How to Lower Your Car Insurance Rates Without Raising Your Stress Levels
When you’re a car owner, the joys of the open road seem endless and whimsical. As long as there’s a road and a speed limit, you’re free to drive wherever you want and motor your way to happiness. Approximately 6 million cars are sold annually in the United States, meaning that there’s a whole lot of motoring freedom lovers out there.
Of course, anyone who’s ever owned an automobile will tell you that it’s not all sunshine and motor oil. There are legitimate costs associated with owning a car, and the price of gas has nothing to do with a lot of them. After fueling up, you still have to eventually perform routine maintenance, have a driver’s license, and keep a minimum liability insurance policy in order to operate your vehicle legally. Many people wonder if there’s a way to lower your car insurance, but don’t know where to start.
When you’re thinking about how to lower your car insurance rates, don’t hesitate to call your insurance company first and ask everything you can about how your rates are determined. It’s not nosy or rude, that’s just a practical thing for any person interested in keeping their finances neat and tidy. Anyone who tells you different simply does not have all the facts and cannot be viewed as a trusted source. As a consumer paying for a service, you always have the right to ask questions and stop that service for a better one.
In this article we’ll discuss how car insurance rates are determined and how you can optimize what you get from your policy. While we can’t guarantee methods to lower your car insurance, some of the tips within should set you on path to better rates and opportunities. The more you know, the better you can adapt towards a new tomorrow.
What Goes Into Insurance Rates?
Car insurance rates (usually called premiums) are determined by a variety of factors to determine the risk that an individual poses to an insurance agency in making out a claim. Since insurance companies are not in the business of losing all their money, they carefully weight options between a variety of individuals in differing circumstances to best decide who should be provided coverage from them. Not all insurance companies accept all individuals, and there are even specialized companies for those deemed “high risk.” The higher your risk, the higher in premiums you will pay.
Even if you’ve worked at an automotive motorsports shop and possess an encyclopedic knowledge of cars and how they operate, that won’t win you any favors with car insurance companies. Factors like your credit score, marital status, income, and whether or not you have a criminal record will all be taken into consideration. In addition to using publicly available information to glean information about you, insurance companies also tap into CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) to see if you’ve ever had insurance companies pay out a claim for you and at what date.
In order to get the most favorable insurance rates (or to lower your car insurance substantially), you should take note of some general trends. Those individuals who are married, with a high credit score, little debt, no claims, and a properly maintained car tend to receive the best rates. It is not because they are better than anyone else or deserve special treatment, but simply because pose the lowest risk to the insurance companies and are therefore good for the business model.
Take Credit for Good Credit
If you’ve ever diligently and hopefully applied for a credit card, leased an automobile or gotten a mortgage/loan for a property, you know that credit scores can count toward a lot of these decisions. You might be surprised to discover they can also affect your car insurance rates in many of the same ways your driving record, marital status, and overall payment history can. The wrong information (or information that doesn’t meet the insurance company’s internal threshold) can mean an automatic denial or delayed approval. If certain things don’t add up or count against you, that means it will be hard to lower your car insurance rates without fixing them.
Many insurance companies (especially those based in the USA) use credit-based insurance scores in addition to your driving history, claims history, and other factors to establish eligibility for payment plans and to help determine insurance rates. The exception to this rule is in California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts where this has been made illegal.
If you have a high credit-based insurance score, an excellent driving history, and zero claims on your record, you’ll more than likely qualify for lower rates. This score is only one of many factors used to calculate your premium, and individual cases may vary widely. For instance, if you have a stellar insurance score but a less-than-impeccable driving history, you might be considered riskier to insure. Never hesitate to ask your insurance agent for more details.
Luckily, you don’t have to hire an accountant right off the bat to fix any credit issues that may be affecting your insurance rates. Favorable factors include paying any debts off, keeping your credit utilization (debt to credit ratio) low, avoiding late payments, and keeping existing accounts in good standing. If you simply avoid incurring unnecessary debt and pay off your balances with the diligence of a financial wizard, over time these issues will correct themselves in your favor. The longer you continue these good habits and practice frugality in your finances, the easier it will be to lower your car insurance rates when this factor comes up. Start today and reap the benefits in the future!
Keep Your Car in Good Shape
It should be obvious that the better shape your car is in, the possibility for accident avoidance and lower or more reasonable rates is in your favor. While it’s usually true that older cars with high mileage are less costly to insure because their value has decreased, other factors such as maintenance records, vandalism, or criminal complaints associated with your car can become an issue depending on the carrier. If your vehicle continually has had the windshield smashed and required auto glass replacement, this could count against you. You should feel free to inquire about whether these factors are being assessed against you, but depending on your location the insurance company may not have to disclose them.
While you probably don’t have to invest in eco-friendly garage door services to keep your car in the good graces of your insurance company, if you have a garage you should store your vehicle inside it. It is the natural habitat of vehicles to protect them from the elements and would-be thieves or accident-prone situations. Simply keeping your car locked, mechanically maintained, and out of harm’s way will do wonders in keeping your car stable in the eyes of your insurance provider.
Making the necessary repairs to your car is simply part of owning a vehicle, it can sometimes become more than the worth of the car. If you have an older car with a bad maintenance record that is going to cost you a fortune for something like automatic transmission services, it might be worth looking at used cars in better shape and inquiring on potential rates with your carrier. Even though you might not want to buy a used car, sometimes making payments (with reduced insurance rates) can be far less costly than keeping a truly old car in working order.
Drive Safe for Better Rates
In today’s technological age, there are all sorts of ways to monitor whether you’re an amazing driver or not. From smartphone apps to odometer monitors, your insurance company and verified third parties can provide a whole host of incentives in order for you to drive safer and protect yourself from unnecessary risk. By eliminating more risk and being safer, your insurance company will usually lower your car insurance gradually or in a lump sum.
Some larger insurance companies have partnered with technological innovators to release smartphone apps that monitor your driving speed, locations, and intensity. The information provided back to the companies allows them to assess you even further as a customer and give you more specific rates tied to your safe driving. Some companies even have physical monitoring devices that can be attached to the computer system of your car and send back volumes of information on what you’re doing on the road.
Whether you accept a monitoring device of some sort in exchange for lower rates or not, driving safer will ultimately result in you having lower rates over time (but perhaps not as soon as you’d like). By not engaging your car with danger, the potential for a claim or other debilitating events that cost you money will become less and less. Not to mention that your stress levels will go down if you can eliminate road rage, reckless driving, and speeding.
Don’t Claim the Little Stuff
When you have a good auto insurance policy, it can be tempting to make a claim on everything that goes wrong with your car. While this seems tempting, it’s absolutely the worst way to go about using insurance. The more claims you make that have to be paid out, the more risk you incur for the insurance company, and the higher your rates will go until they may not decide to do business with you anymore. So while you may want to make a claim for rock chip repairs that happened on a fateful highway journey, it’s best to pay smaller claims ($300 or less) out of your own pocket and save larger claims for your insurance company to foot the bill for.
There is some debate about whether making medium-sized claims is good overall if your goal is to lower your car insurance rates. Dents and dings can be a complicated issue, depending on how larger they are and how they were caused. Nature-inflicted damage (such as hail, rocks, and tree limbs) will usually warrant a larger accident that may be worth filing a claim for. Someone backing into you in a parking lot and putting a medium-sized dent in your car may look bad, but might not be worth filing a claim. While paintless dent repair can be pricey, it’s always worth discussing hypothetical claims before you formally file them. Only your carrier can provide you with the best information.
Making small claims frequently is a guaranteed way to not lower your car insurance rates. So what claims should you make? As a rule of thumb, it’s best to save larger costs (like suspension repair from an accident) for insurance rather than getting in a huff about dents and dings. While it may seem like it defeats the point of insurance, it does not. The point is to insure the whole automobile and restore (or replace) it back to working order, not to keep it in cosmetically perfect condition. That’s up to you, your garage, and whoever decides to keep your car squeaky clean.
Get a Lawyer to Help Out
Every so often, life turns out unfair and you get stuck with the short end of the stick. Perhaps you were involved in an accident that wasn’t really your fault, but the resulting lawsuit stuck you with the blame and the lion’s share of the damages. Surely this is affecting your car insurance rates today and will into the future unless something is done about it. Hiring an auto accident attorney is usually not a bargain, but if they are willing to accept a settlement of the proceeds from helping you litigate a case then it can become more affordable.
Where an attorney can really help you is by dismissing or qualifying accidents that are on your record unfairly or unjustly. Accidents happen, but if you have proof that you have been given blame erroneously and are still able to litigate the issue, you might be able to turn yourself from a liability into a regular driver in the eyes of your insurance company. The potential to lower your car insurance is enormous if you’re found to not have as many accidents (or not be at fault at all), but only a licensed attorney would be able to provide the exact details.
Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
As with all things in life, negotiation is an art and fine skill. Many consumers don’t even realize that they can shop around for other insurance providers and inquire about other rates, saving themselves thousands of dollars over the life of their vehicle. It’s neither illegal nor immoral, and competition is the basis of a capitalistic free market.
If you think that you’re receiving insurance rates that are sky high and unreasonable, sit down with other insurance agents and ask if they can help you out. You may be able to get the same amount of coverage (or more) for substantially less money just by switching to another provider. Even if you only save a couple of dollars, that still can add up to a nice little chunk of change over time. It’s worth investigating, and is your right as a consumer if your goal is to lower your car insurance rates once and for all.