13 Ways to Drive Down Your Car Insurance Premium

If you have a car, paying for insurance is a necessary evil. But you don't need to pay as much as you are now.

Paying for car insurance is a necessary evil. It helps protect you and your property from the cost of accidents. Unfortunately, it can cost a bunch to insure yourself against the unpredictable conditions of the open road.

There are several ways to reduce the cost of your car insurance premium, letting you cruise past high payments. Here are 13 ways to reduce your car insurance premium:

1. Choose the Right Car

In part, your car insurance premiums are calculated using the risk and cost associated with your vehicle. That means the price, the potential cost of repairs, the odds of theft and the safety features of your specific car impact your cost of insurance. Insuring a sports car won’t cost the same as insuring a family sedan. When you’re car shopping, consider the cost of insurance for specific vehicles. (Taking out an auto loan? Brush up on the lingo here.)

2. Maintain Good Credit

In most states, your credit score helps determine your premium. Those with excellent credit can access the best rates, while those with poor credit see higher costs. You get a snapshot of your credit report free on Credit.com.

“The insurance company may not necessarily pull a credit score or credit report, but they will use some type of insurance score that is based on one’s credit score. This varies from one state to another, but generally speaking, the better your credit score, the better your car insurance rate,” said Joel Ohman, certified financial planner and founder of CarInsuranceComparison.com.

3. Install Anti-Theft Devices

Most insurers offer discounts for a having an anti-theft device, which can prevent theft or identify and locate stolen vehicles. You’ll have to purchase the device, but it may save you money in the long run.

“Almost any insurance company approved anti-theft device will result in a discount of anywhere from 5% to 25%,” said Ohman. “For details about whether or not a particular device will result in a discount, it’s always best to verify directly with the insurance company.”

4. Get a Good Driver Discount

Good driver discounts are available at many insurance companies. Each insurer may define good drivers differently, but if you successfully avoid causing accidents and moving violations, you may qualify. Check with your insurer to find eligibility requirements for good driver programs.

5. Choose Higher Deductibles

You can lower your premium by signing up for higher deductibles, which means you’ll pay more out of pocket for repairs before your insurer steps in to cover the rest. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you can afford to cover the deductible before you take this route.

“The fastest way to lower your monthly auto insurance premium … is to increase deductibles. Changing deductibles from $500 to $1,000 saves about $150 annually,” said Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent at The Zebra.

6. Bundle Insurance Plans

Bundling your car insurance with other types of coverage can save money. For instance, you could bundle your car insurance with homeowners insurance from the same provider.

“Drivers who bundle homeowners insurance save about $110 annually on their auto policies, and even bundling renters coverage saves drivers about $72 each year,” said Richardson.

7. Sign Up for Group Insurance

Many employers, universities and organizations offer group insurance plans from certain providers, which may offer cheaper rates. Check with your employer, current or former educators and any other official groups you’re a part of to see if they offer group insurance.

8. Find High-Risk Auto Insurers

If you have a poor driving or financial history, you may be considered a high-risk customer. Some insurers offer better rates for high-risk drivers than others.

“Certain auto insurance companies specialize in higher-risk drivers. This means that if one has a DUI in their history, many accidents or even poor credit … it becomes all the more important to shop around and compare rates from many different car insurance companies,” said Ohman.

9. Sign Up for Automatic Payments

Like many service providers, some insurers offer discounts when payments are automatically withdrawn from your account every month. As a bonus, you’ll avoid missing payments.

10. Make Bulk Payments

Insurers may offer discounted rates for paying your premium in bulk instead of month-to-month. In this scenario, you’d have to pay your premium for a longer time frame — for instance, six months or a year — to receive a discount. This could save you anywhere from 5% to 11%, according to DMV.org.

11. Eliminate Unnecessary Features

When you first signed up for car insurance, you may have opted for features that are no longer necessary. For instance, many insurance providers offer roadside assistance, but if you’ve since become a member of AAA, which provides roadside assistance, you no longer need the service from your insurer. You can regularly review your plan to make sure you’re only paying for what you need.

12. Find Other Discounts

Car insurance providers offer various discounts, which may include usage-based driving discounts, defensive driver courses for the elderly, mileage-based discounts and student discounts. The odds are good there is a discount available if you hunt around. You can call your insurance provider to find available discounts or look for competing offers. Which brings us to our next point:

13. Shop Around

Many people may sign up for an insurance plan and never revisit their options. But shopping around with providers is the best way to ensure you’re getting a good rate, and there are many online resources available to help with your search.

“Every six months or year, consider shopping around with as many companies as possible,” said Richardson. “Since each insurance company weights rating factors differently (and these change as your coverage needs or lifestyle changes), you won’t truly know if you’re getting the best rate until you check with multiple providers.”

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The States Where You’re Most Likely to Hit a Deer

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Fall is deemed the season of sweaters and pumpkin spice everything. But, it turns out, October brings something else with it — auto accidents involving big game.

That’s right, a new study by insurance provider State Farm found that this time of year is prime time for this type of collision.

“We know there is an increased risk of collision with deer around dawn and dusk, and also during the October-December breeding season,” Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm, said in a press release.

They also discovered that certain states are far more likely to have drivers run into these animals than others. These are the top five states where State Farm found a driver was most likely to file a claim after hitting a deer, elk or moose.

  1. West Virginia (1 in 41)
  2. Montana (1 in 58)
  3. Pennsylvania (1 in 67)
  4. Iowa (1 in 68)
  5. South Dakota (1 in 70)

Contrast these with states like Hawaii, where your odds are 1 in every 18,955 drivers, or even Arizona, with odds at 1 in every 1,175 drivers.

While these odds may be jarring, especially if you’re planning a drive through the mountains to enjoy the fall foliage, don’t be alarmed (or bugled, if you will). No matter your location, State Farm advised drivers to keep your eyes focused on the road and, if you do see the gleam of a big animal looking back at you, to break and avoid swerving if you can.

Methodology

To compile this list, State Farm looked at internal claims data as well as state-licensed driver counts provided by the Federal Highway Administration to determine the chance a single American motorist has of hitting a deer, elk or moose with their car. Data considered was from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, and was reviewed from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. It’s important to note that State Farm looked at comprehensive and collision claims only and did not include claims involving policyholders with liability insurance coverage only.

The Cost of Car Insurance

According to State Farm, the average cost of hitting a deer between 2015 and 2016 was $3,995.08. (Oh, deer — yes, I had to do it.) While this number is down from the previous year ($4,135), that’s no subtle amount and you likely don’t want to pass the buck (eh?) along to your credit card.

If you live in an area where you’re more likely to hit a deer with your car, it may be a good idea to talk with your insurance provider to see if damage caused by a collision with a deer is covered by your policy. You may also want to talk with them about different factors that are affecting the cost of your policy, which can include everything from your driving record and value of your car to your age and credit history.

While some states put more of an emphasis on your credit track record than others (in terms of determining your insurance policy rates), it can still be helpful to know where your credit stands if you’re shopping for insurance policies. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. If you find your scores aren’t quite where you’d like them to be, look for things that could be dragging them down, like errors on your report (you can read this guide to find out how to dispute these problems).

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The Cities With the Safest Drivers in America

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32,675.

That’s the number of traffic fatalities that occurred in the U.S. in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it isn’t surprising, not in the least. That’s because the average driver will experience a collision every 10 years, according to Allstate Insurance, and the majority of those accidents (94%) will be preventable.

With stats like these, what’s a good driver to do? Perhaps move to one of the cities that made Allstate’s America’s Best Driver’s Report, released this week.

Between 2013 and 2014, Allstate tabulated the property damage frequency of Allstate insured drivers by comparing the the 200 largest cities from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Suburban areas with less than 100 auto property claims reported between January 2013 and December 2014 were excluded.

To organize its data, Allstate scrutinized various details of customers’ claims, such as the average years between customers’ claims, the number of braking events per 1,000 miles, and its Best Drivers Report Ranking from last year. Some data was culled from AllState’s Drivewise app, which keeps track of a person’s driver behavior and rewards good practices.

Where the Safest Drivers Are 

Brownsville, Texas, topped the list, with an average 14.6 years between claims and the distinction of being the second-top city on Allstate’s Best Drivers Report Ranking in 2015. Here are the other U.S. cities that made the cut:

1. Brownsville, Texas

2. Kansas City, Kansas

3. Madison, Wisconsin

4. Cape Coral, Florida

5. Boise, Idaho

6. Huntsville, Alabama

7. Port St. Lucie, Florida

8. Wichita, Kansas

9. Olathe, Kansas

10. Reno, Nevada

Playing It Safe 

While it helps to live in one of the cities listed above where drivers are clearly more cautious, according to Allstate’s report, it doesn’t hurt to take some steps to play it safer yourself. For starters, you can invest in proper auto insurance, since driving around without coverage is against the law and could ravage your finances if you’re involved in a crash. Your credit plays a key role in determining your rate, so a good place to start would be to see where you stand. (You can view two of your scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

Also keep in mind the other factors that influence insurance, such as your history of car insurance — or lack thereof — why you drive and even whether you’re married. You can learn more about the factors that go into your insurance rate here.

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Can You Be Sued for Texting a Driver?

sued-for-sending-text

Text-message senders, beware: U.S. courts are moving ever closer to blaming the sender of a text for car accidents that occur while the recipient is driving and texting back.

How could someone be responsible for an accident caused by a driver when they weren’t even in the car?

I explored this only-in-the-digital-age notion several years ago in the MSNBC series, The Red Tape Chronicles, when a New Jersey man was sued after he texted with a woman around the time he struck another car, causing two sisters to become partially paralyzed. Briefly, the legal theory relies on the notion of “aiding and abetting,” an act that causes harm (a tort) to someone else. The plaintiff’s attorney in that case compared sending a text to a driver to holding a piece of paper in front of a driver’s face causing temporary blindness, which could lead to an accident.

That 2012 case, which gained national attention, was decided in the defendant’s favor, to the delight of critics who found the notion absurd. But while media cameras were focused elsewhere, a New Jersey appeals court left the door wide open for future lawsuits against text message conversation participants outside the car.

Now a Pennsylvania case has opened that door even wider.

A Lawrence County court recently ruled that a plaintiff may proceed with a lawsuit aiming to collect damages from a text sender after the recipient texted and failed to notice a motorcycle rider in front of her slowed to make a turn. The driver, Laura Gargiulo, struck the motorcycle, dragging rider Daniel Gallatin 100 feet to his death. Gargiulo had received texts from both Joseph Gargiulo (relationship unclear from court documents) and Timothy Fend, whom the court describes as a “paramour,” or lover. Both are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Laura Gargiulo pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2014, and served 60 days in jail for Gallatin’s death. Now, the Gallatin estate is suing for damages. Both Fend and Joseph Gargiulo filed objections to being included in the lawsuit, saying no law creates a duty that text message senders can be responsible for the actions of a recipient who is driving. However, Judge John W. Hodge sided with Gallatin’s lawyers, indicating it was possible they could prove later that Joseph Gargiulo or Fend “aided and abetted” violation of the state’s distracted driving laws.

Hodge relied on that New Jersey appeals court ruling in his decision.

“Although not binding on the court here, [that ruling] suggests that the sender of a text message can be liable for sending a message while the recipient is operating a motor vehicle if the sender knew, or had reason to know, the recipient was driving,” Hodge wrote.

The ruling is not a clear finding that texters outside a car can be responsible for accidents caused by a driver; it merely extends the possibility for such a finding a bit farther down the line. In fact, in the New Jersey case cited by Hodge, the court was actually upholding a lower-court finding that a defendant in a similar car crash was not liable — but only because the facts of that case made it difficult to conclude the sender knew the recipient was driving. The appeals court went to great pains to make clear it may fight for a plaintiff in the future.

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote.

Citing that opinion, Judge Hodge merely refused to remove Joseph Gargiulo or Fend from the Gallatin lawsuit, for now. There’s a lot the plaintiff still has to prove. That said, the case should give anyone texting with a driver serious pause. While drivers are ultimately responsible for what their vehicles hit, it’s easy to imagine a situation where a text message sender should have known better. For example, the driver could say, “I’m driving right now,” and if the sender persists in being distracting, say, by sending flirtatious messages, one can imagine a plaintiff’s attorney pursuing the aiding and abetting theory.

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