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Car Insurance — How Can You Save?

This article appeared in an August 2016 issue of the student newsletter.

If you own a car, you know how expensive insurance can be. But if you shop smart, you should be able to find auto insurance that costs less than you are paying now.

To find a great rate, you have to shop around. Consumer Reports magazine says that most people — 75% — didn’t shop for auto insurance in the previous year. Of those who did, most checked out only one or two companies. That’s likely not going to get you the best deal.

Where to start? The Texas Department of Insurance offers an outstanding tool. Its online auto insurance Rates & Policies form gives you sample rates based on your age and other characteristics and how you drive. Find sample rates, then contact the insurance companies with the best rates to get a quote. The tool also lists which insurance companies are in the best shape financially, which have had the most customer complaints and other useful information. 

Consumer Reports magazine says you can save up to $7,800 over 10 years by shopping. It has published an auto insurance buying guide that offers tips for cutting the cost of car insurance. Here are highlights:

  • Shop every few years. Insurers generally update their prices every six to 12 months.
  • Shop whenever your situation changes. For example, if you marry or you need to add a teen to your policy, those could affect your rates.
  • Set the deductible right: A higher deductible reduces your premium. That’s because you pay more out of pocket if you have a claim. Hiking your deductible from zero to $1,000 can cut your premium on collision as much as 47% on average, depending on which state you live in.
  • Report reduced mileage: Rates are based in part on miles driven per year. The average is 12,000. But if you've changed jobs and commute fewer miles, the lower mileage might lower your premiums. Let your insurer know if you don’t drive as much as you used to.
  • Consider canceling collision, but only i… . You can probably cancel your collision and/or comprehensive coverage when the annual cost equals or exceeds 10% of your car's book value.
  • Review all your coverage. Your liability coverage pays for bodily injury and property damage that you cause in accidents. Don't be a cheapskate here. Buy standard 100/300/100 coverage, which may cost a bit more than the Texas minimum but pays for bodily injury up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, and property damage up to $100,000.
  • Ask for an extraordinary life circumstances exception. If your finances have been hurt by the recession, military deployment, divorce, job loss, death of a family member, medical problems, identity theft or other factors out of your control, ask your insurer for an extraordinary life circumstances exception.

Always have a copy of your current policy plus records of any at-fault accident claims and moving violations handy. You'll be asked for this information every time you request a quote.

Find more tips from the Consumer Reports buying guide.