The cost of driving doesn’t come cheap. When you tack on the price of gas—now at more than $3 per gallon—and auto insurance, it may seem more appealing to commute via horse and buggy.
But if you are shopping around for auto insurance or thinking about updating your current policy, you could save big bucks with a variety of auto insurance discounts—if you know how to find them.
“[Insurance companies] offer all of these discounts, but they are really under no obligation to tell you about them or make sure you are getting all of the insurance discounts you qualify for,” says Doug Whiteman, an insurance analyst at Bankrate.com, which recently surveyed discount information available on the websites of the 10 largest auto insurance companies.
While many of the more well-known auto insurance discounts, like those for safe drivers and for bundling your car and home insurance policies, are conspicuously advertised on company websites, others can be hard to spot.
When Bankrate.com combed through the websites of the leading auto insurance providers, for example, it found that some discounts were only mentioned on question-and-answer pages, and details for others were buried in the comment sections of blog posts.
“We think that it is very possible for people to have no idea about the discounts they may qualify for and all of the ways they can save on their car insurance,” Whiteman says.
While the amount you save from auto insurance discounts will vary based on the insurance company, the state where you live, and your personal circumstances, the deals do add up. Some discounts can knock from 3 percent to an impressive 20 percent off your policy.
Pete Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, has heard of consumers who have saved up to 50 percent in discounts alone. He says that due in part to discounts, auto insurance consumers in the U.S. have a lot of power when it comes to determining their rates.
Before you select your auto insurance policy or make updates to your current one, consider these four things that may help you get an insurance discount:
1. Low mileage. Some companies, including six of the 10 surveyed by Bankrate.com, will give you a discount if your car doesn’t rack up many miles. You may want to inquire about this discount if your car spends a fair amount of time off the road and in the garage. To get the best mileage-based deal, though, you may need to install an electronic device that logs the miles you drive.
2. Safety features. If your car has certain safety features, like air bags and motorized seat belts, you could shave dollars off of your policy under a discount for “passive restraint,” which was offered by nine of the 10 companies surveyed. If your car is equipped with an anti-theft device—an alarm system or an anti-lock brake system, for example—you could also see some savings coming your way.
3. Teenage drivers. On average, a married couple pays 84 percent more for car insurance after adding a teenage driver to an existing policy, according to a recent report from InsuranceQuotes.com, which is part of Bankrate Insurance.
If you are preparing to add a teen to your policy, look out for the popular “good student” discount, which was offered by all 10 of the insurance companies surveyed. This discount rewards students earning good grades in school with lower insurance rates. Many companies also offer a discount for young drivers who are attending school far from home, usually 100 miles away or more.
If your teen is going to be behind the wheel of a family car, Moraga recommends limiting him or her to the least expensive car to insure, which could also bring down rates.
4. Industry discounts. You may qualify for a discount at some car insurance companies if you belong to a specific affinity group or work in a certain industry. Some companies, for example, give discounts to teachers, engineers, or scientists.
Once you are familiar with the types of discounts offered by car insurance companies, make sure to ask your agent whether you qualify. It’s a good idea to reevaluate your car insurance policy every six months and to keep in regular contact with your insurance company, Whiteman says, so you can let it know about any updates that might lead to discounts.
You might even qualify for some of the more obscure car insurance discounts offered, like those for new parents, non-smokers, married couples, and drivers with daytime running lights.
When you are evaluating a policy, though, remember that discounts aren’t everything. A company that offers few discounts may still have the lowest overall price.
Joslin Woods is a researcher, writer, and Web producer at Think Glink Publishing, with a background in print and digital media. Previously, Joslin worked as a news reporter for the international news agency Agence France-Presse and as a freelance reporter for the Sun-Times News Group. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in journalism.