Savvy womens Magazine

My Mama Told Me, 'You Better Shop Around'
Finding Affordable Auto Insurance

By Ryan Patterson, Chief Marketing Officer, www.USInsuranceOnline.com

You're finally ready to buy that sweet little convertible or late 1950's cherry classic when some killjoy reminds you to check how much insurance is going to cost. Of course, you do what any sane and savvy woman would do ' go shopping. Not for a new wardrobe to go with your new car; for insurance. (Think of it as accessorizing.)

Shop Online to Save Time

It's easy to shop around and get price quotes from various companies now that most of this information is online. The Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) suggests drivers get at least three price quotes. You can get an online auto insurance quote from an insurance Web site, or even free competing quotes from insurance shopping sites. Sometimes, your state insurance department has charts to compare auto insurance (http://www.iii.org).

Be sure to compare quotes from different types of insurance companies. For example, some companies sell policies through their own agents, while others sell through independent agents who offer policies from various insurance companies.

Like shopping for a dress-for-success business suit, you shouldn't shop by price alone. Make sure the company as a whole satisfies you. Do they answer your questions patiently and handle claims effectively and fairly? Talk with friends, family, and co-workers. Check consumer magazines and consumer watchdogs like Clark Howard (www.clarkhoward.com). State insurance departments also provide consumer complaint ratios for various companies.

Compare Insurance Costs Before Buying Your Car

The price of auto insurance depends greatly on the type of car you drive. Factors include the sticker price, costs for repair, overall safety record and the likelihood of theft.

Often insurers offer discounts to drivers who take measures to reduce the risk of theft, like installing an anti-theft device. But make sure you ask the company exactly what kind of anti-theft device they require for a discount. Sometimes a low tech device like a 'club' that fits on the steering wheel is not enough to get a discount. You may have to shell out for a high tech electronic device that disables the car if the proper code is not punched in.

Ask for a Higher Deductible for Lower Cost

A higher deductible can lower the price of your auto insurance considerably. Increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 can reduce your collision or comprehensive premium by 15 to 30 per cent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save 40 per cent or more. These are substantial savings, but remember to squirrel away the deductible so you have it on hand if something happens to your vehicle.

Purchase Home and Auto Insurance from the Same Provider

This is like being on the preferred shopper list at your favorite department store ' you get special discounts. Buy two or more types of insurance from one insurer, and you often receive a multi-policy discount. Make sure you ask for it, though. They may not tell you about it up front.

You may also pay a lower price if you insure more than one vehicle with the same insurance company. Often, long-time customers are offered reduced premiums. Again, if your company rep doesn't mention it, ask.

Discounts, Discounts and More Discounts

Safe Drivers

  • If you have avoided having an automobile accident or any moving violations for three years, you may be eligible for a safe-driver discount.
  • Taking a driver training or defensive driving course is another way you may qualify for a lower insurance premium.

Safe Cars

  • Many insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders whose cars are equipped with certain safety features such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, and daytime running lights. These features reduce the risk of injury and, therefore, reduce the cost of auto coverage.

Students and Seniors

  • Car insurance for young drivers is often problematic, but full-time students who meet age and GPA requirements can sometimes get lower auto insurance rates. These qualifications vary by company and state. For example, Allstate (www.allstate.com) requires full-time students to be 25 years old or younger and unmarried to receive the discount, but in some states, the age limit is 21. College students who are at least 100 miles away from home are often eligible for auto insurance discounts.
  • If you're a driver between 50 and 55 years of age, or retired or a senior adult, you may be eligible for discount auto insurance.

Low Mileage

  • Your insurer may offer a low-mileage discount. These discounts usually apply to drivers who carpool.

A Good Credit Rating = A Good Insurance Score = Affordable Insurance

Most people know they have a consumer credit score, but few realize there is a similar ranking used by auto insurance companies to rate a customer's potential liability. This is called an insurance score, and it takes into account more than just how promptly you pay your bills. It includes how many claims you've made on past policies, how frequent they are, and how costly they have been to previous insurers.

The insurance score has a dramatic impact on the cost of your auto premiums. The insurance company takes information from your credit profile, and then relates it to information regarding your claims history or your legal history.

In other words, do you have a habit of suing people? Fair or not, those things factor into your insurance score. There's almost nothing you can do about it, other than keep your credit in tip-top shape and try to avoid making multiple claims.

You can find information about your credit rating directly from the three major credit-rating agencies ' Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The free credit report (required by Federal law) is available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

About the Author:
Ryan Patterson is chief marketing officer of All Web Leads, which operates US Insurance Online, an insurance shopping website that serves consumers who want the best insurance policy for their needs at the lowest cost. Patterson is based in Austin, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas with a combined business and computer science degree.

For more information, visit www.USInsuranceOnline.com.