Carriers like to encourage higher limits – and not just to make more money.)
o Comprehensive and Collision - On a newer vehicle, or if you have a loan/lease you should have these. Even if you have $50,000 that you could throw away and still be fine. (It just makes sense in my opinion.) Going with a higher deductible is fair game. Just not higher than you are comfortable with. Consider mixing it up, such as getting a $500 comprehensive deductible and $1000 collision deductible. Collision coverage usually costs more so there is more to save there.
o Medical - This is a little tricky. $5,000 – 10,000 is a good range, but $1,000 - 25,000 is there too. Most people don’t realize medical coverage is broad. It may cover if you or a guest trip and get hurt getting out of the vehicle.
o Uninsured & Underinsured - It would save some premium to lower these, but I don’t think it is worth it. These limits should match the liability limits.
o Other Coverages - Think about the last time you needed to be towed (not from an accident) or needed a rental car (due to an accident). Do you have a new (reliable) vehicle? It is OK to consider these things to justify not purchasing towing or rental reimbursement. I shouldn’t say that as an agent, but if you are OK with paying these out of pocket, maybe you don’t need it. These types of loss are usually small compared to a total loss or liability claim.
Mileage: (impact medium) - This should be obvious. The more miles you drive per year the more likely you will have an accident and therefore should pay more. This also goes for how long and how often you commute to work or school. Often the break comes if you driver under 7500 miles per year and don’t commute. I do not recommend fudging on this figure. Increasing trends in technology makes it easy for carriers to know this, and it could be considered fraud.
Driving History: (impact high) - Definitely a biggie. Accidents and violations have proven to predict the chance of future incidents for a long time. Even windshield and towing claims can have a small impact on your premium. Carriers look at it all – severity, frequency, type, etc. This differs between carriers, but plan on going back about 5 years.
Age: (impact high) - Young drivers pay more. Old drivers pay a little more too. The sweet spot is usually around 30 - 60 years old.
Gender: (impact low - medium) - Not much you can do about this. I don’t recommend changing your gender to save money on your car insurance. The carriers that I have worked with in South Carolina recognize male and female, while some states have other options. For husbands out there that say their wife cannot drive, well statistics show otherwise. Females pay less overall.
Type or age of vehicle: (impact low - medium) - I want to keep this short. Rarely (maybe never) have I seen an insured change the car/truck they buy based on the premium savings. Unless the vehicle is super charged, high value (like over $75K), rare, or other unordinary factor it’s not a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, you can save a little by getting the right car. We are happy to quote different vehicles for you though. 😊
OK, here are some things that are less widely known (don’t shout at me if you already know this).
Location: (impact medium) - Not much you can do about this one either. It’s based on where the vehicle is garaged. South Carolina is around the middle of the pack (#27 the last I checked). It also varies by county and ZIP code. As technology enhances, carriers can segment even more.
Years licensed: (impact high) - Most carriers equate the number years licensed to experience. Get licensed young (if you can), even if you don’t own a vehicle or drive. This will help later.
Marital Status: (impact low - medium) - Most carriers look favorably on being married. Some even break it down to married, married with child, divorced, single with child, etc. The thought is if you are married or have a child you may be more mature and a safer driver.
Vehicle ownership: (impact low) - How the vehicle is owned has a small impact. Different ways are owned, financed, leased, and even if owned by multiple people. Usually what I see is (from best rate to not the best rate): owned, financed, then leased. Owned by other people can also give a little bump up in the premium. An example would be a vehicle you own with your mother, but your mother does not live with you or regularly drive the vehicle. It is an added exposure that the carrier must consider.
Prior Insurance: (impact medium - high) - This factors several things and is another biggie. The ideal insured has been continuously insured with the same carrier for 5 or more years. So, things that can have negative impacts are lapse in coverage, no prior, changing carriers often, and even the liability limits you currently/previously had. Yes, it’s better (when moving to a new carrier) to have say 100/300/50 vs. 25/50/25 limits. Also, the majority of carriers will take you being listed as a driver on another policy (parents for example) as prior. Not only should you be listed on your parent’s policy (if licensed) anyway, it will help when you break off onto your own policy.
Credit: (impact medium - high) - OK, so most people by now know about this. Surprisingly, many do not. Your credit profile has been proven many times to relate to the chance of a future incident. I know it’s not always fair, please don’t shoot the messenger. The way this is used varies between carriers. Some put a strong weight on this factor, while some not so much. Some carriers use something similar to a credit score, while some only use your payment history. Either way you slice it, it is important.
Let’s talk a little about discounts. A whole blog could be devoted to this. I’m pretty much just going to list them. It will just be to tedious to talk about everyone. Best thing to do is call us or an agent to go over the discounts you may qualify for, but don’t be afraid to ask.
· Good Driver
· Defensive Driving Course
· Driver Training Class
· Good Grades
· Education Level
· Multi-Line (Bundle)
· Continuous Insurance
· Home Ownership
· Student Away at School
· New Car
· Hybrid/Electric Vehicle
· Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
· Paid in Full
· Good Payer
· Early Shopper – Get a quote or apply for insurance in advance.
· Vehicle Safety Features
o Daytime Running Lights
o Anti-Theft Device
o Driver Assist
o Anti-Lock Brakes
o Driver/Passenger Restraint Device
o And More
· Affinity – Are you a member of a group that can receive a discount?
· Telematics - I will touch on this a bit. This is how carriers monitor your driving habits and you can get a pretty good discount for this. Some people are afraid of the big brother thing, but I think you may be throwing money away if you don’t utilize this.
To make sure I give a little disclaimer: I am sure I have missed some detail or something. I did not try to write the auto insurance bible. Feel free to let me know of something I missed, and I may add it. We understand that some of these factors do not seem fair. I don’t agree with everyone all the time. But I am being as honest as I can. Never buy insurance or certain coverages based on this blog or any blog alone. I think the best thing is to be educated AND talk to an experienced insurance agent before making a purchase. The impact ratings I gave above is just for reference. It will not be the same for everyone and remember all the factors work together. It can be hard to attribute just one thing to a high or low insurance premium.
Don’t be afraid to ask your agent questions. I think that is why we are here and why you chose to do business with us over just a jazzy website.
I am looking forward to feedback, so please let us know what you think or if you want more info about a particular topic.
Thanks for reading – Brad Davis, CIC