Hidden Ways to Cut Car Insurance

Consumers are countering rising gasoline prices and other vehicle operating costs by capitalizing on lower auto insurance rates, according to leading insurers.

Auto policy costs and regulations vary significantly from state to state, but there are a number of areas that consumers are able to control and adjust to optimize prices and quality. Answer Financial (www.answerfinancial.com) has 10 tips for keeping your rates down:

Check Credit Rating. In all states except California and Georgia, an individual's credit rating is a key factor that affects auto insurances rates. Good credit will be interpreted by insurers as less risky. Thus, it's important for consumers to order copies of their credit report from all major credit agencies to ensure accuracy and to correct any inaccurate derogatory points, such as late or missed payments, maxed-out credit lines, bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc.

Check Motor Vehicle Report. Like credit reports, state driving records may include inaccurate data on personal driving records, which are strongly considered when issuing respective individual and family auto rates. In addition, tickets, traffic school credit, and accident fault are sometimes not accurately reflected in state data, costing consumers hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Drivers should report errors to both their state motor vehicle department as well as their insurance carrier.

Double-Check Accident Reports. Local law enforcement and insurance accident reports occasionally include mistakes that will result in a higher rate. Accident reports are separate from motor vehicle records. Accident reports affect insurers' decisions and rates on a cumulative basis particularly if the driver has tickets or accidents down the road.

Never Let Coverage Lapse and Review Deductibles. Maintaining coverage without lapse makes a significant difference in rates. Separately, while deductible amounts initially save drivers in the event of a quick claim, they cost consumers more in the long run due to higher premiums. Drivers almost always save on premiums with higher deductibles of $500 or $1,000.

Look for Package Rates. In addition to multiple-vehicle discounts, consumers often save substantially by packaging all their insurance policies including auto, home, and personal liability together with one company.

Don't Miss Good-Student and Mature-Driver Discounts. Most consumers know that safe drivers are rewarded by insurers, but it's important to make sure your policy gives you a good driver discount. Most insurers lower rates for mature drivers (55 years and over) and for students who carry a 3.0 grade point average or better. Some carriers give more credit for these points than others, so shop around.

Take a Driving Safety Course. Many insurers will cut rates for drivers who take an approved driving safety course. Make sure that you've registered for a course recognized by your carrier, which will not only cut your rates but likely save in ticket fines and reduce your risk of bodily injury on the road.

Don't Forget Car Pool Credit. Many auto carriers drop premiums if you car pool to the office, especially if you drive more than 10 miles roundtrip. In addition, you'll save considerably on the rising prices at the pump and lend a hand to Mother Nature.

Check Rates Before Buying a New Car. Insurance rates vary considerably from car to car. Often expensive vehicles can add $50 - $100 per month in premiums. The type of vehicle, engine size (you'll pay for that turbo), parts costs and safety tests are all factored into insurance premiums. Sport cars and SUVs generally are more expensive to insure. Buyers often do not realize the big rate differences until after they drive off the lot.

Take Credit for Safety/Security Features. Drivers should make sure they are receiving lower rates for safety features such as air bags and anti-lock brakes. Devices that deter theft, such as alarm systems or devices that disable or track vehicles (such as LoJack), may also qualify for discounts. Some companies even waive deductibles if the car has been damaged when it was stolen but is recovered using a tracking device.

For more information, go to www.answerfinancial.com.

Steve Kroll is senior vice president of marketing at Answer Financial, Inc. (http://www.answerfinancial.com). An acknowledged expert in consumer marketing, he has more than 17 years of experience as an executive in the financial services industry including six as president of his own consulting firm, The Kroll Group, Inc., which specialized in retail financial products and payment systems. Its client base included affinity groups, Fortune 500 companies, management consulting firms and advertising agencies. Kroll's marketing accomplishments include developing insurance and investment product offerings for Charles Schwab, Citibank, Household International and The Signature Group. He also has created multiple-useage incentive and retention programs for some of the nation's leading credit card issuers and developed new lifestyle-and affinity-related credit cards that delivered an above-average response and usage rate. Kroll has also assisted in the development and marketing of Internet-based financial services for Wells Fargo, NYCE and American Skandia.

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