Car insurance rates have been increasing, overall, for the past few years, and that trend is expected to continue in 2018.
The number of customers receiving an annual rate increase of more than $200 per vehicle has more than doubled during the past four years, according to J.D. Power’s 2017 U.S. Auto Insurance Study.
Why is car insurance is so expensive?
Spiking rates are due to a variety of factors. In addition to insurers having to recoup losses from hurricanes, people are driving more, which is causing more accidents, and that means higher costs for insurance companies, which is then passed on to you in the form or rate hikes. Also, repair and medical costs are increasing, making accidents generally more expensive. Consider the following:
- More car collisions, more claims: The percent of car crashes classified as “one vehicle colliding with another” climbed to 73 percent in 2014, a 20-year high, according to the National Safety Council’s annual report, “Injury Facts.” So, more accidents means more claims. According to Nielsen, 22.2 percent of households filed at least one auto insurance claim in 2017, an increase from 20.5 percent in 2014. It predicts that the percentage will further rise to 22.5 percent by 2022. More accident claims means costs go up for insurers, who then pass some of that expense back to you in the form of overall higher premiums.
- Rising repair costs: High-tech headlights and safety features, such as lane-departure alerts and parking sensors are now standard fare on most new-model vehicles. They may help save lives and prevent injuries, but these modern devices are more expensive to repair when accidents do happen. Since 2005, the cost of body work has risen nearly 40 percent more than overall inflation, and the size of collision claims increased 8.2 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to State Farm. Again, that means, in general, 2018 will see higher insurance costs.
10 tips on how to lower car insurance costs
Despite this troubling trend, the road ahead in 2018 won’t be without savings if you take the following advice on how to lower car insurance costs, courtesy of Insurance.com Consumer Analyst Penny Gusner.
1. Maximize your auto insurance discounts
Car insurance discounts vary by insurance company, but typically the standard ones are for safety features, low-mileage, having more than one car insured with the same company and remaining with the same insurance company over a period of years. Here we outline some of the more common ones, and our “Guide to car insurance discounts” explains the topic in detail, providing examples of how much you save and how the discounts are applied to your policy.
Low mileage: If you drive less than 7,500 miles per year, you may qualify for a low-mileage discount on your auto insurance, typically 5 to 15 percent. And, some car insurance companies offer a commuter discount if you use public transportation during the week.
Multi-car: If you insure more than one car on your policy, you get a multi-car discount. Expect 10 to 25 percent savings off your collision, comprehensive and liability premiums.
Safety features: Car insurance companies offer a variety of discounts for anti-lock brakes, automatic seat belts, and airbags. Similarly, anti-theft devices such as car alarms and tracking systems (e.g., LoJack) may also get you an insurance discount because they reduce the chances of your car being stolen or vandalized. These types of discounts range from 5 percent to 30 percent.
Also good to know: In addition, you can earn a price cut through affiliate group memberships, for example being an AAA member or buying though a college alumni group, or staying with the same auto insurance company for a number of years.
2. Take a defensive driving course
If you’ve got a clean driving record and want to take a traffic class to get a lower car insurance rate, insurers typically offer a 5 percent to 15 percent discount on liability and collision coverages for three years.
There may be some caveats, however, depending on your state laws and insurance company. For example, only drivers over age 25 may be eligible for the discount or sometimes all drivers of the insured vehicle must take the course to qualify.
Traffic school courses vary but typically they’re four to six hours, are offered either in person, online or both, cost between $25 and $75, and cover a series of lessons about traffic safety.
In most cases, taking a driver safety class will either remove points from your record for minor violations or give you a discount, but not both.
New York is one exception. Empire State drivers are allowed to reduce their violation point total by up to 4 points and save 10 percent on auto liability and comprehensive insurance by taking a DMV-approved accident-prevention course. Points in New York may be reduced only once in any 18-month period.
3. Increase your deductible
According to the Insurance Information Institute, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 can make you eligible for a 15- to 30-percent premium discount, while raising the deductible to $1,000 can save you up to 40 percent. But bear in mind this typically applies just to the comprehensive and collision portions of your policy, not the baseline amount you pay for the entire policy. And, your savings from hiking deductibles varies widely depending on the state in which you live, the cost of your coverage after taking any other discounts, your driving record and your car’s cost to repair or replace, so remember to keep that in mind should you decide to go this route.
4. Keep an eye on your credit report
Your credit history is one of many “risk factors” that most auto insurance companies evaluate when setting rates (in states where it’s permissible by law). Paying your bills on time and maintaining a solid credit history will help keep your auto and home insurance rates lower – a LOT lower. Insurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to compare full-coverage rates for drivers with average or better credit, fair credit and poor credit. Nationwide, the average difference in rates between good credit and fair was 17 percent. The difference between drivers with good credit and drivers with poor credit was 67 percent.
If you have poor credit, don’t despair. You can find tips on how to improve your credit and trim auto insurance costs in our “Car insurance guide for bad credit.”
5. Drive safely
You may be eligible for a price break on your car insurance policy if you have no accidents or traffic violations for a specified period (usually three years — but a few companies will look back five years). Even a single speeding ticket can increase your car insurance rates 11 to 13 percent, depending on how fast you were going, the speed limit and your state laws.
6. Buy a safe car
Cars are rated on a risk scale for auto insurance purposes. Generally, the fewer accident claims people file for a particular car model, the lower the rate will be to insure it. Insurance companies also take into account the safety features. You can research how well vehicles protect occupants in a crash and see what crash-avoidance safety features vehicles have how by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Safety Ratings page.
7. Bundle with home insurance
Married drivers and homeowners get cheaper rates because insurance companies deem them as lower risk, meaning they file fewer claims, but you can save even more by purchasing your home insurance and auto insurance policies from the same provider.
According to data gathered for Insurance.com by Quadrant Information Services, the nationwide average car insurance discount given for bundling home and auto insurance is 8 percent. By bundling renters and car insurance a discount also applies, with the nationwide average being around 5 percent. The nationwide average homeowners insurance discount given for bundling is 20 percent.
8. Pay-in-full discount
If you pay your car insurance policy premium up front and in full, before the policy effective date you usually get a 5 percent to 10 percent discount.
9. Drop comprehensive and collision if you don’t need it
Collision and comprehensive coverages are optional. And while collision pays to fix your car if you have an accident, and comprehensive pays out for damage due to fire, flooding, animal strikes, hail, you may not need the protection if you don’t own a new car. If your vehicle is more than 10 years old or worth less than $3,000, you don’t need these coverages. Collision costs an average of $488 a year, comprehensive costs $172 annually, on average, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
10. Shop around by comparing car insurance quotes online
No two car insurance companies will charge the same amount for a policy, so it pays to shop around to get the lowest rates. Each car insurer uses its own formula to set rates, so the price for car insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars. Your current insurer may assess life changes and accidents differently, so you may find a cheaper rate with a different company. That’s why it literally pays to compare car insurance quotes at least 45 days before your current policy is set to renew, but also at these times:
- You got married
- You moved
- You had an accident
- You bought a car
- You’re adding a teen driver to the household
You should always get at least three quotes and be sure to compare the same amount of coverage across the board. You’ll also want to take into account the customer service ratings of companies you’re considering.
Which auto insurance company has the best rates?
What you pay for car insurance will depend on your particular situation, but below you’ll see in the chart what you can expect to pay in your state for full coverage from major companies.