Keeping Your Premium Low

Auto insurers who set rates not only look at your driving record, but they also check the history of the vehicle you own. Choosing a model with a better-than-average safety record often can save $200 per year or so on your insurance bills. The savings can be even greater for choosing a model unpopular with thieves. The most effective anti-theft devices, such as automatic engine-cutoff switches, can cut another 15 percent or more from the comprehensive portion of your insurance bill.

Your best bet is to find out which vehicles are the most and least expensive to insure. This information can be obtained from potential insurers such as Allstate, Farmers and State Farm insurance companies. IntelliChoice also compiles a list of most and least expensive vehicles to insure.

Check the Crash Tests

The safety of two cars or trucks in the same category can vary widely, which affects insurance rates. Each year the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests over 100 of the most widely driven new and redesigned vehicles into a fixed barrier at 35 mph — approximating the force of two identical cars hitting head-on at 35 mph. In the one- to five-star rating system (with five being best) that NHTSA uses to score these crash tests, the vast majority of vehicles attain four or five stars each for driver and passenger impact.

Insurance Discounts
  • Anti-theft device: For the most effective security devices — especially engine cutoff switches that prevent a vehicle from starting without the correct key — companies often give a 15 percent discount on your comprehensive coverage. The best devices are built in by manufacturers, so check for these when you are shopping for a new car.
  • Combined policy: If one of your potential choices is the company that provides your homeowner's insurance, it may offer a 10 to 15 percent break on your auto coverage.
  • Good credit rating: Strange as it sounds, insurers have come to believe that drivers with a good credit rating overall are also good insurance risks. You can't apply for this discount directly; your credit standing may be factored into your original rate quotation. The company checks it just as it does your driving record. It's a good idea to periodically check your credit rating and make sure it contains no unfavorable errors. If it does, do what's necessary to remove the unwarranted blemishes.
  • Preferred vehicles: Several major insurers now make allowances for specific vehicles and how effective they are at protecting occupants during an accident. State Farm cuts rates for personal injury protection coverage for vehicles that best protect occupants in a crash. But because PIP coverage makes up only about 10 percent of your auto insurance premium, owners of preferred vehicles will receive savings of $50 a year or less.

    Allstate is taking a similar approach to PIP. But unlike State Farm, it also takes into account how much damage a vehicle does to other vehicles in a crash. So some large autos, especially SUVs, get a discount for occupant protection offset by an added premium for the extra damage they do, according to Allstate claim records. Owners of minivans and large sedans, however, are likely to get an occupant protection discount with no offsetting damage increase.
  • Safe driver: If you've had no moving violations or accidents in the past three years, you might be able to reduce your premiums by as much as 40 percent.
© 6/29/09